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Rocky Myers has an intellectual disability, was saddled with an incompetent lawyer, convicted on the evidence from a key witness who has since recanted his testimony and with absolutely no evidence tying him to the scene of the crime. The judge imposed a death sentence against the jury’s wishes.

In 1991, Rocky’s neighbor, an elderly white woman named Ludie Mae Tucker, was murdered in her home by a man who came to the door asking to use the phone. Testimonies from key witnesses implicated another local man of the murder, but a friend of that man’s family, after learning about a reward offered in the case, offered detectives an affidavit implicating someone else – a short, stocky Black man. Rocky Myers, who lived across the street from Ludie Mae and fit the physical description, was an easy target.

Despite having no history of violence, and not a shred of forensic evidence tying him to the scene of Ludie Mae’s murder, an overwhelmingly white jury (including one juror who used a racial epithet to describe him) convicted Rocky of capital murder. The jury went on to recommend a life sentence, but the judge overruled them and instead sentenced Rocky to death. It was an exercise in the use of “judicial override,” a practice that has since been outlawed.

After the conviction, a lawyer took up his case but then quit in the middle of his state post-conviction appeal, without even informing Rocky. Rocky paid the price for the lawyer’s unconscionable abandonment. The filing deadline for his federal appeal passed, and by the time Rocky found out he’d been dropped as a client, it was too late.


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