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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Huntsville capital murder charge can't be expunged after being dropped, officials say

Demorris Lauderdale was in jail for about a month until it was proven he was out of the state when the murder happened.

Posted: Jun 5, 2019 9:21 PM
Updated: Jun 6, 2019 5:44 PM

Alabama's Legislative Services Agency has confirmed a Huntsville murder charge will stay on a man's record forever, even though the state dropped the charges.

In March, Demorris Lauderdale was charged with capital murder. He was in jail for about a month until it was proven he was out of the state when the murder happened.

Lauderdale's attorney presented surveillance pictures that showed his client was hundreds of miles away in Georgia near the time of the murder. 

Even though the charges were dismissed due to a lack of probable cause, state law forces the charge and arrest to permanently be on his record. A few weeks after Lauderdale was released from the jail, another man was charged by Huntsville police for the murder.

In May, the WAAY 31 I-Team took our questions about Alabama's expungement laws to Attorney General Steve Marshall.

"We would clearly be open to be able to examine our expungement law, you know, it's a very recent creation in Alabama," Marshall said.

The Alabama expungement law was expanded in 2017. The addition allows for violent offenses, such as capital murder, to be expunged only when a person was found "Not guilty" at trial.

"This situation may draw a light to a situation in which the statute could be amended, and we look forward to working with the legislature on that," Marshall said.

Shoals Representative Andrew Sorrell said he believes a change needs to be made. He said legislation could be offered to change the circumstances in which a person who was charged with a violent criminal offense could petition the court for an expungement.

"On the surface that sounds very unfair and it's something that we need to investigate and look into possibly changing the law," Sorrell said. 

Sorrell tells WAAY 31 he is reaching out to the chairman of the judiciary committee as well as lawyers to see if there is a reason the law is written the way it is.

Since session ended last week, Sorrell says he has 8 months to collect all the facts and possibly put together a piece of legislation.

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