5 – Jack Alderman (33 Years)
At the time of his execution in Jackson, Georgia on September 16, 2008, Alderman had the distinction of being the longest-serving Death Row inmate to be executed (later surpassed by Jones). This is one of the reasons why he makes the list when others such as Thomas Eugene Greech, Michael Morales, and Albert Greenwood Brown have spent longer on Death Row. There are suggestions that Alderman might have been the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice as the circumstances surrounding the murder of his wife Barbara Jean on September 21, 1974, were not completely clear. Her body was found in her car in Effingham County, and the county police detained Alderman the following day and kept him in prison for 10 days.
Meanwhile, a man named John Brown was also questioned and he initially confessed to beating Barbara Jean to death with a wrench. However, Brown changed his story and claimed he killed the woman with Alderman who allegedly paid him for his help. Later on, Brown admitted that he accepted benefits to testify against Alderman.
The case against Alderman was weak; the prosecution claimed he tried to defraud a sum of $20,000 from his wife’s life insurance. Other than this motive, the only real evidence against Alderman was Brown’s testimony as the prosecution had no forensic proof. He refused plea bargains that would have saved his life because he protested his innocence and would not confess to a crime he apparently didn’t commit.
In November 1974, there was supposed to a preliminary hearing which was a joint indictment of Alderman and Brown, but the State did not present Alderman’s attorney with crucial documents until two working days before the hearing. As a result, the lawyer (who was 78-years-old) did not speak on his client’s behalf, which meant the joint indictment became separated into two trials with Alderman in court first. Despite relying on the testimony of the alcoholic, drug addicted Brown, the prosecution succeeded in its task and Alderman was found guilty and sentenced to death on June 14, 1975.
Brown was also found guilty and sentenced to death in November 1975, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1978. Alderman was supposed to be executed on July 6, 1980, but a Federal Judge ordered a retrial while the State of Georgia appealed. In 1985, Alderman was offered life imprisonment in exchange for a guilty plea, but again, he refused and was found guilty and sentenced to death on April 1.
Over the next quarter of a century, he had numerous appeals turned down and a number of organizations in Europe appealed to the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary to ensure Alderman received a stay of execution. These attempts failed, and the unfortunate man received one more false piece of hope in 2007 when his original execution date was canceled as the Supreme Court debated on the constitutionality of death by lethal injection. Finally, Alderman died on September 16, 2008, and to this day, a large number of people familiar with the case believe an innocent man died.