Mother Fights To Save Sons
by Earnest McBride
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer
Enterprise, AL - Marcus King was lucky. He only got sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for a crime he never committed.
Alabama judges are notorious for overruling jury verdicts and imposing death sentences on black men caught up in the nation's most racist and deadliest prison system.
Marcus' brother, Kelle, might not be so lucky at his upcoming trial.
He's been in jail for over a year facing capital murder charges in the
"There are usually only two ways to get off Alabama's death row," Birmingham Post-Herald reporter Taylor Bright has written. "Get the sentence reduced or die in the electric chair known as 'Yellow Mama.'"
Marcus King got the reduced sentence, although he was originally brought to trial on two capital murder charges, an almost certain entree to Alabama's death chamber for a black suspect. But he was lucky that his mother hired private attorneys instead of relying on the two lackadaisical public defenders the county provided. And he was also lucky that the judge in the case did not follow the precedent of some other Alabama judges and overrule the jury. That might have been because the jury was a "good" one by Alabama standards, consisting of 11 whites and one black police officer. "Whites make better jurors than blacks in capital cases," One Alabama prosecutor informed Federal investigators.
Since Kelle King fought extradition from his hometown of Mesa, Arizona, he stands a good chance of getting the death penalty, although, from the evidence provided, there is nothing to connect him to the murders. Meanwhile, the man who allegedly confessed to committing the two murders
-- Alex Tyrone McNair -- has never been charged.
Barbara King, the 53-year-old mother of Marcus, 33, and Kelle, 26, views the legal assault on her two sons as "modern day lynchings" and has been trying feverishly for the past several years to get the nation's attention and assistance. "I am crying out for help in combating corruption in the judicial system in Coffee County, Alabama," she says. "I am the mother of two young black men who have been railroaded and victimized by this system. I guess the prosecutors feel that they have won, but the fight has only just begun."
According to figures provided by the Washington-based Equal Justice Institute and other public-interest lawyer groups, Alabama remains the racial hell-hole of prisons in the United States, which itself is the world capital of prison systems, confining more of its citizens per capita than any other country. In September 2001, a case from Coffee County was profiled on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show for convicting an innocent man of murder. A former prosecutor Sheila Berry also appeared on the show talking about the unfairness in the judicial system. Ms Shelia Berry reportedly gave up her job as prosecutor because she got tired of being pressured by her superiors to "railroad innocent people" into the prison system, as purportedly happened in the case of Marcus King.
Black people in Alabama constitute 2 percent of the prosecutors, 4 percent of the judges, 26 percent of the total population and 63 percent of the state's prisoners. Alabama has sentenced more people to death per capita than any other state. Eighty percent of those awaiting execution on Alabama's Death Row are black men.
Montgomery Attorney Stephen Glassroth has filed an appeal on behalf
of Marcus King on three counts: (1) Race discrimination in jury selection;
(2) Abuse of the grand jury process and (3) Depriving King of his rights
to a fair trial through witness interference. The murders occurred between
9:30 and 10 on the night of April 25, 1998. Dewayne Moore, a good friend
of Marcus King, and Moore's uncle, John Henry Holloway, were shot several
times inside the house that belonged to Dewayne Moore. Moore died at the
scene. Holloway, although suffering from the gunshot wound to his chest,
ran across the street to a neighbor who had heard the commotion. A second
neighbor had seen the murderer drive away in a white 1990's model Cadillac.
Mr. Holloway told his neighbor he didn't know the man who shot him and
described his assailant as a tall, dark-skinned man. Mr. Holloway knew
the light-skinned Marcus King well
Then there was the ex-girlfriend -- Sonya Baldwin Rowe -- now married to a jail administrator in an adjacent county. Mrs. King says that Rowe remained faithful to Marcus King and was to serve as his key defense witness -- until two days before his trial. By that time, the Coffee County DA and an Enterprise Police detective got her to sign a sworn statement that she was with Marcus and Kelle King the night of the murder. She and the two brothers, her statement claimed, drove to the home of Dewayne Moore in Kelle King's car, which was a brown Suzuki Sidekick. She stayed in the car while they went inside. She heard gunshots, she claimed. And the brothers ran out and drove away.
The case went to trial on August 13, 2001. King is in prison at St.
Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama. Glassroth filed an
According to the sworn affidavit, while Justin Smith was on the stand
testifying about McNair's confession of the murders, the assistant
When Justin Smith went back on the stand before the jury, "his testimony was different from what he had told" the defense team in the pretrial interviews. Smith held true to his last minute crisis decision to save his own butt and refused to answer any further questions about the alleged McNair murder confession. Meanwhile, the younger King lingers in Coffee County jail, fully aware of how easily he can be railroaded into the death chamber by the "guardians" of Alabama's justice system.
Barbara King is determined to fight in defense of her sons "until they are freed for a crime they did not commit." My sons Kelle and Marcus King are innocent," she insists. "The judicial system in Enterprise, Alabama, wrongly convicted my eldest son, Marcus, and condemned him to life in prison without parole. The same corrupt system currently has my youngest son, Kelle, within its clutches, charged with the same crime of 'capital murder.' "I will continue to cry out for justice for my sons until freedom rings for them both. There are so many young black men who have been wrongly incarcerated, and have stayed in prison for years. Wake up, America. We cannot allow this to continue. "I sincerely hope my quest for justice will benefit others. I wouldn't want anyone to endure the pain and suffering that I have experienced in the last four years."
Barbara K. King