Monday, April 30, 2012

The Impending Execution of Anthony Bartee

Anthony Bartee sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. He is scheduled to die on 2 May. I offer a summary of the crime from the adverse opinion of Bartee v. Quarterman (2008). As I am apt to do, I have replaced each occurrence of the term "petitioner" with Bartee's name.
On August 15, 1996, Anthony Bartee telephoned his acquaintance Heidi Munoz and informed her he planned to "ace some white dude out." Munoz interpreted this remark as indicating Bartee planned to rob and "get rid of the person in question, whom Bartee indicated was named "David." When Ms. Munoz refused Bartee's request to assist in this endeavor, Bartee asked for the phone number of Ms. Munoz's ex-boyfriend, Joey Banks, and indicated he planned to seek Mr. Banks' help. During the same telephone conversation, Bartee also unsuccessfully solicited the assistance of Ms. Munoz's friends Nadine Berlanga and Stella Suarez. 
At some point during the summer of 1996, Bartee telephoned Joey Banks and requested Mr. Banks' help in robbing and killing someone who lived in the same neighborhood where Bartee stayed and who, Bartee informed Mr. Banks, had "some gold cards and a motorcycle" Bartee wanted. When Mr. Banks indicated he would not help, Bartee told Joey Banks he would do it himself. 
Later on that same date, Bartee arrived at Ms. Munoz's apartment riding a motorcycle which Bartee said he had acquired through a lawsuit. Bartee gave Ms. Suarez a ride on his motorcycle but Ms. Munoz declined Bartee's invitation for a ride. Although Bartee said he was carrying a gun, Ms. Munoz never saw one. 
The following morning, on August 16, 1996, Bartee approached two employees of a bowling alley located near Bartee's parents' residence and informed them he owned the Harley Davidson motorcycle they had found parked behind the bowling alley. 
Later that same date, Bartee drove the Harley motorcycle to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he met up with his acquaintance Macedonio Gonzalez. Bartee informed Mr. Gonzalez that he had traded in two motorcycles to acquire the new Harley. Bartee also informed Mr. Gonzalez Bartee had seen a friend of his shot in the head by two members of the "Ace of Spades" gang. Bartee never informed Mr. Gonzalez that the motorcycle belonged to Bartee's murdered friend. A few days later, Bartee returned to San Antonio but left the new Harley in Macedonio Gonzalez's custody, telling Mr. Gonzalez he would return to pick it up. When Bartee did not return after several weeks, Mr. Gonzalez contacted local law enforcement authorities in Corpus Christi, who took custody of the Harley. A Corpus Christi homicide detective testified at Bartee's trial that, on August 26, 1996, he took possession of a motorcycle from Macedonio Gonzalez which he identified as the same motorcycle reported stolen in connection with the murder of David Cook in San Antonio. 
On the morning of August 17, 1996, police and David Cook's family members discovered the body of David Cook inside Mr. Cook's locked residence in San Antonio, Texas. An autopsy revealed Mr. Cook had been fatally shot twice in the head and stabbed once in the shoulder. At the crime scene, police discovered: (1) a slug which fell from the face of David Cook as his body was rolled over by personnel from the medical examiner's office, (2) a second slug which had passed through a wall, penetrated the rear of Mr. Cook's refrigerator, and come to rest therein, and (3) a pair of spent shell casings and several live 9 mm rounds. A firearms expert testified at Bartee's trial that the spent round, shell casings, and bullet fragment recovered from the crime scene were all consistent with 9 mm bullets that had been fired from the type of handgun Mr. Cook owned but which was missing from the crime scene following Mr. Cook's murder. Both David Cook's 9 mm pistol and Harley Davidson motorcycle were missing from his residence. 
Several members of David Cook's family described and identified a photograph of a red Harley Davidson motorcycle owned by David Cook which was missing from Mr. Cook's residence following the discovery of David Cook's body. Heidi Munoz identified a photograph of David Cook's Harley Davidson motorcycle as similar to the one driven by Bartee when he visited Ms. Munoz's apartment late on the night of August 15, 1996. Each of the two bowling alley employees who encountered Bartee the following morning identified the same photograph of Mr. Cook's motorcycle as the one Bartee claimed as his own. A friend of Bartee's who resided in Corpus Christi identified the same photograph of David Cook's motorcycle as the one Bartee drove to Corpus Christi in August, 1996 and claimed as his own. 
On August 20, 1996, shortly after his return to San Antonio, Bartee gave San Antonio police a written statement in which he claimed to have no knowledge whatsoever of David Cook's murder. 
On August 30, 1996, while in custody on an unrelated charge, and after having been informed that police had recovered David Cook's missing motorcycle, Bartee gave San Antonio Police a second written statement in which he claimed: (1) he had been present at David Cook's home at the time of Mr. Cook's fatal shooting, (2) he had witnessed two local gang members he knew only as "Snake" and "Throw down" enter Mr. Cook's residence and escort Mr. Cook to the back bedroom, (3) he then went to the garage and sat down on Mr. Cook's motorcycle, (4) suspecting foul play was about to occur, he started Mr. Cook's motorcycle, and (5) when he then heard gunshots, he fled the scene on Mr. Cook's motorcycle out of fear for his own safety. 
In following weeks, Bartee telephoned Heidi Munoz and one of Ms. Munoz's friends, claimed to have had no involvement in David Cook's murder, and urged them both to claim they had no knowledge of anything relating to David Cook's murder or of the motorcycle Bartee was riding the night he visited Ms. Munoz's apartment. 
The guilt-innocence phase of Bartee's capital murder trial commenced on May 11, 1998. 
After presenting the evidence outlined above, the prosecution rested on May 14, 1998. 
The defense then called a neighbor of David Cook who testified: (1) he heard what he believed was a loud motorcycle take off around ten p.m. on August 15, 1996, and (2) very shortly thereafter, he heard automotive tires squealing. The defense also presented a second neighbor of David Cook who testified she witnessed a white vehicle with two black stripes squealing its tires as it left David Cook's driveway around 10:45 p.m. the evening of the murder. The defense then rested. 
The prosecution then called in rebuttal a third neighbor of David Cook who testified, on the evening of David Cook's murder: (1) sometime after 11 p.m., he was visited by a drunken friend who parked his car directly across the street from David Cook's home, (2) he argued with his inebriated friend, who was driving a big white car with dark blue stripes, and (3) his friend later left the area, first by backing his vehicle into David Cook's driveway and then squealing his tires as he left the area at a high rate of speed. ...
On May 15, 1998, after deliberating less than five hours, the jury returned its verdict, finding Bartee guilty of capital murder, as charged in the indictment.
Bartee recently received a stay of execution so that hairs found in the victim's hand could be tested for DNA. The defense argued that if those hairs belonged to someone other than Bartee of the victim, then that indicated someone other than Bartee had committed the murder, just as Bartee claimed. After long and (in my opinion unconscionable) delays, the DNA testing was completed. All hairs found in the victim's hand belonged to the victim himself.

I oppose the execution of anyone who might be factually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die. In all other cases, I stand mute.

In the case of Anthony Bartee, I stand mute.

ADDENDUM:
May 2, 2012: Bartee's execution was stayed by a federal judge. The defense wants DNA testing of  cigarette butts and drinking glasses. Though the State appealed the stay immediately, and though the Supremes quickly refused to hear Bartee's "other" appeals, it seems as if the stay is good at least until midnight. I think the means that Bartee cannot be executed for at least a month. I believe the execution warrant is good only until midnight, and that a new warrant cannot set an execution without 30 days notice.

The Impending Execution of Michael Selsor

Michael Bascum Selsor sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Oklahoma. His execution is scheduled for tomorrow. It does not seem as if he will survive the day.

I offer a summary of his crime from the adverse appellate decision in Selsor v. State (2000):
At approximately 11:00 p.m. on September 15, 1975, Selsor and Richard Eugene Dodson robbed the U-TOTE-M convenience store at 5950 33rd West Avenue in Tulsa. Selsor and Dodson entered the store, each armed with a .22 caliber handgun. Employee Clayton Chandler was working at the cash register. Selsor approached Chandler, pulled his gun, and demanded the contents of the register. Dodson located employee Ina Morris, who was restocking the walk-in cooler. Dodson pointed his gun at her and ordered her to get down. Morris replied, "You've got to be kidding me." Dodson then fired a shot striking Morris in the shoulder. 
Chandler loaded a sack with money and handed it to Selsor, who then shot Chandler several times in the chest killing him. Upon hearing the shots, Dodson emptied his weapon through the cooler door at Morris. Morris was shot in the head, neck and shoulder, but survived. Selsor and Dodson then fled. 
On September 22, 1975, Selsor and Dodson were arrested in Santa Barbara, California. Selsor confessed this and other crimes to Detective John Evans of the Santa Barbara Police Department. In his confession, Selsor admitted that before entering the store, he and Dodson had agreed to leave no witnesses.
During Selsor's first trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. He appealed and won a retrial. During the second trail, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Selsor makes no claim of factual innocence. Instead, he based his most recent clemency plea on his remorse, the changes he has made to his life, and on the unfairness of being given the death sentence after initially being given life in prison.

I oppose the execution of any person who might be factually innocent of the crime for which they are to die. In all other cases, I stand mute.

In the case of Michael Bascum Selsor, I stand mute.

ADDENDUM:
Michael Selsor has been executed by the people of Oklahoma.

A Jury of Your Peer

Reader Al (aka Guest Blogger Al) sent me an email this morning. He threw me a bone on my Documents Gone Wild post, then linked to an article he thought worthy of note.
John,  

Good post on the falsification of documents in PHIII's case. 

Check out this article below 

Al's link summarized the findings of an article in the most recent issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Since no one wants to read such an egghead article in its entirety, or even a summary of an article, or even this summary of the summary of the article, I'm going to display a graphic from the summary that gets straight to the bottom line.


You may think that this reduction in conviction rate of black defendants stems from having blacks on the jury. As it turns out, that's not quite what they found. The eligible jury population in those counties was less than 5% black. When a jury pool contained at least one black person, it typically contained no more than one. And here's the kicker. The black person did not actually have to be selected as a juror to reduce the chance that a black defendant would be convicted.

Very interesting.


Given that I sometimes find very interesting things to be somewhat interesting, I tried to understand why such a relationship might exist, assuming that it does exist. Here's what the authors had to say:

Having established that the racial composition of the jury pool has a substantial impact on conviction rates, we consider a number of possible channels through which random variation in the composition of the jury pool might affect trial outcomes. Most obviously and directly, having at least one black member in the jury pool makes it feasible to have a black member on the seated jury. Black representation on the seated jury might affect trial outcomes not only through the jury deliberation and decision process but also by affecting how the case is presented and argued by the prosecution and defense attorneys. 
Adding black potential jurors to the pool can also affect trial outcomes even when these jurors are not ultimately seated on the jury. This indirect effect comes about through the jury selection process if attorneys on each side use their peremptory challenges to strike the potential jurors most likely to be hostile to their case.
The authors then explain (but not clearly though) how the attorneys might use their peremptory challenges to select or exclude the black person from the jury. The modified peremptory challenge strategies (they argue) cause both the defense and the prosecution to compose a jury less hostile to a black defendant.

It sounded to me pretty much like hog spittle. I wasn't ready to buy either their surprising conclusion or their explanation for their surprising conclusion. I was trying to poke a hole in either their study or their argument when I noticed that the average jury size in their study was 7.11 jurors.

What the hell?

That forced me to learn something new, yet again. (Will it never end?) You may or may not have noticed that the study was limited to two counties in Florida. You may or may not have known that Florida does not seat twelve people on its juries, not even on its criminal juries. It seats just six jurors, plus one or two alternates. Hence the 7.11 jurors, on average.

That sucks.

As my fingers danced furiously over my aging keyboard, I learned that the early part of the 1970's was a bad time for our jury-based justice system. In the 1970 case of Williams v. Florida, the Supreme Court of the United States of America narrowly ruled that the Bill of Rights did not demand twelve jurors, as common law had demanded for centuries. Six were just as good as twelve. Just as good. Absolutely just as good. No doubt about it.

[Uh, oh!]

Also in 1970, in the case of Johnson v. Louisiana, The Supremes decided that unanimous verdicts were also unnecessary.

[Gulp!]

And just in case anyone doubted their sanity, The Supremes reaffirmed their no-need-for-unanimity decision in 1972, via their decision in Apodaca v. Oregon

[Mama!]

Welcome to the infamous slippery slope. Just how many jurors must find you guilty before the State can frog-march you off to prison, or to the gurney? Can a state use just 3 jurors? If so, do the three have to be unanimous?

Can the state try you with just one juror, by a jury of your peer? If your peer has multiple personalities, do they have to be unanimous?

Fortunately, The Supremes deslipperized the slippery slope in the 1978 case of Ballew v. Georgia. Georgia had ventured too far down the slippery slope, even for The Supremes. Georgia had taken a shine to convicting people with just five jurors. The Supremes said "Don't be ridiculous." Actually, according to the link, what they said was more along the line of:
The Court found that a trial by jury of less than six members violated the accused's right to a trial by jury as protected by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Blackmun reasoned that small juries foster poor group deliberation. Group memory of the details of testimony, the ease with which group compromises can be made, and the desire of the group to be self-critical and reflective are all hindered as the size of the jury decreases. Blackmun also relied on statistical studies to claim that the risk of jury error increased with smaller juries.
Since even a non-Supreme-Court-Justice such as I can see that the summary would read just as well if it said "a jury less than seven members", you might guess that the Supremes used the opportunity to correct their screw-ups in Williams v. Florida, and Johnson v. Louisiana, and Apodaca v. Oregon.

But noooooo. As The Jury Expert explains:
Despite acknowledging "that the purpose and functioning of the jury in a criminal trial is seriously impaired, and to a constitutional degree, by a reduction in size to below six members," the Court reaffirmed its decision in Williams.
I now make the tricky U-turn back to the original point of this article. I think the Duke study discussed earlier in this article may be adding to the body of empirical studies finding that small juries are not as likely to be just juries. Small juries such as those described in the Duke study are more likely to exclude minorities, and less likely to be self-critical and reflective.

