FREDERICK BELL’S MURDER CONVICTION,
DEATH PENALTY SENTENCE,
RAISES TOO MANY DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS TO RUSH TO EXECUTION
Frederick Bell, an African American death row prisoner in Mississippi, was convicted of the murder of Robert C. “Bert” Bell (no relation), in a
robbery on May 6, 1991 at the Spark’s Stop-and-Go in Grenada County,
Mississippi. He was sentenced to death
on January 27, 1993.
The Attorney General for the State of Mississippi has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to set a date for Bell’s execution. However, there are too many
doubts and questions surrounding the case for the State of Mississippi’s
request for an execution date for Bell
to be granted and to proceed.
The first and biggest question concerns Bell’s innocence.
According to witnesses, Bell was in Memphis, Tennessee, when the murder occurred.
There are witnesses who say that Bell was not in Grenada.
There is no physical evidence to support the claim that Bell was ever in the Spark’s Stop-and-Go where the murder took place.
One of the defendants in the case originally told police that Bell was not with them when the crime occurred, but was in Memphis.
Only after being charged with accessory after the fact to the crime, did
the defendant testify that Bell
had participated in the crime. The
charges against that defendant were ultimately passed to the file without being
prosecuted by the State.
The next big question was whether Bell had a fair trial.
Despite Bell’s insistence from the beginning that he was not in Mississippi
when the murder occurred, his attorney, Leland H. Jones III, did not pursue
this claim. Although Bell
testified at trial, Jones did not call a single witness who could confirm that Bell was in Tennessee
though numerous witnesses were available, including a witness who had testified
in Bell’s favor at an extradition hearing in Tennessee. Jones
was later disbarred after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud in federal
Without a strong innocence case being presented, Bell was convicted of capital murder. Jones
called only three witnesses at the penalty phase of his case where the jury is
asked to determine whether he should be sentenced to prison or death: Bell, his mother and his
Despite the existence of evidence that Bell has mental disabilities and childhood abuse that might have persuaded a jury to
spare his life – particularly amidst questions of his guilt – this important
information was never fully investigated or developed for the jury to consider.
Bell’s court-appointed attorney gave up his client’s right to object to racial bias in the selection of the jury who would decide whether he lived or died. In fact, a jury that
consisted of 10 women and two men, 11 of whom were white and one of whom was
African American, decided Bell’s
fate. This, despite the fact that the
county’s population is more than 41% African American, according to the 1990
The same prosecutor, Doug Evans, who prosecuted Bell, was found to have excluded African Americans from a jury in at least one other capital case. In the case of Curtis Flowers, Evans used all
15 strikes to exclude African Americans from jury service. The Mississippi
Supreme Court overturned the conviction based on Evans’ action.
There is no question that Bell has made some serious mistakes.
It was a mistake for Bell to become mixed up with his co-defendants and witnesses against him in his
It was a mistake to let them leave the murder weapon in the home of Bell’s father.
It was a terrible mistake to become involved in a crime later that evening in Memphis that resulted in Bell and his co-defendants pleading guilty to second-degree murder when confronted with capital prosecution. Moreover, even in that case, there are too
Nevertheless, Frederick Bell took responsibility for whatever his role was and is being punished with a long sentence of imprisonment.
The death penalty is the most severe punishment our society can render. It is not to be taken lightly, and it is not to be visited upon the innocent.
In this case – with no physical evidence linking Bell to the crime, with only his co-defendants and their girlfriends testifying against
him, and with strong evidence that he was in another state when the crime
occurred – the death penalty is not appropriate.
There are just too many doubts and questions.
URGE MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR TO GRANT BELL A REPRIEVE!
Send a note to Governor Barbour requesting a reprieve to the following mailing address:
The Honorable Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
After you send a note in the mail, fax your letter to Governor Barbour at (601) 359-3741, and e-mail Governor Barbour at firstname.lastname@example.org
Call Governor Barbour’s office at (601) 359-3150, or on the toll free telephone number at (877) 405-0733.
Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers regarding Bell’s case, urging people to contact Governor Barbour and request a reprieve for Bell. Contact your newspapers’ editorial pages to
find out how many words your letter can be in order to be considered for