Showing posts with label Injustice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Injustice. Show all posts

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Emmett Till: Murdered in Mississippi

Warning: This article contains graphic pictures and racial epithets.

Emmett Till 1954
August 24, 1955. Money, Mississippi. It's late afternoon when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago schoolboy, enters Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market to buy candy. Emmett is visiting relatives in the area and is unaware of the racial tension in the southern states.

What happens next leads to torture, murder and an unparalleled scrutiny of racism across the Mississippi delta. The incident, in a small grocery store in a rural backwater, generates newspaper headlines across the country, galvanizes public opinion and ignites the fledgling civil rights movement.

And it begins with a young black boy who just wants to buy some gum.

Behind the counter in Bryant's Store on this particular day is Carolyn, 21, wife of store owner, Roy Bryant. Roy, away for a couple of days in Texas, often leaves his capable young wife to run the business. The drama begins, according to Carolyn, at around 4.00 pm, when Emmett Till enters the store but doesn't ask for anything, he just grabs her hand and says, "How about a date?"

The young woman, shocked by the approach, frees herself from the boy's grasp and walks away. Emmett follows her to the cash register and grabs her around the waist. The 14-year-old schoolboy then says, "What's the matter baby, can't you take it. You needn't be afraid of me. I've been with white women before."

Emmett Till's cousin, Simeon Wright, who enters the store less than a minute after Emmett, says: "There was no inappropriate behavior and no lecherous conversation. Emmett paid for his items and we left the store together."

Carolyn Bryant 1955
In 2006, the FBI, re-investigating the case, find evidence that another customer in the store at the time of the alleged confrontation, confirms Simeon Wright's version of events. Emmett Till simply enters the store, purchases an item and then leaves with his cousin.

However, whatever supposedly occurs inside the store now spills out on to the street when Carolyn runs outside to retrieve a pistol from her car. Why she needs a weapon to deal with a 14-year-old schoolboy is never explained.

She then alleges that Emmett Till wolf-whistles in her direction. It is, of course, quite possible that the schoolboy did whistle at her in a disrespectful manner. He was, apparently, a feisty young man, who did not lack confidence. However, according to the 2006 FBI investigation, it is more likely he was whistling towards a group of his friends playing on the opposite side of the road.

Whoever it was aimed at, that single whistle sets off a chain of events that defies belief.

Four days later, at 2:00 am on the morning of August 28, 1955, three men, two white, one black, arrive at Mose Wright's house, where Emmett Till is staying. Under cover of darkness, the schoolboy is taken away at gunpoint.

Mose Wright contacts the Leflore County Sheriff about Emmett's early morning abduction. That afternoon, both Roy Bryant and his half brother, John Milam, are arrested and jailed on charges of kidnapping.

On August 31, Emmett Till's bloated and battered body is recovered from the Tallahatchie River. His head is badly damaged, parts of it beaten to a bloody pulp. He has a gunshot wound above his right ear and his right eye has been gouged out.

His naked body shows evidence of a beating to the back and hips with a blunt instrument. A heavy fan blade, tied by barbed wire to his neck, has weighed the body down to keep it submerged. There is no doubt that Emmett Till has been tortured, pistol-whipped and then shot in the head.

He is only identified by the silver ring he is wearing. The Delta-Democrat Times, a local Mississippi newspaper, reports that the body may not be Till's and suggests that the boy may have been hidden by relatives or even returned to Chicago for his safety.

As the gravity of the crime slowly unfolds, the tone of the local newspapers begins to change from mitigation to condemnation. Several newspapers call for the authorities to conduct "a vigorous conviction."

The Vicksburg Evening Post prints several letters to the editor expressing shame at the people who have caused Till's death. One reads, "Now is the time for every citizen who loves the state of Mississippi to stand up and be counted before hoodlum white trash brings us to destruction."

Mamie Till Bradley addressing the media
Meanwhile, the authorities prepare Emmett Till's body for burial in Mississippi. But Mamie Till Bradley, Emmett's mother, is never going to agree to that. She halts the burial and calls several local and state authorities in Illinois and Mississippi to make sure her son is returned to Chicago.

