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Don Grimes

Other Alabama Exonerations
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On July 11, 1984, 30-year-old Don Grimes was arrested for the armed robbery of the Village Peddler convenience store a few days earlier in Abbeville, Alabama. Agents for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation confiscated a BB-pistol from his home.

Grimes went to trial in Henry County District Court in March 1987. The clerk at the Village Peddler, a 28-year-old woman, testified that several days prior to the robbery, two men came into the store to make a purchase and that she heard one of them say, “We’re going to rob this place.”

The woman said that a few days before the robbery, the two men paid a second visit. They asked her where the store’s security cameras were located and what parts of the store were covered by the cameras.

On the day of the robbery, the woman said, she had put the day’s receipts—$1,100—into a bank bag and had just locked up the store for the day when a man with a stocking cap over his head emerged from some bushes holding a revolver. The man demanded the bank bag, which she handed over, and then fled.

The woman said that despite the mask, she recognized the man as Grimes, saying she knew him because he lived in Abbeville.

A woman was waiting in a car outside the Village Peddler to give the store clerk a ride. She testified that when she saw the robber come out of the bushes, she immediately ducked down. She was unable to identify Grimes as the robber.

The prosecution introduced the BB-pistol into evidence and argued that it was the gun that Grimes used in the robbery.

On April 2, 1987, the jury deliberated less than five minutes before convicting Grimes of armed robbery. Because Grimes had prior felony convictions, he qualified as a repeat offender and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After the Alabama Court of Appeals upheld his conviction, Grimes filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In 1996, a federal judge granted the writ and vacated the conviction, ruling that prosecutors at Grimes’s trial had engaged in discriminatory jury selection by improperly rejecting black prospective jurors because of their race.

Grimes went to trial a second time in August 1996. At this trial, his defense lawyer, Michael Crespi, called two Henry County Sheriff’s deputies, Johnny Bradley and Rip Hatcher, as witnesses.

The deputies testified that immediately after the robbery, the clerk and her friend came to the sheriff’s office to report the crime. At that time, the clerk said she could not identify the robber and had no idea who he was. The description of the gun the clerk gave was significantly different that the appearance of the BB-pistol.

On August 7, 1996 the jury acquitted Grimes and he was released.

Grimes subsequently sought $600,000 compensation from the state of Alabama. Although at one point an appropriation of $60,000 was requested in the state budget, the appropriation was never approved and compensation was never granted.

Grimes died in 2013.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/3/2018
State:Alabama
County:Henry
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1984
Convicted:1987
Exonerated:1996
Sentence:Life without parole
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:30
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No