Photos by Zachary Gray
Zachary Gray – Co-Editor-In-Chief
Former Warwick, RI detective Scott Hornoff spoke to students of Professor Sarah Abbott’s Death Penalty course on Wednesday, October 16. Hornoff’s presentation, Cop – Convict – Exoneree, focused on his wrongful conviction of first-degree in 1996. The event was sponsored by the Donahue Institute, Center for Community-Based Learning, and the Justice Studies Department.
In 1983, Hornoff joined the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy. He would eventually become a detective with the Warwick Police Department. In 1989, Hornoff drove home from a party in which he drank heavily. He passed by the home of Victoria Cushman, an acquaintance of Hornoff. He thought of stopping by, but decided not to. The next morning, Hornoff learned Cushman was murdered the night of the party.
“I wonder if she’d still be alive if I went down there [after the party],” said Hornoff.
Because of his relationship with Cushman, Hornoff was questioned at the station. “To be reading my own rights for first-degree murder is numbing.” After the questioning and some investigation, Hornoff was told by Warwick Police that he was no longer a suspect.
In 1992, Hornoff had learned from reporters that he was again a suspect in Cushman’s murder. The Rhode Island State Police were investigating Hornoff. Warwick Police was told not to inform Hornoff.
In 1996, Hornoff went on trial for the murder of Victoria Cushman. Although there was no physical evidence, the jury found Hornoff guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentence to life in prison.
Hornoff made multiple attempts in prison to prove his innocence, but all would fall short. After serving six years, four months, and 15 days in prison, Hornoff would be released. Todd Barry, Cushman’s on-and-off boyfriend, confessed to the murder. In 2002, Hornoff was a free man.
“Sometimes I wonder why I got out when so many others are innocent,” said Hornoff. His story was featured in “After Innocence,” a Showtime documentary that focuses on individuals who wrongly serve prison sentences.
“If Rhode Island still had the death penalty, I wouldn’t be here today.”