Mentally Retarded Man Wrongfully Convicted of Murder?
After 23 years of incarceration, Shelton Jerome Holloway still has advocates fighting for his exoneration. This week, best-selling author and filmmaker, Willie Speight is visiting the nation’s capital to seek justice with an awareness book signing for his novel, “The Holloway Story.”
Holloway, who is mentally retarded, was convicted to a life sentence in 1987 on charges that include the sexual abuse and capital murder of sixteen-year-old Patricia Ann Hannah in York, Alabama.
According to prosecution, Holloway, at the time a 20-year-old special education student and janitor at the high school that Hannah attended, was the last known person to see her alive. Approximately two weeks after she was reported missing, an employee of the nearby Alabama Power Company office found Hannah’s decomposing body in the woods behind the office parking lot.
Speight, also a former student of Sumter High, was so unnerved by the murder and conviction that in his adulthood he hired a private investigator to reopen the case. From the investigation and his own research, Speight wrote the novel and movie titled, “The Holloway Story.”
He insists the real story involves the surgical removal of Hannah’s organs and a well-connected doctor who bribed local authorities. Holloway’s mental retardation, which Speight cites at an I.Q. of 30-40, would have prevented him from committing such a crime.
Speight alleges that the doctors, who are White, were purposely looking for someone who it’d be easy to pin the murder on and took advantage of Holloway’s willingness to comply with authorities. Holloway and Hannah are both African American. In his book, he writes that Holloway was coerced into confessing.
While at the book signing, he expects to connect with local social justice advocates and gain greater exposure from a politically-aware community. “I just want to get the doctors off of the streets,” he said in an interview with WAOK radio.
According to The Innocence Project, there have been 278 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the U.S., over 50% were African Americans, and 17 of the people were on death row. Just last week, a man was cleared of rape and murder of a teenage girl in Illinois after nearly two decades and the discovery of DNA that pointed to another man.
Two other men who were given shorter sentences for involvement in the crime are expected to also have their convictions vacated. It is suspected coercion was involved in this case as well. One of the men, 15-years-old at the time, had severe learning disabilities and didn’t understand what he was signing when he signed a confession, his lawyer told the Associated Press.
Check out the full interview with Willie Speight on WAOK at 6:00 mark: