Table of Contents
From the Editor
Innocents Death Row Watch
Free at Last
Heroes at the Bar
Welcome to archived Issue 4
Jeff Dicks, profiled in the
first issue of Justice Denied, has died. Jeff died of heart related problems on May 10 at
5:30 a.m., in his cell. Although prison officials were well aware of his condition,
according to his mother Mrs. Shirley Dicks, and others, Jeff was not given the medication
or hospital attention he needed.
Shirley Dicks, his mother, fought for Jeff's freedom for 23 years, visiting him
faithfully once a week to encourage him. Justice Denied Magazine extends its sincere
condolences to Shirley and to Jeff's extended family for this sadness. We can only hope
that Jeff's innocence may exonerate him in death, as it did not in life. Jeff was taken
out of the prison on Mother's Day.
Information about the
funeral and memorial.
Herman Wallace and the "Angola Three" are in trouble -- for peaceful
The "Angola Three" asked for changes by peaceful protest --fasting, refusing
showers and other privileges. For their non-violent protest they have been moved to the
punitive "Camp J." Herman Wallace's story was published in the first issue of
Justice Denied. This was before the Angola Three cause (Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and
Robert "King" Wilkerson) was taken up by support groups who seek their freedom
from wrongful convictions. Please read a
brief overview of the case.
The Education Issue
Please read the Justice: Educating
and the following editorials:
Inequities of Race by Stormy Thoming-Gale
and the "Justice" System by Joanne Walker
ILWU Comment by Clara
Speech for the ACLU
by Mike Farrell
PLANNING FOR FREEDOM:
You Can Contribute to The Plan by Clara Thomas Boggs
A Supporter Speaks by Joanne Walker
How did Bill Williams go from asking the police if they "needed any help"
to serving a life sentence for a crime he has no knowledge of? Read this brief but
compelling account of his whirlwind arrest and conviction. Remember, if it can happen to
him, it can happen to you or someone you love...in an
Fritz and Ron Williams stated that they are not angry about their wrongful
convictions, but Fritz did say he is upset and vows to help "prevent this from
happening to someone else.
Sandra Halsey, trial court reporter, said, "No" when asked if there was an audio
tape of the trial. Those audio tapes were later found after a search was conducted of her
personal storage area. Halsey refuses to explain. (Darlie's story was originally published
in Volume 1 Issue 1)
Virgina Larzelere Virginia's
reputation as a swinger didn't endear her to the jury, but do you ignore the blood and
skin she scraped off her husband's assailant, an eyewitness description of the assailant
and car, a satellite photo of area banks confirming details of the automobile leaving the
dentist's office? She's on death row, but if she didn't kill her husband, the state may
murder her in your name.
Marlon Passley Freed in Massachusetts
After 3 years in prison, Marlon Passley walks free after new information surfaces.
Archived Snapshots--The Wrongly
Convicted in the News--old news.
Justice: Educating Ourselves
The vast majority of people who became one of the innocents who came to be
in prison or on death row had their first brush with the system as a result of the case
which now has them convicted. They were stunned, bewildered, frightened, and usually very
ignorant about the ins and outs of procedures which relentlessly herded them to a prison
cell. Even those who "should have known better" -- politicians, lawyers, and
other educated people -- were unprepared to be on the defensive, and often in a losing
One of the most common cries heard from the wrongly convicted is that they trusted the
system to do the right thing. They believed "due process" meant a process
that would reveal the truth of their cases, not understanding that the only guarantee
they'd get was a step-by-step journey through the legal system.
No one can step into the abyss of ignorance long past, but what we can do is explore the
"criminal" justice system to see what can be done to educate ourselves so we can
help the hapless and maybe even work at educating ourselves with a view toward fixing
at least some elements of our broken system.
Starting with this fourth issue, we officially begin the search on how to fix what's wrong
and to fulfil part of our mission to educate ourselves and all of you about the
"justice" system. We have done some of that, but now propose to do it in an
organized manner. You will read about that in "Planning for Freedom."
As part of Justice: Educating Ourselves, you will read about
race, especially the Black race, as it relates to justice, and in a companion piece, you
will read about Mumia and how celebrity relates to justice. You will be invited to join a
journey of exploration and work toward changing what is to how "things are supposed
Our journey in education and a movement toward change will begin where cases first meet
injustice at the scene of any crime -- the investigation. We will first explore
that topic and then move on to others. The goal is to find real solutions for real people.
Some solutions are being implemented across the country in other areas of injustice:
Applying the ideals of "restorative justice" to the lives of both victims and
offenders is one. As of now, I don't know of any movement to
reduce the incidence of putting innocent people in prison, although groups and
individuals have been mobilizing in that direction for a few years. (Northwestern
University's Conference for the
Wrongly Convicted was one of a few movements in that direction.)
This journey of education promises to be very fruitful. Our end result should be the
formal presentation of these ideas. Your contributions will become the property of Justice
Denied, and you will be credited with them. We may compile these for a book or present
them in another way. What is important for now is to think, write and contribute and put
your solutions "on the table" so that together we can find ways to solve the
problem of putting innocents in prison and on death row.
Clara Alicia Thomas Boggs
[back to top]
The Inequities of Race
In 1923 (Moore Vs. Dempsey), Blacks holding a peaceful private meeting in a church were
set upon by a mob of violent whites who began firing into the church, killing several
people. In the ensuing disturbance, one white man was killed, requiring several more
Blacks to die for daring to defend themselves. After the arrests, there was a horrifying
incident of mob domination and torture. A lynching was held off only by the promises of
local officials to execute the "negroes" legally. The son of a white lawyer who
came to town to help the accused barely escaped town with his life. A local lawyer was
appointed to make sure the accused could not present a defense. The trial took 45 minutes
and the deliberations by the all-white jury of local townspeople took less than 5 minutes.
The lawyer did not speak to the accused before trial, called no witnesses -- even though
they were available -- and did not permit the accused to testify that they were innocent.
In 1959, George Jackson (The Soledad Brother) was sentenced to one year to life for a
robbery of $70.00 from a gas station. He spent the next eleven and a half years in prison,
eight and a half of them in solitary. He was denied parole year after year because he was
a revolutionary. In 1970, Mr. Jackson was falsely accused of murdering a guard. August 21,
1971, Mr. Jackson was gunned down by a guard in a reported escape attempt.
In 1972, in the aftermath of the murder of George Jackson, Herman Wallace was falsely
accused along with three other Black men of the murder of a white guard. Because of his
affiliation with leftist groups he was targeted by the prison and the media. Herman was
convicted of the crime in 1974 and remains incarcerated. (Read his story in Volume 1 Issue
In 1983, Anthony Porter was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death for a 1982 double
murder. A team of journalist students gained freedom for him in 1999. (Read his story in
Volume 1 Issue 2.)
In 1996, Shareef Cousin was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death for a murder/robbery.
His case shocked the nation and he was granted a new trial. In 1999, three days before the
trial, the DA dropped the charges against him. (Read his story in Volume 1 Issue 2.)
In 1991, James A. Dennis was charged with the high-profile shooting of 17 year-old Chedell
Williams, outside of Philadelphia's Fern Rock Subway Station. Due to police and
prosecutorial manipulations and misconduct, shoddy investigatory work and incompetent
representation, Jimmy was convicted and sentenced to die for a crime with which he had
nothing to do. He remains on death row. Read his story in a future issue.
In 1993, Bobby Ray Hopkins was arrested for a double murder he knew nothing about. The
Hobbs-News Sun ( a newspaper in New Mexico) ran a seven-part series on the Hopkins case.
The article raised unanswered questions and provoked many supportive responses from its
readers. Even one of the victims' fathers questioned Bobby's guilt. In spite of this,
Bobby Ray Hopkins sits on death row hoping for justice.
What do all these people have in common? Their race. African Americans every one of them.
Racism is an ugly and evil part of our society. The civil rights movement was a blessed
and powerful movement, however, we, The United States of America, are miles away from
realizing the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Among men, Blacks (28.5 %) are two times as likely as Hispanics (16.0 %) and six times
more likely than whites (4.4 %) to be admitted to prison during their life. --U.S.
Department of Justice
A report released in June 1998, "The Death Penalty in Black and White--Who Lives Who
Dies and Who Decides," is the result of two studies.
The first study, conducted by law professor David Baldus and statistician George
Woodworth, along with colleagues in Philadelphia, revealed that the odds of receiving a
death sentence are nearly four percent higher (3.9 %) if the defendant is Black. The other
study conducted by Professor Pokarak and researchers at St. Mary's Law School in Texas
found that of the chief District Attorneys in counties using the death penalty in the
United States, nearly 98 % are white and only 1 percent are African American.
Perhaps the most stunning statistical example of rampant racism is a statistic derived
from the 1990 Michigan population records and the 1994 Michigan department of corrections
figures. Although Blacks make up only 13 % of the state population, they make up 58 % of
state prison inmates. This means that if you are a Black person in Michigan, your chances
of being a prison inmate during any given year are eight times higher than the
chances a white person in Michigan has of being a prison inmate during that same period.
These figures are not what we would expect of a free society. Yet they exist. Who is not
familiar with the idea of a person being pulled over or harassed by police just because of
being Black? It is a constant problem for some. Also constant is the fear of a frame-up.
Drugs will be planted. Evidence will be lost. Inmate witnesses will be found and given
special treatment if they testify for the state. Confessions will be coerced. In essence,
those of us who are educated about the justice system know that the cards are stacked
against Blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the illiterate, the foreign, the mentally ill and the
mentally retarded. Some people fit in several of these categories. Heaven help them.
It is difficult to know the true percentage of innocents in prison, let alone the
percentage of Blacks who are innocent. An investigator from Oregon estimated that 6,000
innocents are put into prisons every year. A staggering number. If that is true we can
derive a percentage of innocent Blacks in prison using the figures supplied by the U.S.
Department of Justice. Assuming that 6,000 wrongly convicted people are incarcerated every
year, a whopping 4,200 are of a racial minority, 200 are not U.S.
citizens and a mere 1,600 are white.
The contrast between the above numbers and the percentage of the total population is
startling. According to the U.S. Census as of 11/98, Whites make up 82.5 % of the total
national population with the total of all minorities living in the U.S. being 22.5 %.
Sixty-five percent of the jail population are minorities and only 22.5 % of the population
at large are minorities. Although Whites comprise 82.5 % of this nation they make up only
26 % of our nation's jails. Makes one think.
In terms of the media it is rare that an innocent Black person is heard. We are seeing
some exceptions this year. Two Black men have been completely exonerated of bogus murder
convictions and released from death row. The support for Mumia continues to grow. The
shooting death of Amadou Diallo produced a march 10,000 strong and a gathering of peoples
crying out for justice for all people of color in this country. This year the spotlight of
censure has focused on the cops, the prosecutors, the judges, the appeals courts and the
politicians. And they are squirming under the heat. The citizens of this Country are
For Justice Denied
[back to top]
Prisoners and the "Justice" system -- Essay by Joanne Walker
Whatever else one may think of Mumia Abu-Jamal and his guilt or innocence,
his case has most certainly inspired a closer look at the American "justice"
The sad reality is that unless an injustice carries the endorsement of a
celebrity, people often won't take the time to learn about it, no matter how tragically it
is affecting innocent lives.
In learning about the cases of Mumia and others, I have come to realize
that what I grew up to accept as "the best system in the world" is seriously,
We are serfs, living our trusting lives outside the walls of a beautiful
castle which has as its backside a deep, dark cave ... and that deep,dark cave is
inhabited by a vicious creature who takes cruel advantage of our honesty and innocence by
pretending to be devoted to our protection, yet easily digests lies, deceit, and bigotry
like so many juicy peasants.
Why do we accept a system that allows tainted evidence, recanted
testimony, and inflammatory rhetoric to be used to inflict massive sentences upon our
Should not cases littered with such troubling conditions At
The Very Least be heard in a timely manner on appeal?
What would you want if you or someone you know were denied a fair trial?
To me, Mumia is a metaphor for my frustration at how tightly hearts are
shut to the desperate pleas of innocence from wrongly accused individuals everywhere.
Consider this: in the time it took for you to read this essay, some poor
innocent somewhere had just enough time to realize that, yes, another day has passed with
no word on his or her appeal, no token of hope for a return to the sweet embrace of family
Home. Though shattered by the theft of years and the innocence of the
heart, still home.
Some of us should be so lucky.
[back to top]
by Editor Clara A. T. Boggs
(Editor's Note: It seems we should not have to tell our readers that Justice Denied takes
no stand for the innocence of the people it profiles or those on whom it reports. Sadly,
some people will read a report and assume that we are advocating
when we are reporting and exposing. What we do advocate is a thorough review of
cases of people who claim innocence. We advocate for true justice from our courts. In the
report below, Justice Denied takes no stand in support or against Mumia's claim of
innocence (we do not endorse anyone's claim of innocence -- that is the court's
province). We applaud all civic stands for social justice and commend the ILWU for
entering the arena of the criminal justice system in a bid to wrest fairness from the
courts. We do endorse anyone's request for a fair trial. -- Clara A. Thomas Boggs)
On April 24, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union put the more
than $232.8 billion West Coast shipping industry on hold for eight hours in a surprising
act in support of social justice, supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal's call for a fair trial.
Jack Heyman, executive board member of the ILWU, Local 10 in San Francisco
told the press that the ILWU has a long history of taking stands for social justice
because they see the struggle of labor against business as being broader than a union
Mumia's case is not the sole issue in the ILWU's stand for justice even
when it supports his personal plea for a fair trial. The issue is that our courts are
denying appeals to a great number of people (too many of them innocent) and justifying it
by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Scores of people are not
being heard. Worse, some are executed and later proved innocent. When strong voices such
as the ILWU's call attention to injustice, they reach many new segments of the population
with the message that our system is broken.
The ILWU had a role in social-political causes as far back as the
late1930's when dock workers refused to unload scrap metal from Japanese ships just before
the U.S. entered World War II. The union boycotted Salvadoran coffee ships in 1981 to
protest El Salvador's military dictatorship's union busting, imprisoning and sometimes
killing union members. In 1984, longshoremen protested apartheid, refusing to unload cargo
from South African ships docking in San Francisco.
The longshoremen shut down shipping ports on the West Coast as part of a
campaign to halt Mumia's execution, but the April 24 demonstration was a national
bicoastal demonstration endorsed by Amnesty International, the National Lawyers Guild, the
American Civil Liberties Union, Glide Memorial United Methodist Church and Grace
The West Coast union has never organized a work stoppage for a
non-strike-related social cause until now, although the late Harry Bridges paved the way
to ILWU's present social-justice consciousness,especially in San Francisco, by supporting
giving jobs to African Americans and organizing Asian workers of color in Hawaii. Bridges
himself felt the lack of social justice when he fought the U.S. government for trying to
brand him a communist and deport him.
Celebrities like Ed Asner and Danny Glover have lent their support to the
demonstration. Abu-Jamal's advocates say he was framed and convicted without a fair trial.
His case has gained international attention. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black activist and radio
personality, was found guilty of the 1981 shooting death of 25-year-old Philadelphia
police officer Daniel Faulkner. His case is highly political, arousing passionate feelings
from both those who believe he is guilty, and those who believe his trial was not fair,
and at the least should have included a provision for manslaughter. Abu-Jamal's appeal for
another trial was denied in October.
Setting aside the issue of divided views about Mumia, with an expected
15,000 to 20,000 participants, the demonstration to make Mumia's case public in America
and the world should at the least bring more focus to the justice system which is
increasingly raising more questions among the public.
"People are getting fed up with the unfairness of the
criminal-justice system. There's beginning to be an awakening of working people in this
country that enough is enough... that the economic situation in this country has become so
oppressive for so many people with the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer.
There's beginning to be a spirit of protest developing again in the U.S., and Mumia
Abu-Jamal has become a symbol of that."
[back to top]
Farrell's Speech to the ACLU of Northern
May 28, 1998
I hope you have the patience for what may be an exercise in eclecticism, but I want to try
to weave together strands from different places and parts of life to get to my point
A book due to be released in July, "A Promise of Justice," by David Protess and
Rob Warden, tells of the saga of the "Ford Heights Four." At the end, it relates
what one of them said in Washington, DC,last year, proposing five ways "to help
restore justice to our criminal justice system" -- abolishing capital punishment,
allowing petitions for new trials any time evidence of innocence is discovered (severely
curtailed by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996), repealing
legislation intended to speed up capital appeals, raising standards of and reducing
caseloads on defense lawyers working at public expense and ensuring every defendant's
right to test possible DNA evidence.
"These changes are absolutely vital if you don't want to repeat what happened to us,
and to many other victims of our system. But it seems that a whole lot of people nowadays
-- they call themselves' reformers' -- want to cut back our legal rights when we need most
to protect them.What motivates these pseudo-reformers to promote injustice? I think it's
fear. There's fear of crime, fear of different skin color, fear of admitting mistakes. You
got people here in the government who're so scared, and who represent people who're so
scared, that they build more and more prisons while doing away with the safeguards that
prevent them from being filled with innocent people. That's frightening to me. We can't go
on being so scared of each other. We have to find a common ground, or else justice will be
nothing more than a promise -- an empty promise."
"I've been afraid, and I guess you could say I used to be a racist, too. But it was
mostly white folks who stepped up to help us.So there's one thing I learned for sure in
eighteen years: If we can conquer our fears, there's nothing we can't do."
Those are the words of a man named Dennis Williams -- one of the Ford Heights Four --
finally fully exonerated last year after spending 18 years on death row in Illinois.
Now compare that thought, "...there's one thing I learned for sure in 18 years: If we
can conquer our fears, there's nothing we can't do," to this one --
"I have learned many things in prison, but the most important thing is that for a
human being, there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome. You just have to rely on
yourself and you can get through anything." Those are the words of Wei
Jingsheng, the Chinese Pro-Democracy dissident who was released last year after spending
almost 18 years in a Chinese prison.
In spite of their bitter experience, these two men, from very different lives, came to the
conclusion that by conquering our fears and learning to rely on our own strengths, we can
A few weeks ago I was at an event for a group of attorneys in Los Angeles who work in the
inner city. They represent people who live in slum conditions, helping them sue for their
rights -- their dignity -- against slumlords who exploit them horrifically. A quote from
one of the young children they had helped was used to make their point. "Mommy,"
he said, "does this mean we don't have to live in the rat house any more?" That
conveys a clear, simple, easily understandable message. No one -- least of all a child -
should have to live among rats. But I asked them to consider another child, as well. Not
this one who tugs at our heartstrings, but a child from the same set of circumstances who
says, instead, "Mommy, I'm going to find the people who made you live like this and
make them regret it."
What happens to that child? Here are a couple of thoughts...
In May of 1995, Girvies Davis was executed in Illinois. Fifteen years earlier, while in
prison for a robbery, it is said that then 20-year-old Girvies Davis gave police a
hand-written confession to an unsolved murder. He was immediately taken from his cell at
11PM and driven around to refresh his memory. At the end of this ride, at about 4:30AM,
Girvies Davis put his name to another confession, this one to 11 more crimes, 9 of them
Subsequently convicted of four of the murders, Davis spent years in prison, had a number
of unsuccessful appeals and was executed after being denied clemency by Governor Edgar.
Not many people noticed. Among the things they didn't notice was that Girvies Davis denied
having written or signed the original confession. He confessed to the other crimes, all
right, because the midnight ride was for the police to tell him what
else he had done and to give him the choice of confessing or running. Most also didn't
notice that Girvies Davis had brain damage from a childhood accident and an IQ bordering
on mental retardation. What they also didn't notice,and what the police who produced the
hand-written confession that convicted him obviously didn't know, is that Girvies Davis
Joe Spaziano was a bad guy. Head of The Outlaws biker gang in Florida in the late '70s, he
was convicted in about 1976 of a rape and murder that had occurred two years before,
convicted essentially on the testimony of an 18 year old who claimed that Joe had taken
him to a garbage dump two years earlier and bragged about burying there two women he had
"done." Spaziano was convicted by a jury that recommended life in prison. Two of
the jurors later admitted that they didn't find the testimony particularly convincing, but
since Spaziano was a biker and a trouble-maker they thought it was worth it to put him out
of circulation. The judge, however, over-rode the jury's recommendation and gave him the
death penalty. After the trial it came out that the young man had been hypnotized to help
him recall the facts to which he testified. Ten years later the Florida Supreme Court held
that hypnotically enhanced testimony was inherently unreliable and therefore inadmissible.
They did not, however, make the ruling retroactive, so Joe stayed on death row. Another
ten years passed and an investigator found the young man, now a reformed alcoholic and a
Christian, 38 years of age, who was carrying a load of guilt and wanted to unburden
himself. This man told the investigator, later the police and eventually special
investigators appointed by the governor, that he had been told what to say at trial by the
police and the hypnotist and had testified to things that had not happened. After a great
legal struggle, much drama, a lot of breast-beating and cowardly posturing on the part of
authorities who never want to admit to having been wrong, a brave judge threw out
Spaziano's conviction last year after 21 years on death row and five dates with the
executioner. Because the State insists it will re-try him, however, he remains on death
I'm going to assume you know about Horace Kelly, who was recently adjudged sane enough for
California's citizens to kill despite the expert testimony of five psychiatrists who said
that his inability to speak coherently, his tendency to store food in his toilet until it
became moldy, his tendency to save his feces by rolling it into little balls and his
belief that he was a security guard rather than a convict at San Quentin, suggested
Well, these are ugly cases. And while I won't pretend to have given you a thorough
analysis of them, there is enough information available about them and many, many others
to demonstrate that there is something terribly wrong with the capital punishment system
as practiced in our country today. And the capital punishment system is the ending place
for too many of the children from the rat-infested places I mentioned earlier. And when
good people do their best to try to make our society be what it should, make the actual
practice of the law match the ideal that we claim to hold so high in our esteem, they are
attacked as obstacles to justice instead of honored for the principles they demonstrate
and the incredible courage they manifest. These people are heroes and deserve to be
recognized as such. Instead, as we know from bitter experience, they are all too often
demeaned, derided or just run out of office.
And why? Why does that sort of thing happen?
Well, in order to zero in on a possible answer to that question, I want to take you rather
far afield. To understand our society and what's happening in it, it might help to look
away and then back. Sometimes a new perspective helps us know why it's so important that
the work being done by this organization is supported and continued. And perhaps in the
process we can
consider why it is that important values one hears about less and less today, values like
inclusiveness, compassion and hope, are urgent necessities for the successful continuation
and growth of society as we like to think of it.
"We are all 'Hibakusha'." The word Hibakusha means "downwinders" and
refers to those who were not caught in the initial atomic blast at Hiroshima but, because
of having been downwind, were nevertheless victims of the radioactive fallout. The phrase,
"We are all Hibakusha," opens the definition in a metaphysical way to include
all of us. One way or another, through direct complicity, sympathetic understanding or as
a function of an ineffable human interconnection, we are all at the effect of that
The idea that we are all Hibakusha is emblematic, for me, of the sad fact that we too
often allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that we are not connected -- until
an event or set of circumstances slaps us back to the awareness of the delicacy of our
situation here, the impermanence, the mutability of life.
