In November 1981, Betty Thornton, a cashier at a Little Rock, Arkansas convenience store, was robbed and murdered. An eyewitness, who was black, identified Scotty Scott, a white man, from a photo lineup as the man who posed as the cashier after Thornton was shot. Scott was the only man in the lineup who resembled the description of the perpetrator. Two other eyewitnesses testified that they saw Scott at the store around the time of the murder. Scott admitted that he was at the store, but said that he remained in the parking lot on a pay phone. Scott’s first trial in 1982 ended with a hung jury, but at a second trial in May 1983, a jury convicted Scott of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Scott remained free on bond while he appealed his case.
In 1984, a serial killer on death row in Texas confessed to Thornton’s murder. Based on that confession, a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge granted Scott a new trial in August 1984. Scott’s retrial was delayed for three years because of his health problems. During the delay, the serial killer recanted his confession, and an investigation revealed that he was in Florida at the time of the crime. Scott’s third trial was held in May 1989, and a jury acquitted him of all charges.
- Stephanie Denzel