Tenn. says it foils female death row breakout plot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 2009 photo provided by Tennessee Department of Correction shows Christa Gail Pike. Authorities in Tennessee say two men, including a former prison guard, have been arrested in a plot to break out Tennesseeâ??s lone female death row inmate, Christa Gail Pike. (AP Photo/Tennessee Department of Correction)This 2009 photo provided by Tennessee Department of Correction shows Christa Gail Pike. Authorities in Tennessee say two men, including a former prison guard, have been arrested in a plot to break out Tennesseeâ??s lone female death row inmate, Christa Gail Pike. (AP Photo/Tennessee Department of Correction)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Authorities in Tennessee say two men, including a former prison guard, have been arrested in a plot to break out Tennessee’s lone female death row inmate.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said Wednesday there was no imminent danger of an escape by Christa Gail Pike, but “there was plan in the works and money changing hands.”

Pike, originally from West Virginia, was sentenced to death in 1996 for the slaying of a fellow Knoxville Job Corps student. Colleen Slemmer, 18, was stabbed and beaten by Pike and Tadaryl Shipp, Pike’s boyfriend at the time, on the University of Tennessee’s agricultural campus in January 1995.

Prosecutors have said the motive for the slaying was a love triangle with the two women and Shipp, who was sentenced to life in prison. The two carved a pentagram into Slemmer’s chest, and investigators claimed Pike, who was 18 at the time, took a piece of the victim’s skull for a souvenir.

New Jersey authorities on Tuesday arrested 34-year-old Donald Kohut of Flemington, N.J., who has frequently visited Pike in prison. He was charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit escape and was being held at the Hunterdon County Department of Corrections on a $250,000 bond and awaiting extradition.

A former correctional officer at the Tennessee Prison for Women, 23-year-old Justin Heflin, was arrested by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and charged with bribery, conspiracy to commit escape and facilitation to commit escape.

Heflin, of Chattanooga, Tenn., turned himself into authorities and was booked into the Davidson County Jail on Tuesday on a $75,000 bond. Heflin was hired in March 2009, but was terminated from his job on March 5 after he was indicted by a grand jury last month.

Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said investigators received information about the plot early in the planning stages.

“Our investigators were able to learn about the threat early on fortunately,” she said. “But anytime there is this sort of threat to the prison or the general public, we take it very seriously.”

Carter said Pike, who is 36 faces a disciplinary charge and will likely face criminal charges for the plot.

This isn’t the first time Pike has gotten in trouble while on death row. In 2001, Pike nearly choked inmate Patricia Jones to death with a shoe string. She was convicted of attempted first-degree murder on August 12, 2004.

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Mississippi inmate executed

 

 

 

 

 

 

A death row prisoner was executed by lethal injection today for sexually assaulting and beating his former boss’s wife to death with an axe handle in 1995.

Larry Matthew Puckett, 35, was pronounced dead at 6.18 pm at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, authorities said.

Puckett was an 18-year-old Eagle Scout when he was convicted of the murder of Rhonda Hatten Griffis, a 28-year-old mother of two, who was found dead in her mobile home on October 14, 1995.

Executed: Larry Matthew Puckett, 35, (right) was killed by lethal injection in Mississippi today after he murdered Rhonda Hatten Griffis at her home when he was 18 (left)
Executed: Larry Matthew Puckett, 35, (right) was killed by lethal injection in Mississippi today after he murdered Rhonda Hatten Griffis at her home when he was 18 (left)

Executed: Larry Matthew Puckett, 35, (right) was killed by lethal injection in Mississippi today after he murdered Rhonda Hatten Griffis at her home when he was 18 (left)

Puckett had previously worked as a landscaper for the woman’s husband David Griffis in Hattiesburg, Mississippi but was due to ship out for basic training with the Navy.

The young woman’s mother Nancy Hatten said she had discovered the teenage Puckett in the home with her daughter’s dead body holding a club.

She said Puckett tried to blame the woman’s husband, who arrived shortly afterwards and scuffled with the man. Puckett fled and was arrested two days later.

Puckett’s supporters protested up until the hour of his execution claiming that Mrs Griffis’ husband had killed her in a jealous rage. Puckett had also claimed that he had been having an affair with the woman and her husband caught them.

