MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The daughter of a man executed in 13 years ago for the murder a young Millington woman is asking the state to test DNA evidence from the original crime scene.
Sedley Alley was convicted of killing Marine Cpl. Suzanne Collins in 1985. Collins was stationed at the Millington Naval base. The evidence was never tested for DNA.
In Shelby County Court Monday, Barry Scheck, the co-founder of the Innocence Project, went before Judge Paula Skahan and asked the DNA be tested. Scheck represents April Alley, the daughter of Sedley Alley.
“April Alley wants to know the truth. She has the courage to seek the truth here and DNA testing can, as it has in hundreds of post convictions cases since we founded the Innocence Project 28 years ago, provide that truth,” said Scheck.
The goal of The Innocence Project is to clear the wrongly convicted through the use of DNA testing. Scheck had asked a Shelby County Judge for DNA testing prior to Alley’s execution but the judge ruled against it. Scheck said 5 years later the TN Supreme Court overruled Alley’s case.
Scheck told Judge Skahan, “the rule that denied us testing 13 years ago was wrong. It was wrong. It was an incorrect interpretation of the act and it if he were alive today, he would get testing. That is clear.”
In court, Scheck said the testing of the DNA came back up because he received a letter from law enforcement in St. Louis. It questioned if Collins could have been killed by a man named Thomas Bruce, a potential serial killer they had recently arrested that was at the Naval Base about the same time.
“We never expected to be here, but we got that letter, identifying Thomas Bruce as a person who took courses with this individual, who could be the serial offender we were talking about 13 years ago,” said Scheck. “April deserves to know the truth and we need to know who did this.”
Scheck went on to say, “Could be him? Might be somebody else? DNA can tell us. She has the courage to do this. We should too.”
The State of Tennessee doesn’t believe the DNA should be tested. The state says the DNA Analysis Act is for “a person convicted of and sentenced for certain crimes.” The estate of the person has no standing.
Another reason given was Alley is no longer a prisoner and his judgement became final with his execution 13 years ago.
Supporters of Alley say after confessing, he later changed his story saying the confession was coerced. His former attorney told Local 24 News when she was put on his case in 2004, she realized there were many problems with how the case was handled and that it needed reinvestigating. Kelley Henry said the courts should have ruled to test the DNA before his execution.
“The courts got it wrong but there is an opportunity to get it right for April and for the truth and that ought to be the highest and best use of the courts time,” said Henry.
After court, April Alley was too upset to answer questions from reporters. However, other people who’ve had murder convictions overturned after DNA evidence has cleared them were in the courtroom and spoke to reporters.
“She just wants the truth. She just wants to know and is that so wrong? Is that so wrong?” asked Sabrina Butler.
Butler was on death row in Mississippi until the Innocence Project helped clear her name.
Judge Skahan will consider both arguments and make a decision by November 18th.