Let me know what you think. Should we demand that juries are composed of twelve jurors and that the verdict be unanimous? If not, how many jurors should it take to convict or exonerate a defendant in a criminal trial?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Documents Gone Wild

Reader Lando is the winner of the first ever Skeptical Juror Brain Teaser. I hereby award Reader Lando the 10 attaperson points I promised, and I immediately convert them to Skeptical Juror points. All future awards will be in Skeptical Juror points, and I will keep a running total. I may eventually convert the Skeptical Juror points to physical script, though I don't want to run afoul of federal banking laws.

Reader Lando recognized correctly that the Consent to Search form was a composite document formed by placing the text block of a Consent to Search form over the signature block of some other form. (More specifically, the text block was placed over the upper half of an HPD Form No. BT-0012.) When one constructs such a composite form, particularly one so cheesy as the HPD Consent to Search form, the form becomes slightly three-dimensional. Copiers frequently fail to conceal the edges of the upper layer.

I present once again the Consent to Search form below, this time placed alongside its sister Consent for Samples form. The annotations are mine. Click to enlarge.


If you look near the upper and lower edges of the red box on the left, you can see the edge marks that Reader Lando picked up on. (Wow! I ended that sentence with two prepositions.) The upper half of the Consent to Search Form is entirely consistent with the upper half of the Consent for Samples form. The two documents have similar title and date blocks. The wording in the text block has been changed only as necessary to authorize the search of a residence rather than a collection of samples. Both text blocks begin and end with the same legalese
"I, Preston Hughes, having been informed of my constitutional right not to have ..." 
"This written permission is given by me ... voluntarily without threats or promises of any kind and is given with my full and free consent."
The only substantive differences between the upper portions of the two forms are the edge marks that Reader Lando so attentively noticed.  Reader Lando, on the other hand, made no mention of the many differences on the lower portions of the two forms. In fact, it suddenly seems as if the two forms are not siblings. They're distant cousins, at best. The signature blocks are formatted differently, and one has an actual form number while the other does not.

Also, Sgt. Ross's handwriting seems to have undergone a remarkable transformation in the two hours since she allegedly signed those two documents. In the Consent for Search form, her handwriting (when writing the time) looks remarkably similar to that of Sgt. Bloyd. In the Consent for Samples form, she wrote the time so carelessly that one might suspect someone else wrote it for her.

In summary, it appears as if the fine folks at the Houston Police Department took a blank Consent to Search form, filled in the information they wanted, cut or tore the text block from the form, taped the text block over a different form that Preston Hughes had in fact signed, and then copied the menagerie. Their forgery, however, was no more professional than their investigation in this case, and evidence of the falsification has been preserved lo these many years.

 *** THE END ***

But wait! There's more.

I figured if they pasted that text block over the upper portion of Form No. BT-0012, they may not have aligned everything properly.

So I checked to see if the text and underlines are parallel, upper to lower halves. They are, within the accuracy expected photocopied and scanned images.

So I checked to see if the text columns are properly aligned, upper to lower halves. They are, within the accuracy expected of photocopied and scanned images.

So I checked to see if the lines are spaced consistently, upper to lower halves. They are not.

They are not.

Check it out. Using Gimp, the poor man's Photoshop, I created a layer over the text block and placed a red line under each line of text, thus:

Now I can move these red lines down and see if the typed text in the lower half was typed on the same sheet of paper on a single pass through a typewriter. (Recall that this was in 1988.) The only typed text in the lower half  (in the same font as the upper half) are the words Signed and WITNESSES. Here's what I got.

When I kept the upper text properly underlined, the lower text was not properly underlined. Something's amiss. So I moved the lines up just a bit, so that they properly underlined (Signed) and WITNESSES. Not surprisingly, given the previous image, that didn't work either.

There is no way I can get the upper text to be underlined properly at the same time I can get the lower text underlined properly, and vice versa. Something happened to throw the line spacing off between the upper and lower halves, and it happened just about where there seems to be an edge mark, just above Preston's signature.

The entire case against Preston Hughes III depends on the veracity of the Houston Police.

We must believe Sergeant Hamilton when he claims that Shandra provided him a dying declaration, though no one else heard that declaration, and though Shandra was statistically likely to have been unconscious.

We must believe Sergeant Gafford when he claims that he did not coerce the first confession, because Gafford chose not to record the interrogation.

We must believe Sergeants Ferguson and Yanchak when they claim they did not coerce a second, entirely different confession, because Ferguson and Yanchak chose not to record the confession.

We must believe that the HPD did not plant Shandra's eyeglasses (or somebody's eyeglasses) in Preston's apartment, though the Evidence Inventory form makes it clear the police re-entered Preston's apartment  before 2:58 AM, at least 2.5 hours before Preston allegedly signed the consent to search form.

If the Consent to Search Form was falsified, as it now so clear it was, then we would be simply foolish to take the HPD at their word on this case.

Now, having completed this brain teasing interlude, I shall return to plodding carefully through the data. For me it is unfortunately no surprise that the police sometime manufacture evidence. For some of you readers, I suspect it will come as a disillusionment.

 <-- Previous                          Table of Contents                               Next --> 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Brain Teaser #1

We need to talk.

This case is going to take a long time to work through. It's going to take a lot of posts. I'm going to plod through lots of details. I might lose many or most of you along the way. So be it.

It's beginning to feel as if I'm in this one for the long haul.

I have a couple thoughts on how I might continue to plumb the depths of this case while not allowing this blog to become focused on only one case. I simply need to find the time to blog about other cases and other topics. I've had two emails from readers about relevant topics. One mentioned the imperfect nature of fingerprints. The other mentioned the alleged CSI effect on juror expectations. Good topics, both. I'll be writing on them.

I'm also preparing a supplement (not an errata, a supplement) to my letter to Governor Jay Nixon in support of Byron Case's application for absolute pardon. This supplement is in response to the criticisms of reader Ivan. I'll soon be posting that as well.

Finally, I want to engage you more directly. I want you, those of you who are willing, to feel a bit of what I feel when I examine evidence closely and find what everyone before has missed. I want to give you a taste of what it feels like to chip away at a seemingly rock-solid case of guilt and uncover a wrongful conviction house-of-cards.

I'm going to start engagement here, in this post. I'm going to present you with three police documents from the Preston Hughes case. One is pretty clearly falsified. The others have been fudged only a little. I suggest there is sufficient information in the documents themselves for you to figure out which is which. You actually need to know nothing about this case, though you can catch up if you wish by reviewing the ever-current, always-evolving Table of Contents.

To keep from providing any hints via the order in which I present the documents, I'll use a random number generator to decide their order. Then you can use the comments to reveal which document is probably false and which are merely fudged. Please explain your reasoning in lucid, brilliant prose. Sign your comment with a pseudonym so that others can heap praise upon your perspicuity.

The person with the best answer will receive 10 attaperson points.

