Governor Perry, Have Mercy on This Man
Max Soffar has been on death row for a third of a century for a crime I’m certain he didn’t commit. A year ago doctors diagnosed him with liver cancer, and he doesn’t have long to live. Maybe this letter will convince you to let him spend his last days at home with his family.
Dear Governor Perry,
It’s getting near the end of your time in office, and you’re probably looking for some ways to close out fourteen eventful years. When it comes to criminal justice, you’ve shown how tough you can be on bad guys, yet you’ve also shown how compassionate you can be toward the falsely accused. You were nothing but supportive of the campaign to posthumously exonerate Tim Cole, the innocent young Texas Tech student falsely convicted of rape who died in prison in 1999. Just last month you spoke emotionally about Cole and his legacy at the unveiling of a statue in his honor in Lubbock. “This statue will serve as a reminder that justice must be tempered with wisdom,” you said, “and that we must all stand vigilant against injustice wherever it may be found.”
I’m writing now to ask that you put those words into action. Show the people of Texas how to temper justice with wisdom—but also with mercy.
Show the people of Texas how to stand against injustice.
Show Max Soffar the compassion he deserves.
You may have heard of Max, who is 58 and dying of liver cancer. He’s also on death row, his home for 33 years. Most guys get sent to death row because of serious proof that they did a terrible crime—things like DNA evidence or eyewitnesses. Not Max. Oh, the crime was terrible, all right: three young people were murdered in a Houston bowling alley in 1980, shot in the head execution-style. But Max was convicted without one shred of physical evidence to tie him to the crime—no fingerprints, no blood, no hair, no DNA, no gun, and no witnesses.
Only one thing connected Max to the murders, and that was his confession, though it was at odds with almost every crime-scene fact. Two different juries—in 1981 and 2006—believed that a man wouldn’t confess to something he didn’t do, and they sent him to death. Over the years, though, plenty of people have come to believe he got a raw deal, from dozens of lawyers willing to work for Max pro bono to five different federal and state judges. One is a conservative federal judge named Harold DeMoss, who wrote in 2002, “I have laid awake nights agonizing over the enigmas, contradictions, and ambiguities” in Max’s case. Another is a judge you are quite familiar with, Governor: Cathy Cochran, whom you appointed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals back in 2001. “I find this case quite troubling,” she wrote only two years ago. “There is something very wrong about this case.”
You’ll think so too. And the thing is, you are the only person who can make a difference in Max’s life—well, you and members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. As you know, a majority of the board can recommend that you grant clemency to an inmate, and in August Max’s attorneys filed a petition asking members to do just that, to commute his death sentence to life, which would allow him to be released for time served. But this past Monday, October 6, the board turned Max down. To be more precise, what the board did was send Max’s lawyers a letter saying, “It has been determined that Mr. Soffar’s request will not be considered by the Board at this time.”
Governor, I’m not sure when it will be convenient for the board to consider a last request from a dying man, but I’m writing now to urge you to ask it to take another look at Max’s case—a serious look—and then to take a vote. There’s nothing in the Code of Criminal Procedure preventing the board from doing so, and there’s one big reason for you to urge a second look: Max is innocent. The state of Texas made a mistake. And now he deserves the chance to die at home surrounded by his wife and family. After you’ve read about his case, I think that you’ll agree.
Max was a confused and troubled kid who became a confused and troubled adult. As a newborn, he was given up for adoption by his mother and taken in by George and Zelda Soffar of Friendswood, southeast of Houston. Max was a fussy, wild baby, and the Soffars soon realized he had emotional problems. The boy began seeing a shrink at age six; a fourth-grade teacher said he was “the most disturbed [child] she had ever encountered.”
When he was twelve his parents committed him to the Austin State Hospital, where he stayed for three years, taking Thorazine and receiving electroshock therapy.
Back in Friendswood he sniffed glue, drank beer, smoked marijuana, and shot speed. He dropped out of junior high and got more and more into the drug world, burgling and hustling when he needed to. By his early twenties he was well-known to local law enforcement, getting arrested for reckless conduct (pointing a gun at some cops and threatening to kill them), possession of marijuana, theft, and burglary. He wasn’t very bright, but he was eager to please the police, and by the late seventies he was hanging around the Friendswood police station trying to make friends, offering to be a snitch. The cops thought of him as a drug casualty, someone who had, in the words of one who used him as an informant, “fried his brains out.”
Sometime around midnight on July 13, 1980, three men— Tommy Temple, Greg Garner, and Steve Sims—and one woman—Arden Felsher—were shot in the head during the course of a robbery at the Fair Lanes Windfern Bowling Center on Highway 290, in northwest Houston. Temple, Garner, and Sims worked at the bowling alley, and Felsher was Temple’s girlfriend. All but Sims, who was the assistant manager, were teens. They were at the alley after hours because it had been robbed the night before and the back door was still broken; the manager had asked Temple and Garner to stay overnight to keep watch, and the other two had joined them. Garner somehow survived the shooting (he lost an eye) and gave a series of statements in which he described the killer as a tall, clean-shaven man in his mid-twenties, of medium build, with light-brown hair cut to the bottom of his ears on the sides and to his collar in the back. He said the killer had knocked on the front door with a water jug and claimed that his car had broken down. He pulled a gun on Sims, summoned the others to the front (two had been bowling), made them lie down in a semicircle, took their wallets, said goodbye, and shot them each in the head. Garner made a composite drawing of the man, which was circulated to the media, and a $15,000 reward was offered for help capturing the killer.
The local TV stations and newspapers gave a lot of time and space to the bloody story, giving details about the crime, such as how the four were shot and what kind of gun was thought to have been used. Three weeks after the murders, Max was driving a stolen motorcycle in League City, southeast of Houston, when he was stopped by police. Max was chatty but incoherent; he smelled of alcohol and was coming down off a speed binge and hadn’t slept in two days, he later told a detective. He also told the arresting officer he knew something about the bowling alley murders and asked to talk to a Galveston County Sheriff’s Office detective named Bruce Clawson, for whom Max had worked as an informant on drug buys. Clawson came and talked to Max, who he later said had the intelligence of a ten- or eleven-year-old. When Houston detectives asked Clawson for help getting Max to talk, Clawson told him that “if he was involved in the crime he should tell the detective he was in it; otherwise, he should get a lawyer.” When Max asked how to get a court-appointed lawyer in Harris County, Clawson responded that it could take up to a month. “So you’re saying that I have to deal with this on my own?” Max asked. He began talking.
Over three days, August 5, 6, and 7, police interrogated Max for 26 hours, and at the end of each session, they put together a statement and had Max sign it. In the first two, he explained how he and a friend named Lat Bloomfield, the son of a Houston cop, had robbed the bowling alley the night before the murders—which police knew was untrue because they’d already caught two juvenile suspects—and come back again the next night. Max, who couldn’t remember where the alley was (“It was either 59 or 610 or something like that, where we were—I know it was off 45”), said he had waited outside in the car while Bloomfield robbed the alley and shot the four. He also talked about other crimes they’d committed that night and afterward, from robbing a Galveston U-Totem to kidnapping a couple, robbing and pistol-whipping them, and dumping them on a dirt road near Clear Lake. Police picked up Bloomfield for questioning, searched his apartment, and put him in a lineup for Garner to view. When Garner couldn’t pick out Bloomfield, who had asked for a lawyer, police let him go.
But they kept after Max, even though Garner couldn’t pick him out of a lineup either—and even though they couldn’t find any of his fingerprints or hairs at the crime scene. On the third day of interrogation, Max gave a third statement, in which he said that he had gone into the bowling alley with Bloomfield to rob it and that each of them had shot two victims. Police believed Max—even though his story was inconsistent with Garner’s, as well as with the crime-scene evidence. Max wasn’t clean-shaven with hair to his collar—he looked like a crazed hippie, with a full beard and long, stringy black hair. Garner said there was one killer and the front door was locked; Max said he and Bloomfield walked right in. Garner said that when the robber came in, the victims had been positioned all over the alley; Max said three were at the snack bar. Though Garner talked about a water jug, which was indeed found the next day and can be seen in crime-scene photos (bizarrely, it was discarded and never analyzed by police), Max never mentioned it. Though the bodies were found in a semicircle, Max drew a diagram showing them lying side by side. Though Garner insisted the killer never touched anyone, Max said Bloomfield had pulled one man by the hair and kicked the woman in the back. Though only four bullets were ever found, Max said Bloomfield fired five, one of which had been a warning shot. As Judge Cochran later wrote, “None of these individual inconsistencies, by themselves, would necessarily cast doubt upon the accuracy of [Max’s] version of events, but when so many of his details do not comport with the known evidence, something smells fishy.”
