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.