Stay of Execution Sought after Discovery of New Evidence that Prosecutors Falsified Case Against Jamie Mills


Lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court after the State of Alabama has scheduled the execution of Jamie Mills for May 30, 2024. New evidence has been discovered that State prosecutors obtained his conviction illegally by falsely telling the judge and jury that they had not made a deal to secure the testimony of its star witness.

In 2005, Jamie Mills, along with two other suspects—his wife JoAnn Mills and a known local drug dealer, Benjie Howe—were arrested and charged with capital murder in the deaths of Floyd and Vera Hill. Benjie Howe was in possession of one victim’s medicine and a large amount of cash when he was arrested. Jamie and JoAnn Mills were arrested after physical evidence from the crime, including the murder weapons, were found in the trunk of their car.

JoAnn Mills told police in two different statements that she suspected Benjie Howe had planted the weapons in their car, and that Mr. Howe had brought stolen items to their home in the past. Her statements were corroborated by police accounts that, in the weeks preceding the murder, officers saw Mr. Howe frequenting the Mills’ home where the murder weapons were found and evidence that the trunk of the Mills’ car had no lock and could easily be opened.

It was only after police threatened JoAnn’s children and falsely claimed that DNA evidence on the murder weapons matched Jamie Mills’ that she gave a third statement which was new and different, this time implicating Jamie Mills.

New evidence has emerged that the District Attorney had a secret deal with JoAnn Mills that if she testified against Jamie Mills, consistent with this third statement, the State would drop the pending capital murder charges against her and allow her to plead to a sentence with the possibility of parole, sparing her both the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Despite the fact that there was an agreement between JoAnn and the prosecutor, the jury was told the opposite at Jamie Mills’ trial. At the outset of JoAnn Mills’ testimony, the District Attorney affirmatively elicited a denial of any plea deal:

District Attorney: And are you doing this of your own free will?

JoAnn Mills: Yes, sir.

District Attorney: Have there been any deals or offers or anything like that made to you?

JoAnn Mills: No, sir.

Mr. Mills’ defense counsel also questioned the District Attorney “on the record” about the existence of a plea offer or any inducement. The District Attorney responded:

Prosecutor: There is not.

Defense: Not a promise, not a maybe, not a nudge, not a wink, because we think it stretches the bounds of credibility that her lawyer would let her testify as she did without such an Inducement.

Prosecutor: There is none.

Defense: None?

Prosecutor: Have not made her any promises, nothing.

Defense: Have you suggested that a promise might be made after she testifies truthfully?

Prosecutor: No.

Defense: No inducement whatsoever?

Prosecutor: No.

Instead, the District Attorney told the jury the case came down to Mr. Mills’ word against Mrs. Mills’, and that the jury could find JoAnn Mills more believable given she had nothing to gain while Jamie Mills had everything to lose.

Over the course of the last 17 years, Mr. Mills has asked the State to reveal evidence of their deal with JoAnn Mills on 15 separate occasions, and each time, the State has denied the existence of any such deal.

However, new evidence from JoAnn Mills’ lawyer, Tony Glenn, now establishes that the State falsely told the jury, trial judge, defense counsel, and every state and federal court that JoAnn Mills had nothing to gain from testifying against Mr. Mills.

Based on this new evidence, Mr. Mills filed a motion in federal court on April 5, 2024, requesting that the court reopen his appeal.

The State continues to deny the existence of a deal in their response and has urged the federal court to dismiss Mr. Mills’ motion and allow the State to move forward with his execution without reviewing this critical issue, and with no consequences for the State’s blatant misconduct.

When new evidence raises serious questions about whether a person has been wrongly convicted and illegally sentenced to death, courts have a responsibility to evaluate the evidence and give the legal arguments full consideration. Failing to do so undermines our system of justice.

More than half of wrongful convictions can be traced to witnesses who lied in court or made false accusations. False testimony by jailhouse informants is especially common in death penalty cases. The consequences of prosecutors’ failure to disclose prosecutorial misconduct like the misconduct that took place in Mr. Mills’ case are striking. Since 1988, data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that, since 1988, 987 people were wrongly convicted because of official misconduct by prosecutors, including perjury or false reports by police and other witnesses. The exonerees in these cases spent an average of 12 years each in prison.

The consequences of misconduct in death penalty cases can be irrevocable. Alabama sentences more people to die than any other state and has one of the highest execution rates per capita in the country. With 73 executions and nine exonerations since 1976, Alabama has a shocking rate of error: for every eight people executed, one has been exonerated.