Still the police pushed on. They believed Max’s confession even as they ignored other questionable things he’d told them, from his claim that he and Bloomfield had robbed the bowling alley the night before to his claims of other violent crimes they’d committed (police found that the Galveston U-Totem had not been robbed, nor could they find any evidence of the violent kidnapping of a Clear Lake couple). Police were so focused on Max that they didn’t re-arrest Bloomfield, even though Max told them he had shot two of the victims. Bloomfield was never questioned again.
Max was charged with capital murder and given two court-appointed lawyers, Joe Cannon and Frederick Stover; almost immediately he recanted his statements, writing to Cannon, “The truth is I did not kill anyone. Them police had me say what they wanted to hear. . . . In the 3rd statement after they gave me a few details, I said I shot her, to get them off my back. . . . I was so tired I just gave in to them.” Also in the letter he gave his rationale for telling police he knew something about the killings in the first place: he wanted to get back at Bloomfield, because the two had made an agreement to rob each other’s parents’ homes, but after they stole Max’s mother’s silver and TV, Bloomfield had refused to reciprocate. Max, like everyone else in Houston, had seen the composite drawing that Garner had made of the killer, and he thought that it looked like Bloomfield and that he could get the reward money. Though Clawson, the Galveston detective, warned Max not to mess around with the Houston Police Department, he kept talking. (Years later, Clawson would feel some regret about the whole affair. “I had and have very serious doubts that Max did the crime,” he swore in a 1992 affidavit. But he went along with HPD, he said, because “it was a Houston, not a Galveston, case, and it would have been bad form for me to intrude.”)
With confession in hand, prosecutors had all they needed to take Max to trial, which they did in March 1981. Nothing is more powerful to a jury than a defendant admitting he committed a crime, and prosecutors were aided by testimony from Max’s drug dealer, who said he had told him that he did it. The state didn’t call the only eyewitness, Garner, because his version of the night’s events didn’t match Max’s statement, and in a sign of how terrible Max’s lawyers were, Cannon and Stover didn’t call Garner either. They didn’t even try to interview Garner, perhaps because the state had informed them he was a “vegetable.” (Two years later, Cannon would doze repeatedly while representing another capital murder defendant who was also found guilty; Cannon would become a national laughingstock as the “sleeping lawyer” when that verdict was overturned.) Max’s defense was his alibi: his mother and others said he had spent two days helping a friend move and that he had gone to sleep exhausted at his mom’s home in Friendswood the night of July 13. But nothing would beat the confession. Max was found guilty and sent to death row.
The Supreme Court had only reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and newbie Max found himself housed next to Charlie Brooks, who would be the first Texas man executed in the new era, in 1982. But Max was lucky, and in 1988 a large Washington, D.C., law firm, Fried Frank, began representing him pro bono. At first, says Jim Schropp, the leader of Max’s team, his case seemed cut and dried; after all, he had confessed. But Max insisted to his new lawyers that he was innocent, and the more they read, they more they realized how unsound his confession was. “Pretty soon,” says Schropp, “we were convinced he was telling the truth.”
Schropp filed writs of habeas corpus in state and federal court during the nineties; both were denied, but Max began attracting the attention of people who believed he’d gotten a raw deal and might just be innocent, such as Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judge DeMoss, who in 2000 led a panel of the court in throwing out Max’s conviction because the police had continued interrogating him after he’d invoked his right to counsel. The full Fifth Circuit reinstated the verdict and sent it back to the panel, which is when DeMoss wrote his impassioned dissent (joined by two other judges) saying how Max’s case kept him awake at nights.
Max found further allies too, including writer Kinky Friedman, who wrote a 2004 story for Texas Monthly titled “Case Open” that asked, “Why is Max Soffar still on death row?” Kinky had heard about the story from his friend Steve Rambam, a private investigator from New York who had an office in Kerrville and had been working pro bono for Schropp ever since he’d first read about the case two years earlier. It hadn’t taken long for Rambam, a believer in the death penalty who usually did work on the prosecution side, to realize Max’s case was unique. “He’d been railroaded,” Rambam says now. The P.I. found a Houston cop who said that both Max and Lat Bloomfield had been polygraphed and that neither had shown deception. Rambam also tracked down Bloomfield in Mississippi. He was reluctant to talk but finally did, and told why he’d left Texas more than twenty years before. Bloomfield said the police had roughed him up in his interrogation back in August 1980, slamming his head against a metal cabinet. Bloomfield bled so much, he told Rambam, “I thought the police were trying to get a blood sample.” They also told him to get out of town. He did, and never returned. (When asked whether Bloomfield was roughed up by police and told to leave Houston, detective Gil Schultz, who helped interrogate Bloomfield, said, “Absolutely not.”)
