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Frank Sealie

Other Alabama Murder Exonerations
On September 25, 2012, 34-year-old Amaju Coles was fatally shot and another man was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Brighton, Alabama.

Coles was in his regular corner location selling CDs when a hail of bullets was fired from a passing car. Twenty-year-old Kevin Hatter, whom police believed was the intended target of the shooting, was wounded.

Two days later, police arrested 23-year-old Frank Sealie and 30-year-old Mitchum Goodwin Jr. on charges of capital murder and attempted murder. Four days later, police also charged 23-year-old Cabrera Brock with capital murder and attempted murder.

Sealie, who had no criminal record, went to trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court in May 2014. By that time, the prosecution had dismissed the case against Goodwin. Brock was tried separately and was acquitted.

Hatter testified that he recognized Sealie as the driver of the car from which the shots were fired. Hatter said that a passenger in the front seat fired a chrome revolver and that a passenger in the back seat sprayed the corner with an AK-47.

Hatter’s girlfriend testified that she saw the shooting and identified Sealie as the driver of the car.

The defense presented testimony that Sealie was elsewhere at the time of the shooting. On May 9, 2014, the jury convicted Sealie of capital murder and attempted murder.

After Sealie was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Assistant Jefferson County District Attorney Lane Tolbert decided to re-investigate the case because, he later said, he saw a look in Hatter’s eyes when he identified Sealie that was unsettling and caused him to doubt Hatter.

During the re-investigation, the prosecution located a new witness who had not been previously identified. That witness said that Sealie was not the driver of the car.

In addition, Hatter told the prosecution’s investigators that he really wasn’t sure that Sealie was the driver after all. Moreover, Hatter’s girlfriend admitted that she didn’t know who the driver was, but identified Sealie because Hatter told her to do so.

On March 12, 2015, Tolbert told Jefferson County Circuit Judge David Hobdy that Hatter’s admission that he wasn’t sure of Sealie’s involvement was sufficient for him to seek to vacate the conviction.

“I'm not comfortable with 'I'm not sure,’” Tolbert said. Judge Hobdy granted a motion to vacate the conviction, Tolbert dismissed the charges, and Sealie was released.

Tolbert said he became suspicious of Hatter's testimony at the trial when he asked Hatter if he was sure Sealie was in the car. Hatter said he was, but, Tolbert said, he saw something in Hatter's eyes when he answered that bothered him, even after the trial. “It just gave me pause,” Tolbert said.
In October 2016, Sealie was back in custody after being charged with capital murder for two separate fatal shootings that were committed after he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/17/2015
Last Updated: 10/31/2016
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder
Reported Crime Date:2012
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No