How the victim’s mother said she found Puckett in the home holding an axe handle, which prosecutors believed was used in the killing.

Retribution: Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps hugs Nancy Hatten, mother of murder victim Rhonda Hatten Griffis, following the execution of Larry Matthew PuckettRetribution: Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps hugs Nancy Hatten, mother of murder victim Rhonda Hatten Griffis, following the execution of Larry Matthew Puckett

Protest to the end: Mary Puckett led protesters last week as they made a last appeal to stop her son's execution in Mississippi Protest to the end: Mary Puckett led protesters last week as they made a last appeal to stop her son’s execution in Mississippi

Nancy Hatten told The Associated Press last week: ‘I caught him in her house with the club in his hand. Her husband wasn’t anywhere on the premises at the time. He drove up later.’

After fleeing the home, the 18-year-old was captured and although he confessed to being at the home to rob it, he always denied killing the mother of two.

Puckett has been sentenced to death on August 5, 1996.

‘My thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family.’

Governor Bryant who denied a last-minute appeal from Larry Matthew Puckett

Puckett’s mother Mary led supporters to rally against her son’s death sentence at the state Capitol in Jackson and appealed to Governor Phil Bryant to reduce the sentence to life without parole.

Governor Bryant issued a statement last week which read: ‘In light of Mr. Puckett’s having been convicted by a jury of his peers more than 15 years ago and after a review of the facts associated with his case, I have decided not to grant clemency and will not delay the execution.

‘My thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family.’

In his last hours, Puckett spent time with family and a spiritual adviser.

According to gulflive.com, he ate a last meal of Macadamia nut pancakes, shrimp and grits, ice cream cake, caramel candy and root beer.

Puckett had asked that his relatives and lawyer not be present for his execution but Mrs Griffis’ parents were on the witness list.

Some 4,000 people had signed an online petition set up by Puckett’s mother to try to persuade Governor Bryant to stop the execution.

Last moments: Puckett was killed by lethal injection at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at 6pm in front of his victim's parentsLast moments: Puckett was killed by lethal injection at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at 6pm in front of his victim’s parents

Protest: Demonstrators against the death penalty gathered outside the prison where the 35-year-old was killedProtest: Demonstrators against the death penalty gathered outside the prison where the 35-year-old was killed

Two new executions set for Alabama Death Row inmates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alabama Supreme Court has set a new date for Tommy Arthur’s execution to be on March29, 2012. This is the fifth time his execution date has been set. Arthur, now 70, was convicted of the murder-for-hire killing of Troy Wicker, businessman of Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1982 and was placed on Death Row in 1983.

The story of Arthur is rather bizarre. It began on February 1, 1982. Muscle Shoals, Alabama police received an urgent call to the home of Troy and Judy Wicker. When they arrived, they found Troy Wicker dead in his bed and found 4 expended .22 caliber cartridge shells on his bed. Judy Wicker was lying on the floor with traces of blood on her head while her sister, Teresa Rowland knelt beside her.

Judy told police that she had driven the children to school and upon returning home she found a black man there who had shot her husband and that he knocked her unconscious and raped her.

However, she was subsequently charged with her husband’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. Tommy Arthur was implicated as the hit man, but the case was not certain without the testimony of Judy Wicker. So a deal was made with Wicker for an early release for here testimony.

Wicker explained that her husband Troy was physically violent with her, and that Rowland and Troy often argued when Troy threatened to turn Rowland in to the police for the arson on her home which he had committed for her.

She also testified that she had known Arthur since they were both young and worked at Tidwell Homes. She revealed that she, Rowland, and Rowland’s boyfriend, Theron McKinney had discussed killing Troy beginning in early 1981.

Arthur was hired to kill Troy and Judy testified that when Arthur went in to the house, she heard a shot and that he then hit her and knocked out some teeth and lacerated her lip. Much more evidence was shown at his trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death. After over 25 years on death row and numerous appeals, he has had 5 dates set for his execution. Barring any unexpected delays or stays, however, it is highly likely that he will be executed this time on March 29, 2012.

The other death row inmate who’s execution was set, is that of Carey Dale Grayson which is now set for April 12, 2012.