Get ready. Here come the documents. Click on each to enlarge. You can ignore the non-standard aspect ratios.

#1: We'll call this document the Consent for Samples.

#2. We'll call this document the Consent for Search.

#3. We'll call this document the Evidence Invoice. The red markings are from the folks at the Preston Hughes blog. You can ignore them.


There you go. Everything you need. Tell me, which of the three is probably falsified? How can we prove that? For the other two documents, how have they been tampered?


ADDENDUM:
We have a winner. Read the comments. For my more thorough explanation of how one of the documents was forged, see Documents Gone Wild.

 <-- Previous                            Table of Contents                             Next --> 

The Impending Execution of Thomas Kemp

Thomas Kemp sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Arizona. He is scheduled for execution on 26 April. He has declined to seek clemency from the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency since he considers the clemency process to be a sham. (On this point, I may agree with him.) It is unlikely that Thomas Arnold Kemp will survive the day.

I provide a summary of his case from the recent adverse decision in Kemp v. Ryan (2011).
Thomas Arnold Kemp raises three issues in his appeal from the district court's denial of his habeas petition seeking relief from his state conviction for felony first-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnapping and from his capital sentence. ... The underlying criminal acts were described as follows by the district court: 
On July 11, 1992, at approximately 11:15 p.m., Hector Juarez awoke when his fiancĂ©e, Jamie, returned from work to their residence at the Promontory Apartments in Tucson. A short time later, Juarez left to get something to eat. Jamie assumed he went to a nearby fast food restaurant. 
At around midnight, Jamie became concerned that Juarez had not come home and began to look for him. She found both her car and his car in the parking lot. Her car, which Juarez had been driving, was unlocked and smelled of fast food; the insurance papers had been placed on the vehicle's roof. After checking with Juarez's brother and a friend, Jamie called the police. 
Two or three days before Juarez was abducted, Jeffery Logan, an escapee from a California honor farm, arrived in Tucson and met with Petitioner. On Friday, July 10, Logan went with Petitioner to a pawn shop and helped him buy a .380 semi-automatic handgun. Petitioner and Logan spent the next night driving around Tucson. At some time between 11:15 p.m. and midnight, Petitioner and Logan abducted Juarez from the parking area of his apartment complex. 
At midnight, Petitioner used Juarez's ATM card and withdrew approximately $200. He then drove Juarez out to the Silverbell Mine area near Marana. Petitioner walked Juarez fifty to seventy feet from the truck, forced him to disrobe, and shot him in the head twice. Petitioner then made two unsuccessful attempts to use Juarez's ATM card in Tucson. The machine kept the card after the second attempt. Petitioner and Logan repainted Petitioner's truck, drove to Flagstaff, and sold it. They bought another .380 semi-automatic handgun with the proceeds. 
While in Flagstaff, Petitioner and Logan met a man and woman who were traveling from California to Kansas. They abducted the couple and made them drive to Durango, Colorado; in a motel room there, Petitioner forced the man to disrobe and sexually assaulted him. 
Later, Petitioner, Logan, and the couple drove to Denver, where the couple escaped. Logan and Petitioner separated. Logan subsequently contacted the Tucson police about the murder of Juarez. He was arrested in Denver. 
With Logan's help, the police located Juarez's body. Later that day, the police arrested Petitioner at a homeless shelter in Tucson. He was carrying the handgun purchased in Flagstaff and a pair of handcuffs. After having been read his Miranda rights, Petitioner answered some questions before asking for a lawyer. He admitted that he purchased a handgun with Logan on July 10. He said that on the day of the abduction and homicide he was "cruising" through apartment complexes, possibly including the Promontory Apartments. When confronted with the ATM photographs, he initially denied being the individual in the picture. After having been told that Logan was in custody and again having been shown the photographs, Petitioner said, "I guess my life is over now."
When, during sentencing, Kemp was asked if he had anything to say in mitigation of his crime, Kemp first expressed satisfaction with his defense counsel. Kemp then offered the following:
The prosecutor, in his alleged wisdom, has portrayed me as being a killer without remorse or regret. This is a wholly inaccurate assessment. I feel a deep and abiding sense of remorse at having permitted friendship to stay my hand in the face of wiser counsel; thus electing not to kill Jeff Logan at a time when both instinct and circumstances demanded his death. 
You can rest assured that is a lapse of judgment I will never repeat and one which I will bend all my energies towards correcting in the not too distant future. Beyond that, I regret nothing. 
The media has engaged in an orgy of speculation and innuendo concerning the events of mid-July '92. They printed and reported every word spewed from Logan's mouth as though they were engraved in stone and handed down from God. They printed every accusation Logan made, whether or not it had the slightest bearing on this case, and at no time made any effort at verification. I was convicted in the press and on the televised news long before my case ever came to trial. Make no mistake, the day will come when I return to Tucson. And on that day I will remember all the kind things certain reporters had to say about me. 
The so-called victim was not an American citizen and, therefore, was beneath my contempt. Wetbacks are hardly an endangered species in this state. If more of them wound up dead, the rest of them would soon learn to stay in Mexico, where they belong. 
I don't show any mercy and I am certainly not here to plead for mercy. I spit on the law and all those who serve it; most especially you, Peasley. I have more respect for Salgado than I have for you.
I oppose the execution of people who might be factually innocent of the crime for which they are to die. In all other instances, I stand mute. In the case of Thomas Arnold Kemp, I stand mute.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Impending Execution of Beunka Adams

Beunka Adams sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. His execution is scheduled for 26 April. I offer a summary of the case from the adverse appellate decision Adams v. Thaler (2010):
On September 2, 2002, Candace Driver and Nikki Dement were working at BDJ's convenience store in Rusk, Texas. Kenneth Vandever, a customer described as mentally challenged who often "hung around" at BDJ's and helped take out the trash, was in the store with Candace and Nikki when two masked men entered the store. One of the men was armed with a shotgun and demanded money. The two men were later identified as Beunka Adams and his co-defendant, Richard Cobb. 
After taking the money from the cash register, Adams demanded the keys to a Cadillac parked outside. After Candace produced her car keys, Adams forced her, along with Nikki and Kenneth, into the car. As Adams drove Candace's car, Nikki said, "I know you, don't I?" Adams said "Yes," and took his mask off. When they arrived at a remote pea patch near Alto, Cobb pointed the shotgun at Candace and Kenneth and Adams ordered them to get into the trunk of the Cadillac. Adams then took Nikki to a more secluded spot, away from the car, and sexually assaulted her. Later, Adams led Nikki back to the Cadillac and let Candace and Kenneth out of the trunk, but he tied the two women's arms behind their backs and made them kneel on the ground while the two robbers made their escape. Adams and Cobb seemingly developed a plan to leave Kenneth untied so that he could free the women once Adams and Cobb were far enough away from the scene. Adams, however, believed that Kenneth was attempting to untie the women too soon, so he returned and ordered Kenneth to kneel behind the women. Candace heard Kenneth say that "it was time for him to take his medicine and that he was ready to go home." 
The women then heard a single gunshot. Adams asked, "did we get anybody?" And Candace said, "No." Shortly thereafter, a second shot was fired, and Kenneth cried out, "They shot me." Kenneth Vandever died from the gunshot wound. Seconds later, Candace heard another shot, and Nikki fell forward. Candace fell forward as well, pretending to be hit. Adams approached Candace and asked her if she was bleeding. He was carrying the shotgun. Candace did not immediately answer in the hope that Adams would believe she had been killed. Adams then said, "Are you bleeding?" You better answer me. I'll shoot you in the face if you don't answer me." When Candace said, "No, no, I'm not bleeding," Adams shot her in the face, hitting her lip. 
Adams and Cobb then turned to Nikki, asking her the same questions. Adams kicked Nikki for about a minute, joined by Cobb. Then they picked her up by her hair and held a lighter to her face to see if she was still alive. Candace feigned death for fear of being shot again. She heard Cobb say about Nikki, "She's dead. Let's go." That was the only time that Candace ever heard Cobb speak. After Adams and Cobb left, Candace got up and ran barefooted down the deserted country road and banged on the door of the first house she saw.
Adams' supporters claim he did not get a fair trial. They also note that he is remorseful for his participation in the robbery that led to the murders. It seems as if Adams claimed he did not actually commit the murders, but concedes he was involved in the robbery.

