In 1991, during a bitter custody battle, Montgomery, Alabama insurance salesman Robert Doyle was accused by his ex-wife of sexually abusing their three daughters. In November 1992, a jury convicted Doyle of abusing the two older girls, then 7 and 9 years old, based on their testimony against him; Doyle was acquitted of abusing the youngest daughter. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Doyle remained free on bond while he appealed, but began to serve his sentence in 1997 after the Alabama Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction.
After his conviction, Doyle learned that his daughters had originally told police investigators that other men had abused them. The prosecutor, who had previously represented Doyle’s ex-wife in their divorce, withheld this evidence from the defense. Prosecutors also failed to disclose that after the trial, one of the girls claimed she participated in satanic rituals at a local church with her father – an allegation the authorities had dismissed as implausible, and which called into question the girl’s overall credibility. In 1999, the trial court granted Doyle’s motion for a new trial. The state appealed, but the order granting a new trial was upheld by the Alabama Court of Appeals in January 2000. Doyle was released in July 2000, and the indictment against him was dismissed in January 2001.
In July 2001, Doyle became the first director of the Alabama Justice Ministries Network, a statewide Christian ministry to people in jails, prisons and juvenile detention centers.
In 2002, Doyle filed a claim under the state’s Compensation for Wrongful Incarceration Act. His claim was initially denied because his innocence had not been proven to a “scientific certainty,” but a judge overruled the denial in June 2005, and declared him innocent.
Doyle died in 2007, before he was awarded compensation, from complications from diabetes and heart disease. In December 2008, the Committee on Compensation for the Wrongly Incarcerated posthumously awarded Doyle $129,000 for the almost three years he spent in prison.
Doyle’s widow, Donna, who received the money, sought greater compensation, a move opposed by his ex-wife and daughters. Upon her husband's death, Donna Doyle became the executive director of the network.
- Stephanie Denzel