The Allegation: On a Sunday evening, a businessman was working in his office, located in an industrial park in south Dallas. Someone entered the office building, brutally assaulted him, and put him in the trunk of his own car, which his attacker(s) then drove away from the scene. Two miles away, in a rough neighborhood, the trunk popped open and the man fell out into the roadway. The attacker(s) backed up and ran over the man before accelerating away and abandoning the car five blocks away. The police and an ambulance were called, but the victim was pronounced dead later at the hospital. Two suspects who were residents of that neighborhood were identified by three witnesses who came forward several days later, and claimed they saw the two men get out of the victim’s car where it was parked in an alleyway. One of the witnesses, a woman in her 50s, told police our client hopped over her fence, and walked through her backyard to his car, which was parked on the street in front of her house. The other two witnesses were teenagers who lived nearby who supported the woman’s story. Based on the witness statements, both were arrested for murder and sentenced to Life in prison.
Our Client: He was a 22-year old man, recently married with a job and his first child on the way. He had no significant criminal history and was well-regarded in the neighborhood.
His Version of the Story: He described being with a friend that evening, and at the time of the murder, was sitting in his friend’s living room listening to music. When his friend’s younger brothers came home, our client and his friend decided to go for a drive. They were gone for about an hour before returning to drop his friend off and saw police working the crime scene nearby. He denied having anything to do with the murder.
Our Findings: Our investigation discovered that after a $25,000 reward was offered for information about the murder, the woman concocted a story, and recruited the two teenagers to support in hopes of receiving a portion of the reward. She did, in fact, receive the $25,000 after her testimony at trial. Thirty-two years later, we built a rapport with one of those teenage witnesses, who subsequently confessed that the whole story had been fabricated. He had been scared to tell the truth, but now he was ready to come forward. We also confirmed our client’s alibi by interviewing his friend’s younger brothers, who were juveniles at the time, and were not allowed to speak to the police. They corroborated his claim that he was in their living room at the time the murder was being committed. Finally, we created a crime scene reconstruction which showed that it would have been impossible for the woman to have seen what she claimed, due to a shed, fencing, and other obstacles in her neighbor’s backyard that would have obstructed her view of the alley where the victim’s car was abandoned.
Final Outcome: Based on our findings, our client was released after being wrongfully incarcerated for 34 years.
Note: Daryl Parker, President & Partner at Blackfish Intelligence, founded the non-profit organization, Actual Innocence Review. This organization reinvestigates cases to identify and rectify wrongful convictions in Texas. Parker worked on the Spencer case for four years pro bono.