The Case

On the night of November 9, 1987 in Sylacauga, Alabama, a terrible tragedy took place. Linda Jean Offord, a mother of three working the night shift at a convenience store, was murdered in the course of a robbery.

Prosecutors charged William “Billy” Kuenzel with the murder. Their case relied almost exclusively on the testimony of one man, Harvey Venn, who received a reduced sentence for his testimony. Knowing himself to be innocent, Billy declined a plea bargain offer from prosecutors.

The next page is a side-by-side comparison of what the prosecution told the jury in 1988 and the facts as they are known today. The instances in which the two conflict are indicated by yellow highlighting.

How could Billy have been convicted? There is no physical evidence against him. And no eyewitness could place Billy anywhere near the crime scene.

The answer is simple.

His 1988 trial was fatally infected with an avalanche of constitutional violations – without which Billy would never have been found guilty.

Evidence was withheld by prosecutors that only came to light in 2010 – 22 years after his conviction. At trial, Billy was represented by a state-appointed lawyer who had never before tried a death penalty case and who spent minimal time investigating the crime and preparing the defense.

In the years following that trial, Billy’s new pro bono lawyers uncovered that evidence and sought justice – a new trial in which all the evidence would be considered and the chance to bring Linda Jean Offord’s real killer to justice.

See the side-by-side comparison »