This story is being repeatedly up to date.
It’s been 34 years since Ben Spencer went house to his spouse Debra.
Again then, she didn’t personal the three-bedroom house in Cedar Hill the place her partitions are adorned with images of him and their son Ben Jr. She purchased the home whereas he was in jail for a 1987 lethal theft that he’s at all times stated he didn’t have something to do with.
Nonetheless, he felt at house when he walked in Friday night time after a choose launched him from the Dallas County jail. The choose dominated his trial was unfair due to revelations witnesses lied and prosecutors withheld proof.
”That is regular. It’s the way it’s alleged to be,” stated Spencer, now 56.
However he’s not fairly free. The best felony court docket in Texas should agree with the choose, and Dallas County District Legal professional’s John Creuzot hasn’t determined whether or not to strive him once more.
There’s no DNA or fingerprint proof, however prosecutors and state Decide Lela Mays aren’t able to say Spencer is harmless. Spencer’s protection workforce remains to be preventing to show it.
He’ll stay with Debra Spencer whereas he waits. She by no means stopped supporting him regardless that they divorced whereas he was in jail.
”I’m wanting ahead to this second of attending to reconnect with my household and making an attempt to re-acclimate myself into freedom,” Spencer stated. His son was born after he was arrested.
He has a queen dimension mattress and a closet full of garments supplied by supporters. A couple of dozen packages have been piled in a nook, presents from mates for his homecoming.
”It’s beats Coffield,” Spencer stated, referring to the jail unit in Tennesee Colony, southeast of Dallas, the place he spent a lot of his sentence. “I’m ecstatic to be free and sleep in a daily mattress. I’ve been sleeping on a bunk for all these years.”
Simply hours earlier, dozens of supporters packed the jail foyer at 5 p.m. Friday ready for Spencer to show the nook. Debra Spencer, and his attorneys waited for him on the finish of a hallway, their cellphones recording his first stroll of freedom.
Debra Spencer couldn’t anticipate him to achieve her. She waved her arms and ran to him. They got here across the nook arm in arm and shared a bunch hug their son, who turns 34 in Might.
Supporters cheered as his 82-year-old mom, Lucille Spencer, slowly walked to her son.
”It feels fantastic. It feels nice,” he stated after hugging his mom. “I’m grateful to lastly have made it thus far in my life.”
There have been no tears, simply smiles. Large ones.
Lucille Spencer stated she received’t really feel closure till the case ends along with his vindication.
”I’m nonetheless struggling and I’ll wrestle together with him till he’s totally free,” she stated stated.
There have been occasions Lucille Spencer was afraid she wouldn’t stay to see his launch. Final 12 months, she bought COVID-19 and says she nonetheless feels lingering signs and her physique is weaker.
”If it weren’t for God, I couldn’t have made it,” she stated.
State District Decide Lela Mays ordered his launch Friday and granted a private recognizance bond after prosecutors stated they supported it. Spencer was serving a life sentence. The choose reiterated Friday at a listening to that she was not exonerating Spencer, solely releasing him from jail.
Younger’s household has declined to remark however has beforehand stated they consider Spencer is responsible.
Spencer appeared within the courtroom flanked by his attorneys, Cheryl Wattley and Gary Udashen. They instructed the choose Spencer would have the assist of his mom, ex-wife and son, and others after his launch. His household was the one spectators allowed within the courtroom due to COVID-19 restrictions. The choose, Creuzot and the top of his conviction integrity unit, Cynthia Garza, appeared by way of video.
“I simply need to thanks,” Spencer stated in court docket from behind a blue masks to the choose and apologized for any inconvenience.
Wattley, who has represented Spencer for 20 years, walked out of the courtroom in tears and her arms shook.
“The twenty sixth could be his thirty fourth anniversary. Thank God that won’t be an anniversary that he’ll have a good time in jail,” Wattley stated.
On the heart of the prosecution’s case was Gladys Oliver. She testified repeatedly that she noticed Spencer and one other man, Nathan Robert Mitchell, get out of Younger’s automotive on the street outdoors her home. Younger’s physique was discovered badly crushed on the street. He later died in a hospital.
Spencer’s first trial in 1987 resulted in a homicide conviction. But it surely was later overturned as a result of Oliver didn’t disclose that she acquired $580 from Crime Stoppers.
The subsequent 12 months, prosecutors tried Spencer for aggravated theft. Spencer was convicted and sentenced to life in jail. Mitchell was additionally convicted and sentenced to 35 years. He was launched on parole in 2003 and died 4 months later from a coronary heart assault at age 42.
On the second trial, Oliver admitted to receiving the Crime Stoppers reward however no different cash. She additionally reiterated her testimony at a 2007 listening to. One other choose discovered Spencer truly harmless in 2008, however the Court docket of Prison Appeals disagreed, partially, as a result of the district legal professional on the time didn’t consider in Spencer’s innocence. Spencer remained behind bars.
Then, in 2010, prosecutors beneath a previous district legal professional met with Oliver and stated she admitted receiving between $5,000 and $10,000, which they have been capable of corroborate with different witnesses, in line with the choose’s findings.
Mays signed a joint submitting from prosecutors and protection attorneys Wednesday agreeing that Oliver’s testimony was vital to Spencer’s conviction.
Oliver additionally pointed police to 2 different witnesses who incriminated Spencer. One is now useless and the opposite has modified his account of what occurred that night time.
Udashen and Wattley, Spencer’s attorneys, say in court docket information that witnesses who testified — Jimmie Cotton, who initially stated he noticed Spencer the night time of the slaying, and Danny Edwards, who stated he overheard Spencer admitting to the crime whereas they shared a Dallas County jail cell — admitted mendacity to jurors.
If the Texas’ Court docket of Prison Appeals agrees Spencer was wrongly convicted, prosecutors might retry Spencer, dismiss the case or comply with his declare of precise innocence. There is no such thing as a schedule for when the upper court docket might rule.
Spencer’s attorneys additionally level to new scientific proof that they are saying proves that witnesses who declare to have seen Spencer on the night time of the slaying couldn’t have recognized him because the killer as a result of they have been too far-off.
In addition they provide another suspect: Michael Hubbard, whom the attorneys describe as a “prolific felony” recognized for restaurant robberies and violent assaults. Hubbard, who invoked his proper to not incriminate himself on the 2007 listening to in Spencer’s case, is serving a life sentence in a Texas jail for aggravated theft.
On Friday, Creuzot didn’t rule out making an attempt Spencer once more however he additionally appeared to consolation Lucille Spencer, hugging her and telling her to “grasp in there” whereas she waited for her son’s launch.
“It doesn’t imply he’s harmless, however we’re persevering with to research the precise innocence declare,” Creuzot stated later. “There’s actually not a lot left so far as proof is worried. However we’ll maintain wanting. And the opposite factor, too, is we have now an open thoughts to that someone else did this.”