On the night of July 14, 1987, 23-year-old John Randall Alexander spent the night with three buddies, cruising bars, drinking and smoking marijuana in Panola County, Mississippi. Shortly after midnight, after playing pool, they left their last tavern of the night and Alexander offered to give his friends a ride home if they chipped in for gas.
After an argument, the friends declined to pay and decided to walk home, so Alexander drove off. But not long after, Alexander returned and the three friends, Robert “Neil” Smith, 17; Andrew “Andy” Byars, 18; and Gregory “Todd” Knight, 19, got in the car. They drove to a grocery store where they quarreled again.
Smith, who had received a paycheck that day, complained that he had paid for most of their drinks and food that night, but offered Alexander $3 anyway. When Alexander insisted on $5, Smith left on foot. Alexander then drove Knight and Byars home.
About 6 a.m. on July 15, a state trooper found the body of Smith lying face down on the pavement of Highway 51, a two-lane road just south of Pope, Mississippi. He had been struck and killed by a vehicle.
In May, 1988, two of Alexander’s acquaintances, Scott Tucker and his wife, Theresa, told authorities that Alexander had admitted them that his car had struck and killed Smith.
Alexander was indicted by a Panola County grand jury in September, 1988, on a charge of murder. He went on trial on October 25, 1989 and based on the testimony of the Tucker’s was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison.
His conviction was affirmed in 1992.
While in prison, Alexander began writing to the witnesses and finally convinced them to recant. Theresa Tucker provided a sworn affidavit saying that she had lied because she was forced to by her abusive husband who wanted her to back up his assertion.
In 1995, based on Tucker’s recantation, as well as that of her husband, Alexander’s conviction was vacated and he was granted a new trial.
The case remained in limbo for the next 15 years, until 2010, when the charges were dismissed.
In October, 2011, Alexander reached an agreement with the state of Mississippi to receive $281,000 in compensation.
– Maurice Possley