Northern Alabama
Victims of the State

19 Cases

Blount County, AL

Bill Wilson

Late 1908

In 1908, Bill Wilson's wife, Jenny, divorced and left him. She took their 19-month-old child with her. In 1912, the skeletal remains of an adult and child were discovered by the Warrior River. As news of the discovery spread, many area residents, presuming the remains to be ancient, visited the site in the hope of finding Indian relics.
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Colbert County, AL

Thomas Arthur

Feb 1, 1981 (Muscle Shoals)

Thomas Douglas Arthur was sentenced to death for the murder of Troy Wicker, Jr., the husband of his girlfriend, Judy Wicker. Judy and her sister, Theresa Rowland, were found at the scene of the crime. Judy said a black man raped her and then fatally shot her husband. Both sisters had blood on their clothes, but neither was tested to see if they fired the gun that killed the victim. The gun used in the murder was never found.

Judy was charged with the murder because she had $90,000 of life insurance on her husband. She testified at Arthur's first and second trials that he had nothing to do with the murder. However, after she served 10 years of imprisonment, she changed her testimony at Arthur's third trial in exchange for being released from prison. She said she was assisted in the crime by Arthur, Rowland, and Rowland's boyfriend, Thereon McKinney. She named Arthur as the person who pulled the trigger. Neither Rowland nor McKinney was ever charged in the murder. Rowland had previously hired the victim to burn down her trailer, so that she could collect insurance on it. When Rowland failed to pay the victim his promised fee, he had threatened to have her arrested for arson. Rowland also had her own key to the Wicker residence, where the murder occurred. The prosecutor at Arthur's third trial had served as Wicker's defense attorney during her previously unsuccessful parole hearing.

No physical evidence connects Arthur to the scene of the crime. He never had an investigator to check out basics regarding his alibi, like phone records and receipts. Initially, two eyewitnesses signed affidavits placing Arthur in Decatur, AL, 75 miles away, at the time of the crime. However, after being visited by the state of Alabama, these witnesses changed their testimony. Later, one witness changed back to his original testimony, while the other witness has made statements that he is frightened of losing his business and “other” things.

Alabama will not allow Arthur to perform DNA testing on the semen evidence collected from Judy or on the blood and hair evidence found at the crime scene. Arthur was scheduled to be executed on July 31, 2008, but on July 30 the execution was stayed after another man, Bobby Ray Gilbert, confessed to the crime.  (AI) ( [8/07]

Fayette County, AL

Berry Innocents

Sept 27, 1933 (Berry)

Glenn Davis, Bill Hathaway, and Herschel McCarn were convicted of robbing the Bank of Berry of $5237.75. The convictions were due to the three men's remarkable resemblance to the actual robbers. All three were pardoned in 1940.  (NY Times)  [7/05]

Jackson County, AL

Scottsboro Boys

Mar 25, 1931 (Scottsboro)

Nine black juveniles were falsely charged in 1931 with raping a white girl. Eight were convicted and sentenced to death. The ninth defendant got a mistrial because the prosecutor only wanted a life sentence and some jurors held out for death. Although one of the boys was later shot to death by a sheriff, none were officially executed, and four were released in 1937. One violated parole by going to Michigan, but in 1950 the Michigan Governor refused to extradite him. Another violated parole in 1946, became a fugitive until 1976, when he was given a full pardon by Gov. George Wallace. The longest survivor died in 1989. Several books were written about this case.  (Famous Trials)  [3/05]

Jefferson County, AL

Ellis Fewell

Apr 10, 1949

After 13 days of continuous questioning, Stanford Ellis Fewell confessed to the sex murder of Phyllis Dean Carver, the 9-year-old daughter of Fewell's cousin. He soon repudiated the confession, but was convicted of the crime in 1952. Subsequent investigation by a former editor of the Birmingham News and the Court of Last Resort led to four witnesses who confirmed Fewell's alibi. In 1959, after this new evidence was introduced, the Alabama Parole Board released Fewell.  (ISI)  [9/07]

Jefferson County, AL

Freddie Lee Gaines

Nov 9, 1973 (Birmingham)

Freddie Lee Gaines was charged with killing Johnnie Lee Swanson and Mary Ann Wright at an illegal shot house in Birmingham. Gaines was acquitted of killing Wright, but convicted of killing Swanson. Gaines was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was released in 1985. In 1990, Larry Dennis Cohen, a Florida man, confessed to the killings, and in 1996 the Alabama Legislature passed a bill to pay Gaines $1 million over 10 years as compensation for the time he wrongly served in prison. Gaines was the second person to be compensated by the state. The state had previously compensated one of the Scottsboro Boys defendants who was convicted in 1931.  (AP) (CWC)  [3/06]

