Facts of the Crime:
On August 29, 1981, at approximately 11:00 p.m. Melvin Wallace, Jr., went into the L & G Sundry Store at 1069 North Watkins in Memphis to purchase two barbecue sandwiches. When he entered, there were four men in the Sundry Store, including two clerks, Benjamin Cooke and Steve Jones, who were known to Wallace as he was a regular customer. The other two black men were the defendants, Larry McKay and Michael Eugene Sample. Wallace did not know them but positively identified them in a line-up at 2:43 p.m. on August 31, 1981, as the murderers of Cooke and Jones and Sample as the person who shot him in the thigh and back and attempted to shoot him in the head.
Wallace testified that he went to the back of the store where Cooke had gone to prepare the sandwiches. McKay was also standing in the back with a quart of 45 Beer mumbling to himself. Not wanting to get involved with a drunk, Wallace turned and directed his attention to the front of the store where Jones and defendant Sample were standing. When he thought the sandwiches would be ready, he looked around at Cooke and saw that McKay had gone behind the counter and was holding a gun at Cooke's head. When Wallace realized "it was a robbery" and "broke and ran for the front door," Sample hollered for him to halt and shot him in the thigh. Wallace tried to play dead but Sample came over and said, "This nigger ain't dead," and shot him in the back. Wallace had heard Sample demanding that Jones give him all the money and heard Jones say, "Man, I gave you everything I had." After hearing Sample say several times, "I ought to kill all you son-of-a-bitches," Wallace heard him say, "Kill every son-of-a-bitch in here," and the defendants started shooting. Wallace testified he saw McKay shoot Cooke in the head. Sample came back to where Wallace was lying on the floor and put a pistol to his head. It clicked several times and did not go off. Wallace testified that he "came up off the floor" and started wrestling with Sample. The gun went off past Wallace's head and he lapsed into unconsciousness. When Wallace woke up, he heard Sample say, "Let's get the hell out of here."
Cooke and Jones died from the bullet wounds to their heads; but when the police arrived shortly after the killers left, Wallace was able to give them information about the episode and gave a description of the killers while he was receiving medical care at the scene and at the hospital. One of the investigating officers remembered that a grocery store across the street from the L & G Sundry Store had been robbed about ten days earlier, and that the witnesses had said the robbers were two black males wearing blue-green surgical caps. Among the items taken in that robbery was a .45 caliber automatic pistol that had a tendency to misfire. Shell casings from a .45 caliber automatic were found in the Sundry Store; and putting together leads from the two robberies, the police apprehended Sample and McKay the next day. They were in a car with a third man, and the .45 automatic with the serial number of the pistol stolen from the grocery across the street was found on McKay. A .32 caliber revolver was found inside the car. Bullets recovered from Jones' cheek, Cooke's head and chest and Wallace's leg had been fired from the .32 caliber revolver found in the car. Two blue hospital surgical caps were found in the car. More than two hundred and perhaps as much as seven hundred dollars in cash was stolen from the Sundry Store; and McKay, who was unemployed, had $166.30 on his person when arrested. Sample and $195 in cash at that time. The third man in the vehicle testified to incriminating circumstances linking defendants to recent criminal activity.
Charles Rice, age sixteen, went to the L & G Sundry Store to buy cigarettes and as he arrived at the door he saw the robbery in progress, specifically the gun pointed at the head of one of the clerks. He turned and ran home and told his mother what the had seen and later reported the information to the police. He made a positive identification of both defendants.
For more on Sample, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/...michael+sample