Clarence Darrow once observed, "There is in every man that divine spark that makes
him reach upward for something higher and better than anything he has ever known."
That is a potent description of the presence and irrepressibility of the human spirit -
interesting from a self-professed atheist -- one worth considering in difficult times.
As was suggested, I do some work on behalf of refugees and in support of human rights in
the world. Let me offer you a few snapshots -
El Salvador -- Man in prison
Chile -- Woman in dark room
VA -- Joe G., "the Cooling Table"
Bosnia -- Dr., concentration camp -- men tethered
What these people have in common, I believe, is a fundamental understanding of the value
and dignity inherent in their existence, in the commonality of their simple humanity, in
the beauty, energy and possibility that comes with life on this earth. And from that they
derive a power that is indomitable, that allows them to stand in the face of apparently
overwhelming opposition. These individuals learned, through incredibly difficult personal
experience, that by putting themselves out in the service of others they become more than
they were. That is their contribution to the Great Ledger, as John Steinbeck referred to
it. Their measure of themselves as people. In "Sweet Thursday," Steinbeck said
the big question is, "What has my life meant so far and what can it mean in the time
left to me?" "What have I contributed to the Great Ledger?"
On the other side of that ledger, a little over two years ago I was in Rwanda, in Central
Africa, where a genocidal war had been fought just months earlier. While the civilized
world averted its eyes, people were killed by the thousands in a bloodletting the ferocity
and scope of which are incomprehensible to most of us. 500,000 to 1,000,000 human beings,
mostly of the minority Tutsi tribe, died in a period of three months. Mass slaughters took
place all over the country in a carefully planned and well executed campaign to assert
control over the majority Hutu population by entangling them in an horrific act of cruelty
from which there could be no turning back.
An arena specifically chosen for the slaughters was the church. The chief means of mass
communication in Rwanda is the radio and through a diabolically clever propaganda
campaign, as the murderers were inspired to kill, the intended victims were deceived into
gathering in the churches by the promise that they would there be granted asylum. Once
gathered they were slaughtered by the thousands.
The new Rwandan Government, left with the job of cleaning up the awful mess in the
countryside, made the decision to leave a couple of the churches as they were found so
that those who came after could see for themselves what had happened. After visiting one,
the Church at Ntarama, I sat in my room in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and
Rwanda -- The Church at Ntarama
Everything I believe was challenged by the infernal tableau displayed in this place.
Though the three buildings and the yard between them were all so full of remains that one
had to tread carefully, the chapel somehow presented the most soul-bruising image,
probably because one clings to the hope that it does represent on some level the
salvation, the deliverance from evil that these poor slaughtered wretches were seeking.
Piles of bones, the outline of the body they once supported still defined by the ragged
remnants of their clothing, lay where they came to rest, tossed, strewn about by the force
of the blast, the bullet, the thrust of the spear, blow of the club, swipe of the machete.
Again and again and again the machete.
Books, canes, toys, purses, thermos bottles, shreds of the last things they held -- those
which their murderers left behind - punctuate the sentences of death written by these
heaps of what were once vital beings.
The air, suffused with a thick, hideously sweet, cloying, web-like quality, is almost
impossible to breathe. It is as if, having stepped into a charnel house, a human abattoir,
I am caught between here and somewhere else, between this dimension and another, and to
bring this horror into my nose, mouth, lungs, is to invite in corruption.
This holy place, and it clearly was that to those who sought refuge here, is now mute
testimony to the unholy. What moves here,what this intruder can see and hear, are the
roaches, lizards and others that find their sustenance in the leavings. But what exists
here, what insists that it be heard, is the faint echo of the shrieks and moans of the
dying as they compete with the grunts and exclamations of those who did this terrible
work; the delicate puff of air from a hand reaching out, fingers curling in despair; the
hiss of the blade on its downward path; the final sigh of release from those who expected
If there is in man that divine spark, it has here been crushed, spat upon, reviled,
denied. Has it been extinguished? Can it be? Will we allow it to be? As I'm sure you
understand, it was awful. Not something anyone should have to see -- or hear about -- or
certainly experience.But, like death row in America, because it is there it's my belief
that we need to hear about it, to know about it. And, more important, understand it if we
can. You see, the perpetrators of these massacres were in large part members of a youth
organization called the "interahamwe." Males and females ranging in age from
about 10 or 12 to their early 20s, without work and with little education, the interahamwe
was the tool of an extremist faction of Hutus that controlled the government and had been
the objects of a special education, an on-going campaign of virulent anti-Tutsi
propaganda, for years.
Asked afterward how she could take part in the slaughter of innocents, people who had
recently been her neighbors, one young woman answered, "I didn't really kill anybody.
I just finished them off." Another said, "I wasn't part of the killing. I just
H.G. Welles once defined civilization as a race between education and catastrophe. Several
decades ago, Mohandas K. Ghandi articulated what he called the seven social sins, one of
which was "education without character." Education can be used for many
purposes. "Education without character," the simple feeding in of selective
information, can result in people being manipulated for purposes of evil, whether active
or passive. There is a responsibility implicit in the exchange of information, the process
of education, and the responsibility belongs to each of us who choose to be awake, alert,
alive. We are all Hibakusha.
You see, unless we believe in something, be it Steinbeck's Great Ledger or something else,
unless we have a fundament, a platform, a place upon which to stand, the purveyors of
information, the controllers of the dialogue, can become the embodiment of truth.
For us, the lesson that can be learned from Rwanda, it seems to me, is not that Africans
are primitive savages of some lower order capable of bestial behavior, but rather that
human beings, with limited life experience and even more limited education, are capable of
being directed by accepted authority into behaviors that, on reflection, are shockingly
Now remove the cultural trappings that describe the situation in Rwanda and replace them
with more familiar ones and you can have a scenario wherein a man or men are moved to the
belief that the detonation of an explosive device at the Federal Building in Oklahoma
City, creating the gut-wrenching carnage that shocked, enraged and confused America, is a
necessary, appropriate, and in some twisted way productive, act.
And it's not only Oklahoma City. When we hear the fear-inspired rhetoric in this country,
denouncing and demonizing the target of the moment -- be it a principled judge whose
belief in equal justice won't allow her to pander to the politically popular line or a
supposedly bloodthirsty killer who eats children for breakfast -- we have to remind
ourselves that the purpose of this demonization process is to stop us from thinking; to
manipulate our most base emotions. To make us followers. I listen to the lunacy of
self-described "militia" leaders intoxicated with the power of their own
paranoid ramblings -- or crowds of people outside prisons at the time of an execution in a
state of drunken revelry shouting "Fry the Nigger!" Or more recently, "Kill
Karla Faye!" -- and wonder if we aren't witnessing the development of our own version
of the interahamwe. The unthinking mob.More, the anti-thinking mob.
How does it happen? It happens because people, without a sense of themselves, without a
belief in their own value, without a place to stand, are subject to the ravages of fear.
The fear Dennis Williams recognized, of which he was the victim.
Given the ethical collapse so sadly evident on all sides of the social and political
spectrum, who can blame them? Watching professional athletes at the peak of their
abilities, wealthy beyond their dreams, behaving like unthinking brutes; enormously
successful business people trampling others in pursuit of more and more of the almighty
dollar; policemen and women losing their way in a whirlpool of money, dope and corruption;
religious leaders wallowing in self-righteous condemnation of others and political
professionals with no goal in sight beyond self-promotion, it is no wonder that people
feel adrift and the young search in vain for models of appropriate behavior.