Jefferson County, AL

James Bo Cochran

Nov 4, 1976

James Bo Cochran was convicted of murdering Stephen Ganey, the assistant manager of a grocery store. The conviction occurred at Cochran's second trial, as his first trial ended in a mistrial. This conviction was overturned and Cochran was again convicted at his third trial in 1982. This second conviction was also overturned and Cochran was tried for a fourth time in 1997. At the fourth trial, defense counsel pointed out to jurors that there were no eyewitnesses to the murder and that it would have been impossible for Cochran to move the victim's body under a trailer in a nearby mobile home park while being chased by police. The jury at the fourth trial acquitted Cochran of all charges. Cochran's case is featured in the documentary film “Death in Dixie.”  (DRE)  [3/06]

Jefferson County, AL

Ronnie & Dale Mahan

Nov 30, 1983

Ronnie and Dale Mahan were convicted of kidnapping and raping 18-year-old Pamela Pope. Pope identified the brothers from a photo lineup. She said she got a look at the perpetrators when they lifted their masks. The Mahans were sentenced to life and 35 years respectively. Ronnie and Dale spent more than 12 years in prison before DNA tests exonerated them in 1998.  (IP1) (IP2) (CT)  [12/05]

Jefferson County, AL

Anthony Ray Hinton


Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death for the murders of two restaurant managers. The victims were John Davidson, an assistant manager at a Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits restaurant in Southside Birmingham and Thomas Vason, an assistant manager at a Captain D's restaurant on First Avenue North in Woodlawn. The managers were shot during robberies in February and July 1985. In a third robbery at Quincy's steakhouse in Bessemer, the manager, Sidney Smotherman, was shot, but survived. Smotherman subsequently identified Hinton as his assailant. Hinton was never charged for this robbery, but he was convicted of the murders in the first two robberies because the gun used in the third robbery was purportedly the same weapon as that used in the first two robberies. Similar restaurant robberies occurred in the area after Hinton's arrest.
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Jefferson County, AL

Louis Griffin

Sept 24, 1992

Louis Griffin was sentenced to death for the gunshot murder of Christopher Lynn Davis. Following Davis's death, two men were indicted for the murder, Anthony Embry and Falanda Miles, based on eyewitness testimony and other evidence. Embry pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment while Miles was tried and acquitted of the charge. The Davis case was then closed.

In April 1996, Griffin pleaded guilty in New York City to federal RICO law (racketeering) violations. Griffin was the “security man” for the 142nd Street Lynch Mob Crew. The Crew supplied illegal drugs to various parts of the country, including Alabama. As part of his plea Griffin entered into an allocation that he had participated in the Alabama murder of Davis. As a result of this allocation, Alabama authorities exonerated Embry of Davis's murder and initiated proceedings against Griffin.

At trial, Griffin stated that he lied in federal court. However, he was barred from presenting any evidence that after the initial police investigation, the state believed that Embry and Miles committed the murder, or that Embry entered into a valid plea agreement admitting to the murder. This evidence was excluded because it was hearsay. On appeal in 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed Griffin's conviction due to the excluded evidence. In 2001, Griffin was acquitted at retrial.  (Griffin v. State) (Ex parte Griffin) (Alabama's Exonerated)  [11/08]

Jefferson County, AL

Taurus Carroll

Apr 9, 1995

Taurus Carroll was convicted of the murdering Betty Long during a robbery of the laundromat that she operated in Birmingham. Carroll, a juvenile at the time of the crime, was convicted due to a coerced false confession.  (TC) (CCADP)  [3/05]

Jefferson County, AL

Wesley Quick

Oct 25, 1995

Wesley Quick was convicted of murdering teenagers John Hughes and Nathan King, who were gunned down at Turkey Creek. His first trial ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct. At his second trial, defense counsel tried to impeach the state's witness with prior inconsistent statements using his notes from the first trial, but the judge would not allow it, nor would he provide counsel with a copy of the transcript from the previous trial. Quick was convicted and sentenced to death, but the conviction was overturned because an appeals court ruled that given Quick's indigent status, the judge should have provided him with a free copy of the transcripts from the first trial. During Quick's third trial, Quick testified that he did not commit the murders but said he was at the scene and saw the state's star witness kill the teenagers. The third trial jury acquitted Quick in 2003.  (DRE) (DPIC)  [3/06]

Jefferson County, AL

Walter Rhone, Jr.

Convicted 1999

Walter Lee Rhone, Jr. was convicted of the capital murder of Jerry Lewis Hall in connection with a drive-by shooting. His case caught the attention of California law students at UC Berkeley, who originally took the case because of procedural issues involving the pursuit of post-conviction appeals. “We started looking into his case and it wasn't until then that we realized not only was this guy innocent, but there was outrageous misconduct at every stage of his trial,” said an associate director, Ty Alper. Eventually, Alper, the law students, and the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta were able to get Rhone a new trial. He was released from prison in Feb. 2007 and now plans to pursue a career as a paralegal so he can help other wrongly convicted inmates.  (Rhone v. State)  [7/07]

Madison County, AL

Betty Wilson

May 22, 1992

Betty Wilson and her twin sister, Peggy Lowe, were tried for allegedly hiring handyman, James White to kill Betty's wealthy husband, Dr. Jack Wilson, at the Wilsons' home in Huntsville. White was certifiably mentally ill, diagnosed with delusional schizophrenia. He had spent his life in and out of jail and mental institutions, was an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a child molester. He was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army for stabbing an officer and shooting at his own men.