I oppose those executions in which the person to be executed has some reasonable possibility of being factually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die. In all other cases, I stand mute. In the case of Beunka Adams, I have no reason to doubt that he participated in the armed robbery that led to the murders. I therefore stand mute.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Shandra's Neck

This is Shandra's neck.


This is the knife the police found in Preston Hughes' closet.


In this post, I am going to stick that knife in a generic neck having a wound similar to Shandra's. I'm going to do that so we can better understand the case of Preston Hughes III. Before I do, however, we need to understand a little bit about necks in general and Shandra Charles' neck in particular. We also need to know something about the wound and the knife. Let's get to it.

Necks in General
I present a cross-section of a human neck. Though it makes no difference, you can presume you are looking from the top down.


The pair of red and blue ovals on either side of the centerline are the (common) carotid arteries and the (internal) jugular veins. According to the trial testimony, the left carotid and jugular were perforated / severed. You can see that it would be difficult to sever the carotid without also severing the jugular.

The yellow/orange and light blue portions near the middle of the neck constitute one of the cervical vertebrae. I provide a separate image of the vertebrae below.


When I stick Preston's knife into the generic neck, I will assume that I can't penetrate the vertebrae. The knife blade will have to pass in front of the vertebrae or along its left side.

Referring once again to the original cross section of the neck, the large red ellipse located towards the front center is the esophagus. Food and drink (normally) travel down the esophagus to the stomach.

The white area forward of the esophagus is the pathway through the larynx. The larynx surrounds and controls that pathway. The cream colored arch forward of the larynx pathway is the thyroid cartilage. The thyroid cartilage is pretty stiff, which is a good thing since I was once hit in the throat with a record-setting line-drive softball that dropped me like a sack of Idaho russets.

But I digress.

The back of the larynx is less well protected, based on the entirely reasonable assumption that softballs to the front of the throat will be more common than knives to the back of the throat. I want to point out, however, that softballs are not all that soft.

But I digress.

Shandra's Neck
So that we can scale everything properly, we need to know the circumference of Shandra's neck. It turns out we can get a good estimate if we know her body mass index (BMI), and we can calculate Shandra's body mass index if I know her height and weight. The not-so-helpful fill-in medical examiner ME actually testified to her height and weight. (Will wonders never cease?) If you'll give me a moment to myself, I'll calculate Shandra's BMI.

(She was 65 inches tall. That's 1.65 meters. She weighed 127 pounds. That's 58 kilograms. Now I need to divide the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters. Lemme see. That's 58 divided by 1.65 then divided by 1.65 again. That's 21.30395. Got it.)

Shandra had a BMI of 21. That indicates that she was quite lean. From Wikipedia:
... a BMI of 18.5 to 25 may indicate optimal weight; a BMI lower than 18.5 suggests the person is underweight while a number above 25 may indicate the person is overweight; ... a number above 30 suggests the person is obese ...
Here's where it gets good, assuming you're a complete geek. Some clever researchers have found that one can estimate the body mass index from the neck circumference. I want to do the reverse. I want to estimate Shandra's neck circumference from her BMI. I'll therefore rely on a plot those clever researchers very kindly presented in their paper. The plot shows the actual neck circumferences for the females in their study plotted against the BMI values.


Based on that plot, Shandra's neck circumference was no greater than 34 centimeters. It was more likely 32 centimeters, or thereabouts. That's 13 inches all the way around, or 6.5 inches half way around. In the figure below, I've added a series of 1/4" bars along the left side of the neck. There are 26 of those 1/4" bars, as there should be if they are to add up to 6.5 inches. These 1/4" bars will make it much easier to see what is going on.


The Wound
We learn a little bit about the neck wound from the not-so-informative, last-minute, fill-in medical examiner.
Q. Doctor, moving along to the autopsy report, prepared on the body of the young woman in this case, Shandra Charles, having reviewed that report, do you have a medical opinion as to the cause of death of Shandra Charles? 
A. Yes, sir. 
Q. What is that? 
A. LaShandra Charles died as a result of a stab wound to the neck. 
Q. Could you describe more specifically that stab wound to the neck? 
A. Yes, sir. There was a stab wound to the left side of the neck located 2 inches to the left of the midline and 8 inches below the top of the head. The instrument perforated the left jugular vein and the left common carotid artery, two of the large vessels in the neck. 
Q. Is this injury similar to the injury that the child, Marcell Taylor, received? 
A. That is correct. 
Q. In fact, the arteries and veins were severed the same as on the child, Marcell Taylor? 
A. That is correct.
That's it as far as the neck wound goes. Seriously. That's it.

As far as this post is concerned, the take away from that enlightening testimony is that the wound was located 2 inches from the front of the neck. I assume the measurement was to the center of the wound.

We'll have to look elsewhere for the width of the wound. For that, I turn to the police report of Officer J.L. Waltmon. He's the one who met the ambulance carrying Shandra as it arrived at Ben Taub Hospital. I present the relevant passage below. Forgive the grammar and punctuation, for he knows not what he does.
Sgt. then view the comps. body and found that she had a stab wound to the left side of the neck. This wound was 1 1/2" wide and 1 3/4" down from the left ear lobe on the left side of the neck.
Ignore the trauma to the English language, if you would, and note instead that Waltmon claims the neck wound was 1.5 inches wide.

Now, I'll shade 6 of those 1/4" bars to represent the 1.5" wound. Then I'll center the wound at a point 2 inches from the front of the neck. That's right between the eighth and ninth of the 1/4" bars. Here you go.


The Knife
We'll be discussing the knife in more detail in future posts. For know we just want to know its dimensions. Let's turn to the ever-informative, fill-in medical examiner for an in-depth discussion.
Q. Doctor, let me show you what has been marked and offered into evidence and admitted into evidence as State's Exhibit No. 20. Would you please examine that knife? I'll give you a yardstick. Would you measure the blade on the knife for me please. 
A. State's Exhiblt 20 is what is classified as a sharp instrument, a hunting knife, with a blade that measures a little more than 5 1/4 inches in length with a width of slightly more than an inch.
While I can't confirm the measurements from the image, I can confirm that the ratio of blade length to blade width is pretty much as testified. If the blade length is indeed 5 1/4 inches in length, then the blade width is close to 1 inch, though the width varies along the blade.

The Criteria
Not just any knife in the neck will do. I have inserted the knife into the neck in 22 different fashions, in 15 degree increments, with the sharp edge pointing in each direction. Only the front-to-back and the side-to-side stabbings are possible reasonable recreations of what happened to Shandra. All other stabbings, those in between a side-to-side and a front-to-back stabbing, are unreasonable.

I decided which of the stabbings are reasonable and which are unreasonable based on the following criteria.
1. The knife must cut through, partially or completely, the left common carotid artery and the left interior jugular vein. 
2. The knife must not cut through the right carotid artery. If Shandra had both carotids severed, she would have died almost instantaneously. 
3. The knife cannot penetrate the cervical vertebrae. 
4. The knife must be inserted forcefully. In other words, the wound must be deep unless it hits the cervical vertebrae. Every other stab wound was forceful. Marcell's neck wound was through-and-through. Marcell's chest wound was also through-and-through, penetrating his shoulder blade in the process. Shandra's chest wound was 4 1/2 inches deep. 
5. The entry wound must be centered about a point two inches from the front of the neck, or nearly so. 
6. The entry wound must be 1.5 inches wide, or nearly so.
Front-to-Back
Marcell's neck wound was a through-and-through neck wound, nominally front-to-rear, directed slightly from right to left. According to the testimony presented above, Shandra's neck injury was similar to Marcell's neck injury, at least in terms of severing both a carotid and a jugular. We'll therefore look first at a front-to-back wound, traveling slightly right to left.

This stabbing almost works. When the knife just barely nicks the carotid, the wound is a bit too far forward. If the knife is moved to more seriously cut the carotid, the wound is even further forward. If Shandra's neck wound was more closely centered about a point 1.5 inches from the front of the neck, instead of 2 inches, then this path would be a possibly reasonable recreation.

Here's another path, this time directly from front to back.

This one also works, assuming the wound was centered somewhat further forward than specified in the testimony.

Finally in this category, a path travelling slightly from left to right.


This one doesn't work. The resulting neck wound is noticeably smaller than 1.5 inches wide.

In general, the front-to-rear recreations may be representative of what happened to Shandra. In general, the wound would have been located somewhat further forward than specified in the trial testimony.

Intermediate Angles
Stab angles at any angle near 45 degrees simply don't work. Consider the image below.


In these cases, the knife hits the vertebrae after severing the carotid and the jugular. The knife can't penetrate very far, and the entry wound is far less than 1.5 inches wide.

Side to Side
A side-to-side stabbing is also a reasonable possibility. Consider the following images.



In general, the side-to-side stabbings are reasonable possibilities. In each case, a forceful side-to-side stabbing would sever the trachea. Shandra would not have been able to speak to anyone.

General Observations
I was surprised the reasonable possibilities narrowed down to the extremes. It seems as if the knife in Shandra's neck must have traveled either from front to rear or from side to side. It's a shame that the jury was left uninformed as to which.

The autopsy reports should clarify the wound paths. I don't yet have a copy of the either report, but I've made an initial inquiry. I'll need to pursue the autopsy reports more aggressively.

Whether the knife traveled front-to-rear or side-to-side, the wound path challenges the State's case. I explain why in my next post in this series.

 <-- Previous                           Table of Contents                              Next --> 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Impending Execution of Shannon Johnson

Shannon Johnson sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Delaware. His execution is scheduled for 20 April. Though Johnson wants the execution to proceed without delay, his sister is attempting to secure a stay. I suspect Johnson will not survive the day.

I offer a summary of the crime from the relatively recent sentencing decision in
State v. Johnson (2008).
The Defendant Shannon Johnson was convicted by a jury of Murder in the First Degree for the killing of Cameron Hamlin, as well as of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony (3 counts), Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Person Prohibited (2 counts), Reckless Endangering in the First Degree, and Assault in the First Degree (both involving Lakeisha Truitt). ... 
The Defendant, Shannon Johnson, had a relationship with Lakeisha Truitt, from which was born a son. Ms. Truitt attempted to end the relationship on multiple occasions, because the Defendant was violent and unfaithful, and testified that she had not had a steady relationship with the Defendant for several years preceding the events that give rise to the charges in this matter. She did, however, continue to see the Defendant on some basis, including, but not limited to, effecting visitation with his son. 
From all appearances, Ms. Truitt had tried to move on with her life. She was a single mom, was employed, had purchased a home, and just prior to the initial incident in this case, began seeing another young man, Cameron Hamlin. By all accounts, Mr. Hamlin was a solid and sober individual, who had an interest in music, and was caring and thoughtful of his family. On September 24, 2006, Mr. Hamlin spent the night at Ms. Truitt's home, and in the morning, was in the process of taking Ms. Truitt to her grandmother's, where her son spent the night, and then was going to take his mother to church. The Defendant accosted the couple at a stop sign in his vehicle, and after some words were spoken, took out a gun and fired into Mr. Hamlin's vehicle, killing him. Ms. Truitt was not injured in this incident. She ran to her grandmother's, where she called the police, and reported the incident. Due to concern for her safety, she was advised not to go to her home until the Defendant was apprehended, but on November 10, 2006, she decided to go to her home and retrieve clothes for her son. On the way, she encountered one Rima Stewart, and had a brief conversation with her. As she was leaving her home, after having been there only a short time, the Defendant ran toward her car, brandishing a firearm, and fired several times, striking Ms. Truitt. To this day, a portion of one bullet remains lodged in her chest. The Defendant was later apprehended, and has been incarcerated since his arrest.
I object to any execution in which the person to be executed may be innocent. In other cases, I stand mute. Given that I find no one claiming Johnson is factually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die, and given that Johnson has waived all further appeals, and given that Johnson wishes no further delay in his execution, I stand mute.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Impending Execution of Daniel Greene

Daniel Greene sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Georgia. The execution is scheduled for 19 April. I relate the facts of the case as presented in the adverse appellate decision Green v. State, 1996.
On the evening of September 27, 1991, Greene made a series of trips to the Suwanee Swifty, a convenience store and gasoline station in Reynolds, Taylor County, Georgia. During his final visit, Greene grabbed the store clerk, Virginia Wise, held a knife to her throat, and told her to give him the money from the cash register. After obtaining the money, $142.55, Greene continued to hold the knife to Wise's throat. He pulled her to the back room, then cut her across three fingers and stabbed her through the lung and liver. Upon hearing the automatic doorbell ring as Bernard Walker entered the store, Greene placed Wise against the bathroom wall, telling her that if she left the room he would have to kill her. Greene reentered the public area of the store and encountered Walker waiting at the counter to make a purchase. He stabbed Walker in the heart, threw down the knife, left the store and drove away. After attempting to get help, Walker fell dead in the parking lot. 
Later that evening, Greene went to the home of Willie and Donice Montgomery, an elderly couple in rural Macon County for whom Greene had worked as a farm laborer for about two months. Greene burst through the Montgomerys' kitchen door wielding a knife and asked for their car keys. Mr. Montgomery gave Greene the keys, and Greene proceeded to stab each victim multiple times in the head.
After leaving the Montgomerys' home, Greene drove their car to a convenience store in Warner Robins, Houston County, Georgia. Once there, he held a butcher knife to the cashier, Bonnie Roberts, and forced her to give him the money from the cash register. He then walked toward her and attempted to stab her in the chest. She bent down, and Greene drove the knife into the back of her shoulder. Greene then drove the Montgomerys' car to the home of an acquaintance in Warner Robins, where he was apprehended. 
Greene was tried separately and convicted of the Macon and Houston County crimes. The trial from which this appeal is taken concerned only Greene's indictment for the crimes committed in Taylor County. 
Before trial, Greene confessed to the crimes, explaining in a videotaped interview that he had committed them to obtain money for crack cocaine. At trial, Greene testified that he could not remember committing the crimes or confessing, and that he could only recall experiencing a severe headache inside the Suwanee Swifty after having smoked a cigarette given to him earlier by an acquaintance. He theorized that his criminal behavior might have been induced by the cigarette, which must have been laced with a powerful, mind-altering drug.
I oppose those executions in which the person to be executed may be factually innocent of the crime. In all other cases, I stand mute. In the case of Daniel Greene of Georgia, I stand mute.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Lakeside

One of the spectacularly well orchestrated fictions in this case is that Shandra Charles, in a dying declaration, identified Preston Hughes as her attacker.

In this post, I will consider two possibilities: either Sgt. Hamilton fabricated Shandra's dying declaration out of whole cloth, or Sgt. Hamilton accurately reported what Shandra managed to tell him that night. In neither case did Shandra Charles identify Preston Hughes as her attacker.

Read on.

I will consider first the possibility that Sgt. Hamilton fabricated Shandra's dying declaration out of whole cloth. All quotes from police reports are from the compiled collection of reports, here.

There are numerous problems with Sgt. Hamilton's claim that Shandra spoke to him that night, the first of which is that the claim is completely uncorroborated. Sgt. Hamilton conveniently places himself alone with Shandra, though other officers (at least three) were on the scene. Officers Becker and Cook, the first two officers to arrive, found Shandra unconscious but alive. They found Marcell with neither breath nor pulse. They elected to tend to the seemingly dead Marcell rather than obviously alive Shandra. According to their report, they never did return to Shandra.

Their behavior seems odd if you accept the HPD story as told. On the other hand, their story is convenient, even necessary, if Sgt. Hamilton is going to claim he heard a dying declaration that never happened.

Sgt Hamilton confirms that Becker and Cook were standing away from Shandra, but he does not confirm they were applying CPR to Marcell. From his report:
Upon arriving on the scene Sgt Hamilton found the crime scene to be an open field. Sgt Hamilton noticed officer Becker and Cook standing near a B/M juvenile in the field. While approaching officer Cook, Sgt. Hamilton noticed a second compl [i.e. complainant, victim, Shandra Charles] a B/F, laying face down on the ground in a small pool of blood.
What were Becker and Cook doing just standing there? I guess they gave up on Marcell as hopeless, and didn't think even then of trying to save Shandra. I guess they just waited for Sgt. Hamilton to arrive so he could interview her in private.

We know also that Patrol Supervisor Sgt. J.H. Parham was on the scene at some point. We don't learn that from Sgt. Hamilton, since he describes himself as being alone with Shandra. Instead we hear of Sgt. Parham elsewhere in the police reports. We hear of him once, and only once, and that from lead investigator Sgt. Gafford:
When we arrived, there were several patrol supervisors, Sgts D. Hamilton and J.H. Parham, already on the scene.
Not only is Sgt. Hamilton mute with respect to Sgt. Parham, Sgt Parham is mute with respect to Sgt. Parham. In the collection of police reports, Sgt. Parham's report is missing. Perhaps Sgt. Parham's report would place him within earshot of anything Shandra might have said. Perhaps that would be inconvenient.

We have reason also to suspect that someone was standing nearby Sgt. Hamilton as he interviewed or sat by Shandra. Recall this photo from Shandra's Trail.


The upright drinking cup in the upper right corner of the image indicates someone was standing there refreshing himself. Perhaps it was the attacker or one of the victims or a witness, in which case the cup should have been secured as evidence. More likely an HPD police officer placed that cup there, right at the edge of the trampled area. Perhaps it was Sgt. Hamilton, who sipped a cool beverage as he walked towards the scene and who then placed the cup there before interviewing Shandra. Perhaps it was the mysterious Sgt. Parham, who failed to write a report of his time at the scene. Perhaps it was any one of "numerous officers" standing right there by Shandra. I obtain the description "numerous officers" from Officer Cook's report:
The boy did not respond to any resusitation [sic] attempts. Officer Becker continued to look in the immediate area for any susp(s) or evidence. Becker then went back to the Stop N Go and picked up Hartley from the store and brought him back to the scene. Cook stayed at the scene and observed numerous officers attending the black female. Paramedics from HFD Unit 69 arrived on the scene, assessed the situation, and pronounced the boy dead.
Numerous officers. Not "an officer" or "two officers" or "a couple" or "a few." Numerous officers, none of whom filed a report, none of whom had anything to say about Sgt. Hamilton's claim that Shandra spoke to him that evening.

Cook and Becker's report presents other mysteries. Didn't either of them brief Patrol Supervisor Sgt. D. Hamilton when he arrived on the scene? Who instructed Officer Becker to return to the Stop N Go to retrieve Drew Hartley? If both were on the scene and standing by Marcell when Sgt. Hamilton arrived, as per Sgt. Hamilton's report, wouldn't Becker have had to walk right past Shandra and Sgt. Hamilton as he returned to his patrol car in the Fuddrucker's parking lot? Did he not brief Sgt. Hamilton even then? Did he simply say "excuse me" as he stepped over Shandra or squeezed around Hamilton?

It's all very mysterious, as I suspect it is designed to be.

So the first problem with Sgt. Hamilton's claim of a dying declaration is that it is uncorroborated, though it seems as if there were others there who could have or should have corroborated such a critical claim. A much more serious problem is that Shandra Charles was almost certainly unconscious by the time Sgt. Hamilton arrived.

