Prosecutor disputes innocence claims of death row inmate

AP News
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Posted: Jun 08, 2015 5:59 PM

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A prisoner who is trying to become the third inmate freed this year from Alabama's death row hasn't proven his claims of innocence and waited too long to raise other issues on appeal, state prosecutors told a federal judge Monday.

The state attorney general's office asked U.S. District Judge David Proctor to reject an appeal by Donnis George Musgrove, who claims he was wrongly convicted in the fatal shooting of Coy Eugene Barron in 1986.

Musgrove, 66, contends he is innocent and has wrongly spent nearly 30 years on death row.

But prosecutors filed court rejecting his claims, including allegations of numerous errors during his trial. Those are a faulty eyewitness identification; ballistics evidence planted by police; and an ineffective defense lawyer.

In each instance, prosecutors argued, Musgrove either failed to raise the issues or waited too long to make new arguments.

David Keyko, an attorney for Musgrove, called prosecutors' response disappointing and said in a statement that there is "significant evidence" that Musgrove did not receive a fair trial and is innocent.

Two other inmates have been released from Alabama's death row since early April after winning appeals. One of them, Anthony Ray Hinton, was tried by the same prosecutor and judge who handled Musgrove's case.

Musgrove and co-defendant David Rogers were convicted of capital murder on Feb. 11, 1988, a few years after Hinton was convicted. Rogers died in prison.

Evidence showed Barron was shot to death in the middle of the night in during a residential break-in. Officers arrested Musgrove and Rogers — both convicted car thieves who had fled a state work-release center — following a car chase weeks later.

Barron's wife at first told police she couldn't identify two men who entered their darkened home and shot her husband in the bedroom, and she initially failed to select Musgrove out of a lineup, according to the defense. But the woman quickly identified Musgrove and Rogers after meeting privately with a detective, Musgrove's lawyers contend.

The defense also said a shell casing used to link Musgrove to the killing was planted by police, and that Musgrove's then-lawyer made numerous mistakes during the trial.

A state judge who represented Rogers as a defense lawyer during his joint trial with Musgrove has said he believes the men were innocent, and that he hopes the federal judge reviewing the case corrects the error.