Just past 10 pm on a summer night, attorney Cheryl Wattley is standing near a quiet street in West Dallas, reconstructing an old crime.
It's a moonless night. One street light and one porch light from a nearby house illumine the scene, nearly identical conditions to the night 30 years ago, when a young man was left to die on the street not too far from here.
Wattley points toward a man standing under the street light, a private investigator named Daryl Parker, as he positions himself in the alley 40 feet away.
"Can you identify him?" she asks.
I squint. It's nearly impossible to see anything.
"You see a silhouette of a man," Wattley says. "You can't even see his face."
On the night of the killing, witnesses said they could see more than a silhouette. They identified Benjamine Spencer and another man running away from the scene. Their testimony helped send them to prison.
But was Spencer guilty? He maintains his innocence. A trial judge even declared Spencer innocent and concluded the evidence that put him behind bars was falling apart. That was 10 years ago. A higher court ruled that was not enough to warrant a new trial. And Spencer remains in a maximum security prison.
This is how he got there.
On March 22, 1987, 33-year-old Jeffrey Young, the acting president of a clothing manufacturing company called FWI, was robbed as he was leaving his office around 9:30 p.m. in a warehouse district of Dallas. Police say two attackers robbed and beat him. They stuffed him in his BMW, drove over the Trinity River to West Dallas, dumped his body on the street, abandoned his car in the alley and fled.
Police got lucky: Three witnesses said they knew the two men from the neighborhood. They identified Spencer and Robert Mitchell as the men who abandoned the car.
"These are not eyewitnesses who were strangers — strangers who all of the sudden had to pick somebody out of a lineup," says Faith Johnson, the current district attorney in Dallas County. "These people knew Spencer."