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““I hereby sentence you to death.”
The words of Judge Clifford B. Shepard filled the courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27, 1976. Shepard was sentencing Clifford Williams Jr., whom a jury had just found guilty of entering a woman’s house with a spare key entrusted to him and then shooting her dead from the foot of her bed.
It was a bizarre verdict, for forensics showed that the shots had been fired from outside the house — through the window, breaking the glass and piercing curtains and a screen. Moreover, at the time of the shooting Williams had been attending a birthday party, an alibi confirmed by many in attendance.
That didn’t matter, for Williams was an indigent black man with a public defender who didn’t call a single witness. The jury didn’t realize that he had an alibi or that the bullets had come from outside the house.”
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