Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Mildly Interesting Case of Reginald Blanton

Reginald Blanton was executed by Texas in October 2009 for the April 2000 murder of Carlos Garza. If you enter his name and the word "innocent" into Google, you will find many articles claiming he was innocent. (My search returned 11,300 hits.) Reading through some of those articles leaves the impression that Reginald may have indeed been innocent. Reading through the appellate decision of Blanton v. Quarterman, however, leaves the impression that Reginald may have indeed been guilty.

I prepared an Actual Innocence Scorecard for the case. You can read the details there if you like. I scored him at 41, meaning I believe he was more likely guilty than not.

Whether Blanton was guilty or innocent, Texas engaged in some of its standard underhanded tactics to secure the conviction.

1. Both eyewitnesses against Blanton recanted during their trial testimony much of what they told the police soon after the murder. Both claimed threats of being charged with capital murder. We won't know if their claims of police thuggery were true since the police did not bother to record the interviews.

2. Texas dug up a jailhouse snitch for the trial.

3. Though Blanton was black, Texas managed to find him an all white jury. The prosecutor used 3 jury shuffles. That's when either attorney can have prospective jurors soon to be called for voir dire moved to the back. The prosecutor was so adept at this maneuver that not a single black juror was among the first 53 to be examined.

I include Reginald Blanton in the list of possibly innocent people whose execution I have reviewed. I provide the complete list below. If you add the scores, you will see that I claim to have so far identifed 5.69 people that Texas has wrongfully executed. They are somewhere in the list below, more likely near the top than the bottom. For those of you confused by my use of decimal counting rather than binary counting, read here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On The Rate of Wrongful Conviction: Chapter 0.027

In my spare time, I'm preparing a compilation of essays on various estimates of our country's wrongful conviction rate.  As I draft them, I'll publish them here. When I'm done with all of them, I will compile them into a single document and make it available on Scribd for free, and on Amazon for a minimal cost.

The chapters will be numbered according to the predicted wrongful conviction rate, in percent. I will begin with the lowest estimate and work my way up to the highest. Keep in mind that we have a lot of people incarcerated, around 2.5 million. That means a wrongful conviction rate of only 1%, if applicable to all those incarcerated, means we have wrongfully imprisoned 25,000 people. A wrongful conviction rate of 10% means we have wrongfully imprisoned a quarter of a million people.

It should be interesting to see what the various studies have to say. Let's get started.


Joshua Marquis is the district attorney of Clatsop County, the county residing on the mouth of the Columbia River, at the northwest corner of Oregon. His article “The Innocent and the Shammed” appeared in the January 26, 2006 issue of The New York Times. He therein presented his estimate of our country’s wrongful conviction rate.
In the Winter 2005 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, a group led by Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, published an exhaustive study of exonerations around the country from 1989 to 2003 in cases ranging from robbery to capital murder. They were able to document only 340 inmates who were eventually freed. (They counted cases where defendants were retried after an initial conviction and subsequently found not guilty as "exonerations.") Yet, despite the relatively small number his research came up with, Mr. Gross says he is certain that far more innocents languish undiscovered in prison.

So, let's give the professor the benefit of the doubt: let's assume that he understated the number of innocents by roughly a factor of 10, that instead of 340 there were 4,000 people in prison who weren't involved in the crime in any way. During that same 15 years, there were more than 15 million felony convictions across the country. That would make the error rate .027 percent -- or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent.

Five months later, Justice Antonin Scalia published a concurring opinion in the case of Kansas v. Marsh. Scalia chided those who dissented, led by Justice David Souter, for suggesting that innocent people may have already been executed in the United States.
It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case -- not one -- in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.
Souter’s dissent, however, did mention the study by Samuel Gross, mentioned above. Scalia dismissed that study by quoting directly from The New York Times article.
Of course, even with its distorted concept of what constitutes “exoneration,” the claims of the Gross article are fairly modest: Between 1989 and 2003, the authors identify 340 “exonerations” nationwide -- not just for capital cases, mind you, nor even just for murder convictions, but for various felonies. Joshua Marquis, a district attorney in Oregon, recently responded to this article as follows:

“[L]et’s give the professor the benefit of the doubt: let’s assume that he understated the number of innocents by roughly a factor of 10, that instead of 340 there were 4,000 people in prison who weren’t involved in the crime in any way. During that same 15 years, there were more than 15 million felony convictions across the country. That would make the error rate .027 percent—or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent.”
Scalia then adopts the 0.027% error rate as fact.
The proof of the pudding, of course, is that as far as anyone can determine (and many are looking), none of cases included in the .027% error rate for American verdicts involved a capital defendant erroneously executed.
Ironically, Scalia had earlier in his opinion berated Souter and the other dissenters for parroting news articles without critical review.
Of course even in identifying exonerees, the dissent is willing to accept anybody’s say-so. It engages in no critical review, but merely parrots articles or reports that support its attack on the American criminal justice system.

Joshua Marquis made an elementary but critical mistake in his calculation. He divided his estimate of all those who might be exonerated by his estimate of all felony convictions. He should have instead divided by all felony convictions in which exoneration is reasonably possible.

Most felony convictions, for example, are for crimes such as burglary, assault, and drugs. Such crimes are frequently devoid of DNA evidence and typically result in sentences of less than ten years. Since DNA is the most powerful evidence of actual innocence, and since the average time from conviction to exoneration is ten years, people convicted of the lesser felonies are seldom exonerated, for reasons having nothing to do with guilt or innocence.

Rape and murder cases, on the other hand, constitute less than two percent of all felony convictions but represent ninety-six percent of all known exonerations. (See Samuel Gross’ rebuttal to Scalia’s opinion “Souter Passant, Scalia Rampant: Combat in the Marsh.”)

If Joshua Marquis were to correct his calculation from

(10 x 340) / (15,000,000)


(10 x 340) / (15,000,000 x 0.02 / 0.96)

as I believe he should, then his estimate would rise to 1.1%.

Marquis’ corrected estimate would still, however, depend entirely on the arbitrary multiplier he selected in the numerator. He simply assumed the Gross study had identified 10% of all the people wrongfully convicted. Had he assumed instead that the Gross study had identified all 100% of those wrongfully convicted, his corrected estimate would be 0.11%.

On the other hand, had Joshua Marquis assumed the Gross study identified only 1% of the factually innocent, a number which seems as reasonable to me as 10%, then his corrected estimate would indicate we wrongfully convict, by trial or plea bargain, 11% of all those people we charge with felonies.

Despite multiplying some numbers together and then dividing by another, the Scalia number is no more than a guess by a single prosecutor, a guess soon adopted by a supreme court justice who demonstrates no aptitude for the simplest of applied mathematics.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Texas Death Penalty on Trial: Judge Fine Sets a Date

I wrote of Judge Kevin Fine first in Now For Another Cosmic Moment after he granted a hearing to the defense team for John Green. The defense team had argued their client should not be subject to the death penalty because the death penalty was unconstitutional. Judge Fine, admitting to his concern that Texas had probably already executed innocent people, scheduled a hearing. Texas appealed and lost.

Now I learn from My Fox Houston that Judge Kevin Fine has scheduled the hearing for November 8 and expects that the hearing might last two weeks. The article was only four paragraphs long. I like the last one best.
Prosecutors say they are not opposed to a hearing [that] looks at the constitutionality of the death penalty law, but object to any hearing that would look at whether Texas has executed an innocent person.
The prosecutors were previously opposed to looking into the constitutionality of the death penalty, but apparently changed their opinion after the appellate court ruled against them. And I will bet dollars to doughnut holes that the prosecutors deeply and sincerely object to any hearing that would consider whether Texas has executed an innocent person.

Particularly so if that person is Cameron Todd Willingham or Shaka Sankofa (both of whom I have yet to write about), or Johnny Frank Garrett, or David Wayne Spence, or Robert Nelson Drew, or Carlos DeLuna, or Odell Barnes, or a long list of others I intend to document in this blog.

Certainly had Tim Cole not died on death row before Texas could execute him, certainly had he not succumbed of asthma before Texas could plunge lethal chemicals into his arm, certainly then the prosecution would object to discussing his case as well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sandrine Ageorges Skinner Interviewed on The Independent Show

There is an 11 minute interview with Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner now available at a web site called The Independent Show.

As usual, she is amazingly composed, articulate, and well-spoken.

There was an uncomfortable moment for me when the interviewer tried to list the countries with a higher capital punishment rate than the U.S.  He mentioned China "of course" and Iran, and then he stalled. I'll guess North Korea is up there too.

That's not a good crowd to be hanging with, so to speak.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hank Skinner and Codeine

The nearly 844 pages of the Hank Skinner's post-conviction evidentiary hearing is chock full of interesting tidbits. I'll mention a few of them here, and save others for later.

(Translation: I haven't posted in a couple days because I'm trying to finish the second book. I need a quick post to tide me over until I put up the second part of my response to Lynn Switzer's position paper explaining why she refuses to release the DNA. Her position is presented here. The first part of my response is here. The next part of my response is still rattling around in my head.)


Hank Skinner never confessed to killing Twila, Elwin, or Randy. I'm not saying he never confessed publicly. We all know that. I'm talking about behind the scenes, when alone with his attorney. Even when things were at their bleakest and Hank was at his weakest, he maintained his innocence. I take you now to where his court-appointed trial attorney, Harold "Fiscal Foibles" Comer was being questioned by his appellate attorney about that very issue:
Q Mr. Comer, did Mr. Skinner at all times while you represented him maintain his innocence?
A Yes, he did. He did maintain his innocence.
Q And did he maintain his innocence with you, and I'm asking about in confidential communications did he ever indicate to you that he was guilty of the crimes?
A No, he didn't.
Remember this brief testimonial exchange when Comer and others leave the impression they have some inside knowledge of Hank Skinner's guilt or innocence, that there is some deep, dark secret out there they can't share with us because of attorney/client privilege.


This one has to do with Hank's ingestion of codeine that night. Hank has given various accounts of how he might have ingested it, but I've come to believe that Hank has little clear recall of the events that evening. That was, after all, his defense: he was unconscious / stuperous / incapacitated / delirious due to a potentially fatal level of alcohol and codeine in his blood. The lab tests back up the very high levels of those substances.

With that in mind, consider the following testimony, again taken from the questioning of Harold "Ed Woods" Comer. This was his response to a question about whether he read a letter Hank sent to him about being allergic to codeine. There will be a pop quiz at the end, so read the rambling response carefully. There is significant content buried within.
Well, as you say, he's a prolific letter writer, and when I say I didn't read them all, I would read over them or give them what attention I could with the time that I had, but I found that Mr. Skinner's letters would have a multitude of irrelevant or insignificant matters, but then he might have a gem right in the middle such as maybe perhaps this that I overlooked, because I don't recall, even though this letter is here, of having read it to the extent that it would cause me to think that it would be important to have Dr. Lowry or the toxicologist review the effects of an allergic reaction to Codeine, and I probably assumed, well, an allergic reaction, that could take many forms, unknown, and then the process was -- Let me answer your question. Number one, I may have not read it. Number two, if I did read it I wasn't sure that him having an allergic reaction would have anything significant to do with our defense of the case, so in either event I didn't -- as I recall, I didn't advise Dr. Lowry that he might be allergic to Codeine. I know on the first page it seems he wanted to attack the lab report because it said that he had Codeine and he said he didn't have Codeine, that he was allergic to Codeine, and of course, Codeine was -- an ingestion of Codeine that was shown by the state lab was part of -- a significant part of Dr. Lowry's opinion that that amount of Codeine, together with alcohol, could result and probably did result in Mr. Skinner not being able to have the physical coordination to commit the acts, so either I didn't read it or I read it and didn't give it any particular significance and I simply -- since I had, maybe not at that point (inaudible) and we had Dr. Lowry's testimony relating to Codeine ingestion would have caused him to not be able to participate in the crime.
Here's the quiz: What portion of that rambling response is exculpatory? In other words, what portion of that response supports Hank's claim of innocence? Take a moment. Take two if you wish.

Okay, here's my takeaway:
I know on the first page it seems he wanted to attack the lab report because it said that he had Codeine and he said he didn't have Codeine, that he was allergic to Codeine, ...
That's a big deal. Others have claimed (and I left open the possibility) that Hank ingested the codeine after killing Twila, Elwin, and Randy. He could have done that, so the theory goes, to make it seem as if he had been too incapacitated to have killed three people.  However ...

I no longer consider that a possibility. If Hank Skinner ingested codeine after the murders to provide himself a pharmaceutical alibi, he would not have been surprised to learn they found codeine in his blood, and he certainly would not have wanted his attorney to challenge the test.

Post Script:

This tiny exercise of finding a nugget of information in a single rambling paragraph, after being tipped off that something is there to be found, provides a small sense of what it's like to pour through hundreds of documents, some of them thousands of pages long, seeking nuggets of truth without knowing any are there to be found. I can't imagine how anyone would be interested in forensic data mining.

Friday, June 18, 2010

An Unexpected Touch of Sympathy for Ronnie Lee Gardner

Early this morning, at twenty minutes past midnight, Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a Utah firing squad. Plenty of other sources will provide details of the execution. I'll pass. Instead, I'll write of the crime itself, present a (nearly frivolous) Actual Innocence Scorecard, and let slip a surprising reaction to this case.

