Local News

Former Death-Row Inmate Speaks About Freedom, Rebuilding Life After Acquittal

Posted February 23, 2004 11:24 a.m. EST

— After nine years in prison and two murder trials, Alan Gell is a free man.

A jury cleared Gell of all charges in a 1995 murder last week.

Those nine years in prison shaped Gell's future. He talked with WRAL's Mike Charbonneau about his new-found freedom.

"It's great to be home," Gell said. "But it's an adjustment."

Gell and his family waited nearly a decade to celebrate his homecoming. For the past nine years, Jeanette Johnson visted her son every Saturday at Raleigh's Central Prison.

"I'd sit there and talk to him and tell him I love him, and he'd tell me not to worry," Johnson said, "that he'd put it in God's hand, and God wasn't going to let him die for something he didn't do."

Gell was sentenced to die for the 1995 murder of a Bertie County man. But last week, the jury in his second trial acquitted him of all charges, and Gell walked out of court a free man.

"God and lawyers and fate and everything would let the truth come out," Gell said.

Gell said he is not bitter about how long it took to be set free. But he said he wants investigators to find Alan Jenkins' real killer.

"I think they (Jenkins' family) need to know who took their loved one," Gell said, "and I think I need to know who took their loved one because I did nine years for them."

Most of that time was spent on Death Row.

"I had a lot of friends be executed that I had met there," Gell said.

Jenkins' family offered a statement, saying they "did not agree with the way the system worked this time."

Attorney General Roy Cooper declared the case closed.

Gell said he plans to stay in Lewiston for a while, catching up with family and friends. But then he wants to head off to school, become a social worker and help troubled teens.

He also plans to use his case to fight for a moratorium on the death penalty.

"My whole outlook on it is to give it a purpose," he said, "give it a reason."

Gell said helping make a difference is the only way to ensure the last nine years of his life were not wasted.