Grayson, who was 19 years old in 1994, with 3 other teenagers was traveling on Interstate 59 in north Alabama when he picked up a lady hitchhiker. Vicki DeBlieux, 37 was enroute from Chattanooga, Tennessee to West Monroe, Louisiana to see hr mother there. They promised to take her to her mother’s home, but rather drove to a wooded area where they attempted to have sexual relations with her. When she rebuffed their sexual advances, they beat her with beer bottles, kicked and stomped her and threw her over a cliff. Later, three returned and disemboweled her and cut off her fingers to try and hide her identification. They kept the fingers as souvenirs. They were soon caught when the youngest one began showing others one of her fingers. Grayson and one other were sentenced to death and the other two were given life imprisonment. Grayson is now due to be executed on April 18.

Executed inmates last week diary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1991, Robert Charles Towery concocted a plan: with his friend Randy Barker, he would kill a man who had lent him money in the past, and rob the man’s house of its jewellery and cash.
When the body of Mark Jones was found, a witness came forward to say he had seen the men dump Jones’ car. Barker, who testified against Towery, was given 10 years. Towery was sentenced to death.
A day after Towery’s execution at the Arizona state prison in Florence, his attorney has released letters the killer wrote to him from Death Row during his last month alive.
They give a chilling insight into the thoughts of a man locked up for 20 years – from the ‘humiliating’ strip searches to his first taste of orange juice in years and his first sighting of an iPhone.
Robert Charles Towery
Robert Charles Towery
Inmate: Robert Charles Towery, 47, was executed on Thursday for the 1991 murder and robbery of Mark Jones. While on death row, he wrote daily to his attorney, who has released the chilling letters
They show his affection for cellmate Robert Moormann, a killer prosecutors claimed was mentally-disabled, and who Towery saw as a gentle man who did not understand his fate.
The letters – written and posted daily to his attorney Dale Baich – also reveal the steps he took to prepare for his death, including rehearsing his final words and the journey to his holding cell.
Excerpts of the letters, seen by the Arizona Republic, outline the daily torments Towery suffered, such as the discomfort he felt around female guards.
‘They stripped me out with a female officer present,’ he wrote on February 3. ‘Now, personally, I’m not the shy type, but having a female officer on death watch is just one more humiliation.’
Later that month, he added: ‘WORST NIGHT YET! We have a female on watch! Which I think is completely inappropriate! I don’t have an issue with women working the prison, or anywhere.
‘But, in a situation like this when you can’t go to the bathroom without someone being 10 feet away staring at you, it’s just not right.’
Despite the occasional irritation, Towery is upbeat and good-natured – a seemingly far cry from the man capable of committing murder two decades earlier.
Chamber: Towery was executed in Arizona State Prison, pictured. The day before his death, he wrote of his excitement at being given orange juice and trousers with a zip and button

Chamber: Towery was executed in Arizona State Prison, pictured. The day before his death, he wrote of his excitement at being given orange juice and trousers with a zip and button
He expresses his excitement at being given a pair of trousers with a button and zip, and finds humour in the fact that his prison guards fall asleep, with him watching them.
‘Good for them!’ he wrote on February 15. ‘I’m sure this has to be stressful to them. So a moment’s relaxation is well earned. I also enjoy the irony… Exactly who is watching whom?’

WHY WAS HE ON DEATH ROW?

