In May 1991, 19-year-old Bell was charged for the robbery and murder of store clerk Bert Bell (no relation). He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1993, largely because his trial attorneys failed to even investigate the case or conduct DNA testing beforehand.
Since 1993, Bell has sat caged in a prison cell on Mississippi's death row, denied access to the courts, despite newly discovered evidence that strongly suggests he is completely innocent in this case. Bell's conviction was based on the testimony of the state's star witness, Frank Coffey. However, since the trial, Coffey has come forward and recanted his testimony, stating in an affidavit that he was coerced by police to finger Bell. In addition, a member of the victim's family sat on the jury in Bell's trial, violating the principle that jury members should be impartial. Despite these glaring problems in a case that exhibits all signs of Jim Crow justice, the state of Mississippi continues to claim that Bell received a fair and adequate trial, and every court has denied him a hearing on his claims of new evidence.
Additional evidence exists that should have been DNA-tested before the trial--a bottle found at the crime scene, which the state used to build the case against him. Fingerprints that don't match Bell's were also recovered from the cash register, but Bell's lawyers failed to file motions to have the fingerprints examined, a procedure that could help to reveal the real criminal.
"For nearly 2 decades, the state of Mississippi has gotten away with sending my brother to death row, despite insufficient evidence to prove that he committed this crime, and now they want to execute him despite evidence that should have been tested years ago," said Tonja Bell-Glaspie, Bell's sister, in a telephone interview.
"This case, like many past cases within the criminal justice system, and death row in particular, clearly illustrates the problem of being denied the opportunity to present newly discovered evidence. The state of Mississippi has kept other innocent men on death row for decades. This is only a lynching, and it must stop."
Ignoring newly discovered evidence has left many innocent men sitting on death row for years before being finally exonerated. In some cases, innocent men were executed because of the rush to judgment by prosecutors.
Frederick Bell 81039
FREDERICK BELL MISSISSIPPI DEATH ROW