Michael Ray Graham, Jr.

Exonerated: 
2000
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Michael Ray Graham, Jr. and his co-defendant Albert Ronnie Burrell were wrongfully convicted of a robbery and double murder of Callie and William Delton Frost in Union Parish, Louisiana in 1987.

They faced the death penalty for the crime and yet the State of Louisiana appointed them two lawyers who had no previous capital trial experience.

They were convicted despite the fact that no physical evidence linked them to the crime. Their convictions were based on three witnesses who, unbeknownst to the jury, had personal motives to testify against Mr. Burrell and Mr. Graham. One of the witnesses was Mr. Burrell's ex-wife, who testified primarily to get custody of their child.

Mr. Burrell and Mr. Graham were sentenced to death and spent 13 of the 14 years they were imprisoned on death row.

Years after the convictions, attorneys interviewed the prosecutor, Dan Grady, who indicated that he had recommended against prosecuting the cases because the evidence was too weak.

All three witnesses eventually recanted their trial testimonies, and Mr. Grady testified that he was pressured by the Union Parish district attorney to prosecute Mr. Burrell and Mr. Graham in order not to embarrass the recently-elected sheriff.

Ultimately, Mr. Graham’s won the reversal of their convictions  because the prosecutors had withheld key information from the defense, including the fact that their star witness, Olan Wayne Brantley, an inmate who claimed Mr. Burrell had confessed to him, had received a reward in the form of his own charges being reduced before sentencing. He had also been found not guilty by reason of insanity in a previous case.

In dismissing the charges, the attorney general’s office stated, “In fact, the undersigned prosecutors would deem it a breach of ethics to proceed to trial without evidence that would make it reasonable to argue to a jury that proof beyond a reasonable doubt exists in this instance.”

Mr. Graham was released from prison on December 28, 2000 and Mr. Burrell was released six days later. All he received was a set of clothes and a check for $10. Mr. Graham's lawyer gave him enough money for a bus ticket to his mother's home in Virginia.

Further Reading:

Baughman, Christopher and Tom Gaurisco, “Justice for None,” The Advocate [Baton Rouge, Louisiana] March 20, 2001

 
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