Campfire

Episode 3:
State of Tennessee
vs.
Sedley Alley

 

Time Served: 21 Years
Status: Executed, 2006

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Abuse of Power:
Coerced Confession

(Photo / Innocence Project)

“I felt angry. I felt cheated. I thought, you know, before you execute him, can we at least make sure. I wanted to know, was he actually guilty?” –April Alley, daughter of Sedley Alley

1985 saw an extremely brutal murder strike the Marine Corps Naval Air Station in Millington, Tenessee. 19-year-old Corporal Suzanne Collins was abducted while jogging on the base, taken to a nearby park, beaten, sodomized with a tree branch, and killed. Sedley Alley, who lived in the base with his wife, a member of the armed forces, was quickly arrested, as his car had been seen in the area the night of her death. Alley confessed under interrogation, but later insisted he had been coerced into doing so by police. Alley’s allegations of coercing proved to be probable when false confessions expert Richard Leo reviewed Alley’s confession and noticed many of the details did not match the facts of the crime. Instead, they matched facts that police had assumed were true before forensics had a chance to investigate. Alley received the death penalty in March 1987, and sat on death row for the next twenty years. When DNA testing gained traction as a new investigative tool, Alley and his lawyers requested that DNA from the original crime scene be tested for third party suspects, believing that the real culprit could be identified, but a judge ruled against it. Alley was executed on June 28, 2006. The case went quiet until years later when Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, received an anonymous tip that a man who had gone to the same training school as Collins and matched the suspect description from Collins’ case had recently been arrested for murder and previous rape charges. This new information has reignited the fight to clear Sedley Alley’s name, and his daughter April is at the forefront of that battle.

To support Sedley Alley’s family in their search for the truth, go to www.innocenceproject.org/sedleyalley.

Tennessee

Date of crime: 7/11/85

Crime: Murder and Rape

Sentence: Death

Interview Subjects:

  • April Alley, daughter of Sedley Alley
  • Stephen Ross Johnson, defense attorney

To learn more, click here:

Innocence Project