After 20+ years on death row and acceptance of guilt, I came to question my participation in the crime of which I was convicted and for which I received the death penalty. My family, friends and acquaintances had never believed it, as I had no prior criminal record or reputation for violence.
Six years ago my belief in my guilt was shaken because a witness who had been with my co-defendant, myself and another individual that night, came forward to state unequivocally that I could not have committed the crime as I was passed out cold on the floor due to drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, the statement from the witness that my co- defendant had borrowed my jacket that night when he left and committed the crime, explained how jewelry belonging to the victim had supposedly been found in my wallet, which I always kept in my pocket. I was not present when the police found the jewelry.
It had never made sense to me how I, a non-secretor, could have my blood type identified from the semen. The Innocence Project determined that the tests used by the State would not have been able to identify my blood type, nor would they have been reliable. The argument made by the State that I could have ejaculated twice did not coincide with my sexual history, which told me that when under the influence, I would not even be able to ejaculate once, let alone twice. My total inebriation has never been in question.
In the eyes of my attorneys and the state my guilt had largely rested on my “confession” and that I never retracted it. I did not retract it because I have no knowledge of that night. Hindsight tells me that my confession was due to questionable evidence and suggested scenario presented to me, a suggestive personality, psychological intimidation with good cop/bad cop tactics and my debilitated physical and emotional state due to substance withdrawal.
In addition, my attorney advised me to throw myself on the mercy of the court and I thought that by confessing I was doing that. I had an all white jury. Over the years I have learned that no competent attorney would ever allow his client to take the witness stand, let alone confess, whether the client was innocent or guilty.
When I was arrested I was not hiding, as I had no reasons to. Reasons for arrest were that I was friendly with the co-defendant to whose house a trail of evidence led and because I was familiar with the crime scene. Not knowing any differently, I was willing to accept my culpability and was encouraged to do so as a way of mitigating consequences.
Upon my arrest, I was asked to retrieve the clothes I had worn the night before. There is no doubt that I had no clue or recollection what I wore that night were it not for this new witness who stated that I was wearing the jacket already referred to. I was at a loss, and as a result I just picked up some soiled clothes from a pile in the room I shared with my two brothers. After testing the only possible evidence found was one hair on a sock, which was consistent with the victim’s hair, the state claimed. The defense received too little money to do its own testing and this was stated by the attorney representing me. In fact he asked my family for more money and later stated that if my case had been a civil case he would have been sued for malpractice. (My appointed attorney was a divorce attorney).
The shirt which was found a couple of days later by a self admitted police informer, (see attached affidavit) was never identified by me or any family member as belonging to me.
For years I accepted what had been suggested to me because I did not have any memory of that night. When I came to death row and saw Victor Kennedy, my co-defendant who was executed in 1999, I asked him repeatedly to tell me what happened on that night. He would not tell me and was hostile. On the night of his execution, I was taken from my cell by the Lieutenant to the Captain’s office. Victor had asked his personal preacher to tell me that he, Victor, asked for my forgiveness. I asked the preacher, for what does he want my forgiveness? The preacher told me, that is not important!
It is hard to understand why my attorney in preparation for my trial never tried to interview the two other men who were there that night, my brother, Rodney and Al Naugher, (affidavits). It was no secret that we had all been playing cards together that night and drinking as reported in the newspaper at that time. The attorney did not interview these two other men nor did he do any kind of investigation. He later stated that he was denied the money by the court to do that.
It was not until 2001, when Al Naugher once more told my sister Betty Grayson that I was innocent, that Esther Brown interviewed him and others in my case. When she interviewed my brother, Rodney, who I have not seen since my arrest 26 years ago, he told her that the family wanted to put the murder on him. On checking with family members this turned out to be incorrect. Rodney is a convicted sex offender.
Esther Brown also rehired my former attorney, not because of his competency, but because of his local connections, which did turn up my evidence and led to the Innocence Project taking up my case.
The State of Alabama, in denying my request for DNA testing, cited the fact that I never said I was innocent as the reason for denial. How could I have done that when I have no memory of that night? I do admit to giving a coerced false confession. DNA testing could prove that and invalidate my false confession, which to cite my original attorney, was the reason I was found guilty and convicted.
Darrell B. Grayson