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He was played by Blair Underwood.
In 1986, a little girl named Joanie Shriver is raped and murdered in Ochopee, Florida, and suspicion falls on a brilliant and charming black man, Bobby Earl Ferguson. He's arrested by cops, T. J. Wilcox and Tanny Brown, who beat and force the confession out of him. 8 years later, a retired lawyer turned Harvard professor, Paul Armstrong, who is against the death penalty, is persuaded by Bobby Earl's grandmother to go down to Florida to look into the case. There he meets Bobby Earl, who tells him that his mother overdosed on heroin when he was a child and his grandmother came and brought him down to Florida, he was high school valedictorian, won a full scholarship to Cornell, even thought they treated him like an outsider, and he explains to Armstrong that not only was he beaten, but that his confession was coerced.
Then he goes to Ochopee and interviews a few of the townsfolk and even meets the sadistic cops, Wilcox and Brown. Armstrong is even more convinced that Ferguson is telling him like it is and finds out that a year before Bobby Earl was arrested for kidnapping charges in Dade County. Even though the charge was dropped, Bobby Earl got kicked out of Cornell and lost his scholarship. Bobby Earl also explains to Armstrong that a serial killer, Blair Sullivan, was in the same place at the same time of the Shriver murder and that he's the one who is truly responsible for her death.
Later Tanny tells Armstrong that his wife, Laurie was the prosecutor on Bobby Earl's Dade County trial. Then she explains the trial, that at the end, she came back with nothing and the case was thrown out. Then Armstrong interviews Sullivan, who tells him where the knife used in Joanie Shriver's murder is at and that they just didn't read the signs. He and Tanny investigate this and eventually find the knife.
Tanny becomes even more angry and bitter. Armstrong puts the knife, the photos of Bobby Earl's and Blair Sullivan's cars, and Sullivan's letter all together in a combination, that results in a 2nd trial for Bobby Earl and his release from his charge and death row. Tanny says to Bobby Earl, that he's got everyone fooled but him and that he's going to be all over him like white on rice, meaning he's going to watch him closely. A day later, Armstrong gets a call from Sullivan, who tells Armstrong to go see his parents and tell them that he loves them and that they're in his prayers and then come to him.
Armstrong is shocked to see the slaughtered bodies of Blair's parents and confronts Sullivan, who is about to face death row. He reveals to Armstrong that he and Bobby Earl made a deal, Bobby Earl would kill his parents and Sullivan would take his crime. Sullivan tells Armstrong that he had nothing to do with Joanie Shriver's death and Bobby Earl is really responsible for it. Tanny and Armstrong team up and go after Bobby Earl, who has kidnapped Armstrong's wife and daughter and killed Det. Wilcox.
They find him at the place where a poacher's shack is and where Bobby Earl hid the knife. Armstrong finds Bobby Earl, Laurie, and Katie and Bobby Earl tells him that he wants vengeance on Laurie for getting him expelled, beaten within an inch of his life, and castrated in jail. He plans to gut Laurie and Katie like a fish and then feed them to alligators. Armstrong manages to distract Bobby Earl when Tanny attacks Ferguson. Armstrong, Brown, and Ferguson then engage in a bloody and watery fight.
Which Armstrong kills Bobby Earl and Bobby Earl's body is eaten by alligators. At the end, Armstrong and Tanny save Paul's family.