State Judge: Death Row Inmate Should Be Freed

May 30, 2015

Credit EJI

Donnis George Musgrove has spent nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row for a murder he says he didn't commit. He now has an unlikely ally in his appeal effort: a state judge who represented Musgrove's co-defendant while working as a defense attorney.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tommy Nail represented David Rogers when he and Musgrove were both charged and eventually convicted of the 1986 murder of Birmingham man Coy Eugene Barron. Both men were sentenced to death. Judge Nail told the Associated Press recently he believes the men were wrongly convicted. He hopes the federal court currently reviewing Musgrove's case corrects the error.

David Rogers died in prison. Musgrove has appealed his conviction multiple times, and prosecutors have consistently upheld his conviction and sentence. That includes one Alabama Supreme Court decision overturning an appellate court ruling that would have set Musgrove free.

Musgrove's defense team has noted several similarities between his case and that of Anthony Ray Hinton, who was released from prison in early April after new ballistics evidence made clear that he didn't commit the 1985 murders for which he was convicted.