Death Row inmate found not guilty in third trial
Wesley Quick spent six years on Death Row for two murders a jury now says he didn't commit. The victims' families are understandably heartbroken.
Yet it's not particularly constructive to second-guess the jurors who heard the entire trial, saw all of the legal evidence and reached this decision. It's clear there were conflicting stories; for whatever reason, the jury did not find that the prosecutors proved their version of the story beyond a reasonable doubt. When that happens, it is a jury's duty to acquit just as surely as it's duty-bound to convict when convinced of guilt.
What's unsettling in this case and others like it is how different outcomes can be from one jury to another, even in cases where there should be no room for error.
For sure, Quick's story had changed. He had testified before that he was high on LSD and couldn't remember shooting two 18-year-olds at Turkey Creek Falls in Pinson. At this week's trial, he recalled his friend committing the murders.
Beyond that, Quick's trial didn't reveal stunning new evidence. He was granted a third trial the first ended in mistrial, the second in conviction on what some would consider a technicality: The judge at the second trial denied Quick a free copy of the transcript from the first trial.
That's an example of Alabama's slipshod approach to capital cases. When someone's facing the ultimate punishment, the state should go above and beyond to make sure a defendant gets an adequate defense. But too many prosecutors and judges don't meet even the minimum requirements of fairness for instance, by refusing to provide a past trial transcript that's clearly crucial to any subsequent defense.
Back in court for the third time, Quick also had the advantage of aggressive defense lawyers Charles Salvagio of Birmingham and Thomas Mesereau Jr. of Los Angeles. As much as Quick's acquittal grieves the victims' families, he deserved the most zealous of defenses, as do others who are facing the death penalty. But there's ample reason to suspect that's not always the case.
Indeed, the differing verdicts for Quick suggest precisely how random justice can be.