From Wikipedia, we learn a little.
Gardner murdered bartender Melvyn Otterstrom in 1984; during his trial for this crime in 1985, he attempted escape, killing attorney Michael Burdell in the process.
I wanted more. It would be difficult to find out much about the crime itself, however, by searching Google or Bing or any of the standard search engines. Those searches lead to a sea of articles about the execution itself. I wanted to know about the crime itself.

I searched instead using Google Scholar. Appellate decisions sometimes provide a good factual summary of the case. (Google Scholar is another free service. Go to Google, select "more" from the top left menu, select "Scholar" from the dropdown menu, click the "Legal opinions and journals" button.) In my search the first hit was Gardner v. Galetka. That's an adverse ruling on one of Gardner's appeals. It informed me that I should check Gardner v. Holden for a good recitation of the crime details. Gardner v. Holden was the third hit in my search. I opened it and viola: details of the crime. I present them below.
The facts developed at the trial and at the hearing on the petition for post-conviction relief are as follows: On April 2, 1985, Ronnie Lee Gardner was transported from the Utah State Prison to the Metropolitan Hall of Justice in Salt Lake City for a pretrial hearing on a second degree murder charge. As Gardner and his guards entered the courthouse basement, a woman handed Gardner a gun. The guards exchanged gunfire with Gardner, shot him through the lung, and then retreated from the area. In attempting to escape, Gardner entered the archives room, where he saw two attorneys, Robert Macri and Michael Burdell, hiding behind the door. Gardner pointed the gun at Macri and cocked the hammer of the gun. Burdell exclaimed, "Oh, my God!" Turning, Gardner shot and killed Burdell.
Gardner then forced prison officer Richard Thomas, who was also in the basement, to conduct him out of the archives room to a stairwell leading to the second floor. As Gardner crossed the lobby, he shot and seriously wounded Nick Kirk, a uniformed bailiff. Gardner climbed the stairs to the next floor, where he took hostage Wilburn Miller, a vending machine serviceman. As Gardner exited the building, Miller broke free and escaped. Outside, Gardner threw down his gun and surrendered to waiting police officers.
Gardner's attorneys, brothers Andrew and James Valdez of Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, were to meet Gardner that day at 9:00 a.m. for the pretrial hearing. Andrew Valdez was walking toward the courthouse when he saw Gardner go down to the ground. As Andrew ran across the street, he could see that Gardner was bleeding from the chest. Andrew spoke with Gardner and then left. James Valdez arrived at the courthouse soon after. He immediately approached Gardner and asked him if he was all right; Gardner responded that he was in pain.
Gardner was later transported to the University Hospital. Wayne Jorgensen, a prison officer assigned to guard Gardner at the hospital, testified at trial that Gardner told him he shot Burdell because he thought Burdell looked as if he would jump on him. According to Jorgensen, Gardner also declared that he would have killed anyone who tried to stop him from escaping.
Both Andrew and James Valdez represented Gardner at trial. The thrust of the defense was that Gardner was in such pain and physical distress after he was wounded that his shooting Burdell was only a reaction and therefore the killing was unintentional. In preparation for trial, defense counsel spoke with the emergency room doctors who treated Gardner. The doctors told counsel that Gardner was not in shock when he came into the emergency room, did not have excessive bleeding, was lucid and demanding, and was aware of the situation.

Robert Macri testified at trial that after Gardner shot Burdell, Macri ran around the door and closed it behind him as a shield. However, at the preliminary hearing, Macri testified that he could not remember how the door shut. After the preliminary hearing but before trial, unknown to either the prosecution or defense counsel, Macri underwent hypnosis to help him remember how the door shut. Macri could not recall that detail while under hypnosis but asserted that while driving to California some months later, he suddenly recalled that he had shut the door. In all other respects, Macri's testimony at the preliminary hearing and at trial were the same. It was at the post-conviction proceeding while Gardner appeal was pending that defense counsel first became aware that Macri had been hypnotized prior to trial.

At trial, Gardner took the stand and testified on direct examination that he had been convicted of various crimes, including crimes of violence. Defense counsel elicited this information, according to the testimony at the habeas hearing, because he believed that the prosecution would use those convictions to impeach Gardner and he wanted to "steal the prosecution's thunder."
Then I searched for information regarding Gardner's crime against Melvin Otterstrom, I came across an excellent six-page article by Amy Donaldson from The Deseret News: Crime and Punishment For Ronnie Lee Gardner. I encourage you to read her entire article. I quote below just her version of the shooting itself.
On April 2, 1985, [Gardner] was walking into the old 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City about 8:45 a.m. when a woman either pressed a gun into his hands or he retrieved a gun that she had taped to a drinking fountain. Those details vary, depending on whom you ask. Immediately, an officer yelled, "Run! He's got a gun!"
While one officer ran out of the building, another opened fire on Gardner, hitting him in the shoulder. He ducked into a records room, where he reportedly said, "They hit me! They got me! I've been hit bad!"
Gardner pointed the gun at attorney Bob Macri, who stood next to his friend and colleague Michael Burdell. Macri testified that he thought it was an April Fools' joke as Gardner first pointed the gun at him and then moved it to Burdell.
As Macri ducked and ran out, Gardner shot Burdell in the eye, killing him.
"As I went out the door, the gun went off," Macri testified in 1985. "I left screaming, 'Police! Help! Murder!' I lost control at that point, I think."
While Gardner continued to insist that some details of that day were hazy, he did have to pull back the hammer on the revolver to shoot Burdell. He fired twice at the lawyer, who was in the basement doing pro-bono work for his church.
Gardner ran out of that room and into Salt Lake County sheriff's bailiff Nick Kirk. Kirk had heard about the shooting and ran down five flights of stairs to "protect his judge" — James Sawaya. When Gardner saw him, he shot him in the stomach, sending Kirk to the floor. He walked past him and into the stairwell Kirk had just exited. He then ascended to the second floor of the courthouse. He aimed the gun at a man filling a candy machine and asked for a ride. As the two navigated the hallway leading to the doors, the man jumped out an open window, leaving Gardner bloodied and alone with one bullet remaining in his gun.
Gardner surrendered to police on the lawn of the courthouse after dropping the gun and yelling that he was unarmed.
There is no question that Johnnie Lee Gardner murdered Michael Burdell. I scored him at zero. I include my Actual Innocence Scorecard to the right of this paragraph. It was almost a frivolous exercise, but not quite, I hope.

My little exercise reminded me once again that the members of our law enforcement community face risk routinely as they try to protect us from those who would do us harm. I don't want to lose sight of the noble work they do, even as I fault them when I believe they may have wrongfully prosecuted, convicted, and even executed an innocent person.

My exercise reminded me also that matters are never as simple as they seem. I have no doubt that Johnnie Lee Gardner was a murderer. I won't dispute the value of his execution or add to the debate about the propriety of the firing squad. I find it all very sad though: two lives cut short.

Michael Burdell's life ended in the archive room of the courthouse that day as he was working pro bono to help his church. It ended when Johnnie Lee Gardner shot him in the eye, for no good reason.

Johnnie Lee Gardner's life ended much earlier, I argue, due to reasons too complex for me to comprehend. As I completed his Actual Innocence Scorecard, I found myself doing something I had not previously done. I made excuses for him when filling out the Assessment portion. Amy Donaldson's article, it turns out, provided far more than the details of the shooting. She told of Gardner's early life, and of his final acceptance of what had happened to him, who he had become, and what he had done. Her writing caused me to assess the case against Gardner as follows.
No one disputes Ronnie Lee Gardner murdered Michael Burdell. As time passed, even Gardner gave up on his excuses that he was in too much pain at the time to be responsible for the shooting, or that the victims had threatened him.

It seems though that Gardner never had a decent chance at life. Found undernourished, wandering the streets in a diaper, at age 2. Child welfare workers found his home life so distressing, they filed a "failure to care" petition against his mother, a rare move at the time. Gardner, though, was left in the care of his mother, who had taken to wearing his step-father's belt around her neck as a visual warning to her children. Sexually abused for the first time at age 5 by an older sister and her teenage friend. Introduced to sniffing glue and huffing gas at age 6. Addicted to drugs by the time he was 10. Permitted by his parents to sniff glue and drink alcohol. Place in a mental hospital, though he was not mentally ill. By age 11, he'd been in detention 12 times. Sexually molested and trained in the ways of crime by the two male "role models" in those institutions.
I'll leave it to you to decide if Ronnie Lee Gardner had a fair chance at life. I'll leave it to you to decide if you could have done any better.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Within a Hair's Breadth

If testing shows the hair came from Kerry Dixon, then Texas will be the first state proven by DNA testing to have executed an innocent man. Many people would respond that The Despicable Claude Jones got only what he deserved for his other greivous offenses, but that wouldn't get Texas off the hook. Texas would have executed a man (despicable though he was) for a crime he didn't commit.

On 11 June, Judge Paul Murphy ruled that Texas must release the critical 1" hair segment to those who would have it tested. No word yet whether Judge Murphy's decision will be appealed. If appealed, matters could drag on for a bit. If not, testing might be completed in relatively short order.

Given that Rick Perry is already feeling the wrongful execution walls closing in around him, due to the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham and the near execution of Henry Watkins Skinner, this latest ruling adds to the Governor's stess level somewhat. Click here to see how well he's handling it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Last Words of Johnny Frank Garrett

Way, way, way back on April 16, I posted Actual Innocence: Johnny Frank Garrett and Bubbles the Clairvoyant. That post has turned into the most frequently hit post of this blog. Perhaps it's difficult to resist any story having a cameo appearance by Bubbles the Clairvoyant. Alternatively, the interest may have been peaked by Johnny Frank's position at the top of my slowly growing list of those I have scored as possibly innocent while in Search of the 54. I repeat that list here, now adding The Surprising Case of The Despicable Claude Jones and The Troublesome Case of Lamont Reese.

Reader Michael H. Fox of The Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Research Center has commented on that post and has questioned one aspect of the story as told. I present his comment below, in its entirety.
I have just seen the documentary for the second time. It is excellent, but I wonder if the director has sensationalized/created quotes that are not factual. One of the film's underlying premises is that the executed boy cast a curse on his antagonists and gave a last statement saying that "all of them could kiss my everlovin' ass." But the book "Texas Death Row," available on Amazon, which details the crimes, personal data, last meals and final statements of everyone executed since 1977, shows no last words or statement for Johnny. If the director or anyone else would like to correct what I perceive as fictive fluff, I will stand corrected. Still I recommend the DVD.
Michael H. Fox is correct in that Texas does not list any final words for Johnny Frank Garrett. You can see that by examining the web site on which Texas presents the last words of those they have executed since they were allowed to start once again in 1976. Johnny Frank is number 44 on that list, placing him near the bottom, since the most recently executed are near the top. As you can see, they have no last words recorded for him.

That list, however, is based on what the person to be executed said while in the death chamber after being given an opportunity to make a last statement. A fair number of individuals executed prior to May of 1997 have no last words recorded, while almost all those executed after May of 1997 have last words recorded. I suspect the missing last words for some of the early cases had more to do with procedural or recording issues rather than a reluctance to speak on the part of the convicts. With respect to Johnny Frank, I have no  way of knowing whether he spoke or chose to remain mute.

My sense of the documentary was that they used words from Garrett's last interview as his final statement. They did, however, portray the words as if spoken from the death chamber. Now I have to wonder if the producers had some insight into what Johnny Frank did say while in the death chamber, and Texas declined not to record it because he said "ass," or for some other equally valid reason. While I'm unwilling to accuse the producers of "fictive fluff", I can't dispute Fox's suggestion they are guilty of such offense.

I'll add that being found guilty of "fictive fluff" is not good when you are trying to convince people you are being truthful with them. Personally, I'm contrite to the extent I have contributed to perpetuation of possible fictive fluff. I've included the YouTube trailer for the DVD video below. You can hear for yourself at the beginning of the trailer how they present his final statement.

I thank Michael H. Fox for his comment, and I credit him for his observation, his skepticism, and his use of the phase "fictive fluff." I suspect also that he could amaze us with his knowledge of the Japanese judicial system. I have read only a small amount about it, but what I have read caused me cultural surprise, shock being too strong a word.

I close with a note to him. I will be pleased to link to a good summary or to directly post text of your choosing if you care to inform readers of this blog about the Japanese judicial and capital punishment system.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Contacting Kareema

In my last my last post, The Troublesome Case of Lamont Reese, I invited you to join me as we investigate the case of Kareema Kimbrough. It seems one of the first things we need to do is contact Kareema and see if she is even interested in our help. If she is, we will be able to create an initial contact list of people to talk to. Hopefully, those contacts will lead to documents which we can review. First things first however.

I took it upon myself to contact her. I did so using an online service call JPay. For $0.42 per page, I sent her a one page letter. The letter will be printed somewhere on the Texas side of the transaction, and delivered to her tomorrow or the next day.

She may have difficulty contacting me. I'm guessing she is not allowed access to the internet or email. I'm reluctant at this point to give out my home address so that she can snail mail me. I have given out my home address to an inmate before, but that's not my starting point. I provided my phone number instead.

Inmates are frequently allowed to place pre-paid calls. Those receiving the calls will be informed it's from an inmate and will have to affirmatively accept the call before either party can hear the other. The phone rates for inmates, however, are substantially higher than they are for those of us on the outside, and inmates have very little money. Typically, I will provide an inmate money to cover the cost of the phone calls, but that too has to be arranged.

No matter how you try to work it, the bit-rate between anyone on the outside and anyone on the inside is very low.

I include below the body of my introductory letter. Please don't  take offense if I was willing to share my phone number with a convicted murderer but not willing to share it with you. I'll let you know if and when I get a response.
Ms. Kareema Kimbrough,

I am interested in the issue of wrongful convictions. I have nearly completed my second book in a planned series of ten books intended to improve our jury pool. I call the series The Skeptical Juror. I host a blog by that name as well.

I have been reviewing each of the 450+ executions in Texas since the state re-instituted the death penalty. I am paying particular attention to those cases where I believe the person executed may have been factually innocent. I took special note of the case of Lamont Reese recently primarily due to the plea made by Michael Toney back in 2004. (I was saddened to learn that Michael was exonerated only to die in a car crash a month after his release.)

Compared to the other cases I have looked into, there is very little information to be found on the internet regarding Lamont Reese. I have no way of knowing, therefore, whether or not he was factually innocent. His case, however, has the telltale markings of a wrongful conviction.

Normally I would simply report on such cases and move on. There is not much I can do once a person has been executed. Lamont's case is different than most, however. His case is your case. If he was factually innocent, then so too must you be. And that is why I write.

If you would like me to look into your case with whatever feeble resources I can muster, I will do so. Understand that I am not an attorney, nor am I a private investigator, nor am I a journalist in a conventional sense. I am merely a citizen that has managed to help a couple people so far. I make no promises whatsoever. I offer only to look into your case if you would like me to do so, and only if you are willing to speak with me.

If you are interested, email me (or have a friend email me) at skepticaljuror@gmail.com. Alternatively, you can call me directly at ---.---.----.  That's in California, so I am two hours ahead of you. If you placed a call in the evening, there is a decent chance I would be at home to accept it.  Once we make initial contact, we can devise some reasonable means of communicating with one another.

[electronically signed]

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Troublesome Case of Lamont Reese

I have written of Lamont Reese twice before. (See The Possibly Transformative Case of Lamont Reese and The Disturbing Case of Lamont Reese.) Now I will tell his story in a slightly different format, present his Actual Innocence Scorecard, and then use his case as a subject no more. I will refer to his case as appropriate, but you will see no more Skeptical Juror titles similar to The Adjective Case of Lamont Reese.

I'll explain why when I'm finished telling Lamont's story from a different perspective. It's not for the reason you think.

8:30 PM, 1 March 1999, Fort Worth, TX: A car pulls up outside a convenience store and drops off several well-armed men. Using handguns and semi-automatic rifles, the men spray the area with bullets. They kill three gang bangers and injure two bystanders. The car returns, the men hop back inside, and the car speeds away.

2 March 1999, Fort Worth, TX: Steven Kindred shoots Curtis Sealy, allegedly to silence him about the convenience store shooting the day before.

March 1999, Fort Worth, TX: Steven Kindred is arrested for the shooting of Curtis Sealy.

Facing the needle, Kindred begins offering the police stories in exchange for his life. The police are picky shoppers; not just any story will do. They reject the initial stories. Kindred, desperate to make a deal, offers a shiny new story. It's the story of Lamont Reese, a crack dealer known to police already.

The police are smart shoppers, however. Surely, they tell the vendor, your life is worth more than that of Lamont Reese. Kindred agrees and throws in Lamont's girlfriend, Kareema Kimbrough. Still not good enough. The haggling continues for a while, and eventually Kindred throws Jason Leadly and Brian Johnson into the mix.

That is still not good enough. It's a buyer's market; the police know it and Kindred knows it. In exchange for his life, he gives up the next best thing in the store: his freedom. Kindred admits to being involved in the convenience store shooting and to the shooting of Curtis Sealy. The entire package for his life and a possibility of parole.

Deal, but only if Kindred throws in a lifetime warranty. No problem. If they would just allow him to talk to his girlfriend, he could have them a warranty in no time.

March, 1999, Fort Worth, TX: The police begin bargaining with Steven Kindred's girlfriend. If she will simply stand behind the bill of goods offered by Steven, they would not charge her with aggravated sexual assault. It turns out that Steven Kindred was a mere 15 years old, while the girlfriend was 25.

Deal. The girlfriend explained she had been smoking crack that day, all day long. Sometime a bit before 9 PM, Lamont Reese and the others dropped by her home. Lamont bragged about shooting three men with an assault rifle, then went to a video store with Kareema.

Here's how it all played out.

The State had some gang bangers taken off the street for them, plus five convictions to boost their conviction rate, plus another execution to show they're tough on crime, AND a voting public more willing than ever to vote for "tough-on-crime" candidates.

Steven Kindred, who confessed to the convenience store shootings AND the shooting of Curtis Sealy, avoided the needle and was rewarded with a chance for freedom in a few decades, one of which has already flown by.

Kindred's girlfriend got "transactional immunity." In other words, because she testified as promised, she did no hard time for seducing the unworldly 15-year-old Steven Kindred with her crack-enhanced charms.

Jason Leadly and Brian Johnson, who were late to the sale, got a few decades in prison, assuming they keep their noses clean. I presume clean noses would include never changing their stories about what happened that night.

Kareema Kimbrough, who apparently refused to bargain, ended with life in jail.

Lamont Reese, who absolutely refused to bargain, ended with a needle in his arm.

Their daughter, two years old at the time they allegedly took her to a massacre and then to a video store, ended up an orphan, at least effectively so.

As I mentioned in the previous posts, this case is distinguished by its lack of information. It's not surprising, therefore, that when I worked through my Actual Innocence Scorecard for Lamont Reese, I ended up with an ambiguous score. I scored him at 53. That means I calculate, based on the information I now have at hand, that there is a 53% chance he was actually innocent as he claimed, and a 47% chance he was actually guilty as Texas claims.

15 June 2004, Livingston, TX: Michael Toney put out an "urgent plea" for his fellow death-row inmate, Lamont Reese. Michael Toney's letter would be the one and only document I could find making a case that Lamont Reese was innocent. Lamont, he explained however, was more interested in obtaining justice for his girlfriend Kareema Kimbrough than he was about saving his own life.
20 June 2006, Huntsville, TX: Lamont Reese was executed for the convenience store shooting on 1 March 1999.

2 September 2009, Livingston, TX: Michael Toney was released from death row and from prison, having been exonerated of the bombing for which he was to die. He had been accused and convicted based almost exclusively on the testimony of someone who traded a story for reduced prison time.

3 October 2009, East Texas: Michael Toney died in a car crash, a month and a day after gaining his freedom.

There's something about this story that gets to me. I see Lamont Reese and Michael Toney staring at me. I read Michael's plea, and I'm moved by Lamont's concern for Kareema. I knew when I first wrote of them that the story wasn't over.

I don't know if Steven Kindred lied about Lamont Reese. If he did, then he probably lied about Kareema Kimbrough, and may have lied about Jason Leadly and Brian Johnson to boot. I intend to learn more. No one can save Lamont or Michael. Perhaps someone can help Kareema.

Join me if you wish as I investigate The Possibly Transformative Case of Kareema Kimbrough.

***** CORRECTION *****
I referred to Kareema and Lamont's child as their daughter. They had a two-year-old son at the time of the shooting.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Those Who Judged Hank Skinner

Forgotten among those harmed by wrongful convictions are the jurors who were manipulated and deceived into casting an improper guilty verdict. I am particularly sensitive to those folks, having myself been the target of such manipulation and deceit.

In my case, my skepticism spared a kind, decent, and innocent gentleman from what would have effectively been a life sentence. Over the course of eight days of deliberation, I transformed a jury leaning 11 to 1 guilty, into a jury voting 10 to 2 not guilty. During the retrial, I worked closely with the defense, on a volunteer basis, to prepare them for the response they should expect from the next jury. I had access to all the case documents, and spent hundreds and hundreds of hours pouring over them. There is no doubt in my mind that my initial skepticism was justified. That decent and gentle person went home to his family a free man, assuming you  can ignore a half million dollars in legal bills and a life's work tarnished. I went home to my family a transformed individual.

While I am frustrated with jurors who I perceive to be insufficiently skeptical of the State, I have trouble faulting them. Jurors are all too frequently lied to and manipulated by the prosecution, the defense, and the judge. Crucial evidence is withheld from them. They are frequently sequestered, kept under house arrest in someone else's house. They are frequently not allowed to take notes, or have the transcripts read back to them. They are seldom allowed to ask questions, even though those questions would be filtered by the judge. They may be bombarded by expert testimony beyond their comprehension.

Jurors have no training or preparation for the difficult job society asks them to do. They are paid hardly at all for their service, far below the minimum wage the State demands of every other organization. They are put in a terrible position to weigh evidence, then are expected to do just that. As far as the trial courts are concerned, jurors are the judges of fact. As far as the appellate courts are concerned, jury verdicts are not to be questioned.

I feel for those jurors who later learn that they may have condemned an innocent person. The experience is so traumatizing that most jurors are loath to admit they made a mistake, even when overwhelming evidence makes it obviously so. Jury expert Douglas Keene apparently agrees with me: "Over time, they become more cemented into that original view because they can't even tolerate the view that they might have made a mistake on something so serious."

It is perhaps therefore remarkable that most of Hank Skinner's jurors, those asked to judge the facts of his case, are now willing to question their verdict. Students from the Medill Innocence Project located and interviewed most of them.

I won't paraphrase that article describing their work. It's better that you read it in its entirety. But I will borrow three quotes from the article. The first I have already used. It's the quote from Douglas Keene. The second and third I'll use to close this post.

"It would have been reasonable doubt," said juror Tiffany Daniel, wiping away tears. "Especially if we had all that evidence, and another person's fingerprints was on it, or if someone else's skin was underneath Twila Busby's fingernails. That's reasonable doubt that it could be somebody else."

"What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong," said juror Jerry Williams. "It should have been tested before ... Somebody's life is at stake."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Response to Lynn Switzer: Hank Skinner's Statement to the Police

A couple weeks ago, I published Lynn Switzer's defense for her withholding of potentially probative DNA evidence in the death penalty case of Hank Skinner. I published her defense in its entirety and without comment, promising only to comment later. The time has come.

This will be the first of a four (or thereabout) part series in which I respond to the arguments she makes. In this post, I will address one of the most surprising aspects of her defense: the mention of "Mr. Skinner's videotaped statement to police about how he and Twila had fought with a stick", which she equated to the axe handle used to bludgeon Twila Busby.

I was not previously aware that Hank had given a statement, hence my surprise. I was surprised next to learn that it was my own fault for being unaware. Lynn Switzer, as it turned out, had extracted that tidbit from the transcript of a federal evidentiary hearing, and Hank Skinner, as it turned out, had posted that transcript on his website. (See www.hankskinner.org, then click The Case of Hank Skinner / Legal Documents / Evidentiary Hearing Transcript Volume 1)

While Hank Skinner has certainly not been advertising the existence of that statement, since it seems to be generally unfavorable, he was not keeping it a secret. He put it on his own site for anyone to find, at least anyone willing to look. I guess I was so busy bloviating when I first began writing about his case that I failed to carefully read through all the material he had made available. I did read much of it to be sure, but obviously not all of it. I'm officially contrite, and it's time to move on.

Hank Skinner apparently provided the statement around 9 AM, on New Year's Day of 1994 That would be the morning following the murder of Twila and her two sons on New Year's Eve of 1993. The statement was 10 minutes long and was recorded on video tape. All parties at the evidentiary hearing seemed to accept it as "involuntary" and "without counsel".

Rob Owen, for example, asked John Mann, the DA who prosecuted Hank Skinner, the following question. "Directing your attention specifically to the Skinner case, did you conclude that there was a risk that the video taped statement taken from Mr. Skinner by Detective Terry Young on January the 1st of 1994 might not be admissible?"

To which John Mann replied: "I didn't conclude that there was a risk that it might not be admissible. I knew darn well it wasn't admissible."

Though the tape was inadmissible for trial, Lynn Switzer argued during the evidentiary hearing that the tape should be subject to testimony in that hearing because it provided insight into the defendant's state of mind. The judge granted her leeway on the issue. She used that leeway to introduce into testimony the following, presumably carefully-selected excerpts.
I don't even remember Scooter being there except for it seems like when me and his momma were fighting, I -- it seems like he come up and grabbed me behind the neck and got me off of her, and that's how I got throwed in the floor, but I ain't sure if he done it or not, or if I just fell. (Page 186)

Well, I remember her hitting me in the back with a stick and knocked me down. She got on top of me and she had the stick across my throat and I don't remember if I throwed her off or if she got up off of me or -- or what happened, but the fight ended for a minute and she went -- I was still in the living room, I think, and I believe she went in the back room or something, ... No, no, that's not right. We were fighting and arguing at first and I pushed her down and the fight ended. She went in the back room and then came back with a stick and hit me in the back with the stick, and then she knocked me down -- it knocked the breath out of me and then she knocked me down on the ground. Then she was on top of me and she had the stick across my shoulders. (Page 198)

At some point the fight kind of let up for a minute and I asked her where she had been. She told me she had been over at Howard Mitchell's house, she was forbidden to go over there by me because there's nothing but a bunch of drunks over there, and they just are no-good people, and I don't want her around them. (Page 198)
I have several observations regarding these excerpts:

1) Those people advocating for Hank Skinner's execution are aware of Hank's statement, and are describing it as Hank Skinner's "confession." Lynn Switzer too used that term  liberally during the evidentiary hearing. In her defense of withholding evidence, however, she is more restrained and describes the statement only as a statement.

2) In her defense for withholding evidence, Lynn Switzer excerpted the excerpts she managed to introduce into the evidentiary hearing.

3) She has provided no context. Context is important. So that we may consider the excerpts in the context they were provided, I challenge Lynn Switzer to publish Hank Skinner's entire statement. If she provides that statement to me, in its entirety, I will post it here, in it's entirety. If she claims she is not allowed to make public that document, she might explain instead her legal basis for publishing an excerpt from it.

4) Hank makes no mention of an axe-handle. He said stick. Lynn Switzer equated the two. It's not at all clear that Hank equated the two. It's not at all clear Hank was in any condition to do any equating.

5) Hank had no wounds to his throat consistent with being choked by either a stick or an axe handle. He had no scratches on him consistent with any fighting.

5) Hank is having trouble telling a consistent story. I think, and I believe she went in the back room or something, ... No, no, that's not right. We were fighting ...

I believe that Hank was confabulating. (From the www.thefreedictionary.com -- Confabulate: To fill in gaps in one's memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.)

Even the prosecution team seemed to consider that a possibility. I submit more excerpts from the evidentiary hearing. In the following Q&A, Ms. Georgette Oden of the prosecution team is questioning Dr. William Lowry of the defense team. (See Volume II, page 351.)
Q Now you previously testified that drug and alcohol abuse causes organic brain damage?
A Yes.
Q And with organic brain damage you can have what's called confabulations at any time?
A Yes.
Q You don't just have confabulation when you're taking the alcohol or when you're taking the drug?
A Correct.
Q And when you say confabulation you mean the brain is filling in blank when it doesn't know what happens?
A Correct.
Q And just because you're doing that doesn't mean you're taking drugs at that moment?
A Correct.
As more evidence of confabulation, consider the following excerpts from Andrea Reed's recantation. Recall that Hank Skinner showed up at Andrea Reed's door after the murder. He was bloody and claiming he had been shot.
When I described in my written statement how Hank said that he thought that he tried to kick Twila to death because he found her in bed with her ex-husband, I left out the fact that Hank gave me a ridiculous description of Twila's ex-husband that did not fit him at all. This is one of the reasons why I believe that his statement about kicking Twila to death was just a drunken fantasy like the other violent stories that he told me to explain how he was injured.

I falsely testified that out of all of the stories that Hank told me on the night of the murder, the only one that he made me swear not to reveal was his story about kicking Twila to death. The truth is that he swore me to secrecy or made me promise not to tell each time that he gave me a different story about what happened.
Clearly, Hank Skinner was telling story after story about what happened that evening, and getting none of them correct. He was shot. He had kicked Twila to death. Scooter grabbed him from behind by the throat. Twila came up from behind and tried to choke him with a stick. He told Andrea Reed multiple stories and swore her to secrecy "each time he gave me a different story about what happened." He told the police multiple stories of what happened.

Lynn Switzer carefully selected a few excerpts from Hank Skinner's "involuntary" police interview, the one taken "without counsel." Switzer then published those excerpts without any context as part of her defense for not testing potentially probative DNA evidence before executing Hank Skinner. It's unseemly, at best. As penance, I suggest Lynn Switzer read about the terrible injustice associated with false confessions.

Having now waded through all 845 pages of the Hank's evidentiary hearing transcripts (so you don't have to), I have grown weary of trying to sort out all the "he said", "she said", "but earlier he said", "oh yeah, earlier she said" business. It seems so silly to be doing so when we might be able to positively establish Hank Skinner's guilt or innocence by simply testing the damn DNA.

In the next post responding to Lynn Switzer, I believe I'll discuss the issue of Hank declining to test all the DNA prior to his trial. I believe I'll subtitle it "Harold Comer: The Gift That Keeps On Giving."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Radley Strikes Again

Radley Balko, aka "The Agitator", has another good article on the net, this one for Slate. He argues that it would be prudent for prosecutors to test all probative DNA evidence before trial, rather than argue whether more should be tested after trial. He uses the Hank Skinner case as an example of the problems associated with the "Test Some and Argue More" later approach.

Given the length of his article, he provides what may be the best and most balanced summary of Hank's complex case I've seen so far. If you are following Hank's case, Radley's article is certainly worth a read. It also has a rather unflattering picture of Rick Perry, perhaps the most unflattering I've seen so far.

That makes it tough to resist, doesn't it?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Disturbing Case of Lamont Reese

Late last week, I invited readers to follow along, and even participate in an inquiry into the execution of Lamont Reese. I provided two links to the case summary, and invited any reader interested to provide a preliminary analysis of that case. Since there were no takers, I'll begin to discuss my concern about that case here. My concern is substantial.

I have a bad feeling about this one.

While searching for the 54 innocent people Texas may have executed, I allowed the case of Lamont Reese to pass through my coarse filter because of his persistent and demonstrative expressions of innocence. Other than that, the cards seemed stacked pretty well against him. Allow me to provide you an overview based on summaries provided by Wikipedia and the Texas Execution Information Center.
On March 1, 1999, 3 men flirted with Lamont Reese’s 18-year-old girlfriend, Kareema, outside a Fort Worth convenience store. After an exchange of words, Reese, Kareema, and 3 of his companions left the store and armed themselves. Kareema drove them drove them back to the store, bringing her 2-year-old son with her. Reese shot the three men who had flirted with Kareema, as well as two bystanders. Three of those who were shot died.

After the murders, Reese and his friends returned to Kareema's home where they bragged about their crime. One of them told another man who had not participated in the shooting that Reese had shot three people with an assault rifle. Reese did not dispute this statement. Instead, he boasted that he got the men who were at the pay phone at the store.

On the heels of his arrest police impounded Reese's vehicle and found five live cartridges in the glove compartment that were identical to several live rounds of ammunition discovered at the crime scene.

After his arrest Reese approached the jailer and asked if he was classified as a “celebrity inmate.” The jailer responded that Tarrant County had no such classification but instead classified appropriate inmates as “high profile.” When he assured Reese that he would check on his classification Reese announced, “Hell, I killed three people.”

Reese was convicted of capital murder. He forced his jailers to carry him to the death chamber. After being strapped to the gurney, Reese explained his behavior. ""I want everyone to know that I did not walk to this, because this is straight-up murder. I am not going to play a part in my own murder. No one should have to do that."

Reese also addressed the victims' relatives who were in attendance. "I do not know all of your names, and I don't know how you feel about me, and whether you believe it or not, I did not kill them." 

Reese's girlfriend Kareema and his three friends / accomplices were each convicted of capital murder. Kareema was sentenced to life. The others to 50 years, 45 years, and 30 years.
I had little luck finding information about the case. Generally, I can find written decisions by appellate courts that provide insight into a case. I found none for Lamont Reese. I found instead several adverse decisions unaccompanied by any written opinion. At one point Reese went on a hunger strike to draw attention to his poor legal representation, but that too was to no avail. He was sped through the appeals process and executed with hardly a whimper from the press, public, or legal profession.

Finally I stumbled across a defense for Lamont Reese, the only one I have found so far. It was an open letter written by a fellow death row inmate. I include that defense in its entirety below. 
3872 F.M. 350 S. #999314
Livingston, Texas 77351
Website: www.michaelaim.org
Email: innocentmanintx@yahoo.com
June 15, 2004

On March 1st, 1999 at approximately 9:00 PM as 21-year-old Lamont Reese, his 18- year-old girlfriend, Kareema Kimbrough and their 2-year-old son were at a Hollywood Video Store returning some videos and renting others, a gang related shooting was taking place at a convenience store about three miles away.

5 young men were shot, 3 died. The two survivors testified that they did not see who shot them. The following day 15-year-old Steven Kindred shot 18-year-old Curtis Sealy purportedly to silence him in regard to the previous nights murders. Steven Kindred, AKA: “Little Hoova,” was subsequently arrested for the aggravated assault (shooting) of Curtis Sealy. During police interviews Kindred began trying to “deal” his way out of his predicament. When he was questioned about the convenience store shootings he pointed the finger at someone other than Lamont Reese and Kareema Kimbrough. In his efforts to save his own skin, his stories evolved and he eventually pointed the finger of blame at Lamont and Kareema. As time progressed and the lies became more complex, a total of five people were charged in the shooting, including Steven Kindred.

Desperate for someone to corroborate his version of the events, 15-year-old Kindred turned to his 25-year-old girlfriend. He in turn told her to tell the authorities that Lamont Reese went to her house minutes after the shooting and allegedly “confessed” to her and then went to the video store. When Kindred’s adult girlfriend approached the police with her story, she was told that she could be charged with “aggravated sexual assault of a child,” because of her sexual relationship with the juvenile, Kindred.

To make a long story short, 3 of the 5 who were charged with this crime (shooting, murders) used lies to bargain their way out of death or life sentences. Lamont Reese was sentenced to death, and Kareema, life in prison. Kindred’s girlfriend was given “transactional immunity” for the charge of Aggregated Sexual Assault in return for her testimony. If that wasn’t adequate motive for perjury, I’m sure it was enhanced by her desire to help her juvenile lover.

No physical evidence was presented to support the testimony of Kindred’s girlfriend, who admitted she had been smoking crack all the day of the shooting.

I have no way of verifying any of this and no investigator has ever attempted to talk to any of the co-defendants or supposed witnesses, including the “crack smoking child molester.” However, Lamont has in his possession a receipt that shows he was in fact at the Hollywood video around 9 PM returning videos and renting more. He frequented this store often. The store security video shows Lamont, his girlfriend and their child in the store around this same time. The tape has never been properly analyzed to break down the exact times.
The problem is he is about to get an execution date. His case has moved through the courts at an alarming rate of speed. The crime happened March 1st, 1999. He was sentenced to death December 4, 2000. His direct appeal was affirmed November 6, 2002, the state writ application; relief was denied April 30th, 2003 and then by law he had one year to prepare and file his Petition for writ of Habeas Corpus in Federal Court, but the judge ordered it due in 45 days. The state responded 45 days after that and relief was denied August 14th, 2003. Now the Fifth Circuit has denied COA, May 10th, 2004. He expects an execution date very soon.
His federal writ attorney (appointed) was none other than Lisa Mullen, who as an Assistant D.A. in Tarrant Co. sent a handful of men to death row. Some have been killed.

I’m trying to be as brief as possible, but it seems if someone would take enough interest and investigate the case, especially the crack smoking lady who was given “immunity” for the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child, enough new evidence may be found that allows Lamont to file a “Subsequent State Writ Application.”

Also, Lamont may very well be mentally retarded. The federal judge stated something to the affect “If he was smart enough to go to the video store for an alibi, he is not mentally retarded.” That is not a direct quote, but a synopsis of what was written in the opinion.

I, too, am without question a victim of a miscarriage of justice in the same county, so I know how easily it happens. If I could be wrongfully convicted in my situation, I’m certain he could be in the scenario I have just described. Personally, I believe Lamont is telling the truth. I believe him, because he has not detoured from his story under my constant scrutiny, because of the video receipt and tape, but mostly because he is determined to help his girlfriend obtain justice after he is (God forbid) killed by the State of Texas. He is more concerned with helping someone he loves than he is with himself. I perceive that as indicative of an innocent person.

Anyone who is willing and able to help Lamont can contact him at the following address.

Mr. Lamont Reese #999374
3872 F.M. 350 S.
Livingston, TX 77351
I determined that Michael Toney was accurate about at least one aspect of his story. "I, too, am without a question a victim of a miscarriage of justice in the same country, so I know how easily it happens."

I did a Google search on him. The first hit provided this tidbit.
Toney's conviction was overturned on December 17, 2008 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because the prosecution suppressed evidence relating to the credibility of its only two witnesses against him. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office subsequently withdrew from the case based on the misconduct findings. In September 2009, the Attorney General's Office, which had been specially appointed to the case in the wake of Tarrant County’s withdrawal, dismissed the indictment against Toney.  He had consistently maintained his innocence.  The case had gone unsolved for 14 years until a jail inmate told authorities that Toney had confessed to the crime.  The inmate later recanted his story, saying he had hoped to win early release.
It also provided this tidbit.
Michael Toney, who recently became the 136th person exonerated and freed from death row since 1973, died in a car crash on October 3 in East Texas.  He had been released from jail one month ago on September 2 after the state dropped all charges against him for a 1985 bombing that killed three people.
How very, very sad.

Please read carefully what Michael Toney had to say about Lamont Reese. I won't ask anyone to submit a discussion of the case. I'll simply ask instead for someone to post a comment regarding whether or not this case deserves further consideration, and a brief thought on why.

I'll wait a bit before providing my perspective.

Good night.