"They put me on death row for 6 years! They threatened me for 6 years. They tortured me with the promise of execution for 6 years. I lost my life. I lost my reputation. I lost my - I lost my dignity."
Ronda Morrison was an 18 year old who lived in MonroeVille, Alabama. In 1986, she was found brutally murdered at the dry cleaners store. Ronda was a beloved member of the community, and her murder brought anger and fear throughout the members. Police were becoming desperate to find the killer, but had no luck. After 6 months of no leads, they started getting hopeless. They turned their attention towards McMillian, an unlikely suspect from the start. He had no criminal history prior to the murder, and worked for many of the community members as a self-employed logger.
A man in another county was being pressured by the police, making false statements accusing McMillian of murdering Ronda Morrison. That false statement changed his life forever. McMillian was then arrested by the police and charged with capital murder. Before he was even convicted of the murder, he was placed on death row. He remained there for 15 months before his trial began.
There are multiple pieces of evidence pointing towards McMillian's innocence. At the time of the murder, he was 11 miles away with his family as a fish fry for church. Multiple witnesses have come forward, claiming McMillian was there, including a cop. They were ignored by the officials. During his trial, the jury was mostly white, and they convicted him guilty of the murder of Stacey Stites. He was sentenced to life in prison and life by the electric chair.
In 1988, attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson took on McMillian's case. As the investigation in the case continued, Stevenson and EJI found tons of evidence amounting towards McMillian's innocence. There was evidence that the state's only witness was pressured, including tape recordings proving that he had been pressured to testify falsely. EJI presented the evidence to the courts, but it took 6 years of hearings and appeals before they were able to get an appeal from Alabama Court of Criminals claiming that McMillian's conviction was unfair.
Immediately a new investigation was ordered. In the end, he was announced innocent. Walter now educates people about death penalty, sharing his own experiences with students, groups, and elected officials across the country.
There is a new book written by Bryan Stevenson called "Just Mercy". It describes how Bryan Stevenson defended McMillian, and tells more about his story.
Walter McMillian reuniting with his family after exoneration.