She insists on an open casket funeral so the true extent of the horrifying crime can be seen by everybody.

Photographs of Emmett Till's mutilated body are printed in Chicago newspapers making international news and directing attention to the rights of black people in the southern states. Thousands of people line the Chicago street outside the mortuary to view Emmett's body and thousands more attend his funeral. He is buried on September 6, 1955, at Burr oak Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.

Roy Bryant (L) -  John Milam (R)
On September 7, 1955, Roy Bryant and John Milam, are indicted for the kidnap and murder of Emmett Till. A conviction on either charge could result in the death penalty for both men.

Prosecuting attorney, Hamilton Caldwell, is not confident of gaining a conviction, particularly as there will be an all white jury, who will be looking for any excuse to acquit the defendants.

Caldwell's view is underscored when Tallahatchie County Sheriff, Clarence Strider, who initially identified Emmett Till's body and stated that the case against Bryant and Milam was "pretty good", now announces his doubts that the body pulled from the river is even Till's. He now thinks Emmett Till is probably still alive, and that a stolen cadaver was planted in the river by black radicals.

The whitewash begins.

The Jury, Sumner court room, Sept. 1955
The trial opens on September 19, 1955. in the town of Sumner, Mississippi. More than seventy reporters and photographers crowd into the small court room. Mose Wright and Mamie Till Bradley both testify for the prosecution.

They are both convincing witnesses.

Several more witnesses testify to hearing whipping and hollering from inside a barn on the morning it is believed that Emmett Till was murdered.

The defense strategy is to question whether the body pulled from the river is even that of Emmett Till, who they suggest is probably still alive. Defense counsel admits that Bryant and Milam took Emmett from Mose Wright's house (they couldn't argue against that, given the strength of the evidence) but insist they released him unarmed.

Sheriff Strider 1955
Sheriff Clarence Strider testifies that he thought the body pulled out of the river had been there "from ten to fifteen days", far too long for it to have been Emmett Till's body. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Bryant and Milam, it is this single sentence, as predicted by State Prosecutor, Hamilton Caldwell, that gives the jury the opportunity to acquit the two defendants.

The twelve good men and true are out for just 67 minutes; unsurprisingly, they return a verdict of "Not Guilty." On November 9, 1955, a Leflore grand jury refuses to indict Bryant and Milam on kidnapping charges, and the two men are released from custody.

And then the smear campaign starts. The Jackson Daily News reports facts about Emmett Till's father that has been suppressed by the U.S. Military. While serving in Italy, Louis Till raped two women and killed a third. He was court-martialed and hanged near Pisa in July 1945. Mamie Till and the family know nothing about this, having been told by the army that Louis had been killed for "wilful misconduct."

The story remains on the Mississippi newspapers front pages for several weeks. It is a blatant attempt to blacken Emmett Till's character by suggesting he was prone to a genetic instinct to violence. It does not change the fact that a young boy was brutally murdered and justice was not done.

In later interviews, jurors acknowledge that they knew Bryant and Milam were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but did not believe that life imprisonment or the death penalty a fit punishment for whites who killed a black man.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly in northern cities, attend rallies protesting the verdict. Southern newspapers, particularly those in Mississippi, state that the court system has done its job. The difference of opinion between the northern and southern states is palpable.

If you have never heard Emmett Till's story before reading this article, what do you think happened to Roy Bryant and John Milam? Did they confirm the court's verdict by continuing to protest their innocence? Did they perhaps offer a shred of sympathy to the bereaved mother of Emmett Till, who had lost her son in such a traumatic fashion?

No, they didn't.

John W. Millam 1955
Just three months after being acquitted of kidnapping and brutally murdering a 14-year-old schoolboy, they gave an interview to Look Magazine and were paid the princely sum of $4000 each.

Protected by the rules of "Double Jeopardy" (they cannot be tried twice for the same crime) the two men admit to killing Emmett Till and then go on to describe exactly how they did it, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the courts had not done their job.

Ex-soldier, John Milam, states that his intention is to "...just whip him, and scare some sense into him." And Big John Milam knows exactly where to take the boy.