And as they search, add to the mix the stealthy phenomenon of media exploitation, not only
of violence but of all human frailty, for its own competitive and economic ends and you
have built the perfect trap for those who have allowed themselves to believe that the
information they're getting through the media and elsewhere is right, good, important and
In fact, Dr. George Gerbner of the Annenberg School, studying the media and its impact on
our society, describes what he calls the "dangerous world syndrome," in which
we, the recipients of all of the overwhelming and frightening messages put out by the
media, begin to perceive the world as an even more dangerous place than it actually is,
and because of this misperception begin to behave as though it is what we perceive it to
be, arming ourselves, building fortresses, lashing out at others, creating the very world
The climate of fear that is created, and its cynical manipulation by pretenders to power,
has given rise to the monstrosities of
"three-strikes-and-you're-out" -- a death row populated with juveniles,
minorities, the mentally retarded and brain-damaged, victims of abuse, the innocent and
those who cannot afford a defense --it's given us a re-segregated society -- inner city
violence --anger toward the homeless and impoverished -- nativist and other anti-immigrant
manifestations -- anti-gay legislation -- and all the many separatist, exclusivist
policies that abound.
In such a time, when people are frightened and easily manipulated, confusion abounds. And
in the midst of this confusion arise voices; voices in the media, in popular
organizations, in some of our churches, in business and in positions of political power.
These voices are often articulate, persuasive and highly seductive, and are, in very
clever ways, giving people permission to hate.
It is, though far more sophisticated, the same dynamic that taught those frightened,
ignorant kids in the Interahamwe to kill their neighbors.
Because of these clever, manipulative,power-seekers, these honeyed voices, many lose their
balance and grasp at easy-appearing, quick-fix solutions. They lose a sense of their own
value, they lose a sense of the value of others and, with it, they lose what I consider to
be the most important thing, the courage to love. They are on their way to becoming the
So how do we deal with it? By being stronger than they are. By looking inside and asking
ourselves those questions -- reminding ourselves who we are and what we believe in. By
being willing to take the flak. By listening critically and denouncing demagoguery
wherever and whenever it appears. By looking for guidance in the principles we know and
trust, even though rusted and worn by lip service and misuse, and by anchoring ourselves
in those beliefs and standing for what is higher and better, knowing the answer is not
fear but love; not exclusivity, but inclusivity. By remembering that we are all Hibakusha.
And when the cynics deride our maudlin nonsense we can turn for help to those who have
walked these paths before us -- some of whom I've told you about tonight -- and...
Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz, in "Man's Search for
Meaning," says "...human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a
meaning." In that damnable place he learned that "...love is the ultimate
and the highest goal to which man can aspire. ...the greatest secret that human poetry and
human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in
Susan Griffin, in "A Chorus of Stones," writes of coming to grips with her own
history of childhood abuse and the discoveries she has made along the way.
"It is said that the close study of stone will reveal traces from fires suffered
thousands of years ago... I am beginning to believe that we know everything, that all
history, including the history of each family, is part of us, such that, when we hear any
secret revealed, a secret about a grandfather, or an uncle, or a secret about the battle
of Dresden in 1945, our lives are made suddenly clearer to us, as the unnatural heaviness
of unspoken truth is dispersed. For perhaps we are like stones; our own history and the
history of the world embedded in us, we hold a sorrow deep within and cannot weep until
that history is sung."
Jim Wallis, of the Sojourner Community, says "Hope is the very dynamic of history.
Hope is the engine of change... the energy of transformation... the door from one reality
"Hope unbelieved," Wallis says, "is always considered nonsense. But hope
believed is history in the process of being changed... The nonsense of slave songs in...
Mississippi became the hope that let the oppressed go free. The nonsense of a bus boycott
in Montgomery... became the hope that transformed a nation. The nonsense of women's
meetings became the hope that brought suffrage and a mighty movement that demands gender
equality. The nonsense of the uneducated, the unsophisticated, 'the rabble,' became the
hope that creates industrial unions, farm worker cooperatives, campesino
Extrapolating on Wallis' theme, the nonsense of those in a death camp believing they could
survive became the hope of the human rights movement.
The nonsense of singing the histories of the abused, the neglected, the misshapen, the
dysfunctional, the special, becomes the hope that rescues, resuscitates and resurrects
pure human energy that has been trapped, ignored or discarded.
"Hope," Wallis says, "is believing in spite of the evidence and watching
the evidence change."
So it's up to us. It's you and me to whom Gervies Davis and Joe Spaziano and Dennis
Williams look -- to whom the children look --to whom the fearful look -- to speak the
unspoken truth -- to sing the histories -- to remember we are all Hibakusha -- to find the
courage to love -- and to make safe the way for hope.
[back to top]
FOR FREEDOM: You Can Contribute to The Plan
Not a week has gone by this month that we haven't all heard of some new person being freed
from years of wrongful imprisonment. As one of our contributing editors said last month,
"The sweet smell of freedom is in the air." In this issue, for example, you will
read of Fritz and Williamson's release thanks to DNA tests proving their innocence. This
made Williamson the 78th person in the U.S. since 1970 to be cleared after being on death
row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group.
You'll read about Marlon Passley, a man even his prosecutors wanted freed. John Duval was
freed after a grueling 26 years behind the clanking metal doors after police suppression
of evidence and general misconduct by our "protectors." Before them, were
Anthony Porter, Kerry Max Cook and others.
What is going on? Is our criminal justice system coming to its senses? Hardly. Not yet.
The lion's share of the work of freeing the innocent largely falls on the shoulders of
family and friends -- when the prisoner can maintain his bonds over the years of
frustration and depletion of family resources. It's usually the family or friends who
spend years making the phone calls, following the leads, begging for an audience with
whoever will listen. When the family does not quit fighting due to the often huge
obstacles in gaining freedom, someone might listen -- like Professor David Protess in
Chicago, Centurion Ministries, The Innocence Project, or even a poverty law center.
It takes great effort to free one innocent person. That's not right. You and I know this
is not the way justice ought to be. We also know this is the way it is.
If we are involved in efforts to free the innocent we have some ideas about how these
miscarriages of justice could be averted. That's because we know how they happen.
With this issue, we would like to launch a series to discuss solutions to the problems in
the criminal system (who allies the system with the word, "justice" lately?).
You, our readers, are invited to participate. We will explore several areas of the system
we believe aren't working, beginning with Investigation then taking each
problematic area in turn -- lawyers, workings of the courts, judges, the politics of the
legal system, the laws, and all the other problems we know contribute to convicting
innocent people. You can tell us how you would change it to work so that so many innocent
people are not caught in the dragnet of system intrigue or error. The JD staff will also
participate as space allows (our readers will have preference), and I will begin the
series to "prime the pump."
A few reasons people are wrongly convicted you've read about here and elsewhere include
mistaken eyewitness identification, police or prosecutor misconduct, shoddy investigative
methods, lying witnesses, hysteria about the crime, politicized judges and prosecutors,
false confessions, uninformed (and often emotional) jurors ... the list is almost endless.
The interesting thing about a wrong or an evil is that it is often expressed in more
diverse ways than something done rightly or a good. The right way to do something, more
often than not, is simpler.
To me, it is very clear that a wrongful conviction begins at the scene of the crime, then
after the first errors are made, all other decisions are made to protect the initial one.
This is where I would begin making things right -- at the investigative level.
An investigation should be reviewed by a separate group which has no stake in booking
people for a crime, and with an eye toward disproving the guilt of a person as much as
proving it. For too many years now, booking a perpetrator has been more the goal than
discovering what happened. When police detectives are schooled more in how to trip up or
trick people instead of diligently untangling the events and personalities leading to a
crime, innocent people have the cards stacked against them. When assumptions take the
place of knowledge and hard fact, an innocent is on his way to prison. Investigation must
be both science and art instead of a formula ("The first suspect is always
the spouse/mother/boyfriend"). When politics or hysteria guide people, reason and
caution fly out the window. For this reason, my first candidate for extensive overhaul is
If we allowed the same margin for error in baby food products that we allow in our
criminal system, our population would be decimated. The biggest shame of it all is that
the system does not like to admit that it is wrong when it makes the most grievous errors.
The stakes of performing conscientious investigations are high. A man or woman's life
hangs in the balance, whether that life is lost to years behind bars, or to death.
I have shared with you a portion of what I would change about the investigative process.
Now it's your turn....
Clara A. Thomas Boggs Editor, Justice Denied
Submissions to Planning for Freedom: Please title
your mail, "Free Plan -- Investigations" (that is, use
"Investigations" with this topic only).
Your entry must be no longer than
1,000 words, and preferably shorter. Your writing becomes the property of Justice Denied
with full permission to use it as we have edited it for publication. (Your ideas, intent,
or content, however, will be intact.) We do not have time to acknowledge receipt of your
writing, nor will we notify you that we have selected your contribution -- by sending it
to us, you understand and agree to these terms.
BRING ON THE IDEAS!
A Supporter Speaks
Why I Believe In and Support
by Joanne Walker
I am almost at a loss for words when I try to
articulate the depth of the concern I feel for the wrongfully imprisoned and the work of Justice
Denied on their behalf.
I feel sick to my stomach when I allow myself to think of the lifetime full of
triviality I unintentionally led while all the while lives were being ruined in the name
What a farce our educational system is to have brought us through school thinking that
such things happened only in the long-ago past or in far-away lands.
How cold is the position of so many that the robbery of freedom and the murder of dignity
is someone else's problem, simply because they have never met that person.
If such people could open their hearts for just the briefest of moments to feel the pain
of a child being ripped away from a loving family, or to experience the agony of a parent,
"guilty" perhaps of limited financial means, being displaced by a state so
amoral that it would toy with the very soul of an innocent. If people could walk in those
shoes for ten minutes, they would see the world differently and perhaps this sort of evil
would no longer be tolerated.
Ten minutes. What is ten minutes to the average American? Surely in an hour of television,
there are at least ten minutes worth of commercials. Yet what is ten minutes to a person
wrongfully imprisoned? Or to a member of his or her family? How many Americans know what
it means to live with such pain that ten minutes of it seems as brief as the blink of an
I used to imagine that I had led a good life and used my resources for worthy ends. I
suppose I have done that to some degree. But nothing I ever encountered before could have
prepared me for the nightmarish whirlpool of the American "justice" system.
A society that systematically denies timely, fair, and professional forum to its members
needs to be changed. Immediately.
That's why I feel that Justice Denied is so important. The goal of justice is at
the very core of humanity. With my every breath, I yearn for a better reality for those
who needlessly suffer every day in the realm of evil, errant rouges, who will be lucky to
receive in eternity an atom of the fairness they so selfishly withheld from good people in
their days on earth.
Edited by Anne Good
"I walked over and asked if they "needed any help." ... Within
the next hour they arrested me!
The rape test came back negative and the crime scene fingerprints weren't his. His trial
was a few short hours but his sentence is a lifetime.
Hello, my name is Bill Williams.
I am serving two consecutive life sentences, plus 310 years for aggravated rape,
aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery. As my story will reveal, I was falsely
arrested, falsely convicted, and falsely imprisoned on all charges.
In 1991, I came to Louisiana with my wife and youngest child to work for Asphlund Tree
Company. We were living in a trailer park in Broussard while establishing ourselves in a
new community. One morning after leaving my motor-home, I noticed two detectives sitting
in a car. I walked over and asked if they "needed any help." They said they were
looking for a Gold van. Since I knew nothing about this van, I excused myself to continue
on with my day. Within the next hour they arrested me! When I asked why I was being
arrested they stated, "You already know." After some fairly rough
treatment, the detectives asked if I would agree to be fingerprinted, saying this would
prove I couldn't be the person they were looking for. Since I was innocent of any
wrongdoing, I agreed to this without question and, foolishly, without an attorney. After
the finger prints were taken, they placed me in front of a two-way mirror by myself. That
was it! Next, I was put in jail. My life changed forever, that fast and that simple. My
bail was set at $600,000 -- an impossible amount for me to raise.
Being unfamiliar with legal matters and caught up in a fast-paced, shocking course of
events, I had no idea many of my rights were being violated. For example, I was indicted
in Lafayette Parish for kidnapping, and in Vermillion Parish for rape and robbery. To this
day I have never been fingerprinted and formally booked in Lafayette Parish, only
indicted. There were no pretrial hearings on the kidnapping, but later, without change of
venue being granted, I was tried and convicted of that Lafayette crime along with the two
charges in Vermillion Parish. My trial lasted a few whirlwind hours, with jury selection
in the morning and the trial in the afternoon. The only material evidence against me came
from a palm print claimed to have been found at the scene of the crime. But none of the
state's experts could tell the jury exactly where it was found. At trial, the FBI
testified that the prosecutor's crime scene print did not match with my prints on file.
The qualified technician who lifted that print never tried to make a match even though he
had the same set the FBI had, plus my freely given inked prints.
Not surprising to me, the medical evidence presented at trial revealed the vaginal swabs
for this rape were negative. So much for exculpatory evidence and reasonable
doubt! Despite the FBI's testimony and the negative rape test, l was convicted and
sentenced to life in prison for a crime I did not commit and had no knowledge of.
In 1984 I won a long battle to obtain my records, including the "INITIAL POLICE
REPORT." With that report in hand, I filed back into court under a post conviction
and was granted an evidentiary hearing. At trial, the victim depicted her attacker as
having "dark hair, a tattoo on his arm and a nasty body odor." The initial
police report, however, stated that she described her attacker as having blond hair with
no mention of any tattoo or body odor. The judge granted me a new trial. He gave the state
30 days to appeal this decision. Forty-four days later, without having filed writs, the DA
asked for a rehearing in front of the same judge. Judge Bixie Mouton said he wasn't
"clear on the law," so he granted it and reversed his earlier decision. Days
later he retired from law! A subsequent newspaper account revealed his background. Judge
Bixie Mouton never attended law school.
Frustrated by my previous efforts, I tried to file my case into Federal District Court.
After learning I had obtained copies of the INKED prints, the state suddenly claimed the
LATENT prints were missing from the file. Once found, the finger tips on the state's
prints -- the prints they claim are mine -- were whited out so they cannot be
easily read. It has become obvious this was no accident and the evidence was methodically
and deliberately tampered with.
Both of my parents have passed away since my conviction. The only real help I have had is
from a priest in Lafayette. He has been a true friend. Through his connections, he
obtained the prints that were used against me. To date, this is my best chance for a new
trial to prove my innocence.
Three years ago, while in the process of fighting this in federal court, I suffered a
light stroke and had to stop all efforts concerning my case. Fully recovered, I've just
now started to get back to work on proving my innocence. In all truthfulness, without
help, I don't see any possibility of changing my current circumstances. I have no wife, no
money, no trained legal help, and I'm limited in what I can write here now. This has been
an unbelievable nightmare with no daylight in sight.
I have documents to back up everything I have stated. Two people, one of them my eldest
daughter, have a complete copy of my case. I have many copies of all the prints. Above
all, I am innocent.
I sincerely thank you for reading my account. I would welcome any and all help.
[Note: Due to legal considerations and the chance for a future appeal, Mr. Williams is
limited in the information he is able to provide for publication. Further information can
be obtained by writing directly to him at the address below.]
WILLIAM WILLIAMS D.O.C. #101793
C.C.R. - UF-3
Louisiana State Prison
Angola, Louisiana 70712
Paul K. Eggers Letter
To US Senator Charles Grassley,
US Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
From Paul K. Eggers
In reference to: William A. Williams, D.O.C. 1017931
C.C.R. A / Tier, 7, Louisiana State Penitentiary Angola, Louisiana 70712
February 7, 1997
Dear Senator Grassley
I am writing this letter to you on behalf of my friend (Bill Williams), who, I understand
wrote to you for any help.
Some time ago, he sent me his hand prints for copying and comparison. I had such prints in
my hand and went over to some friends of mine in the offset printing business to use their
reproduction camera. To my astonishment, the hand-prints were NOT MATCHING and I
determined they were false.
