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Once on death row, Birmingham man enters plea that could result in his release in less than 10 years. Birmingham News

Once on death row, Birmingham man enters plea that could result in his release in less than 10 years
Kent Faulk | kfaulk@al.com  The Birmingham News 

on July 19, 2013 at 4:43 PM, updated July 19, 2013 at 4:45 PM

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - A Birmingham man, who won the right to a new trial after spending three years on death row in the 2004 shooting death of a Center Point woman,  now has less than 10 more years to serve in prison after he entered a plea deal with prosecutors today.

A key prosecution witness, who had gotten reward money in the case, had recanted her testimony at a hearing this spring.

Montez Spradley, 31, was sentenced this morning by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Wallace to serve a total of 10 years in prison. Spradley was sentenced to two  20-year split sentences, one for felony murder and the other for intimidation of a witness, with five years to serve on each sentence. Each sentence is to run consecutively. 

Because Spradley will get credit for time he has spent incarcerated on the charges since 2006, including three years on death row after his original conviction. As a result he will be out in less than 10 years.

Under a split sentence, if he were to violate probation after he is released, he could be forced to serve out the remainder of the 20-year sentences.

"It's extraordinary that someone who was on death row is going to gain his freedom in a matter of years," said Anna Arceneaux, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project. "A terrible miscarriage of justice was avoided ... We are thrilled that he won't be returning to death row for a crime he did not commit."

Spradley had been convicted in 2008 of capital murder in the death of Marlene Jason, the 58-year-old lunchroom cashier at Mountain Brook Middle School who was shot and killed as she returned to her Center Point home from shopping for clothes for her grandchildren on Jan. 9, 2004.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, citing multiple errors committed during his capital murder trial, on Sept. 30, 2011 reversed Spradley's conviction and death sentence. The appeals court, however, had affirmed his conviction on intimidation of a witness.

The defense and prosecution had been preparing for a new trial. But in a hearing in May a key prosecution witness in the first trial, Spradley's girlfriend, told Wallace that she collected more than $10,000 in reward money after she lied in testimony that helped convict Spradley.

Spradley's defense attorneys maintained that someone else killed Jason and that the prosecution was going to have to rely on testimony from a jailhouse snitch.

"This was a case that needed to be resolved, especially since the real perpetrator was shot and killed in an unrelated incident," Spradley's attorney, Richard Jaffe, said in a statement after the hearing. "The evidence in this case mainly came from the totally uncorroborated statement of a 'jail house snitch' who faced a murder charge for killing his father. But anything can happen when 12 strangers decide a case. For that reason we advised Montez to enter best interest pleas (Alford pleas) so the legal proceedings could be certain and over."

A prosecutor in the case said that the plea was agreed to after consultation with Jason's family.

"After talking to the family and examination of everything as it comes to the case, we decided this was the best way to resolve the issues and secure a conviction on not only the murder but also on the intimidation of a witness case," said Deputy Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton ...

Anderton said that Jason's family is glad to get the case resolved. "They feel like they are at peace and their mother can rest in peace," he said.


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