In 2004 Max’s prayers were answered when the Fifth Circuit panel ordered a new trial because of the ineffectiveness of his trial lawyers. Max was certain that the second time would be different. He got new pro bono trial lawyers with the nonprofit Texas Defender Service, led by John Niland and Kathryn Kase, who were sure, like Schropp before them, that Max was innocent. But they also knew that it wasn’t enough to merely insist that Max was the wrong man; they had to show the jury the right man. And thanks to Schropp, they had a nominee: Paul Dennis Reid, a mass murderer on Tennessee’s death row. In the late nineties Schropp had read a newspaper article on Reid, whose modus operandi seemed similar to that of the bowling alley killer: Reid would talk his way into an establishment after closing time, make the employees lie down on the floor, rob them, and shoot them in the head. He had killed five people in Tennessee this way. Schropp’s interest grew when he read that Reid was from Houston; after further investigation he found an old accomplice named Stewart Cook, who gave Schropp an affidavit in 2000 in which he said that although he had never seen Reid shoot anyone, he had talked about it. “Specifically, he said that he once had a ‘problem’ when he was robbing a bowling alley out on Route 290 and he had to shoot ‘four people.’ ” Cook also swore, “Paul is a person who is unpredictable, subject to sudden murderous rages, and more than capable of killing helpless unarmed people in cold blood.” Schropp showed Cook the 1980 composite sketch; it looked, he said, “incredibly similar to the way Paul Reid looked in the summer of 1980.”
Cook’s affidavit came too late for Schropp to include in any of the habeas petitions. But Niland and Kase could use it—and also could use Cook as a witness. Max was thrilled as his 2006 retrial began; he thought he was finally going home. But when his lawyers tried to bring in evidence about Reid, they were stymied by Judge Mary Lou Keel, who refused to allow testimony from witnesses, including a Nashville detective, about Reid’s crimes in Texas and Tennessee and their similarities. Cook was set to testify that Reid had told him about shooting four people at a bowling alley on 290, but, worried that the DA would prosecute him for one of the crimes he confessed to committing with Reid, he refused to take the stand. Judge Keel refused to grant him immunity. She further tied Max’s lawyers’ hands by refusing to allow them to enter into evidence specific TV news reports and newspaper stories that gave details of the crime—details the prosecution had insisted only the killer could have known.
Without an alternative suspect to put forward, and without proof that Max had learned details of the crime from the media, the defense was doomed. All prosecutor Lyn McClellan had to do was hammer away at the question on every juror’s mind: “Why would a person admit to shooting . . . people and killing them during the course of a robbery if he wasn’t even there?” Why indeed? The bottom line, jurors felt, was that only a guilty person would confess to murder. Again Max was found guilty and sent back to death row.
Max got two new sets of lawyers, a team from the ACLU and a team from the New York firm Kirkland and Ellis, led by Andrew Horne. Again they all worked pro bono, convinced that Max was innocent and determined to free him. Horne found other witnesses to shore up the Reid hypothesis, including a regular bowler at Fair Lanes who said he had seen Reid at the alley several times that July. Horne also got an affidavit from a man who was Reid and Cook’s boss in the early eighties; he averred that Cook told him Reid “bragged about killing people in a bowling alley off of Route 290 in Houston.” Most important, Horne found a police report from July 14, 1980, indicating that police interviewed Fair Lanes employee Patrick Pye, who told them that a week earlier he and Sims had thrown out a 22- or 23-year-old white man for refusing to pay. Later the man had called back and said, according to Pye, “You better be watching over your shoulder.” One of the Kirkland lawyers showed Pye a photo from Reid’s wedding, which took place ten days after the murders. “I am sure that the person in the wedding photograph,” Pye swore in an affidavit, “is the same man that we threw out of the bowling alley.”