In the weeks leading up to their crime in 1991, Robert Towery and Randy Barker discussed robbing philanthropist Mark Jones because Towery – who had borrowed money from Jones in the past – knew he had cash.
According to Barker’s testimony, the men went to Jones’s home claiming their car had broken down and they needed to use his phone.
Towery then pulled a gun out while Barker handcuffed him, before the duo loaded Jones’ car with electronics, jewelery, credit cards and cash.
They marched him to his bedroom at gunpoint where Towery attempted to inject the victim’s arm with battery acid.
When that did not work, he strangled him with plastic ties, making two separate nooses. Barker hovered over the men with a gun in his hand, watching as Towery committed the murder.
Jones’ body was found the next day. The men were caught when a security guard said he had seen them dump the vehicle at an apartment complex.
As part of a plea deal for testifying against Towery, Barker received just ten years and was released in 2001. Towery was sentenced to death and appeals were rejecte
In an earlier letter, he becomes excited about his relatively comfortably surroundings.
‘One more observation, and for me, it’s a good one!!’ he writes. ‘I have not seen a single roach, water bug, scorpion, stink beetle or spider. Woo-hoo!! Over on the other side I lived next to the rec pen and I went on Safari daily!’
Yet he is unable to stay positive while on the subject of the fate of his cellmate Robert Moormann.
Moormann was executed by lethal injection after kidnapping and sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl and killing and dismembering his adoptive mother, whom had allegedly abused him as a boy.
His lawyers had argued that Moormann had the mental capacity of a small child.
In a letter to Baich on February 12, Towery likened Moormann to Lenny from John Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men, the mentally handicapped gentle giant who does not understand the consequences of his murderous actions.
An inmate can not be put to death if they have an IQ lower than 70 in Arizona law. His defense claimed his was between 70 and 94, while a doctor for the prosecution said he had an IQ of 94.
‘Bob is one of the meekest, polite and quiet man I have ever met. I truly believe they are committing a crime against nature if they execute him,’ Towery wrote.
‘He knows he committed a horrific crime. I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you from knowing Bob for nearly 20 years now, he doesn’t really get it.
‘He is guilty, no doubt, but there is no way he is culpable in it. His stepmother and what she did to him broke him in a way that made him a man-child.’
Final journey: Towery was taken to the main prison, pictured, by a group of guards the night before his death. He wrote that it was 'cool' to watch one officer 'with what I assume was an iPhone'

Final journey: Towery was taken to the main prison, pictured, by a group of guards the night before his death. He wrote that it was ‘cool’ to watch one officer ‘with what I assume was an iPhone’
On the day Moormann was executed, Towery simply wrote: ‘Bob is gone. May God forgive them.’
The following week, Towery began preparing for his own death. On March 7, Towery was taken to Housing Unit 9 in the main prison, where Arizona carries out executions by lethal injection.
In an entry made the night before he died, he was upbeat as he recounted the journey to the cell, including his change of clothes – and the excitement at the button and zipper.
‘We rode over here,’ he wrote, adding he had been told to think about his final words. ‘Nice ride, and they kept up the small talk. It was cool watching one of the COs with what I assume was an iPhone.’
On the morning of his execution, one final entry said: ‘I was given a doughnut and a fairly large container. The orange juice was great! (First orange juice I’ve had in I don’t know how long!) The doughnut was prison issue. Enough said.’
Moormann and Towery
Moormann and Towery
Cellmates: Towery, right, was put in a cell with Bob Moormann, left. He described the mentally-retarded killer, who was killed eight days before him, as ‘one of the meekest, polite and quiet men I have ever met’
Closing the letter, he wrote to Baich: ‘I just want to say thank you. Thank you all for the kindness. Take care. God bless.’
Although not documented in his letters, Towery was given a last meal of porterhouse steak, jacket potato and sour cream, asparagus, mushrooms, clam chowder, milk, Pepsi and apple pie a la mode.
Before he died, he broke down in tears, apologised to Jones’s family and his own family, and said his life had been one mistake after another.
‘I would like to apologize to Mark’s family and friends for what I did to them. I would like to apologize to my family,’ he said.
‘So many times in my life I went left when I should have gone right and I went right when I should have gone left. It was mistake after mistake.’
According to the Arizona Republic, he looked at his family and began crying, before adding: ‘I love my family. Potato, potato, potato.’
Waiting for death: Towery is upbeat in the letters - even on the day of his death - but hated being watched in the shower by female guards

Waiting for death: Towery, pictured, remains surprisingly positive and upbeat in the letters – even on the day of his death – but hated being watched in the shower by female guards, calling it ‘humiliating’
Murder: He had been sentenced to death for strangling and robbing Mark Jones in Paradise Valley, Arizona

Murder: He had been sentenced to death for strangling and robbing Mark Jones in Paradise Valley, Arizona
In the 1991 robbery and murder, Towery and Barker had gone to Jones’s home claiming their car had broken down and they needed to use his phone.
Towery then pulled a gun out while Barker handcuffed him, before the duo loaded Jones’ car with electronics, jewelery, credit cards and cash.
They marched him to his bedroom at gunpoint where Towery attempted to inject the victim’s arm with battery acid. When that did not work, he strangled him with plastic ties, making two separate nooses.
Jones’ body was found the next day. The men were caught when a security guard said he had seen them dump the vehicle at an apartment complex.
Barker was given a plea deal for testifying against Towery and was released from jail in 2001.
In attempts for a reprieve, Towery’s attorneys said the court did not consider mitigating factors, such as an abusive childhood at the hands of his mother and drug abuse.

