MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alton Dandridge walked out of Kilby Correctional Facility a free man Thursday after being incarcerated for nearly 21 years for a murder in Montgomery County he didn't commit.
Dandridge was convicted in 1996 for the murder of Robert Manning Sr. WSFA 12 News scripts from Dec. 21, 1994 say Manning was hit in the head so hard with a cast iron skillet it shattered. The strongest piece of evidence that tied Dandridge to the case was a fingerprint found on the baseboard by the victim's body.
At that time, lab technicians determined the fingerprint could have only been left after the baseboard was covered in blood. The fingerprint matched Dandridge's print, and he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in April of 1996.
In 2015, attorneys with the Equal Justice Initiative took over the case and had the print reexamined. Modern technology proved the print was that of the victim's son, who placed his hand on the baseboard when he found his father's body.
The prints were unprecedentedly close, but this was an exception. Scientists say the chances of two prints being this close is less than one in a million.
District Attorney Daryl Bailey confirms the Equal Justice Initiative approached his office with the new findings and immediately asked the State Bureau of Investigation to reexamine the prints.
The print examiners found the same evidence and explained the rarity of the close prints.
Bailey says his office promptly filed the appropriate paperwork to have Dandridge released from prison.
Bailey was actually in law school at the time this case was tried but says his office's chief priority is justice – whether by exoneration or through prosecution through the court system.
David Sudduth, who was also convicted of murder in this case, remains behind bars. His sentence is not affected by Dandridge's case.