In October 1988, a man was shot and killed on a street in Montgomery, Alabama. Police persuaded Melvin Beamon – who had been seen with the victim earlier in the day – to come down to the station by telling him that they wanted to talk about a friend who was in trouble. Beamon was then interrogated for 17 hours during which he was beaten, threatened, and denied access to an attorney or a phone call. At trial, several eyewitnesses testified that they had seen Beamon shoot the victim. Beamon was convicted by a jury in August 1989 of murder and sentenced to 25 years.
Immediately after the conviction, the eyewitnesses recanted their testimony, saying that the police had threatened them and forced them to testify falsely. Several other witnesses came forward and identified another man as the shooter. Six weeks after his trial, Beamon’s conviction was vacated by the trial court; charges were dismissed in July 1990.
- Stephanie Denzel