Alabama man exonerated from death row advocates for other inmates

Alabama man exonerated from death row advocates for other inmates

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Actors, attorneys and religious leaders are asking the Alabama Supreme Court for a new trial for a man on death row.

Law and Order actors Joanna Merlin and Sam Waterston, along with several religious leaders, come together to support a death row inmate whose story has captured the nation's attention.

Billy Kuenzel was sentenced in 1988 for the murder of Linda Jean Offord in Sylacauga. He's maintained his innocence for years.
The group gathered in Birmingham Monday to try and give William Kuenzel that moment by asking the Alabama Supreme Court for a new trial.

"It's about getting a day in court for a man that was denied justice," said Law and Order actor Sam Waterston.

Kuenzel was convicted in a 1987 murder and robbery in Talladega County and has argued his innocence for years.
"He was offered a shorter sentence if he would plead guilty and he refused," said Law and Order SVU actress Joanna Merlin.

Prior courts concluded that "the state more than adequately proved this offense," noting that the original trial included testimony of 38 witnesses as well as 114 exhibits.

While one death row inmate is fighting for his life in Alabama, another Alabama man remembers his own fight for freedom all too well. Gary Drinkard spent nearly 6 years on death row before being exonerated.
"You tend to lose hope," Drinkard said, "I started writing anybody and everybody I could get an address for."

Finally, 8 years after he was arrested, Drinkard walked away from prison.
"Everybody in the court house was crying," Drinkard said. "I think the judge even shed a couple tears. It was I guess just the happiest moment of my life."

Regardless of whether Kuenzel is guilty or not, Drinkard says his own experience on death row made him realize the death penalty is not the answer.

"It's not the solution," Drinkard said. "How can you tell people that killing is wrong when you actually pat people on the back for killing our citizens. You can't do it."
Kuenzel's attorney said evidence that could have cleared Kuenzel was suppressed until long after his sentencing. He said numerous issues including ineffective counsel and questionable witness testimony led to his conviction.

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