Family Disagrees with Federal Judge Decision Over Magwood Case

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Sheriff Grantham's son, Kenneth, says he is not surprised over Federal Judge Myron Thompson's ruling, but he along with his family are disappointed.

A federal judge in Montgomery has ruled convicted killer Billy Joe Magwood was improperly given the death sentence.

Magwood, a native of Elba, has been on Alabama's death row for more than 25-years. He was convicted in the March 1979 fatal shooting of Coffee County Sheriff Neal Grantham.

On the morning of March 1st, 1979, Sheriff Neal Grantham was fatally shot outside the then Coffee County Jail in Elba. A short time later the triggerman was arrested a few miles away.

Billy Joe Magwood was arrested by then Highway Patrolman Ronnie Whitworth. Whitworth is sick over the federal court ruling overturning the death sentence. "I'm disappointed in the system,” he said. “I believe in it, but in this case it has let us down and didn't work."

Sheriff Grantham's son, Kenneth, says he and his family have waited nearly 30-years for justice to be carried out. Now, the family will have to endure a second penalty phase when Magwood is brought back to Coffee County for a new sentence hearing.

Grantham said, "Daddy gave the ultimate sacrifice and the system turned its back on him. It let him down and what he believed, and what America believes."

Magwood had a hit list of six-names at the time of his arrest. One being Sheriff Grantham, and another was longtime newspaper editor and reporter in the area Ferrin Cox.

"The fact that Magwood is still alive, and the law hasn't been carried out,” Cox said. “It’s talked about on the anniversary and people comment the law hasn't been carried out."

Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who is an Elba native, plans to appeal the federal judge's ruling taking Magwood off death row if King's appeal is denied.

A date has not been set for when Billy Joe Magwood will be brought back to Elba for a new sentencing phase in the case.

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