Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life, and Justice in a Small Town

Overview

On a busy Saturday morning in November 1986, in the small southern town of Monroeville, Alabama, a beautiful white teenager named Ronda Morrison was found brutally murdered in the back room of the dry cleaning store where she worked. Several months later, Walter McMillian, a black man with no criminal record, was arrested and then convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair in a trial that lasted less than three days. His guilt was seen as unquestionable until a young, black, Harvard-educated Yankee ...
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Overview

On a busy Saturday morning in November 1986, in the small southern town of Monroeville, Alabama, a beautiful white teenager named Ronda Morrison was found brutally murdered in the back room of the dry cleaning store where she worked. Several months later, Walter McMillian, a black man with no criminal record, was arrested and then convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair in a trial that lasted less than three days. His guilt was seen as unquestionable until a young, black, Harvard-educated Yankee lawyer launched his own investigation into the murder. Thanks to Bryan Stevenson's unremitting efforts, six years after Walter McMillian was consigned to a cell on Alabama's death row, he walked out a free man. The state had been forced to acknowledge that investigators had used perjured testimony and withheld evidence from the defense that would have proved him innocent.

The bestselling author of The Hot House once again combines the facts, the real people, and the location itself into this true story, a wide-ranging portrait of the interplay of race, sex, and justice in the American South, made all the more real because it takes place in the same small Alabama town that was the fictional "Maycomb" in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Optioned for film by MGM. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``I wanted to show just how difficult it can be in a death penalty case to discover the truth,'' declares Earley (The Hot House), and he proves his point with an engrossing, challenging trip into the labyrinth. Monroeville, Ala., was the fictionalized setting of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird; on Nov. 1, 1986, it was the site of the shooting of an 18-year-old white female store clerk; four months later, another white teenager was murdered in Brewton, 36 miles away. A black man, Walter ``Johnny D.'' McMillian, the boyfriend of a white ne'er-do-well associated with the second teenager's family, was implicated in the murders more than three months later, despite a strong alibi and numerous inconsistencies in witnesses' statements. After McMillian was convicted and sentenced to death, the courageous efforts of Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer devoted to death penalty appeals, reopened the investigation, pried clear some obvious lies in the prosecution's case and, with the help of a 60 Minutes broadcast that laid out the appeal, got McMillian freed. The case remains open, but Earley lays out some alternate theories, as well as hints at possible suspects. A memorable tale of the many points where investigations are fallible. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553095012
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/1/1995
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.34 (d)

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