Gary Drinkard

State: Alabama

Convicted: 1995

Exonerated: 2001

Race: Caucasian

DNA used in exoneration? No

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

False accusation

Inadequate legal defense

Prosecutorial misconduct

Gary's Wrongful Conviction

Gary Drinkard spent close to six years on Alabama’s death row before being exonerated in 2001. He was sentenced to death in 1995 for the robbery and murder of a 65-year-old automotive junk dealer in Decatur, Alabama. Unable to afford an attorney, he was assigned two lawyers with no experience trying criminal cases. Despite being at home at the time of the murders and suffering from a debilitating back injury, Gary was convicted and sentenced to death.

Yet Gary maintained his innocence, barely believing his sentence. Amazingly, the conviction rested primarily on testimony by Gary’s half-sister and her common-law husband, both facing charges for unrelated crimes. In exchange for testifying, all the charges against Gary’s half-sister were dismissed.

In 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct, and with the help of the Southern Center for Human Rights, Gary won an acquittal in 2001. The Center later represented Gary before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to illustrate the urgent need for competent lawyers for those facing the death penalty.

“The system is broken,” he says. “I don’t think the death penalty is appropriate for anyone. God is the only one who has the right to take a life.”

Gary's Work Today

Today, Gary lives and works in Alabama, and is active in the movement to abolish the death penalty. He enjoys speaking to audiences of all kinds, from colleges to churches. Gary is also active lobbying for death penalty abolition across the country, including Wyoming and Texas.


Quest for Justice: Defending the Damned (Second Edition) by Richard S. Jaffe

  • "Richard Jaffe explores the problems of the American death penalty system through his experience as a capital defense attorney in Alabama."

  • Jaffe secured the release of both Gary Drinkard and Randal Padgett.

In The Media:

5.3.13 Gary Drinkard - Poor Public Defense Council

11.11.13 Four Death Row Survivors at 14th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty

4.17.15 8 men have walked free from Alabama's death row in 39 years

2.25.17 How did Gary Drinkard survive 5 years on Alabama's death row? 'Silly little poems'

5.7.17 Report: Record number of prisoners exonerated in 2016; None from Alabama

10.25.18 ‘Texas says death row, we say hell no!’

2.12.19 Death Row exoneree shares his story

2.13.19 Death row exoneree speaks in support of death penalty repeal

4.26.19 Inocentes narran cómo se salvaron de la pena de muerte

8.20.19 Life after death row: Witness to Innocence group brings former prisoners to Eagle County

8.20.19 Free at last: Death row exonerees share their stories with Vail Valley audience

8.21.19 Exonerated from death row, panelists address legal professionals in Eagle County

8.21.19 21,000 lost years: Former death row inmates speak in Breck... on Krystal 93 news

8.21.19 Death row exonerees speak out at Breckenridge panel

1501 Cherry St.

Philadelphia, PA 19102


Tel: (267) 519-4584​

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