Michael Pardue

Mobile County, Alabama
Date of Crime:  May 22, 1973

After days of police interrogation at the Saraland Police Department, Michael Pardue, 17, confessed to brutally murdering Ronald Rider, 20, and Harvey Hodges, 68, attendants at two gas stations 16 miles apart in Mobile and Baldwin counties. He also confessed to the murder of a skeleton, which happened to be found in a Mobile County ditch during the interrogation. The skeleton was later identified as Theodore White, 43, and his cause of death is officially listed as unknown. Using similar tactics the police coerced Pardue's associates John Brown, 21, and Theresa Lanier, 15, to sign confessions, although Brown could not read and the three confessions contradicted each other as well as the forensic and physical facts of the cases.

Pardue's Baldwin County trial lasted 1 1/2 hours. At it, Pardue was convicted of the Rider murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He then pleaded guilty to the other two murders because both his attorney and the DA informed him he would receive the death penalty for these crimes if he did not. Pardue did not know that Alabama had no death penalty in 1973. For his cooperation, Pardue received three consecutive life sentences, the maximum allowable under Alabama law.

Three officials associated with Pardue's prosecution such as Baldwin County DA Jimmy Hendrix were later imprisoned for drug smuggling or jury tampering, bribery, and extortion. Pardue escaped from prison three times in 1977, 1978, and 1987, but was caught each time within a matter of days. For his last escape he received two additional life sentences, which also made him a habitual offender under Alabama law.

In 1992, a federal judge issued a writ of habeas corpus on the Rider murder conviction, allowing Pardue to appeal it in state courts. In 1994, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the conviction on the grounds that police did not read him his rights until they were 30 hours into a 78-hour interrogation. Months after this 1994 decision another federal judge issued a writ of habeas corpus on the Hodges and White murder convictions because officers failed to tell the then teenage Pardue that he could apply for youthful offender status. These two convictions were effectively overturned.

In 1995, a Mobile County jury convicted Pardue of the Hodges' murder after hearing the 22-year-old tapes of his confession at the Saraland Police Department. Pardue was then sentenced to 100 years in prison. A year later an appeals court overturned the conviction after concluding that investigators coerced his confession and denied him access to a lawyer.

In 1997, prosecutors in both Mobile and Baldwin Counties abandoned their murder cases against him. Pardue remained imprisoned solely for escaping from his wrongful imprisonment. In 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court threw out convictions stemming from Pardue's escapes. A year later Pardue pleaded guilty to escape related charges in exchange for a time served sentence plus parole. He was released after serving 28 years in prison. Pardue's story was featured on Dateline and he and wife Becky have written a book entitled Freeing the Innocent.  [7/07]


References:  American Justice, Justice: Denied

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Alabama Cases, Favorite Case Stories, Triple Homicide Cases