After making a deal for life in prison for himself, he admitted he had lied about Betty Wilson. The state had acknowledged that without White's testimony there was no case against Betty Wilson. White was not tried until after he testified at both sisters' trials. He has stated that the prosecution coerced him to testify against the sisters by threatening to send him to the electric chair for capital murder. Peggy Lowe was acquitted but Betty was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. The case was profiled on a 48 Hours episode.  (BW)  [5/05]

Marshall County, AL

Guntersville Four

Aug 7, 1920

Willie Crutcher, James Hudson, John Murchison, and Cleo Staten, all colored men, were convicted of the murder of John Franklin McClendon, a white man. All were sentenced to life imprisonment. McClendon's body was found in a cave near the top of Brindlee Mountain, close to Guntersville, AL. The convictions were due to the testimony of another colored man, Ben Nobles, who was arrested for the crime but not indicted. After serving two years of imprisonment, Crutcher was killed by falling rock in a mine where he worked. Hudson died of tuberculosis after having served three and a half years.

In April 1926, the victim's nephew, Otis McClendon, told his mother that the victim's wife, Myrtle McClendon, had confided to him of her desire to kill her husband. Myrtle asked for Otis's aid and in return promised him 40 acres of land, a pair of mules, and a home as long as she had one. They then both took turns shooting her husband and both transported his body to the cave where it was found. In talking to his mother, Otis was distressed because Myrtle in no way kept her promise to remain loyal to him, but had went and married another man. Otis then vowed he was going to kill Myrtle, her new husband, and himself. Otis ran from his mother and attempted to carry out his vow. He fired on Myrtle and her new husband, but was fatally wounded by a shot from the husband.

Due to Otis's confession, Murchison and Staten were released on permanent parole. Staten was subsequently granted a pardon, but died a few days before it was granted. Murchison, though admittedly innocent, was denied a pardon because he had a record of bad conduct in prison. In 1931 the Alabama legislature awarded Murchison $750 for his 6 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (CTI)  [6/09]

Marshall County, AL

Randall Padgett

Aug 17, 1990

Larry Randall Padgett was sentenced to death for the murder of his estranged wife, Cathy Padgett. Cathy had been stabbed 46 times, after an apparent rape. DNA tests showed that Randall's semen was found in Cathy's body. The defense argued that a neighbor, Judy Bagwell, with whom Randall had been having an affair, killed Cathy, and put Randall's semen inside her. Blood was found at the scene of the crime that did not match Cathy's. The prosecution withheld blood typing tests done on this blood from the defense. Following Randall's conviction, it was determined that the blood did not match Randall's, and thus had to have come from a third person. In 1995, the Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Randall's conviction, ruling that prosecutors didn't give the defense adequate time to review the blood evidence. Randall was acquitted on retrial in 1997.  (PC)  [7/05]

Morgan County, AL

Gary Drinkard

Aug 18, 1993 (Decatur)

Gary Drinkard was sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Dalton Pace, a 65-year-old automotive junk dealer. He was convicted mainly because of the testimony of his half-sister, Beverly Robinson Segars, who got charges against her in an unrelated robbery dropped in exchange for her testimony. The half-sister's common-law husband, Rex Segars, also testified that Drinkard confessed to the crime. Drinkard's lawyers, who specialized in debt collection, failed to present physician testimony that Drinkard had recently suffered a severe back injury that made it impossible for him to commit the crime. At his 2001 retrial, new lawyers established that Drinkard had been at home at the time of the murder, and he was acquitted.  (CWC)  [7/05]

Morgan County, AL

Daniel Wade Moore

Mar 12, 1999 (Decatur)

Daniel Wade Moore was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to death for the murder of Karen Tipton. In 2003, Moore's conviction was overturned due to the prosecution's withholding of exculpatory evidence. In 2005, the prosecution's conduct was found to be so egregious that a retrial was barred under Double Jeopardy laws. On hearing of this ruling, a juror declared, “I'm happy with it. I felt that Daniel didn't do it.” Moore was released, but was reimprisoned four days later by the court hearing the state's appeal. In 2006, the appeals court reversed the trial court's ruling and gave Moore the right to a retrial, but not a dismissal of charges. In Feb. 2008, Moore was retried, but a mistrial was declared after jurors were unable to agree on a verdict after 6 days of deliberation. In May 2009, Moore was acquitted at his third trial.  (JD) (WHNT 19)  [12/06]

Shelby County, AL

Patrick Swiney

Dec 10, 1987

Patrick Swiney was convicted of murdering his wife, Betty Snow Swiney, and her ex-husband, Ronald Pate. One night, when Swiney was approaching his house, he blacked out, stating that he felt as though he'd been hit on the head with a baseball bat. He awoke in his house with a serious bruise on his head and with the rifle he kept in his truck lying near him. He found his wife and her ex-husband lying on the floor, shot dead with bullets assumed to have been fired from the rifle.
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