Horne filed a writ of habeas corpus with the CCA in 2008 and then filed several supplements to it, writing how all of the new witness affidavits “are pieces of a larger puzzle that, when viewed as a whole, demonstrate that Mr. Reid, not Mr. Soffar, is the real killer.” Max was crushed when the writ was turned down four years later. He took little comfort at Judge Cochran’s stinging dissent, joined by two other judges, in which she wrote those troubling words: “There is something very wrong about this case.”
There is something very wrong about this case. Governor, the bottom line is that the only thing tying Max to those violent murders is a confession by a drug-addled knucklehead that is at odds with almost every single crime-scene fact. Maybe Reid did it, maybe some other killer did it. The evidence that Max did it was thin 34 years ago; today it is virtually worthless.
As you well know, there have been a lot of changes in the criminal justice world between 1980 and 2014. We know now, because of hundreds of DNA exonerations, that our system makes mistakes. We’ve seen innocent men walk off death row, men like Clarence Brandley, Muneer Deeb, Kerry Max Cook, Ernest Willis, and Anthony Graves. We know now that eyewitnesses err, that forensic science is not always scientific. We also know that innocent people actually do confess to crimes they didn’t commit—even murder. In fact, according to the Innocence Project, one quarter of all wrongful convictions are the result of false confessions or guilty pleas. We’ve seen it in many high-profile cases, from that of Christopher Ochoa in Austin (who confessed after police interrogation in 1989 to a bloody murder but was exonerated by DNA in 2001) to that of the Central Park Five in New York City (five teenagers who confessed after police interrogation to the brutal rape of a jogger in 1989 but were exonerated by DNA in 2002).
Why do people confess to something they didn’t do? Because, says Richard Leo, a law professor and expert in police interrogation practices, of “the highly manipulative, deceptive, and stress-inducing techniques and strategies that interrogators use to elicit confessions.” And while smart, stable citizens may be less likely to confess to something they didn’t do, someone like Max—damaged, high on drugs, desperate for attention—is a perfect candidate. Leo studied Max’s case and found the techniques used by police on him to be “psychologically coercive” with plenty of risk factors for eliciting a false confession: the sessions were long, and Max was sleep-deprived and coming down from a drug binge, in addition to being “brain damaged, easily led, eager to please, impulsive, [plus he] has a short attention span, feels overwhelmed, is mentally ill, is unable to foresee consequences, has a tendency to make up stories to get attention, and has a poor grasp of reality.”
Of course, not everyone believes Max is innocent. HPD’s Gil Schultz, who interrogated Max back in 1980, is still certain of his guilt. “He made a confession,” says Schultz. “And there’s no doubt Max was there.” Andy Tobias, the prosecutor who first put him on death row back in 1981, agrees. “I have no doubt he did it,” he said in 2001. When Lyn McClellan retired in 2008 after 27 years in the Harris County DA’s office, he was most proud of having sent Max back to death row just two years before. But Governor, let me remind you that sometimes law enforcement officials feel a personal stake in a conviction and refuse to believe that a mistake could have been made—even when evidence shows it was. The DA who sent Ernest Willis to death row in 1987 still thought he was guilty after he was released and exonerated in 2004. Charles Sebesta, the DA who sent Anthony Graves to death row in 1994, still believed he was guilty after he was exonerated in 2010—and he still believes it to this day.
It’s not just opponents of the death penalty who believe Max deserves to go free. Consider the words of those conservative judges. And listen to Steve Rambam, the private investigator who has been on the state’s side for most of his adult life and who has even helped send people to death row. “I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal,” he says. “I believe in the death penalty—society demands it for certain heinous crimes. But Max is innocent. He was treated in a way that brings no honor to Texas law enforcement.”
And now Max is dying, quite literally. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2013 and had surgery at Galveston’s John Sealy Hospital in December, when a tumor was removed. But in June a new portal vein tumor was found, and this one can’t be taken out. The cancer is going to kill Max; doctors who have analyzed his records think he has until June or July at the latest, though death could come much sooner.
On the day I went to see him at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, September 24, Max said he didn’t feel that bad. Sitting in one of the interview booths, he said he had been throwing up occasionally but wasn’t in real pain. He also knew that that was about to change, because he would soon be starting chemo, going back to Sealy Hospital. “I know the chemo will make me real sick,” he said, but at this point he was game for anything. He wants to live as long as he can—to enjoy his weekly non-contact visits with his wife Anita, whom he met when she started writing him three years ago. But mostly he wants to survive because he feels that with enough time he can prove his innocence. “I will fight until I cannot walk another step,” he told me. “I will take chemotherapy until I am nothing but a babbling idiot, to prove that these people have done something really bad to me. And I feel like they should be held accountable.”
