In 1987, Jeffrey Young was robbed and killed, and his body was left on a street in the poor neighborhood of West Dallas. Benjamine Spencer was tried and convicted for the attack.
Spencer was black, 22 years old, and recently married. Young was 33 and white, and his father was a senior executive for Ross Perot, one of the most prominent businessmen in Dallas. No physical evidence connected Spencer to the murder. Instead, he was convicted based on the testimony of three eyewitnesses and a jailhouse informant who claimed Spencer confessed to the crime. Spencer has now been in prison for most of his life.
From behind bars, Spencer amassed evidence to support his claim of innocence, and secured the assistance of Centurion Ministries, a group that re-examines cases of prisoners like him. Together, they were able to convince a Texas judge of Spencer’s innocence. In investigating this story, not only did we confirm Centurion’s findings, but we’ve gathered new, exculpatory evidence, some of which appears first in this special, three-episode series of Radio Atlantic.
Key individuals mentioned in this story (listed in order of appearance):Benjamine Spencer, the prisoner, convicted in October 1987, retried and convicted in March 1988, given life in prisonJeffrey Young, the victim, murdered in Dallas in March 1987Jay Young, Jeffrey’s son, the elder of twoCheryl Wattley, Spencer’s current attorneyTroy Johnson, a friend of Jeffrey Young’s, who tried calling him the night of his murderHarry Young, Jeffrey’s father, a senior executive in Ross Perot’s companyJesus “Jessie” Briseno, a detective for the Dallas Police Department, the lead investigator on the murder of Jeffrey YoungGladys Oliver, the prosecution’s star eyewitness in the trials of Benjamine SpencerRobert Mitchell, another man convicted a week after Spencer in a separate trial for the same crime, now deceasedFaith Johnson, the current district attorney in DallasFrank Jackson, Spencer’s defense attorney in the original trialAndy Beach, the prosecutor in the trial that sent Spencer to prisonAlan Ledbetter, the foreman of the jury that convicted SpencerDanny Edwards, the jailhouse informant who testified in Spencer’s original trials that Spencer had confessed to himDebra Spencer, Benjamine Spencer’s wife at the time of his convictionChristi Williams, the alibi witness who testified in Spencer’s defense at his trialsJim McCloskey, the founder of Centurion Ministries, the group that has aided Spencer's quest for exonerationDaryl Parker, a private investigator who has helped re-examine Spencer’s case and Young’s murderJimmie Cotton, one of three eyewitnesses for the prosecution in Spencer’s original trialsCharles Stewart, another of three eyewitnesses for the prosecution in Spencer’s trials, now deceasedSandra Brackens, a potential witness in Spencer’s defense who was not called to testify at his trialsSubscribe to Radio Atlantic to hear part two in the “No Way Out” series when it's released.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices