Back to News & Commentary

Former Death Row Prisoner Speaks Out Against Solitary, Capital Punishment

Sarah Solon,
Communications Strategist,
Share This Page
August 1, 2013

Montez Spradley spent three-and-a-half years on death row in Alabama for a murder he did not commit. He writes about this experience in the letter below, sent in July to the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, after his second trial was resolved. Spradley accepted a best-interest plea that guarantees his freedom in a matter of years.

In his first trial that put Spradley on death row, the state paid a key witness $10,000 for her testimony implicating Spradley in a homicide, testimony she later recanted. The jury sentenced him to life without parole, but the judge exercised “judicial override” and ordered that Montez be executed.

The ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project represented Spradley on his appeal and retrial; Alabama capital defender Richard Jaffe served as co-counsel on Spradley’s retrial.

For more about Spradley’s case, go to:

Letter to Anna Arceneaux

Letter to Anna Arceneaux, Odalys Rojas, and everyone at the A.C.L.U. Capital Punishment Project –

Thank you!

Before this happen to me I thought the death penalty was for the worst of the worst. I didn’t think anyone innocent was there, because I thought there would be overwhelming evidence. 3½ years on death row, I know different. I grew to know some good people on death row in Alabama. Some of them did not commit the crime, like me. Some were in the wrong place but didn’t kill anyone. Some may have committed a bad crime, but they were not cold-hearted or selfish. Some were there because their lawyers were not seasoned. Some because the judge overrode the jury.

The solitary confinement on death row was terrible. I still try not to think about it too much. The cell is 8-feet long 6-feet wide with 8 foot ceilings. I was locked inside 23 or 24-hours a-day. I have short arms but I can touch both walls at the same time. There was a suicide while I was there, a man who had been on death row about 16 years. I know that being on solitary was part of his suicide. If you are not mentally strong, it breaks you down. All the way down.

There were 17 executions while I was there. I knew them, I know every name and the day they were executed.

No matter what, I know that the death penalty is wrong. It is a completely broken system!

Montez V. Spradley

Learn more about solitary confinement and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page