In Monday’s edition of The Watch,
Radley Balko explores the case of Montez Spradley. Spradley was convicted of the 2004 murder of Marlene Jason. No physical evidence linked him to the crime, but the testimonies of his girlfriend and a jailhouse informant—both of whom said Spradley confessed to committing the crime—and surveillance footage allegedly showing him using the victim’s credit card shortly after the crime, was enough to convince the trial jury of his guilt.
Balko writes that the lack of physical evidence tying Spradley to the crime may have inspired his trial jury to spare him from the death penalty. Unfortunately, the judge overruled the jury’s recommendation for a life sentence and sentenced Spradley to death in 2008.
In 2011, the Alabama Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Spradley due to problems with the trial testimony of the police detective who investigated the case. The detective claimed that security camera photos showed Spradley at a gas station and seafood store at the same time the victim’s credit card was used, but no bank documents were used to support that claim.
Spradley’s attorneys at the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project discovered that Spradley’s girlfriend, Alisha Booker, was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for her testimony—a fact which was not disclosed to Spradley’s defense team during trial. The judge was allegedly aware of this deal and also neglected to tell Spradley’s trial attorneys. Shortly before trial, Balko writes, Booker tried to recant her testimony but police threatened to charge her with perjury and have her children taken away if she didn’t testify.
Capital Punishment Project attorneys also discovered that the jailhouse informant who testified against Spradley received only five years in prison plus probation for hiring two men to kill his father.
In light of this evidence, the state offered Spradley an Alford plea (an agreement where the defendant is allowed to maintain his innocence but concedes that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict). He accepted and was released this year.
Read the full article