Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mysterious Case of Stanley Faulder’s Cerebral Cortex

When Joseph Stanley Faulder was only three years old, he fell from a moving car and banged the right side of his head.

When Joseph Stanley Faulder was sixty-one years old, he was strapped to a Texas gurney and injected with lethal chemicals.

Whether the two events were related, I’ll never know. What is clear to me, however, is that Stanley Faulder is unlike any other execution case I have reviewed. There was something going on in his head that makes him stand out from all the others.

An Ever Increasing IQ

Consider his IQ. In his first year of high school, Stanley’s IQ was 99. Three years later it was 116. Not long before his execution, it had climbed to 130. A neuropsychologist who testified at his habeas corpus hearing explained that such large IQ increases are rare. They indicate the brain is struggling to compensate for damage. Despite his IQ, however, Stanley had difficulty distinguishing categories of objects. Though he could hear from each ear, only the right ear responded when both were simultaneously stimulated. He had also suffered numerous injuries to his left side, including injuries his left knee, left arm, and left shoulder blade. These findings suggest damage to the right hemisphere of Stanley’s cerebral cortex.

By comparison, the IQ scores for death row inmates (most of whom have never fallen out of cars) are well below average. I’m certain there are multiple reasons for the low IQs, but I’ll guess at only a few. First, it is much easier to extract a confession from someone who scores low on an IQ test. Second, people who are mentally retarded cannot be executed. Some of the death row inmates weren’t stupid going in, but they got stupid really fast after arriving. Stanley was an exception. He got smarter.

A Non-Violent History

Consider next Stanley’s violent history. He had none. That is, he had none if you exclude the bashed-in-head of Inez Phillips and the large kitchen knife protruding from her chest.

It’s not as if Stanley had been a model citizen. He started stealing things at a young age. According to an Royal Canadian Mounted Police crime report (he was born and raised in Alberta), from age six Stanley was “constantly admitting petty thefts from his parents and friends.” The thefts would sometimes, perhaps frequently, be accompanied by a lapse into an hour-long, blank-eyed daze or a deep sleep lasting way too long for comfort.

At fifteen, Stanley stole a watch and spent six months in a boys’ home. At seventeen, he served six months in jail for another theft. At twenty-three, he served thirty days for yet another, and was caught in a stolen car within a week of his release. He served three years for that one.

During that three-year stay, Stanley asked for psychiatric help and volunteered for an experimental treatment involving the stimulant Methedrine, an injectable form of methylamphetamine. According to Wikipedia, “effects of this drug include substantial perceptual changes such as blurred vision, multiple images, vibration of objects, visual hallucinations, distorted shapes, enhancement of details, slowed passage of time, and increased contrasts.” It’s hard to imagine that didn’t help.

Just days before the home-invasion robbery in Gladewater, Texas, Stanley disappeared from his most recent job at a gas station, along with a few hundred dollars that weren’t actually his.

Stormy Summers

Stanley reappeared at the Hurricane Club in Longview, Texas. There he met Stormy Summers, and things went from bad to worse. Stormy’s given name was Lynda. In fact, I believe her given name was Lynda Ziegler. She would become better known as Lynda McCann, but that night she was using her professional name, Stormy Summers. Stormy was (or at least had been) a member of the oldest profession.

As more evidence of his brain damage and low self-esteem, Stanley was smitten by this minimally-attired, 240-pound biker chick with a swastika tattooed on her hand.

Though Stormy was more frequently found in the company of Ernie McCann, a member of the outlaw club Destiny’s Legion, she was that night in the company of James Moulton. Moulton was a carpet and tile layer. He explained that he had recently worked in the house of Inez Phillips. Inez was the widow of a former Gladewater mayor and the matriarch of a substantial oil family. Inez had a floor safe added to a new wing of her house, and the safe was full of money and jewels.

In between beers, Moulton sketched the floor plan of the house. The three of them then drove the twelve miles to Gladewater to reconnoiter the residence. They did not, however, rob or make any attempt to rob Inez Phillips that night. Only after twelve days of frolicking, cavorting, and being smitten did Joseph Stanley Faulder and Lynda “Stormy Summers” Ziegler, soon to be McCann, stage a home-invasion robbery of the Inez Phillips residence. In the course of doing so, they killed her.

At least, that’s what they say. While I absolutely believe Stormy Summers when she claims to have been involved in the robbery, I don’t trust much of anything else she has to say. On the other hand, I have some doubts about Stanley’s confessions (note the plural) that he killed (or even robbed) Inez Phillips.

Now, I realize some of you are figuring that I must have finally and completely lost my mind and / or objectivity. How else could anyone explain my unwillingness to accept as undisputed fact the claim that Stanley Faulder murdered Inez Phillips, despite Stanley’s his two confessions, despite his two convictions, and despite his absolute refusal to deny his involvement even before any of his ten appointments with death?