I am a retired person with 30+ years experience in layouts (compositing) and have a
"trained" eye to match dot-to-dot overlays to exactness: to avoid
"herringbone" patterns with photos or off the mark color forms. That's why I
feel confident the hand-prints supposed to convict Mr. Williams were falsified.
Unfortunately, I do not have the police authority or other investigating officer clout to
take it to Louisiana State systems to challenge.
So, it is in desperation that I ask your intervention with Mr. Whitehurst, the former FBI
agent who exposed. Certain abuses of lawmen we think protect our liberties. Every turn
we've tried met only without response.
I hope your new session with the Senate will be productive and satisfying for you.
Paul K. Eggers
Mr. Eggers' address and telephone number may be made available to an investigator or other
person seeking to help William Williams. Please contact the staff with your telephone
number. We will call you.
[back to feature stories]
DNA tests let Dennis Fritz and Ron
Williamson walk away from a life sentence and death row
Edited by Alana Mahaffey
Twelve years after juries in Oklahoma convicted them of murder, Dennis Fritz and Ron
Williamson are enjoying life again as free men. Fritz, who had been serving a life
sentence, and Williamson, who had been sentenced to death, stood solemnly as murder
charges against them were dismissed on April 15. Although two juries found the two men
guilty in 1987 of strangling and sexually assaulting 21-year-old Debra Sue Carter five
years earlier, recent DNA evidence exonerated Fritz and Williamson from their alleged
crime. Presented with the fact that DNA material collected from the scene of the murder
did not match either man's DNA, Judge Tom Landrith dismissed murder charges against both
During their twelve years in prison, both Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson continued to
proclaim their innocence. Williamson, who came within five days of execution, told The Ada
Evening News that the case against him "should never have been prosecuted." He
also stated that the police had insufficient evidence and did not adequately investigate
Semen samples and 17 hairs were matched by experts and presented as evidence at each man's
trial, but prosecutors also used statements made by jailhouse informants to solidify the
case against Fritz and Williamson.
Today, the crime investigation is being re-opened, and DNA samples from the crime scene
are being compared to other suspects in the case.
A criminologist with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation presented the DNA
evidence, including hair and semen samples taken from the crime scene, and testified that
the DNA did not match the DNA of either Fritz or Williamson. Bill Peterson, the district
attorney who prosecuted Fritz and Williamson, said he was speechless after the dismissal
of the charges. "I believe it is incumbent based on the evidence that this case
should be dismissed against them," he said.
"Twelve years of my life is lost," stated Fritz, a former schoolteacher.
Williamson, who had played professional baseball before his conviction, told reporters
that although he insisted he was innocent while serving his sentence, no one would listen
No one would listen, that is, until four years ago when Dennis Fritz contacted Barry
Scheck and the Innocence Project, an organization working to set free wrongly-convicted
men and women based on DNA evidence that can prove innocence. Scheck, known for his work
in defending O.J. Simpson and British au pair Louise Woodward, reviewed evidence in the
case against Fritz and Williamson. Scheck agreed to be Fritz's lawyer and became the
catalyst for the re-examination that resulted in Fritz's and Williamson's freedom.
"These men are victims of our justice system," Scheck stated after the men's
Both Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson stated that they are not angry about their wrongful
convictions, but Fritz did say he is upset and vows to help "prevent this from
happening to someone else."
[back to feature stories]
Did the court reporter sabotage Darlie Routier's trial? (Was she paid?)
Darlie's original story was published in Volume 1 Issue 1.
Edited by Anne Good
In a surprising turn of events, a Judge has found the transcript of Darlie Routier's
capital murder trial "does not conform to what occurred at trial." This marks
the first time the court has officially identified the transcript as flawed.
Routier, 28, is on Death Row for the 1996 killing of her 8 year-old son, Damon. Her son
Devon, 6 years old, was also killed during a heinous attack which, Ms. Routier claims, was
the work of an intruder. With 9 stab wounds, many of which were labeled by the prosecution
as "superficial" and "self-inflicted," Ms. Routier survived, only to
be arrested within days.
When Sandra Halsey, the court reporter present during the trial, was asked to explain the
discrepancies before Judge Francis, she exercised her 5th Amendment privilege. Earlier,
when asked if there was an audio tape of the trial, she replied, "No." The audio
tapes in question were later found after a search was conducted of her personal storage
area. Halsey remains steadfast in her refusal to explain.
This raises the questions: Did Darlie Routier really get a fair trial after all? Or was
she a victim in our all-too-common rush to judgment when a heinous crime involves
[back to feature stories]
The Virginia Larzelere Story
Edited by Michael Carter
The murderer's skin and blood were under Virginia's fingernails, but the police
wouldn't check it out.
Editor's Note: Many innocent people on trial for their very lives hear the comforting
words, "You are innocent, and the state has the burden of proof, so don't
worry." Those who've never been through the system have no idea what's in store for
them, but in this day and age of irresponsible prosecutions, no attorney has any business
reassuring an accused person that somehow "justice will triumph." It happens
anyway. Like lambs to slaughter, those who have not committed a crime, but have been
taught to trust and respect the criminal justice system, will surely be convicted with
the lawyer's help if they make the mistake of trusting solely in their lawyers.
If Virginia Larzelere has a message for those going through the system, it is that you
must fight as if you're fighting alone with or without an attorney.
Have you ever been telling the truth about something and no one believes you? Then you
find yourself getting punished for it? Virginia Larzelere says this is what happened to
her. She is currently on death row in Florida.
We've all heard similar stories before; someone on death row pleading innocence,and you
may be thinking this is just another "murderer" claiming innocence in order to
be set free. Before you pass easy judgment on the matter, read the following statement
from Virginia herself:
"I have written several times only to discard each in fear I would not capture
your attention. I can only imagine the thousands of letters asking for your help from
prisoners claiming injustice and innocence. I am an innocent female on Florida's death
"My husband, Norman, was killed in our dental office on March 8, 1991, shot
through a closed, solid-core door to the waiting room. I tried to stop the intruder as he
was leaving and scraped his arm, leaving skin and blood under several broken fingernails.
Even though I was able to get a partial license tag number, a BOLO (Be On the Look Out)
was never issued by the Edgewater Police Dept. on the car description, tag number or the
assailant. The Edgewater Police were not interested in the assailant's skin tissue and
blood under my fingernails. Detective Osborne of the EPD testified that her sergeant said
it was not necessary. The EPD failed to acknowledge that gold coins, cash, and narcotic
drugs were taken from the safe; but did stipulate that the safe door was open with
contents spilled. There was an inventory log book in the office detailing safe
"Two months later, in exchange for various pending criminal charges being
dismissed and being given immunity for all statements, our son Jason's friend, Steven
Heidle, led the police to a shotgun and handgun in a river basin, claiming it was the
murder weapon he dumped into the river on March 10, 1991. Jason and I were arrested
May 5, 1991."
"The bottom line: Jason was acquitted. He was two weeks out of intensive care due
to an auto accident, and was in Orlando when his father was killed. The shotgun could not
be identified as the murder weapon because it was inoperable and the FDLE crime lab
reports state the shotgun had not been discharged in years. Another crime lab report
states the weapons had not been in the river basin for long, maybe a few days. Three
people testified that the blue 45 Argentine handgun, also retrieved from the river was in
Heidle's possession in late April, and not in the river basin since March 10, as Heidle
claimed. Jason's motive? NONE. The Insurance Companies paid the policies since Norman had
made the contracts, answered the questions and paid the premiums."
"My private counsel, Jack Wilkins, made no effort to provide a defense of
innocence. He constantly assured me that lack of evidence and Heidle's lies could not
convict me. During the course of the trial I learned that Wilkins was tampering with my
cash moneys and properties, a conflict I tried to bring to the court's attention. Judge
Watson ruled I could not discharge Wilkins. (Please note that perjury was allowed at trial
by the prosecution.)"
