WAKULLA COUNTY, FL. (WTXL) - Since 1976 the number of executions in the U.S has topped just over 1,400, 90 of those took place in Florida.
In 2014 eight people were executed for their crimes by the State of Florida. And while the executions may have served justice for the families of the victims in the crimes, what about the families of those executed? And what if the person executed may have been innocent?
Herb Donaldson is fighting to clear his uncles name after he was executed for a crime he believes his uncle never committed.
Donaldson says, "I'm not looking to hurt anybody. I think enough people have been hurt. Two people are dead and that's the problem. The only thing that linked my uncle to this crime was the word of a man by the name of Michael Frederick."
Donaldson believes his uncle is innocent. Mills was convicted in the murder of Les Lawhon in the spring of 1982. According to court records and the testimony of Michael Fredrick, he and Mills kidnapped Lawhon at gunpoint and then drove him to an abandoned airstrip seven miles from his home. Fredrick says, that's where Mills hit Lawhon with a tire iron and shot him to death. According to Fredrick, the two men then went back to Lawhon's home to steal items and set it on fire.
State Attorney Willie Meggs says, "One of the subjects did in fact pawn a ring at a pawn shop and that led to the arrest of Michael Fredrick, who then once confronted with the evidence admitted to being apart of the robbery with John Mills."
A gun was recovered but never tested for finger prints. Also in question was a bloody shirt found near the scene, also never tested for DNA. And there were other red flags in the prosecutions case.
According to Mill's Defense Attorney Roosevelt Randolph, "There was a bandanna that was found at the scene."
A bandana that was found with blond hairs, matching the hair of an alleged prostitute that Frederick ran around with.
Randolph says, "Then we found out that Mr. Fredrick was seeing a person who had worn a bandana. But we could never locate her."
The woman in question is Debra Mock, who to this day has never been questioned about the murder.
Donaldson says, "How does a 16 year old female, allegedly drug using prostitute disappear from the face of the earth. Did she run away? Did someone help move her out of the county? I she still alive?"
According to Randolph, "The main thing that stands out in my mind was the atmosphere we had back in the 80's back in Wakulla at that time. I brought the whole change of venue to the courts attention because once that jury was cast in Wakulla County it was a sure conviction."
Mills spent 14 years behind bars before he was executed by electric chair in 1996. The execution may have been closure for the Lawhon family but for Donaldson, he just wants to find the missing answers and hopefully clear his uncles name.
"There are so many unanswered questions that all I want is answers. Unless you have all the players that can speak honestly and forthright about this then you are ill-equipped to send a man to death row. You are ill equipped to say you have sought justice and found it when there are these missing links that have not been solved. There is a lie some where. There is a liar somewhere. I don't know who it is but it's problematic and its frightening."
Donaldson wrote a book about the case titled "Southern Shock America" recalling his memories surrounding the case.
Michael Fredrick was sentenced to 347 years in prison for his part in the Les Lawhon abduction and murder.
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