14 Years After Conviction, Willie Ross Will Get New Trial - Or Freedom
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Fourteen years after he was sentenced to die for the slaying of a policeman, Willie X. Ross’ murder conviction was overturned.
U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen acted on the basis of an argument frequently posed by Ross’ attorneys over the years - that blacks were improperly excluded from the grand jury and his trial jury.
Ross was convicted by a Colquitt County jury of 12 white men for the slaying of a white officer, Moultrie Lt. Tommie Meredith.
The evidence, Bowen ruled Tuesday, does not support the contention that the lack of blacks and women was due to ″neutral selection criteria and procedures.″
Bowen directed officials to release Ross, now 48, from custody if he is not re-indicted and re-convicted, with constitutionally selected juries, within one year.
Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lamar Cole was out of town, his staff said, and could not be reached for comment. Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers said he had not received the ruling and could not comment.
Ross, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., was one of the first three men scheduled for execution after Georgia’s new capital punishment law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. The execution was delayed by appeals.
Meredith was shot during a robbery-kidnapping attempt. Ross also was convicted of kidnapping and robbery in the case.