Max, who has pale skin, thinning hair, and a variety of jailhouse tattoos, often looks bewildered, his eyes wide and his hands out in exasperation, especially when talking about how he ultimately caused himself to be sent here a third of a century ago. “Everything in those statements that I made does not match the crime scene,” he says in a deep drawl. “It’s all made up off the top of my head. That’s what people should look at before saying I confessed to a crime. They use that word ‘confess’ against me, but it’s confessing to something that didn’t ever happen in this crime.”
It all began, he explains, when one of the police officers at the crime scene, who knew Max well, threatened that he was going to put Max away for life because of the stolen motorcycle. Max says he had seen reports about the three-week-old bowling alley murders on TV and in the paper, and that’s when he came up with the plan to get away from that cop and also take revenge on his friend Bloomfield. He told police he knew something about the murders and asked to speak to Clawson, who knew Max and his family. “[Clawson] started questioning me, asking me, ‘Do you know what you’re getting involved with here?’ I told him, ‘Yeah, I know who did it.’ I kept to my story when he was asking me. He said, ‘This ain’t no joke, they’ll kill you for this.’ I was like ‘Man, I’m not worried about it, I didn’t do nothing—he did it.’”
Max was questioned for hours by HPD detectives. “When they started losing interest in my story, I started confessing to murders and robberies and kidnappings. I had been stringing them along—we went to all these businesses, all these dig sites looking for dead bodies, only thing they found was a bunch of sun and a bunch of bugs, no dead bodies. We go the stores I confessed to robbing, never been robbed. They come out—‘All right, I told you, no more games.’ I’m doing everything I can to keep them interested. Finally, they just came in the room and started saying, ‘Well, this is the way it happened, isn’t it? This is the way it happened. This is a lie, isn’t it?’ And this is how the confessions were formed.”
Max says he thought that eventually the police would figure it out and would stop the interrogation. “Somebody’s gonna come in the room and they’re gonna say, ‘All right, you’re a liar—we don’t believe you, this never happened.’ But they weren’t about to do that. They kept, for three days, on and on and on and on, interrogating me. ‘Tell us this, tell us this, this is a lie, isn’t it?’ So I would know when they kept saying that over and over, ‘this is a lie,’ take that out of there. They’d take it out, bring in another statement, bring in the stenographer, and come in there and redo the whole thing over, then they would make me initial where they had misspelled a word or whatever. I mean, it was total chaos.”
Governor, Max’s lawyer Horne has a habeas petition pending in federal court, in which he forcefully makes the case that the killer of those kids 34 years ago was Reid, who died in November on Tennessee’s death row of complications from pneumonia. But realistically, that petition won’t get acted on for months or even years. Max’s only hope is some kind of executive action. Though his petition with the Board of Pardons was essentially turned down, you can still act. His plea to you, Governor, is simple. “I want to die at home. I’ve done over a life sentence for a crime I haven’t committed. There’s compelling evidence in this case that proves who the killer is.”
At some point soon—it could be tomorrow, it could be in two months—Max will begin to deteriorate. According to doctors, he’ll feel severe abdominal pain, he’ll begin to bleed, and he’ll start to lose his mental capacities. He’ll leave death row, his home for 33 years, and make one last trip to Sealy Hospital, in Galveston. Once he arrives, he won’t be allowed any visitors at all, outside of Horne and his associates. As Max lies dying, Anita won’t be able to visit him, nor will his sister Jackie or her children. In other words, Max will die surrounded by lawyers.
Unless you step in. Governor, we’re human, and sometimes we make mistakes. We did it with Tim Cole, we did it with Anthony Graves, and we did it with Max Soffar. In Max’s case, the whole system failed. The police put on blinders and focused on him even though he was a highly unlikely killer. His first lawyers were pathetic, failing to even interview the only witness to the murders. The judge at his retrial kept out evidence that would have allowed Max to put on a real defense, including evidence of a much more plausible suspect. The appellate courts have kicked the case back and forth for three decades now, offering no clear solution.
There’s one thing left, and that is executive clemency. Mercy. Please help commute Max’s death sentence to life, and let him die in peace.