Freddie Lee Wright

Mobile County, Alabama
Date of Crime: December 1, 1977
Executed March 3, 2000

On Dec. 1, 1977, Warren and Lois Green were murdered during a robbery of the Western Auto store that they owned and operated in Mount Vernon. Shortly before the murders, a customer, Mary Johnson, noticed a man entering the store as she was leaving. After she heard about the murders, she identified Theodore Otis Roberts from a police photo spread as the man she saw entering along with his blue car that she saw parked outside.

Mobile County Detective Albert Stroh then filed a search affidavit in which he swore under oath that Roberts' girlfriend, Sharlene Tipton, told him she had been with Roberts twenty-four hours a day and that Roberts' handgun was the weapon used in the murders. Based on this affidavit, a search warrant was issued, and Robert's handgun was recovered. A state expert positively identified the handgun as the weapon used in the murders. Roberts was then arrested and bound over for trial. Tipton also reportedly led police to property that had been taken from the Western Auto store.

In the summer of 1978, a Mississippi inmate named Roger McQueen claimed to have knowledge of the murders. After interviewing McQueen, police arrested Freddie Lee Wright as well as two other individuals, Percy Craig and Reginald Tinsley. McQueen and Craig eventually were to testify that McQueen (not Roberts) was the first member of the robbery team to enter the Western Auto store. They disclaimed any involvement by Roberts and implicated Wright as the triggerman instead. Following these arrests, all charges against Roberts were dropped.

At Wright's trial, McQueen and Craig, both of whom had criminal records, testified against Wright. They admitted culpability in the robbery. (Tinsley did not testify.) The state withheld the witness identification of Roberts as well as the search affidavit, which contained the statement by Roberts' girlfriend. The only evidence the state submitted was the identification of an earlier unspecified handgun (Robert's gun) as the murder weapon. At Wright's trial, an expert testified that Wright's handgun was consistent with the murder weapon. The state also withheld evidence of its deals with McQueen and Craig.

Wright's first trial ended in a mistrial. The mixed race jury voted 11 to 1 to acquit him. Wright was black and the victims were white. The holdout juror, a white female, admitted later that she did not believe Wright was guilty, but felt “someone must be severely punished for such a senseless crime.”

At Wright's second trial the prosecution used at least seven of its ten peremptory challenges to exclude black jurors, resulting in an all white jury. In addition to the first trial evidence, it presented the testimony of Wright's former girlfriend, Doris Lambert. Lambert testified that Wright admitted to the murders in June 1977, which was six months before they were committed. The state withheld evidence of Lambert's extensive psychiatric history as well as her drug addiction. Lambert reportedly received help regaining custody of her children in exchange for her testimony against Wright. The state had previously arrested Wright's fiancée on an apparently trumped up charge and unsuccessfully tried to pressure her to testify against Wright. The second trial jury convicted Wright and he was sentenced to death.

In 1992, McQueen was released from prison in Mississippi. He served an Alabama sentence for armed robbery of the Greens concurrently with his Mississippi sentence. He did not have to serve any time in Alabama. Percy Craig was sentenced to ten years. His later status is unknown. Tinsley was sentenced to 25 years and was granted parole. At a 1996 federal hearing in Mobile, McQueen recanted his testimony and apologized to Wright from the witness chair.

Two Alabama Supreme Court Justices voted in favor of a last minute stay of Wright's execution, but seven others voted against it. Justice Johnstone wrote in his dissent, “Whether Wright is electrocuted or injected seems insignificant compared to the likelihood that we are sending an innocent man to his death. We should stay this execution briefly and take another look at this case under Rule 39(k).” Wright was executed in the electric chair on March 3, 2000.  [5/07]


References:  CCADP, Justice: Denied

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Alabama Cases, Defendants Executed After 1976