Lagemann: But in terms of a second trial, the state would have put on whomever they would have put on. My guess, and I don’t know for sure, there would have been a lot of similar witnesses. Now, I don’t think we would have seen Vicki Bosarge getting up and falsely testifying again. I think they would have put on a lot of similar witnesses, but unlike the first trial, Mr. Ziegler’s prior counsel didn’t cross exam any of those witnesses all that much, certainly didn’t bring much out and we certainly would have.
As Willie points out Dr. Riddick — our view is that the state would have had to call Dr. Riddick just to establish the most basic element of the charge and that was that Allen Baker was in fact dead. Dr. Riddick as he testified at the Rule 32 hearing, in his expert opinion, is that the crime did not happen the way the state claimed. The lack of blood at the scene, the medical evidence in the form of lividity and other factors led him to conclude from the moment he first saw the body that Mr. Baker was not killed in those woods.
And I also think on our side, had the case gone, in the first trial Mr. Ziegler’s counsel called I think three witnesses, which were all focused — all were family members focusing on trying to impeach Mr. Randall’s testimony. We would have done a lot more than that. We would have had our own experts, some of whom were brought forth at the Rule 32 hearing … we were evaluating other potential expert witnesses as well. There were other potential fact witnesses that we would have called too. I think a lot of the same people may have testified but the second trial would not have resembled the first trial at all.
I know you didn’t make a statement today but did you ever address the victim’s family during your original trial? Is there anything you want to say?
Ziegler: I understand that they are upset. I understand that they are in pain. But I don’t understand how they have haven’t been able to see the truth and the evidence as presented in front of the court and in front of the judge as everybody else has seen. Even with all of that, I would still help them seek out the truth to find out exactly where and when the homicide took place. I have no beef with them. I just … they are angry and there is nothing I can do about that. If I could take away their anger I would. But there’s nothing I can do. Evidently there is nothing I can say or nothing I could do to make them feel any different.
Lagemann: I’m sure that we as Willie’s lawyers are not the Baker family’s favorite people. You know we have never and would never dispute that there obviously was a gruesome killing of their son, nephew, relative, what have you. There’s obviously no taking away of that pain that they have gone through. So whether they want to hear it from us or not, at least from the members of this legal team, they have our condolences. But their loss is not a justification for Willie being charged or implicated in a crime he has always steadfastly maintained he is innocent to.
How are you going to gain confidence and support on the outside? Do you have a support system to deal with the challenges you may face going forward?
Ziegler: I don’t know how to answer that because after 15 years, I don’t know what the challenges on the outside are. I’m going to take it one day at a time, but right now my plan is, I got my GED since I’ve been back in (Mobile) Metro (Jail), since August. I plan to enroll in some kind of college program to try to further my education. I’m looking into welding, I’d like to get into that field, but if there is something else I am good at, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. But I will further my education and as far as the challenges of life, just one day at a time.
Lagemann: Also from our side of things, this happened very quickly, what came to pass today. I think on our side, once we get back to New York and this settles in a little we’re going to see what we can do in that regard. I don’t know the specifics so I can’t talk intelligently about what people or services are out there. I think I may reach out to the Equal Justice Initiative because they just had a result somewhat akin to this, so I’d be interested to get their advice for lack of a better term to help with re-entry.
And the firm (Sidley Austin, LLP) is working on similar cases?
Lagemann: Our firm a number of years ago took on a large number of cases in Alabama. This is the first one so far, where we’ve been able to obtain a result like this one. Knock on wood — we hope for similar results in other cases, but today, this is the first result like this we’ve been able to obtain.
In your time on death row, you have seen a small number of people exonerated and leave. What was that feeling like?
Ziegler: I was joyful for them. I think I’ve said this to you before, but being on The Row is … I don’t even know how to explain it. You win an appeal, you live. If you lose them all, you die. Those are the stakes. And on top of it, you still have to survive every day. And I could never forget that every man there was at least accused of a homicide. So that was difficult. But I believe there are still innocent men sitting on death row and they need help.
How many? Can you give a number?
Ziegler: You want names? Anthony Boyd, Jarrod Taylor, James Walker, Emanuel Gissendanner and George Martin.
Callaway: George Martin has been awarded a new trial.
Lagemann: But he’s still there. Gissendanner was awarded a new trial but it was overturned. It was a 3-2 decision over some very bitter dissents.
Did you have a relationship with Martin on the inside and did you ever discuss your cases?
Ziegler: No that’s something you don’t do.
So how are you so confident about their innocence?
Ziegler: Well going through all that time on The Row and meeting people and living with people, I got very good at being able to tell who was genuine or not. And I can tell when someone is lying. And I can look at a case and read a case and I can pick it apart and say ‘they did this’ or ‘they didn’t do it.’ Those gentlemen, other than George Martin, I have read their cases extensively, especially Anthony Boyd and Jarrod Taylor, who is also out of Mobile County. That’s my personal opinion I guess. I feel those men are innocent.
OK. I don’t want to get too far from the case, but the corrections system in Alabama is going through some reform right now or is supposed to be going through reform. Do you have any general comments about the system or facilities?
Ziegler: The death penalty needs to be abolished. For one, it’s run by people and people are fallible. There cannot be a perfect system. There is too much of an error rate. The conditions you have to go through on The Row are terrible. I’ve been so cold before, I wouldn’t get up and get my tray, I’d stay underneath the blanket. I’ve been so hot I’ve laid on the concrete floor and poured water on myself to cool down. It’s been so hot in there soap has melted. The situation there, people on the outside don’t see and don’t understand what it’s truly like. But the death penalty in Alabama I think, a lot of times when you have a capital case — not to downplay the crime or whatever a person does — but I believe that sometimes you have overzealous prosecutors and sometimes they’ll make it a capital crime to pacify the victim’s family. Now sometimes they have them right. But there are situations and cases where they are wrong and it’s too much to risk when you are taking somebody’s life.
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