Woman convicted of 1977 murder in court today

Published 2:59 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

High court ruling could give Bracewell  shot at parole

A woman who has spent almost 40 years in prison for a 1977 Covington County murder will be back in court in Andalusia today.

0518-bracewellDebra Bracewell, 56, is scheduled to appear before Circuit Judge Ben Bowden this afternoon.

She was twice found guilty of the death of Rex Carnley, the owner of Rex Carnley and Sons on Hwy. 84 East of Opp, who was found shot to death by a customer early on the morning of Mon., Aug. 15, 1977.

Her husband, Charles Bracewell, also was twice found guilty by local juries.

Their first convictions were overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision which held that a certain portion of the state’s capital murder statute was unconstitutional.

Each was sentenced to life in prison in his or her second conviction. Department of Corrections records show Charles Bracewell is currently incarcerated in Donaldson Correctional Facility.

Attorneys for Mrs. Bracewell have petitioned the court for her relief based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama which said it is unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile to life in prison. Mrs. Bracewell was 17 at the time of Carnley’s death.

The state of Alabama first argued that Miller could not be applied retroactively. However, earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme court held in Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller announced a substantive rule that is retroactive in cases on collateral review.

A joint petition filed in February by Ms. Bracewell’s attorney, Carla C. Crowder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Lauren Simpson of the Attorney General’s office state that both sides now agree Bracewell is

Entitled to post-conviction relief to her life without parole sentence.

The hearing is set for 1 p.m.