Over at Rosedale, the Big River bends around under a bluff. The idea was to "...stand him up their on the bluff, whip him with the colt .45, shine a light on him and make him think we were going to push him in the river. Because that's what happens to smart niggers. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights."

But the Chicago schoolboy stood up to them. He didn't think they had the guts to kill him. And the two men didn't like that. Milam says, "We were never able to scare him." So they pistol-whipped him with their .45's instead, both men taking it turn to smash the guns across the boy's head. Pistol-whipping prisoners is a court martial offense in the army, but that didn't seem to bother these two upstanding southern gentlemen.

Roy Bryant 1955
And still Emmett didn't cry out. According to Milam and Bryant, all the boy said was, "You bastards. I'm not afraid of you."

Roy Bryant continues the story: "Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I'm no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers - in their place - I know how to work 'em. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are going to stay in their place. And then I just made up my mind. Chicago boy, I said, I'm going to make an example of you."

And they surely did that. First, they make him carry a 74 pound ginning fan; he staggers under the weight of it. Then they order him to strip naked before attaching the fan to his neck with a piece of barbed wire.

Having concluded their brutal assault, they shoot Till above his right ear and roll him into twenty feet of water. Seventy-two hours later and eight miles down river, a group of boys out fishing see two bloated feet sticking up out of the water. Sheriff Clarence Strider identifies the body as Emmett Till. Realizing the implications, he tries to get the body buried that same day, ordering Till's Mississippi relatives to "...get the body into the ground by nightfall."

Emmett Till's mother, Mamie, makes sure that does not happen.  

In 1957, an unsuccessful attempt is made to assassinate Sheriff Strider, whose perjured testimony and overt racist behavior helps pervert the course of justice. He later tries to justify his actions, "The last thing I wanted to do was defend those peckerwoods. But I just had no choice about it."

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, 42-year-old Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger. She is quoted as saying, "I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn't go back."

John William Milam dies of cancer in 1980, at the age of 61. His passing goes unnoticed.

Roy Bryant's Store 1955
In 1992, Roy Bryant is interviewed about his involvement in the murder. Unaware that Emmett's mother, Mamie, is listening in another room he blithely states that Emmett Till ruined his life. He expresses no remorse and then says, "Emmett Till is dead. I don't know why he can't just stay dead."

In 1994, at the age of 63, Roy Bryant dies of cancer. Nobody mourns his passing.

In 2006, the FBI reopens the case. They exhume Emmett Till's remains and confirm his identity beyond any doubt. Agents also believe that a third person may have been involved in the murder of the Chicago schoolboy. The investigation is ongoing.

In 2007, Tallahatchie County issue a formal apology to Emmett Till's family. It reads: "We the citizens of Tallahatchie County recognize that the Emmett Till case was a terrible miscarriage of justice. We state candidly and with deep regret the failure to pursue justice. We wish to say to the family of Emmett Till that we are profoundly sorry for what was done in this community to your loved one."

Mamie remarries and lives happily with Gene Mobley until his death in 1999. 
She dies of heart failure, aged 81, in 2003.

She does not live long enough to hear the apology.

Emmett Till (1941-1955)

Murdered in Mississippi.


Pictures and information courtesy of: (American Experience)

The Emmett Till Murder Trial: A Chronology.
Douglas O. Linder

Life Magazine

Look Magazine (1955 ed.)

BBC News

Tallahatchie County Archives

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Krishna Maharaj and The Cocaine Cowboys*

Dupont Plaza Hotel, Miami 19  
October 16, 1986. 12:25 pm. Emergency services respond to a 911 call and arrive at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami.

Hotel security staff inform police officers that during a routine sweep of the hotel, they found two bloodied bodies in a room on the top floor. Officers race up to the twelfth floor and enter room 1215 to find a horrific murder scene.

Father and son Derrick and Duane Moo Young appear to be the victims of an execution. Derrick has been shot in the head and body several times and Duane, 23, has been shot once in the head and has a single gunshot wounds to his left leg, indicating that he may also have been tortured. Miami Police describe the father and son as 'impoverished businessmen'.

Derrick and Duane Moo Young

The Case for the Prosecution

Within hours of the murders, a man named Neville Butler leads police to British national Krishna Maharaj, a millionaire fruit importer who regularly travels from Britain to spend winters in Miami.

