Clay County murder case could get second look

RANDLE

RANDLE

WEST POINT (AP) – Mississippi inmate Jeffrey Randle, who is serving a life sentence for capital murder, is asking a judge to order DNA testing on evidence used by prosecutors during his 1999 trial in Clay County.

The Daily Times Leader reports attorneys for Randle filed the post-conviction petition Tuesday in circuit court.

Randle, of West Point, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1999. Randle was convicted in the Jan. 4, 1997 slaying of West Point resident Willie Mae Sewell. Authorities say the 79-year-old woman was strangled during a robbery at her home.

The Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law filed the petition on behalf of Randle.

Innocence Project Resource Counsel Will McIntosh said DNA testing wasn’t widely used during the time period of Randle’s trial and didn’t become commonplace until nearly 2000.

McIntosh said there was blood found under Sewell’s fingernails from where she’d scratched her assailant, but it wasn’t DNA tested.

McIntosh said Randle argues he was coerced into confessing because he was afraid and did not have an attorney present. McIntosh said without the confession, authorities had nothing to link Randle to the crime.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Randle’s conviction in 2002. The court said there was sufficient physical evidence to link Randle to the scene of the crime, and, therefore, to the crime itself.

On Aug. 13, the Supreme Court granted Randle’s request to file a petition in Clay County to pursue DNA testing. Prosecutors did not oppose the request.

In statements to police, according to the court record, Randle gave several accounts of how he happened to be in Sewell’s home. He also argued he and Sewell had been attacked by two men, although prosecutors said at the time there was no evidence to suggest anyone else was in the home.