In my previous posts (Pools of BloodEleven Twenty Five, and Severed Carotid Arteries) I provided substantial evidence (via video, expert testimony, and even a graph!) that people cannot remain conscious for more than several minutes with a severed carotid in the absence of effective first aid. From the expert testimony in seven cases, I offer, in alphabetical order:
Commonwealth v. Lambert -- Dr. Larson also offered an opinion that the left carotid artery was severed. … He felt she would have had to lose consciousness within three minutes and suffer brain death within two minutes after that. 
Cooper v. Brown -- Jessica suffered a stab wound to her neck. The wound resulted in massive bleeding. Unconsciousness from the wound would have occurred in as little as thirty to sixty seconds, and would have been fatal in a couple of minutes. 
Jefferson v. State -- The victim died from an excessive loss of blood due to the fact that both of the jugular veins and the right carotid artery had been severed ... The extensive loss of blood caused the victim to loose consciousness after several minutes, and to die several minutes thereafter. 
People v. De Sarno -- Another bullet ... severed the left common carotid artery and the jugular vein ... According to these experts, an individual who sustained wounds similar to those caused by the bullet which penetrated Officer Sledge's face ... may be capable of performing voluntary acts for 30 to 60 seconds  ... before losing consciousness. 
State v. Bonds -- The neck wounds severed both the carotid artery and the jugular vein and punctured the victim's right lung. The victim bled to death, but could have remained conscious for a few minutes after she was stabbed. 
People v. Mayfield -- The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the face, the bullet shattering the left side of the jaw at the angle and completely severing the external carotid artery, causing profuse bleeding, immediate loss of consciousness, and a rapid decline in blood pressure. 
State v. Henretta -- A wound immediately below the right ear, which Doctor Scruggs described as "particularly damaging," severed the carotid artery and the jugular vein ... Doctor Scruggs testified that this most severe wound ... would have rendered the victim unconscious within approximately 30 seconds. 
State v. Penley -- Dr. Harlan determined that the cause of death was "an incised wound, meaning a cut, to the neck transecting the right internal carotid artery." ... Dr. Harlan testified that once the artery was cut, "unconsciousness would have occurred . . . within just a matter of seconds."
Three minutes. Sixty seconds. Several minutes. Sixty seconds. A few minutes. Thirty seconds. A matter of seconds. Seven experts. All the expert testimony I could find about time of consciousness after suffering a severed carotid, and not one of the experts gives any time longer than 3 minutes, or several minutes if one wishes to grasp at straws.

There is no way Sgt. Hamilton was on the scene within three minutes of the attack. How could Shandra have been conscious when he arrived on the scene?

But you need not rely on my analysis. You may choose instead to take the HPD police reports at face value, though that causes an even bigger problem. In their report, Officers Cook and Becker confirm what should now be obvious to you: Shandra Charles was unconscious when they found her.
Officers walked east along the path that hunter eluded to and walked approx 30 yards when observing a black female laying face down in the path. She was positioned face west and feet east. There was blood along the neckline and she was breathing deep but was unconscious. Officers notified the west side dispatcher of the find.
In none of the seven cases I found did anyone happen to mention that a person with a severed carotid could or would recover consciousness after losing consciousness. There is no reason to believe that Shandra would regain consciousness after losing it, particularly since she received no medical attention, particularly since she simply continued to bleed out after Cook and Becker found her unconscious.

That blood you see soaked into the ground was supposed to supply her brain with oxygen. It did not.

Yet Sgt. Hamilton claims not only that she was conscious, but that she was lucid and calm, that she could speak in full sentences and enunciate clearly. I present to you Sgt. Hamilton's description of his interview with Shandra Charles, she of the severed carotid, severed jugular, and stab wound to the chest.
It appeared to Sgt Hamilton that the compl was having a difficult time trying to breathe. At this point, Sgt Hamilton asked the compl if she wanted to roll over on her back, the compl stated she did. Sgt. Hamilton rolled the compl over to her back ... Sgt Hamilton the asked the compl what had happened. The compl stated "He tried to rape me." Sgt Hamilton then asked the compl "Who tried to rape you?" The compl stated "Preston". Sgt Hamiltion again asked the compl to repeat the name of the person that had tried to rape her. Compl again stated "Preston". Sgt. Hamilton asked the compl if she knew Preston's full name, the compl replied something, Sgt Hamilton could not understand. Sgt Hamilton then asked the compl if she knew where Preston lived, the compl replied what sounded like Lakeside to Sgt. Hamilton. While waiting for the amb to arrive, Sgt continued to speak with the compl, during this time, the compl stated her name was Lashandra or Lasanda. It should be noted that at this point, the compl's speech began to become totally slurred and not understandable. Sgt then asked the compl if she was by herself. The compl then became upset and began stating where is (what sounded like Marshell or Marchell). Sgt asked the compl who was Marshell, the compl stated that he was her cousin. Sgt sat by the compl until amb arrived.
This report is nonsensical. Let me count the ways.
1. After initially responding with a complete sentence, Shandra could suddenly answer only with single words. She could say "He tried to rape me," but she could not give her attacker's first and last name in the same response. 
2. She said "Preston" clearly, unlike most of her other answers. Hamilton nonetheless asked her to repeat the word he heard clearly. 
3. She gave her attacker's last name, but it was inaudible. Hamilton did not ask her to repeat what he could not hear clearly. 
4. She said her attacker lived somewhere that "sounded like Lakeside." This is the first and only use of this qualifier. When Hamilton heard Shandra say "Preston", twice as it turns out, he did not say something that "sounded like Preston." 
5. She said her name was Lashandra or Lasanda. She could say Preston's first name clearly, but not his last name, and not her own name. 
6. Shandra did not become upset until Hamilton asked her if she was alone. 
7. She said her cousin's name was Marshell or Marchell. Once again, she could not clearly state Marcell's name, or her own name, or her attacker's last name, but she could clearly state Preston's name.
If we are to believe that his report constitutes a complete and accurate description of his interview with Shandra Charles, we must accept that Sgt. Hamilton has a quirky interview style: if the person being questioned answers clearly, the person is asked to repeat the answer; if the person answers in a fashion that cannot be understood, the person is not asked to repeat the answer.

Nonetheless, I stated at the beginning of this post, long ago, that it made no difference whether or not Sgt. Hamilton fabricated the dying declaration. I stated that even if we took his report at face value, Shandra Charles did not identify Preston Hughes as her attacker.

Read on, just a wee bit farther.

Shandra (allegedly, from here on out allegedly) gave a one-word description of where her attacker lived. She said Lakeside. Sgt. Gafford and company decided (for reasons to be discussed later) that she really meant the Lakehurst Apartment complex. Sgt. Gafford was wrong.

Sgt. Gafford could have just as easily decided that she really meant the Lakewood Village Apartments, but he still would have been wrong. It is nonetheless interesting that he searched the resident list only of the Lakehurst Apartments, and not the resident list of the Lakewood Village Apartments as well.

Sgt. Gafford should have instead searched the resident list of the Lakeside Green Condos, located just 0.3 miles north of Fuddrucker's, straight up South Kirkwood.


According to Google, it is but a 6 minute walk from Fuddrucker's to Lakeside.


So there you have it. It is exceptionally unlikely that Shandra Charles could have been conscious when Sgt. Hamilton arrived at the scene. If one nonetheless accepts his report at face value, then Shandra Charles did not identify Preston Hughes as her attacker. She identified someone who lived at Lakeside. That is Lakeside. Not Lakewood. Not Lakehurst. Lakeside, exactly as Sgt. Hamilton claims he heard.

Lakeside.

 <-- Previous                          Table of Contents                               Next -->