THE WORDS OF A KILLER: ROBERT TOWERY’S LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW

Feb 2: And so it begins… First let me apologize for the messiness of these first letters as I was not allowed my reading glasses as they had a crack in them and I was holding them lens in with tape. So I can’t see. […] Furthermore, I was not given my watch, so for the most part, all times will be best guesses.
6 a.m. They came to my cell, stripped me out and then took me to the shift commander’s office where I waited for about 20 min for everyone to show up. […]
The unit warden began to read the warrant only to discover they were missing pages, So I offered my copy and they sent a (correctional officer) to my cell who brought back the box containing my copy. In the meantime, the unit warden went over the changes in my confinement. How I could have access to indigent supplies, and could have one box of legal work/personal papers, and one religious box. For everything else I would have to put in a written request. […]
At noon […] they took me back to medical where the nurse went over my daily meds with me and how the meds, which have been coming to me in monthly supply packs for fifteen years or so are somehow now so dangerous that the nurse has to bring them to me every morning on a “watch swallow basis.” […]
A few notes about my cell. They have a TV pushed up in front of the cell, so looking through the holes (in the security screen) is difficult at best, and nauseating/vertigo inducing to the point where I really just want to listen to it, but there is a problem there. The earbud extension they stretch through the hole barely reaches to the table, a good five or six feet short of the bunk.[…]
Feb 3: 6:30 a.m. They asked me if I wanted rec or a shower. I asked for a shower. They stripped me out with a female officer present. (Now, personally, I’m not the shy type, but having a female officer on death watch is just one more humiliation.) Anywho, as I came out the nurse was there to take my vitals. […] they also took my temperature and pulse. Don’t know why they were.
So I take a shower with the generic soap and shampoo they provide. I asked about conditioner, there is none. […] so after my shower I asked for a palm brush. No. Asked for a comb. There isn’t one. […] So I told them I could just use the clippers and shave my head. No big deal to me. If I can’t take care of my hair properly, I’d rather shave it. I usually do for the summer. […]
Approx 9:00 a.m. or so, psych dr came in and asked me if I was alright. I told him I was all good and sent him on his way.
Approx 11:00 a.m., assistant deputy warden woke me up with “I heard you wanted to shave your head.” (I guess the COs made it sound like I was flipping out when I was completely calm. Long hair, bald, I’m fine with either.) […]
The feeling of complete helplessness and hopelessness grows by the hour because of the way all of this is done. Every time you want to blow your nose or go to the bathroom you have to ask for toilet paper. […] 3:00 p.m. (approx) the psych nurse just came with the same questions. Are you suicidal? Homicidal? Anything you want to talk about? […]
No way I can work out without my knee braces, shoes, ankle sleeves, all the things my busted old body needs. Oh, and motivation. Don’t have that either to be honest.
Feb. 12: 5:00 a.m. Oh my gosh! Now a nurse is in here. Bob [Moormann] was feeling a bit out of it (his blood sugar), so she’s come in to check. He is speaking in ultra-hushed tones, and she is practically yelling, “What? I can’t hear you Mr. Moormann, I’m really hard of hearing.”
Look at Bob. As I was saying on the phone, Bob is one of the meekest, polite and quiet man I have ever met. I truly believe they are committing a crime against nature if they execute him. He doesn’t get this. Sure, he knows right from wrong. He knows they are going to kill him. He knows he committed a horrific crime. Sure. But he knows these things as a child does. I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you from knowing Bob for nearly 20 years now, he doesn’t really get it. He is guilty, no doubt, but there is no way he is culpable in it. What I mean is, he should have been in a hospital from the very beginning. His stepmother and what she did to him broke him in a way that made him a man-child. I liken him to Lenny in the old book Of Mice and Men.
6:33 a.m. My weight, 221, officially 10 lbs lost since coming here on the 2nd. My B.P. was 138/80. I have my phone call with [blacked out] at 10:15 and a visit at 11:00 a.m. Woo hoo!!! Today is going to be a great day!!
Feb. 13: Oh! One more observation, and for me, it’s a good one!! I have not seen a single roach, water bug, scorpion, stink beetle or spider. Woo-hoo!! Over on the other side I lived next to the rec pen and I went on Safari daily!
Feb. 15: Okay, this is funny. Exactly who is watching whom? I’m sitting here watching the news, and happen to glance up to see both COs with their chins on their chests and their eyes closed. Good for them! Second to the stress I feel, my family feels and of course the stress you’ll feel, I’m sure this has to be stressful to them too. So a moment’s relaxation is well earned. I also enjoy the irony.
Feb. 16: 8:50 a.m. They just called an ICS. Something is wrong with Bob. He had told the nurse this morning that he had problems sleeping last night, and then he was throwing up and barely responsive. They took him to medical in a wheelchair, and the officer went in and cleaned up his cell.
10:14 a.m. It just came across the radio. Bob is leaving the unit to go to the hospital.
Feb. 18: 4:16 p.m. They just brought Bob back in a wheelchair!! He’s been up at medical the last two hours, but I don’t have any details yet. What amazes me is that he can barely walk or respond, and still they make him come to the front of his cell after they close the door to remove his restraints.
Feb. 21: 6:40 p.m. Bob called and asked me what ya’ll had to say from today’s [federal court] hearing. I let him know we figured about right as to Judge [Neil] Wake’s position. But I told him that if Wake rules tonight or tomorrow against us, that we will appeal to the 9th [U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals]. He asked me, “Then who will give a stay?” I told him it would be up to the 9th. He said, “Yeah, but what judge will give me a stay?” and I told him we would have a 3 judge panel most likely and they would rule on the injunction. He said “Okay, you know I don’t understand this legal stuff. I’m sorry if I bothered you.” I told him it was no bother and he could call me any time. He’s so lost!
Feb. 27: 6:09 p.m. WORST NIGHT YET! […] They just did shift change and we have a female on watch! Which I think is completely inappropriate! I don’t have an issue with women working the prison, or anywhere, generally. But, in a situation like this when you can’t go to the bathroom without someone being 10 feet away staring at you, it’s just not right.
Feb. 28: Bob is gone. May God forgive them.
March 1: 6:52 a.m. The Sgt. asked me what happened with Bob, and of course I told him I wasn’t here when they took Bob out. He said that apparently Bob started freaking out and made himself sick. I think his system just wasn’t used to the food and two pints of ice cream.
March 2: The hearing went as I expected. […] My sisters were amazing, but the board had no intention of granting clemency. […]
The staff was visibly upset by it. They remained professional, but they were clearly affected. They are human after all.
March 7: Hey now! I hope this, my last log finds you doing great! As for myself? Well, things are about as I imagined. They showed up at about 10:20 p.m. to strip me out. They did the whole naked dance and the squat and cough. Then they gave me a pair of boxers and a pair of deck shoes. I was grabbed on both sides, firmly, but not roughly. I was taken to the boss chair, and from there I was taken to a day cell, given a pair of socks, t-shirt, and a pair of pants with A BUTTON + ZIPPER!! Woo-hoo!!
Anywho, I was then put in a belly chain, shackles and then led out to a waiting van. Again, I went nowhere without hands on me. Even when they were putting the cuffs on, someone was holding my arm. We rode over here. Nice ride, and they kept up the small talk. It was cool watching one of the COs with what I assume was an iPhone.
Once arriving here, they ushered me in. All the while they are telling me they will be respectful and ask that I be. The warden warned me about my final words. I’ve been told that I should think about my statement and that he will (or someone will) rehearse it with me in the morning.
One more thing: there are four officers watching me, carrying on conversations and two are female. AND I’M SUPPOSED TO SLEEP?!
The two female officers disappeared around the corner, so I took the opportunity to urinate. But they came right back. The male officer said I was using the restroom, and the response was, “I work in an all male prison.” True, but still, there can be respect! Then I had to ask for some soap and a towel. I was given a bar of soap and one paper towel. And had to give them back!!
March 8: 7:00 a.m. Good morning! Well, I actually slept well. I woke up about 5:00 a.m. I was given a doughnut and a fairly large container. […] The orange juice was great! (First orange juice I’ve had in I don’t know how long!) The doughnut was prison issue. Enough said.
I just finished my visit with Deacon Ed and receiving communion. Now I’m just waiting for y’all, at which point I’m going to give you my legal work and my Bible. Please give my Bible to [name blacked out].
As this is my last entry, I just want to say thank you. Thank you all for the kindness. Please give everyone my best and know that I will carry y’all on my lips to God.
My best wishes to you all.
Take care.
May God Bless!!
Sincerely,
Robert Charles Towery

Wrongful convictions: One of Florida’s greatest shames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Dillon

Testimony from now-discredited dog handler John Preston helped convict William Dillon (above in 2008) and others. (George Skene, Orlando Sentinel file)

 

Last week, Florida finally made amends for wrongly imprisoning a Brevard County man for 27 years.