"I was found guilty. A few days later a juror, Joyce Kelly, approached the state,
uncomfortable with the verdict since newspaper coverage was used during deliberations. I
filed a motion for a new trial through Jack Wilkin's office."
"I also filed a pro se motion to discharge my counsel, again due to his illegal
activities. Judge Watson denied my oral motion for a continuance so I could produce
witnesses and evidence, then denied my pro se motion saying it was not signed by counsel
and that substituting new counsel would force a delay and impede justice."
"Fifteen months later (after jurors were questioned) the motion for a new trial
was denied and I was sentenced to death by Judge Watson."
"My counsel, Jack Wilkins, PLEADED GUILTY and was sentenced to
54months in federal prison for criminal activities dating back to 1989 through1994.
"Public defender Chris Quarles filed the direct appeal which was denied. Jack
Wilkins, my poorly paid, overworked public defender, made no motions during trial that
could be raised on appeal."
"I have no attorney of record, but a lawyer who gave me a verbal commitment is
currently studying my case. A neighborhood eyewitness has come forward to give a
deposition confirming the description of the assailant and car that I gave police on
3/8/91. A satellite photo of area banks also confirms the details of the automobile
leaving the dentist's office. There is no hired gunman, no gun, and no motive. Without
legal counsel, I have no voice to prove that I am innocent. The time limit to produce new
evidence is tight. Time cannot alter the fact that I had nothing to do with my husband's
death. I lost him and my children, and will now lose my own life for an act for which I am
"I was not a saint. We were wealthy, worked hard and played harder. I had three
affairs, all with my husband's knowledge. The trial sensationalized the affairs and money
with headlines of sex and greed, not truth and facts. I was easily convicted on
"Attempts have been made," says Jan Thomas, Virginia's Campaign Coordinator
for the Bannister Foundation, "thus far to no avail, by Gary McDaniels,a private
investigator in the Palm Beach County area of Florida, to have Capital Collateral
Representatives (CCR) act upon evidence for Virginia's innocence."
CCR is an office put in place to help defend Florida's impoverished death row inmates.
While communicating to Virginia that they have no funds to help her, CCR has heard the
evidence for innocence and has stated Virginia has compelling evidence to warrant a new
trial or a reversal of conviction. Yet CCR does not have the staff or the funds to help
her at this time.
Following is an excerpt from a letter Gary McDaniels wrote to a CCR Representative,
John W. Moser, Esq. at 405 North Reo Street, Suite 150,Tampa, Fl. 33609. It is dated
December 26, 1997:
"Since the acquittal of Jason Larzelere, I gathered additional evidence to affirm
the innocence of Virginia Larzelere. I have stopped just short of a confession, knowing
that it is not my obligation to solve a crime but as an investigator, to gather related
facts to prove the innocence of the accused and/or convicted. In essence, this case is a
request for a special investigator through the Governor's office to investigate the
misconduct of the prosecution and the leads developed as to the identity of the burglar
and assassin of Norman Larzelere. I can assure you this is not an illusion.As you review
my files, you will see the facts discovered in the course of my private investigation,
predicated on police investigation. As a private investigator, I went a step further and
exercised some objectivity, developing a blueprint of the events to cooperate with
subsequent investigations into the death of Norman Larzelere. My attempts to cooperate
with CCR in earlier years was unsuccessful. I knew then that the evidence would
diminish and it appears it has. THEREFOR SOME ATTENTION NEEDS TO BE GIVEN TO THIS
Virginia's supporters state that CCR has had evidence of her innocence for over three
years now and decry CCR's alleged lack of funding which they claim impedes their offering
assistance to Virginia in the court system.As the following quote from a newspaper states,
CCR is now broken up.
"After 20 years of relative success in defending Florida's impoverished death row
inmates, the office of Capital Collateral Representatives is being split up and turned
over to a group of attorneys with little experience in handling capital appeals. Almost
more disturbing is the fact that then-Governor Chiles turned down job applicants who had
proven themselves to be excellent appellate attorneys."
The new attorney assigned to Virginia has only done civil cases. Due to such a large
turnover in attorneys at CCR, no one at this time is satisfactorily proficient regarding
her case. There has even been an admission that Virginia's files have not been thoroughly
read. The only lawyer allegedly knowledgeable about Virginia's case is no longer involved.
At least fifteen attorneys are standard in this office, but now only eight remain.
Virginia Larzelere is sadly a another victim of injustice in our flawed criminal
justice system. As many her in her situation do, more than anything, Virginia needs a
concerned, competent voice to argue her case. She has scores of documents to prove her
innocence, But No One to read them -- NO ONE to be her
voice in the court system. Now that a new lawyer is studying her case, she hopes she will
not be disappointed again.
To learn more about Virginia's case and the evidence exonerating her, see the Bannister
Foundation's web page for her at http://www.banfound.u-net.com/camp16.htm
Decide for yourself the evidence for her innocence.
[back to feature stories]
Edited by Clara A. Thomas Boggs
After 3 years in prison, Marlon Passley walks free after new information surfaces.
Massachusetts, which still holds onto its convictions of the Amiraults and the Souzas even
through strong evidence of innocence, has released one of its wrongly convicted.
Marlon Passley, 26, convicted in 1996 of shooting and killing 18-year-old Tennyson Drakes
in 1995, is now free and authorities admit he may have been
wrongly convicted. Counteracting that tentative "may"
is spokesman for the Suffolk County DA's office Jim Borghesani's statement that new
information they didn't have at trial is what led to releasing Passley. It is a credit to
Borghesani that he reportedly asked, "How do you get three years back?" in
apparent sympathy for Passley.
Although Boston police and prosecutors won't discuss the new evidence, Lt. Detective Paul
Farrahar has said that to not do something would have been unethical and possibly illegal.
Passley, of Somerville, is one very grateful man. He can also count himself as one of the
fortunate few whose case had new evidence for freedom. Always maintaining his innocence
since his arrest, he was shocked, relieved and overwhelmed at his release and has said he
hopes the real murderer can now be prosecuted. This is the one of the problems of a
wrongful conviction -- not only does the innocent person suffer, but someone guilty is
Passley was convicted on the say-so of witnesses who said he killed Drakes.
A nightclub scuffle allegedly led to the murder and wounding of two men. Witnesses said
the gunman pulled up to the building on a motorcycle with an unidentified man and opened
fire on Drakes.
Prosecutors had said Passley fired at a group of men as they stood in a driveway, as he
rode by on a motorcycle with an unknown partner. That group included Drakes. The
prosecutor's version of events is that Passley jumped off the bike to chase a fourth man
and, after failing, returned to the three helpless men who lay on the ground, continued to
shoot them and then stood over Drakes and shot him in the head. One man was paralyzed in
Passley had been serving life without possibility of parole in Old Colony state prison for
his first-degree murder conviction, plus concurrent sentences of 15 to 20 years for
wounding two other men. Jerome Simon, 20, was shot in the back and is now paralyzed and
confined to a wheelchair. Four of the eight bullets that struck Roger Thompson, 33, are
still lodged in his chest and waist.
Thompson still believes Marlon Passley shot him, saying it was the man with whom they had
the fight at the club -- the same guy who pulled up on a motorcycle and shot him.
Nevertheless, the system is not known for lightly letting go of someone, and Supreme
Judicial Court Justice Ruth I. Abrams, who signed the order releasing Passley, said police
and prosecutors had new evidence that could exonerate him, also saying, "there may
be, therefore, a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice."
As Boston homicide chief Lt. Detective Paul Farrahar said in announcing the wrong man may
have been convicted in the triple shooting, "People make mistakes."
It is because people make mistakes that the criminal justice system would do well to be
humble, accountable, and ready to right a wrong instead of defending and protecting its
mistakes. At Justice Denied, we applaud all who admit they've done a wrong and gone on to
correct it. For now, Massachusetts can take a small bow.