New Trial for David Riley Upheld by Alabama Supreme Court


On April 16, 2010, the Alabama Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the State of Alabama seeking to overturn the Court of Criminal Appeals’s decision granting a new trial to death row prisoner and EJI client David Riley. The court denied a petition for review that was filed by the Alabama Attorney General’s office, which means the appellate court’s decision will stand.

The Court of Criminal Appeals in December 2009 reversed David Riley’s capital murder conviction and remanded his case for a new trial because the trial court allowed his jury to consider in an illegal manner highly prejudicial evidence that Mr. Riley had been sent to boot camp when he was juvenile and that he had prior criminal convictions.

EJI argued at the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the court agreed, that because the trial court did not tell the jury how it was allowed to consider the evidence it heard, David Riley’s conviction cannot stand.

The appeals court relied on established precedent from the Alabama Supreme Court to rule that the trial court’s plain error violated Mr. Riley’s fundamental right to a fair trial and requires a new trial.