Reprieve deplores the execution of Jack Alderman, the longest serving death row prisoner in the US

September 17, 2008

Reprieve is deeply saddened by the execution of Jack Alderman. The longest serving death row prisoner in the United States, Jack had been on Georgia’s death row for over 33 years. He was executed yesterday evening.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, said: “I am devastated. Jack was a model prisoner and loved by many. The fact that Jack was killed despite his strong claim of innocence demonstrates with depressing clarity why this barbaric practice must end.”

Jack, who was convicted for the murder of his wife in 1974, always maintained his innocence. In addition, his neighbour John Brown, a known drug addict and alcoholic, confessed to the murder of Jack’s wife. There was no forensic evidence against Jack and he was only convicted as a result of statements provided by Brown. The District Attorney who prosecuted Jack stated that he “structured the entire case” around John Brown’s testimony. Brown made a deal with prosecutors to implicate Jack in the crime; Brown pled guilty in return for a prison sentence and was freed after serving only 12 years.

Two of the original jurors in Jack’s case have affirmed that they would never have voted to execute Jack if the prosecutors had acknowledged the existence of the deal with Brown, and five jurors urged that Jack’s life be spared.

During his 33 years on death row, Jack had been a peacemaker within the prison community, and had become well-respected by his fellow prisoners, guards, and even the prison administration. Hundreds of individuals, faith-based organizations, and even those supporting capital punishment advocated for clemency for Jack.

There was a glimmer of hope when a judge stayed the execution on Monday and ordered the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Jack a hearing. The hearing, which was held yesterday morning, lasted almost two hours. Seven witnesses gave statements: five members of the clergy, one school teacher, and Jack’s father. All of the witnesses spoke about Jack’s character – his friendship, his spirituality, his mentoring role, his peacekeeping role, and his integrity. Several also stated that they believed that Jack was innocent, and some made the point about the disparity in sentencing between John Brown and Jack.

The Board indicated that they would meet together, then deliberate individually, and then vote. The decision would be made by a simple majority. However, the Board denied clemency, and Jack was executed just hours later. This was the same board which offered parole to John Brown.

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact Andy Worthington at Reprieve’s Press Office on 020 7427 1099 or email Andy@reprieve.org.uk.

Note for Editors:

Reprieve uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty. Reprieve is currently working on behalf of 21 men and women facing the death penalty around the world, providing free legal and investigative assistance.

For more details about Reprieve, visit: www.reprieve.org.uk.

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Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner