Former Alabama Death Row Prisoner Is Free


Larry Smith was released from jail on Friday after serving more than 17 years on death row. He has maintained his innocence since his arrest and conviction in 1996. His capital murder conviction and death sentence were overturned in 2010 when an appellate court found that his verdict was unreliable because his trial lawyer did not adequately represent him. Last week, Mr. Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery, was sentenced to time served, and walked out of jail a free man.

District Attorney Steve Marshall said the victim’s mother, Diane Maier, sat through the original trial and that she “firmly believed that Larry Smith did not pull the trigger and kill her son.”

Evidence presented in postconviction proceedings supports the view that Mr. Smith did not kill the victim, including testimony showing that, contrary to the prosecution’s claim, Mr. Smith was not seen with the victim on the day he disappeared, and that a third person was involved in the crime.

Mr. Smith’s mother hugged him outside the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office. She said she is ready to fix her son a home-cooked meal for the first time in nearly two decades.

The unreliability of the trial where Mr. Smith was convicted and sentenced to death was documented by the 2010 decision from the Court of Criminal Appeals, upholding a postconviction trial judge’s ruling granting him a new trial. The court found that his lawyer failed to locate numerous witnesses who would have provided testimony critical to Mr. Smith’s defense.