With cameras rolling, Gov. Rick Scott apologized to Bill Dillon for the corrupt process that led to his conviction and signed a bill compensating Dillon with $50,000 for each year stolen from his life.

It was justice due … and delayed.

Yet this ugly chapter of Florida’s history is not over. Because dozens of other men were also convicted by the same fraudulent witness who helped imprison Dillon.

And the state isn’t doing a thing to right those wrongs.

In fact, as Dillon drove home from Tallahassee on Friday, he was unable to revel in the end of his three-decade-long nightmare. Instead, he found himself thinking about all the others whose cases were never properly vetted.

“They deserve to have their cases checked out,” he said. “My goodness, they deserve at least that much.”

They are the dozens of men also convicted with the help of John Preston.

Preston was a dog handler — the guy Brevard County authorities called in the 1980s when they couldn’t make a case legitimately.

Preston who would say whatever they wanted him to.

He once claimed that his German shepherd picked up a suspect’s scent in the middle of a lake. Another time, he claimed the dog caught a scent in the middle of a busy highway — months after the crime had been committed.

No other dogs could do such things. And it turned out that Preston’s couldn’t either.

A judge later exposed him as a fraud. In a court-supervised test, the dog could do virtually none of what Preston had claimed.

The judge would later say that Preston, now deceased, was retained “to confirm the state’s preconceived notions about cases.”

As horrifying as that may sound — that cops and prosecutors knowingly conspired to use bad evidence to convict people — it was actually pretty simple.

Most of the cases involved horrendous crimes, such as rapes and murders. In Dillon’s case, a man had been stabbed to death and his body left in the woods. Jurors were eager to make someone pay — and ready to believe anyone who would help them do that.

Along with the bogus testimony from Preston, Brevard authorities also relied upon witnesses who would later be discredited as well. (Two recanted their testimony. One had sex with an investigator.)

“I never got over how easy it was for them to do it,” Dillon recalled Friday. “Or how long it took for them to be found out.”

After Preston was exposed, some of the men began filing appeals with the help of nonprofit groups such as the Innocence Project.

So far, three men whom Preston helped convict have been freed from prison — after spending, collectively, more than 50 years behind bars.

An appeal is under way for a fourth.

Dillon and justice advocates are convinced there are more.

But Florida officials have never conducted a comprehensive investigation into all of Preston’s old cases.

Instead, they have relied on individual defendants to file their own appeals … something that took Dillon and one of the other exonerees more than two decades on their own.

State Attorney Norm Wolfinger turned his back on this matter long ago. Former Gov. Charlie Crist did the same.

The promise was supposed to rest with Attorney General Pam Bondi. When campaigning, she vowed to look into all of the Preston cases — for the sake of those still behind bars, as well as those who served their sentences but still carry the stain of a felony conviction.

No one wanted Bondi or anyone else to push for mass exonerations — just to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into all of the cases in which Preston was involved.

But after Bondi got elected, her interest waned.

It’s probably not surprising. The plight of the wrongfully convicted isn’t sexy. Their lobby isn’t powerful. The volunteer activists and lawyers don’t cut campaign checks.

And rarely does the public champion the cause.

Fighting for the wrongly convicted is simply the right thing to do … which apparently isn’t reason enough.

Dillon said Friday that he was heartened by Gov. Scott’s full-throated apology on behalf of a state that did him wrong.

So perhaps Scott can do what all the others have not: call for a thorough investigation to study the legitimacy of all of the Preston convictions.

And maybe members of the public one day will encourage him to do so — and for Bondi to keep her word.

For I’m reminded of the comment from Martin Luther King: “The problems today are not the evil actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good.”

You can reach Scott’s office at 850-488-7146 or flgov.com/contact-gov-scott and Bondi’s office at 850-414-3300 or myfloridalegal.com/contact.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-scott-maxwell-dillon-wrongful-conviction-030412-20120303,0,3502561,full.column

Walking tour of Jeffrey Dahmer’s hunting grounds causes backlash in Milwaukee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A planned walking tour of the Milwaukee haunts where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer trolled for victims has drawn protests from victims’ family members and others, prompting online deal-maker Groupon to cancel its promotion for discounted tickets.

Critics of the tour, including family members of some of the young men Dahmer murdered, say the it is an attempt to exploit an ugly part of the city’s history and want it stopped before the first sightseers hit the sidewalks.

But tour-organizer Bam Marketing and Media has said it’s not deterred. Each of the company’s first two trips through the Walker’s Point neighborhood, scheduled for Saturday, had nearly reached the 20-person capacity by Thursday, said spokeswoman Amanda Morden.

Walker’s Point Association president Victor Ray said Saturday, or any day in the near future, is too soon. Dahmer’s crimes are just two decades old and many of his victims’ family members are still around, he said.

“I just don’t think this is the right timing,” Ray said. “And a tour of the area is not the right thing to do. It’s sensationalism in its finest.”

Dahmer, a chocolate factory worker, spent years frequenting Walker’s Point-area gay bars. He was arrested in 1991 and admitted killing 17 young men, some of whom he mutilated and cannibalized. He was serving life prison sentences when a fellow inmate beat him to death in 1994.

The apartment building where Dahmer stored body parts eventually was razed. Walker’s Point now sits in the middle of a revitalized section of Milwaukee, with new restaurants and bars in remodeled buildings that once housed the bars where Dahmer went.

Ray said most of dozens of emails he’s received this week have criticized the tour, and there are plans by victims’ relatives and others to protest the first tour Saturday afternoon. Ray said one victim’s mother specifically asked for his group’s help.

“She said ‘Do what you can to stop it,’” Ray said. The woman did not want to be interviewed by reporters.

Morden said Friday they still plan to hold the tour, but she has spoken to police and they will be present. She said they will allow tour-goers to attend another tour if they don’t want to deal with the protesters and expected media, but no one has rescheduled or canceled.

“I fully respect and expect people to utilize their right to peacefully assemble,” she said.

Morden said the Bam Marketing is sensitive to victims’ families, but has not sought their feedback.

“We are not being evasive in any way,” she said. “If there is a concern we would be happy to address it.”

Morden said her group hopes to put a plaque with the victims’ names on one of the businesses in the area as a memorial. She also said a portion of the tour profits will be donated to charity, although a specific one hasn’t been chosen.

Ray called it a token gesture.

“I don’t think that’s going to make a difference to the community,” he said.

Ray met tour group representatives Thursday in hopes of persuading them to call off their plans. But Morden said the group is offering a legitimate look at Dahmer’s crimes from a historical perspective, rather than with macabre fascination.

Groupon had earlier this week offered two tour tickets for $25, instead of the normal $60, for what it called a 1-mile, 90-minute “spine-chilling glimpse” into Dahmer’s life. Only 15 tickets sold before the daily-deal website closed the promotion. Spokesman Nicholas Halliwell said in an emailed statement that it was never Groupon’s intention to offend anyone.

It’s not unusual for gruesome crimes to become part of a city’s lore and draw. There are tours in London about Jack the Ripper, in Los Angeles about Charles Manson, and in Boston about the Boston Strangler.

But the VISIT Milwaukee tourism group won’t be promoting Dahmer.

“We don’t need to give notoriety to an individual like Jeffrey Dahmer who did painful and hurtful things and did nothing to further the community’s image,” spokeswoman Jeannine Sherman said.

Morden, though, compared the tour to a book or documentary, just in a different format.

“Whether we like it or not it’s part of our city’s history,” she said. “It’s part of our nation’s history.”

Sara Drescher, who manages a pub in the neighborhood, sees more of a gray area. She said she supports people being able to start a business but not at the expense of victims’ families.

“It’s a difficult thing, and I don’t know the right way for it to be handled,” she said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/walking-tour-of-jeffrey-dahmers-hunting-grounds-causes-backlash-in-milwaukee/2012/03/02/gIQAjpn7lR_story.html