I understand. Allow me to proceed.

Stormy's Story

After the murder of Inez Phillips, her family put up a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction, etc. Being an upstanding citizen only wanting to do his civic duty, James Mouton (carpet layer and sketcher of future crime scene layouts) called the hotline and blamed Stormy Summers and Stanley Faulder for the crime. Stormy was arrested quickly and she sang like a bird.

It was all Stanley’s fault, she explained, at least the real bad stuff was. She knocked on the door that night and claimed she had car trouble. When the door opened, Stanley forced their way inside at gunpoint. He gave her the gun and told her to keep an eye on Inez as he opened the safe. Stormy had such an aversion to guns and violence that she placed the gun on the end table. Inez lunged for the gun and grabbed it. As biker-girl Stormy and 75-year-old Inez grappled for control, the gun fired once inadvertently, hurting no one. Stanley heard the shot, charged into the room, and then hit Inez on the back of the head with a homemade blackjack consisting primarily of a hunk of metal. (I’m guessing it was in a sock. That’s what I use for all my homemade blackjacks.)

The blow knocked Inez unconscious. According to the medical testimony at the trial, that injury alone would have eventually killed Inez Phillips. Stanley and Stormy, however, were not trained medical practitioners. They feared she might wake up and cause another ruckus. They therefore placed her on the bed, taped her hands together, and placed tape over her mouth. Then, without explanation, Stanley went to the kitchen, retrieved a large knife, and plunged it into the center of Inez Phillip’s 75-year-old chest.

Stanley's Story

Stanley was arrested somewhat later in Colorado and returned to Texas. At first, he denied his involvement. They asked him if he would agree to a polygraph test. He agreed. I assume he figured he would pass and the police would let him go because he wasn’t involved. (I said he had a high IQ. I didn’t say he was smart.) Before the polygraph test, however, the examiner informed him the test would not only determine whether he was involved, but would determine as well (here’s the kicker) if he knew who else might have been involved.

At that point, Stanley balked. He decided he did not want to take a polygraph exam. He claims he asked for an attorney. Everyone involved (including the three cops) agree he asked for a few days to consider what he might say, who he might inculpate. The police didn’t cease their questioning, as they were legally obliged to do. Instead they continued for approximately three hours, discussing subjects such as what an electric chair does to a human being.

Though Stanley was not physically tortured, and though his interrogation was only three hours long (which is short as false confessions go), and though he had an IQ of 130 and climbing, he confessed. According to each of the three policemen, he wrote out one long paragraph in his own handwriting. (The appellate court noted that as an odd claim, since the handwritten confession the court had was in two short paragraphs. We’ll simply ignore that oddity just as they did.) That handwritten confession ended with Stanley hitting Inez with the blackjack.

Someone, a cop I suspect, typed up a longer and more thorough confession which Stanley signed. Stanley explained that they had a .38 caliber pistol and:
a homemade blackjack made out of a piece of flat iron, and a roll of white tape. … Stormy took the gun and went to the door pretending her car had broken down. Mrs. Phillips came to the door and let Stormy in. Stormy then held the gun on Mrs. Phillips and let me into the house. I talked to Mrs. Phillips for a couple of minutes and she got the combination to the safe from a drawer where she had it tucked away. The safe is located in the closet next to the rear entrance. Mrs. Phillips told me that there was no money in the safe, but I didn't believe her. I opened the safe and it was empty.
While I was opening the safe I heard a shot and went back to the bedroom where Stormy had taken Mrs. Phillips.
Mrs. Phillips was struggling with Stormy but stopped when I came into the room. We attempted to get her to lie down on the bed and stop struggling long enough to tie her up. She continued to fight so I hit her with the homemade blackjack. I was standing behind her when I hit her. The blow knocked her unconscious. We put her on the bed and tied her hands with tape. We also put tape across her mouth. We proceeded to go through the house. We found some costume jewelry and a fur cape.
I went back to check on Mrs. Phillips. She was moaning and groaning and kicking. I felt the back of her head and the skull felt crushed. I went to the kitchen and got a knife. I went back to the bedroom and stabbed Mrs. Phillips. I stabbed her in the center of the chest.
The knife punctured the aorta. Each heartbeat would pump her blood into her chest cavity rather than through her circulatory system. Within a minute, Inez Phillips would die in her own bed, gagged and bound, the back of her head crushed in.

My Doubts

The state’s evidence would indeed show that a gun had been fired inside the bedroom that night. The State would not find, however, any physical evidence that Stanley Faulder had ever been in the room. And therein lies the rub.

The police apparently never recovered the homemade blackjack. They never established that the hunk of metal had Stanley’s fingerprints all over it, that the sock matched another found in Stanley’s possession.

The police apparently never recovered the .38 caliber pistol, never dusted it for fingerprints to discover Stanley had grasped it in his hand. If they dusted the one casing that must have been left in the room, they must not have found Stanley’s thumbprint from when he pushed it into the cylinder or the clip.

The police apparently never found a boot print that looked evenly vaguely like Stanley’s boot, or a tire track that came close to matching one of his tires, or even a hair that a confident forensic hair analyst could confidently proclaim was consistent with Stanley’s hair.

More significantly, the police apparently found not even a single fingerprint on the floor safe, the door, or all the drawers that had been pulled out in search of valuables. They found not one of his fingerprints in the new wing recently added to the house, or the bedroom in which she was found. They didn’t even find his fingerprints on the knife which they found protruding from her chest.

Even if the police for some dumb-ass reason had failed to search long and hard for latent prints, there’s no way they could have missed the bloody prints that must have been there had Stanley been truthful in his confession. “I felt the back of her head and the skull felt crushed. I went to the kitchen and got a knife.” Surely there must have been some bloody fingerprints or some evidence of someone washing blood from his hand.

The confession is also suspicious on its face. Stanley confessed that he sapped her only after they were unable to get her to stop struggling long enough to tie her up. For one thing, a small thing admittedly, they didn’t tie her up. They taped her hands together and put tape over her mouth. For another thing, a much bigger thing, I’m skeptical that a 75-year-old lady is going to be able to mount much of a defense against a 240-pound, swastika-bedazzled biker chick and a 37-year-old auto mechanic with a 130 IQ and an abnormal brain.

The reason I might doubt a confession is the same reason I might doubt an accusation: it doesn’t comport with the evidence. Michael Ledford’s confession that he killed his one-year-old son by setting fire to his apartment, for example, does not comport with the evidence from scene. In case of Michael Ledford, I am working with Michael’s mother Pat to see if we can free him from his imprisonment. In the case of Joseph Stanley Faulder, I can only write of doubts about a case long ago and irretrievably resolved.

Dr. Death

Stanley also confessed a second time, apparently, and this time to none other than Dr, James Grigson, aka Dr. Death. Grigson’s specialty was seeing that people convicted of capital murder in Texas were sentenced to death. For a fee, he would testify that the convicted person would forever pose a threat to the safety of Texas citizens, even if incarcerated for life. Grigson didn’t need to even interview the defendant, though he would be pleased to do so. Grigson wasn’t even limited by the limits of mathematical certainty. On several occasions, Grigson testified that he was 1000% certain the defendant would again do harm to others.

Grigson helped put the needle in the arm of Cameron Todd Willingham. I include below an excerpt from my book on that case.
Dr. James Grigson is rightfully known as Doctor Death. Dr. Grigson would eventually testify against 167 defendants facing the death sentence. Only a few escaped with their lives. Former Texas Criminal Court of Appeals Judge Marvin Teague summarized Dr. Grigson’s effectiveness: “[W]hen Dr. Grigson testifies at the punishment stage of a capital murder trial … the defendant should stop what he is then doing and commence writing out his last will and testament because he will in all probability soon be ordered by the trial judge to suffer a premature death.”
Nonetheless, Stanley apparently confessed to Dr. Death as well as to the police. (As I said, high IQ does not necessarily equate with smart.) Stanley would never again confirm or deny his guilt. For the rest of his life, he would always refuse to talk about the case. He would eventually not grant any interviews to anybody. Nonetheless, back then, he talked to Dr. Death.

According to Dr. Death’s notes, Stanley explained “Nothing went right in the whole thing. ... The woman of the house was not supposed to be there. ... The woman put up a big fight. ... I had to hit her and I hit her too hard. ... I was disappointed that there was nothing in the safe." He then explained he was "panicky and fired up.” He didn't know why he stabbed her except that "she was moaning and groaning and I knew that I had done damage to her. ... I thought I was putting her out of her misery."

Stanley’s second confession does nothing to ease my doubts. It only increases them. If the “woman of the house was not supposed to be there” as Stanley claimed in his second confession, why did he take with him a gun, a blackjack, and tape (to bind her) as he claimed in his first confession? If the “woman of the house was not supposed to be there,” how did he plan to open the safe?

Two Trials

During Stanley’s first trial, the State relied almost exclusively on the confession. They didn’t call Stormy Summers, and they didn’t need to. When a jury hears a confession they convict, pure and simple. Disappointingly for Texas, the appellate court ruled the confession was improperly obtained since Stanley had said multiple times he didn’t want to say anything at that time, that he wanted to wait for a few days. The first verdict was overturned.

Without the confession, the state had a serious problem. They had no confession and they had no physical evidence. They only had the statement of an accomplice, and that is not admissible unless corroborated by something or someone who was not an accomplice. Texas was slow to pursue a second trial, so Inez’ family hired private prosecutors. Surprisingly, that is allowed as long as the State “retains control” of the prosecution, whatever that means.

The family paid the private prosecutors $100,000 according to one report I read, $155,000 according to another. The private prosecutors knew they needed Stormy Summers. Stormy was serving ten years for conspiring to rob (not murder) Inez Phillips. Amazingly, her conviction was soon overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal because the State mentioned Inez Phillips was killed.

It turned out Stormy had not been convicted of conspiracy for the events of that deadly night. She was convicted instead of conspiracy for the night at the bar where she looked at the sketch drawn by James Moulton and drove to the house that she would later rob. The court deemed that a different conspiracy than the one where she, Stanley, and apparently her soon-to-be husband planned to rob the Inez household. Mentioning the murder of a 75-year-old woman when Stormy was only charged with looking at sketches and driving by houses was absolutely, positively improper.

Stormy's conviction was reversed, she walked out of jail after serving only four years, and the State of Texas declined to prosecute her a second time. It may smell like crap to you, but it smelled like roses to Stormy. To celebrate, she covered her swastika tattoo with a rose tattoo. The new prosecutors wouldn’t want the new jury to get the wrong idea.

After Stormy was somehow freed from jail, and after the innocent looking rose tattoo appeared on her hand, she was paid $15,000 by Inez’ family to testify against Stanley. The money was allegedly to cover the cost of her re-location expenses should Stanley be acquitted and thereby force her into hiding. (Hahahahahah. Good one.) She would lie about the payment during her testimony, but the appellate court would find it wasn’t really all that bad a lie if it was a lie at all.

Now all the private prosecutors had to do was find some way to corroborate Stormy’s story. No problem. They paid Stormy’s new husband, Ernie McCann, $2,000 for his testimony. That payment was allegedly to cover the cost of biker Ernie’s wages while he testified. (Hahahahahah. Another good one.) Ernie suddenly recalled that he had overheard Stormy and Stanley talking about the robbery, and that was all the State and the jury needed to convict Stanley for a second and final time.

(After the trial, Stanley’s defense attorneys learned that the prosecution had evidence that Ernie was involved in the robbery, at least in the planning of the robbery. That made him an accomplice, and his testimony should have never been allowed. In Texas Criminal Court of Appeal, that is deemed a “harmless error.”)

Death Row

Joseph Stanley Faulder spent 22 years on death row. He refused the participate in the prison work program because he refused to work for a government that planned to kill him. Instead, he remained in his 6’ x 9’ cell fixing other prisoners’ radios free of charge, using nail clippers and glue to build domino boxes, using popsicle sticks to build clock frames.

His record shows no outbursts during his tenure, despite Dr. Death’s confidence that Stanley was certain to harm again. In more than two decades, Stanley had only three minor infractions. His record also shows that once, in February of 1987, the guards had great difficulty in awakening him, so much so that they made a record of the event.

Unlike many others who found God while on death row, Stanley stopped praying after failing to “get the answers I wanted.”

He survived nine dates with death, and succumbed only after the tenth. By that time, he had found his peace. Prior to one scheduled execution, he said: "There's an afterlife, as far as I'm concerned, and I expect to be part of it. It's that simple." Before the last he said: "I'm at peace with my maker. … I'm ready to go."

Actual Innocence Scorecard

I’ve included Stanley’s Actual Innocence Scorecard at the right. Click on it to enlarge. Click on the enlarged image to make it more clear.

I scored him Joseph Stanley Faulder at 22. That means I calculate that there is less than one chance in four he was actually innocent. Most people would score him at zero, and I would understand. I can’t score him that low primarily because of the lack of physical evidence tends to falsify his confession, and I don’t believe Lynda and / or Ernie McCann. The score also means that I think there is better than three out of four chance that Stanley at least participated in the robbery, the planning of the robbery. By my definition of Actual Innocence, in those cases he would not be innocent.

With respect to Stanley’s cerebral cortex, one former inmate described him as "the most intelligent man on death row." I suspect at one point in his life Stanley must have hoped for something more. He failed constantly, however, to live up to his own expectations and the expectations of others. He failed to earn the love and respect he so desperately sought and needed. He spent much of his life as an insecure, lonely, and depressed human being. In those regards, he differed from most of us only as a matter of degree.

Stanley felt his biggest accomplishments were the two daughters he fathered during a troubled seven year marriage in Canada. The daughters never really forgave him for abandoning them after the divorce, but they did visit him briefly before he was executed.

He described those visits as the happiest time of his life.

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