Old-fashioned reporters were said to build their stories with a lot of shoe leather. In the case of Texas Monthly contributing editor Mike Hall, a good friend, it’s more like sneaker rubber. No matter. After a year of reporting, Hall has delivered a masterpiece of criminal justice journalism that leaves little doubt that six men were falsely convicted for the murders of four people—in two separate, but incredibly entwined cases—in Waco, Texas in the early 80s. Three of the six men were ultimately exonerated. But one died in prison, one still languishes there, and one, David Spence, was executed by the State of Texas in 1998.
Spence’s conviction rested entirely on the testimony of compromised jailhouse snitches and a so-called human bite mark expert whose work was dismissively discredited by the forensic scientists who later reviewed it. After after examining some human remains in another case, this same expert also famously and definitively claimed that they belonged to a missing woman—who later turned up very much alive. And his testimony was the linchpin that cinched Spence’s execution.
This is a story where a relative of one of the victims shouts “Just die!” at a condemned man strapped to the lethal injection gurney, and is then haunted in the following decades over the uncertainty of the executed man’s actual guilt. And with good reason. It’s an incredible—and at 25,000 words—a massive read. Texas Monthly will be releasing it online in four parts, starting today. But if you’re lucky enough to live in the Great State, you can head down to the store, buy a copy of the magazine, and read it all in one mind-blowing whack.