Radio Atlantic: Who Killed Jeffrey Young?

The second of three parts in our story about Benjamine Spencer, who’s spent most of his life in prison for a murder in Dallas

Private investigator Daryl Parker has pursued new evidence in Benjamine Spencer's case. (Nathan Bajar / The Atlantic)

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In part one of our three-part series "No Way Out," Barbara Bradley Hagerty told the story of how Benjamine Spencer was convicted for the murder of Jeffrey Young, and how much of the evidence that led to that conviction has fallen apart under scrutiny. But if Spencer did not kill him, who else could have? And if the evidence does point to another assailant, is that enough to free Spencer?

In this episode, part two of three, Barbara explores an alternate theory of the crime. She talks with two friends of another man they say boasted about committing it. Their story, coupled with the shoddiness of the evidence that convicted Spencer, was enough to secure a recommendation that Spencer be given a new trial, "on the grounds of actual innocence."

Key individuals mentioned in this story (listed in order of appearance):

From Part I

  • Benjamine Spencer, the prisoner, convicted in October 1987, retried and convicted in March 1988, given life in prison
  • Jeffrey Young, the victim, murdered in Dallas in March 1987
  • Jay Young, Jeffrey’s son, the elder of two
  • Cheryl Wattley, Spencer’s current attorney
  • Troy Johnson, a friend of Jeffrey Young’s, who tried calling him the night of his murder
  • Harry Young, Jeffrey’s father, a senior executive in Ross Perot’s company
  • Jesus “Jessie” Briseno, a detective for the Dallas Police Department, the lead investigator on the murder of Jeffrey Young
  • Gladys Oliver, the prosecution’s star eyewitness in the trials of Benjamine Spencer
  • Robert Mitchell, another man convicted a week after Spencer in a separate trial for the same crime, now deceased
  • Faith Johnson, the current district attorney in Dallas
  • Frank Jackson, Spencer’s defense attorney in the original trial
  • Andy Beach, the prosecutor in the trial that sent Spencer to prison
  • Alan Ledbetter, the foreman of the jury that convicted Spencer
  • Danny Edwards, the jailhouse informant who testified in Spencer’s original trials that Spencer had confessed to him
  • Debra Spencer, Benjamine Spencer’s wife at the time of his conviction
  • Christi Williams, the alibi witness who testified in Spencer’s defense at his trials
  • Jim McCloskey, the founder of Centurion Ministries, the group that has aided Spencer's quest for exoneration
  • Daryl Parker, a private investigator who has helped re-examine Spencer’s case and Young’s murder
  • Jimmie Cotton, one of three eyewitnesses for the prosecution in Spencer’s original trials
  • Charles Stewart, another of three eyewitnesses for the prosecution in Spencer’s trials, now deceased
  • Sandra Brackens, a potential witness in Spencer’s defense who was not called to testify at his trials

New to Part II

  • Michael Hubbard, an alternative suspect in Young's death
  • Ferrell Scott, a childhood friend of Hubbard's
  • Kelvin Johnson, a friend of Hubbard's who claims to have committed robberies with him
  • Craig Watkins, a newly-elected District Attorney interested in reinvestigating claims of innocence
  • Judge Rick Magnis, the judge of Texas' 283rd District

View the entire series here, or listen to parts 1 and 3 below: