Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Robert Nelson Drew: An Opposing View

Reader Kathy has made multiple comments on my posts regarding Robert Nelson Drew. I'll give a quick review of the case (assuming I'm capable of such a thing) and then present all her comments here so that all readers of this blog will be more likely to see them.

I wrote of Robert Nelson Drew here, here, and here. I generated an Actual Innocence Scorecard which I present once again to the right. I scored him at 84, meaning that I estimate there is around five chances out of six he was actually innocent.

I didn't write an extended narrative of the case, as I am apt to do with cases now. Instead I relied more heavily on the information provided in the scorecard.  From the case summary portion of that scorecard, I wrote:
2/21/83; Jeffrey Mays traveling w/ Bee Landrum; runaways w/ alcohol & drug problems; picked up hitchhikers Robert Nelson Drew & Ernest Puralewski @ different locations. Drew & Puralewski strangers to Mays, Landrum, & one another. Mays announced plan to reverse course & head for home. Prompted violent behavior on part of Drew and/or Puralewski.  Mays was stabbed, killed, & left behind. 20 minutes later Landrum, Drew, Puralewski pull into truck stop; Drew and Puralewski enter to buy beer; clerk notices one has cut over left eye and blood on clothes. Trio continues on, stopping at restaurant and nightclub. Puralewski separates to go "roll a faggot". Landrum and Drew leave Puralewski behind. Soon stopped for traffic violation and arrested.
There is no doubt that Puralewski was involved in the stabbing death of Jeffrey Mays. The question is whether Drew participated in that killing. There was no forensic evidence to tie Drew to the killing. The blood on the murder weapon belonged to Puralewski. The blood on Drew's clothes, he claimed, came from the obvious and recent wound over his eye, the result of an accidental jack handle strike while trying to free the car from the mud. The police made no effort to match that blood with blood from the victim, or they suppressed the results.

Ernest Puralewski did not testify at Drew's trial. Before the trial, however, Puralewski signed statements stating Drew was the killer; After Drew's trial, Puralewski pled guilty in return for a reduced sentence.  However, before pleading guilty, Puralewski told at least three people that he and he alone killed Mays. After pleading guilty, he told others the same thing. He then later swore in a signed statement that he and he alone killed victim. "I am the person who murdered Jeffrey Mays and Robert Drew is innocent."

Drew was convicted almost exclusively on the testimony of Bee Landrum, traveling companion of victim Mays. At trial, Landrum described Drew's participation in the killing in graphic detail.  His story was compelling and the jury voted for guilt and death. The jury did not know, however, that the police had made a tape recording of their initial interview with Landrum. In that interview, on that recording, Landrum admitted he had not seen the killing. He passed a polygraph test to that effect. The prosecution hid that recording  from the defense for five years.

Landrum also recanted after the trial. Then he recanted his recantation after (what  I'm sure was an interesting) conversation with prosecutors.

Landrum's behavior also indicated he was not in fear of Drew as he claimed during trial. The two of them ditched Puralewski when they got a chance, but the two of them continued to travel together until they were pulled over by the police.

Kathy disagrees with my assessment. She has no doubt of Drew's guilt. Here is her first comment, in its entirety:
In the orginal hearing Robert Nelson Drew admitted to killing my 17 year old friend, Jeff Mays, and licking the blood off Jeff's leather jacket. 
RND paid for the crime with his life, which will never equal, or even come close to, the value of Jeff's life to all of us who knew him. 
But at least now RND can never hurt another child ever again.
Though I write about perpetrators or people wrongfully accused of being perpetrators, I don't want to ever become insensitive to the victims, their families, or their friends. Given that I have never personally known a murder victim, I cannot truly empathize with Kathy, but I do try to put myself in the position of those who grieve the loss of a loved one. I do not want to minimize Kathy's loss or her sincerity. I take her comments seriously.

With respect to this first comment, I am unaware of the original hearing or of any admission by Drew to the killing of Jeff Mayes (or any other person). My research, which I concede can be incomplete or wrong, indicated that Drew never waivered in his claim to innocence. If Kathy or anyone else has the transcripts of that original hearing or a reference to Drew's claim of licking blood on Jeff Mays' leather jacket, I would sincerely appreciate a copy or a link. I will review it and adjust my scoring as appropriate.

Here is Kathy's second comment:
The best evidence for the innocence of Robert Nelson Drew is a statement by ANOTHER murderer and LIAR, Ernest Puralewski. People, such as yourself, who believe Drew's innocence, are suckers to a pychopath's sick desire to receive all the "credit" for the brutal murder of a 17-year-old boy. 
RND lost appeal after appeal because he was guilty. His accomplice was also guilty and had nothing to lose by issuing the statement that he acted alone. EP could not be tried again for the same crime. 
I attended the funeral of their victim. I still shudder at the thought of the sight of the body - 25 years later.
While I would not ignore evidence of innocence, I score by presuming innocence and assessing to what extent the evidence proves guilt. I do not limit myself to evidence admitted at trial. I attempt to weigh all the evidence I can find. With respect to Drew, I am unaware of any confession (excluding the claim made by Kathy in her first post), I am unaware of any forensic evidence, and I am unaware of any eyewitness statement not impeached by earlier statements and later recantations.
 
For clarification, I do not believe, in the strict sense, that Robert Nelson Drew was factually innocent. Nor do I believe he was guilty. When writing of people executed, I claim imperfect knowledge where most others claim certainty. After research, analysis, and thought, I merely assign my estimate of that person's probability of innocence.
 
Now for Kathy's third comment:
Bee Landrum, the eyewitness to the murder, was 16 YEARS OLD. He was helpless while his best friend was BRUTALLY murdered in his presence. Then, he was threatened, time and again, by Drew and Puralewski, that they would find him and finish him, too. I'm sure his story was shaky - imagine that pressure at SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. 
And finally for her fourth comment, and last so far:
It is true that Robert Nelson Drew had the most "talented appellate team" in Texas and lost appeal after appeal. It should perhaps occur to you that this is because he was GUILTY of the extremely brutal murder of a 17 year old kid. 
Yes, he had an accomplice that later, after he couldn't be re-tried for the same crime, wanted full "credit" for the slaying. RND, however, admitted to killing Jeff Mays in his original trial and licking the blood off his jacket. 
It is absurd that Robert Nelson Drew has become some kind of poster child for innocent executions. He held my friend Jeff and slashed his throat 3 times while watching Puralewski stab Jeff 16 TIMES in the chest. Propaganda is the ONLY reason RND is widely held as innocent among those against capital punishment. Those of us who knew Jeff have no doubt that justice was served.
Kathy repeats her claim that Robert Nelson Drew admitted to killing Jeff Mays. This time, however, she claims that confession came in the midst of Drew's original trial. I was unaware that Drew had two trials. I repeat my request for additional information on the claimed confession, and now for substantiation of the two trials.

I sincerely appreciate comments from readers, particularly comments from readers with particular insight into a case. While I don't expect that I will agree with all comments, I hope that I will given them all careful thought and fair hearing.

10 comments:

Christa (Jeff's sister) said...

If you need more proof that Drew was the main murderer, please go to: http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/28/28.F3d.460.94-20553.html
This follows the case all the way through.

tsj said...

I received two alerts that Christa had commented on this post. I only see one comment. I'll repeat here the first comment as informed to me by Blogger.

"Robert Nelson Drew was left handed. The coroner reports clearly show that when Jeff's neck was sliced open, it was done by a left handed person. Any of the many wounds would have killed him, including all of the chest wounds, which were made by Drew and Puralewski, who were on both sides of Jeff's body.

"Puralewski claimed he alone acted because he had already recieved his sentence. He was hoping Drew would also get a lighter sentence than death. In my opinion, both of them should have been executed."

tsj said...

Krista,

Thank you for your comments.

I did review the link to the appellate decision before arriving at my initial score. I reviewed all the appellate decisions available on Google Scholar. I encourage others who wish to read of more details of this case to follow the link.

It's not obvious to me how the ME would know whether the neck wounds were from a forehand or a backhand slash. If you would send me a digital or hard copy of the autopsy, or of his trial testimony, I would review it and correct my scoring as appropriate.

The case hinges on the time-dependent claims of Ernest Puralewski and Bree Landrum.

I am asked to believe Puralewski when he claimed Drew DID kill Jeffrey Mays all by himself, but disbelieve Puralewski when he claimed that Drew DID NOT participate in the murder at all.

I am asked to believe Bree Landrum when he claimed he DID witness both of them murder Jeffrey Mays, but disbelieve him when he claimed he DID NOT actually see either of them commit the murder.

In the absense of physical evidence, I have no basis for deciding which of their stories are correct, and I am therefore left without much evidence of Drew's guilt.

I'm well aware that as I write of wrongful convictions, I am in danger of offending people who were close to the victims.

My sincere apology, Krista, if I cause you distress writing on this subject.

Christa said...

You've caused me no distress, other than by portraying one of the men who killed my brother as being innocent, and wrongly executed. I think you should do more research before posting such filth. Yes, a medical examiner can certainly determine which way a cut was made, and by which hand (left or right). I'm sure you told your story using the information available. But, I'm reading the same articles, and it's still perfectly clear that both men attacked Jeff with the intention of killing him. One is no more guilty than the other. Perhaps you should spend time trying to figure out why Ernest Puralewski wasn't also executed, instead of worrying about why Drew was.

Kathy said...

My information comes from memory and not documentation, and so, I'll admit, as you have, that it can be flawed. I was a child at the time of Jeff's murder, too.

My claims that Drew admitted the murder come from Birmingham News articles that were published while the Mayses were in Texas for Drew's trial. I'm not sure how far back the Birmingham News' archives go, but if they still have the articles, you can retrieve them for a fee. I believe it was winter of 84. I don't remember the article titles.

Ann said...

I think it rather noble of you to support a cause where you claim that innocent people are executed, but you do more harm than good to your argument when you choose examples that don't support your thesis. Moreover, not knowing the facts of the case but still holding it up as an example of a judicial wrong-doing makes it difficult for anyone to consider you to be much of an authority. And finally, did you really just ask a family member of a victim who was brutally murdered to supply you with research from the coroner's report so that you can "correct (your) scoring"? That's reprehensible by any standards.

Anonymous said...

well im sorry i understand christa that your brother was murdered and by all means he should have justice but i do not believe that they gave him justice by killing a man who by two people was wrongfully accused and then turned around and said he didnt. so u tell me why would a 16 yr old say that some man murdered his friend and then continue riding with him after they ditched the other man i mean seriously if i was that kid i would have ran from them both instead landrum and drew ditched peruwlaski and were later pulled over on for a vehicle violation n was arrested ok why were they pulled over in the first place

Anonymous said...

i have the original transcripts to robert nelson drews cases and none of you will ever get them nor see them and the truth they hold is and always will be his peace of mind that the state of texas killed an innocent man if the two of them killed jeffery as alleged in this case then why did robert drews knife which was found on him at the time of his arrest not have any dna or blood on it from jeffery mays? there was 1 knife used and that of which belonged to bee landrum and a simple hint lady robert drew was right handed.

ISpyMyBlackEye said...

I always cant help but wonder what becomes of the others who are involved in these cases? Such as the Landrum boy- what happened to him afterward, wasnt he the runaway from Alabama? Also, the second man charged in this murder of Mays who was sentenced first and before Drew? Is he still behind bars or walking free?? Sorry. I cannot always offer the best of comments when I reply, sometimes my mind gets the best of me and I just think of where the other people are now. And if the other man who was sentenced besides Drew is still behind bars, I wonder what he thinks of this? I know most of these wont be known answers but I cant help that sometimes after reading a post involving several people what became of them and if they have ever come forward again in any way since the trial/giving their testimony etc.

Anonymous said...

I knew Robert Drew as a child growing up in Greenwich, NY. He did not have one mean bone in his body and would not and could not have committed murder. I also followed his case and now know that he was truly an innocent man executed by the State of Texas. As such, I do not believe in executions as an innocent person can and will be executed.

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