Second Alabama death row inmate to go free

2015-04-17 11:41
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mobile - A death row inmate reached a plea deal on Thursday that makes him the second prisoner to escape the death penalty in Alabama in less than two weeks.

William Ziegler, 39, agreed to plead guilty to aiding and abetting in the slaying of Russell Allen Baker, and a Mobile County judge gave him credit for the more than 15 years he already has served in prison, reported.

Ziegler was convicted of capital murder in 2001 and sentenced to die for Baker's killing. Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart overturned Ziegler's conviction in 2012, indicating there were numerous errors and serious doubts about his guilt.

Prosecutors had said they planned to try him again, but Ziegler instead was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charge to resolve the case.

During a hearing, Stewart urged Ziegler to resist turning bitter and said she knew he recognised God's grace.

"I want you to appreciate that gift," she said. "You need to be very careful with your gift. The world is a very different place than it was 15 years ago when you went to jail."

The decision came less than two weeks after another condemned Alabama prisoner was freed after claiming he was innocent.

Anthony Ray Hinton was released April 3 after nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row for a pair of killings in Jefferson County. Prosecutors in that case dismissed charges in the 1985 gunshot deaths of two fast-food workers after new testing on the defendant's gun could not prove that it fired the fatal shots.

Baker's body was found in a wooded area in Mobile County in 2000. Authorities said Ziegler had quarrelled at a party, and Ziegler was convicted along with three accomplices.

But a key witness who claimed Ziegler had threatened Baker later recanted, helping lead to Stewart's decision to overturn the case.

With his plea, Ziegler acknowledged that his conduct helped lead to Baker's death.

Relatives of both Ziegler and Baker, from Bayou La Batre, came away from the hearing disappointed.

O'Della Wilson, the defendant's mother, said she is happy that he will go free but angry that he had to plead guilty to any crime.

Baker's relatives weren't happy Ziegler would be released.

"He's a menace to our society. He will be back," said Beth Johansen, the victim's aunt. "This is not justice for our nephew."

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.