Last month, Chad McCrory had two minutes to tell the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles why, nearly four decades after his mother was murdered, Chad wanted her supposed killer — his 64-year-old father, Charles — to come home. As long as Chad could remember, his father had insisted he was innocent — and most of his family believed him, reports The Intercept. The hearing began with a tense exchange between the oard chair, former Birmingham prosecutor Leigh Gwathney, and McCrory’s lawyer, Mark Loudon-Brown of the Southern Center for Human Rights, who said prosecutors in Covington County — the same office that convicted his client — had made clear that they no longer considered McCrory a threat to public safety.
“In April of 2021, the district attorney made Mr. McCrory an offer to time served that would have allowed him to leave court that very day and go home unsupervised,” Loudon-Brown said. The offer, which McCrory rejected because it came with the requirement that he admit to killing his wife, was made on the eve of a hearing that would debunk the single most important piece of evidence that sent McCrory to prison for life: a supposed bite mark found on his wife’s body. Although a famed bite-mark analyst insisted at trial that the mark conclusively linked McCrory to the murder, that same expert has since recanted, saying he would never deliver such testimony today. In the years since McCrory was convicted, bite-mark analysis has been roundly discredited as junk science. Nevertheless, the judge was unmoved. He ruled against McCrory, keeping him locked up. McCrory is the last known defendant still imprisoned for a conviction almost entirely based on the faulty forensic practice. Loudon-Brown said the offer from prosecutors reflected a belief that McCrory had been “sufficiently punished, that his release would be consistent with the safety of the community … and that his exemplary prison record justifies his release.” After a few minutes of deliberation with the sole other board member in attendance, a former state trooper, Gwathney announced their decision. Parole was denied.