Maharaj is arrested and taken into custody. He states that he knows nothing about the murders and claims to have been thirty miles away in Fort Lauderdale.

However, in the weeks that follow, a detailed police investigation reveals that not only does Krishna Maharaj know the two businessmen, he also has a business arrangement with them. Police are told that Derrick Moo Young has embezzled more than $160,000 from Maharaj.

Police find Krishna Maharaj's left hand fingerprints in room 1215 (indicating that the perpetrator was wearing a single glove on his right hand) and then Neville Butler tells police he was actually in the room when the murders happened and states that the British businessman pulled the trigger. Butler believes he was lucky to get away with his own life and tells police that Maharaj is the only person he knows who has a motive to kill Derrick and Duane Moo Young.

Neville Butler's statement is damning. Unfortunately, the police do not recover the murder weapon.

Krishna Maharaj 1987
But they do have a motive, fingerprints in the hotel room and an eyewitness; with the weight of evidence in their possession, police investigators believe they have an open and shut case and charge Krishna Maharaj with two counts of first degree murder.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Maharaj still maintains his innocence. He produces six witnesses who claim he was thirty miles away when the murders occurred. One of the witnesses insists she has evidence to prove Krishna Maharaj was with her and several other people at the exact time of the murders. Police are unimpressed with this attempt at an alibi and now disbelieve everything Maharaj says. They do not interview any of the defence witnesses who have come forward.

The 48-year-old businessman goes on trial on October 5, 1987. The jury is told about scientific evidence regarding fingerprints, ballistics, business records and statements the defendant made to police. Then the prosecution lawyer makes his point; "All the evidence points to the defendant and nobody else as the killer of Derrick Moo Young and Duane Moo Young. These two men were executed by the defendant who was a business partner in KDM, a corporation that dealt with import and export."

Having been described as "impoverished businessmen" by Miami police, the Moo Young's business accounts are revealed to the jury. The accounts show total earnings of less than $25,000 per year.

Despite his claims of innocence, Krishna Maharaj faces a mountain of damning evidence. Witness after witness testifies against him, including several Miami police officers. He is even starting to sound paranoid when he tells his defence lawyer that he thinks the judge is deliberately confusing the evidence to sway the jury. His protestations are waved away.

And then a very strange thing happens. On October 8, 1987, three days into the trial, 48-year-old presiding Judge Howard Gross is arrested at his home. He is charged with taking a $20,000 bribe from undercover officers investigating the Medellin drugs cartel.

With Judge Gross under arrest, it is not clear why Krishna Maharaj's defence counsel does not request a re-trial.

Something is beginning to smell and it is an odour that will eventually turn into an overwhelming stench. Few people in the courtroom realise the implications at the time and a new judge is quickly appointed. The trial continues.

And then another strange thing happens. Without examining any of the prosecution witnesses, or putting Krishna Maharaj on the stand, defence counsel, Eric Hendon, shocks the court by resting his case. It is an odd, almost unprecedented, decision.

And nobody asks why the defence has chosen this course of action.

October 19, 1987. With no evidence to counter the prosecution case, the jury is out for just three hours. They return a guilty on all counts verdict and vote 7 to 5 for the death penalty. Krishna Maharaj is sentenced to death. As the sentence is read out Maharaj faints. On November 20, 1987, he enters death row at the State Prison in Starke, Florida, where he will stay for the next ten years.

After several unsuccessful appeals, Krishna Maharaj's death sentence is overturned in September 1997, when it is confirmed that the replacement trial judge had asked the prosecution to prepare an order sentencing Maharaj to death before the sentencing hearing had even begun. 57-year-old Maharaj is returned to the general prison population to serve a full life sentence. After exhausting the appeals procedures that should have been the end of it.

But it wasn't. Because some things just refuse to go away.

Maharaj with his wife Marita 2012
In 2014, new evidence comes to light. 75-year-old Krishna Maharaj, now confined to a wheelchair and suffering from diabetes and a heart problem, has served 26 years of his sentence, and he still maintains his innocence.

With justification, as it now turns out.

The Case for the Defence

Krishna Maharaj's fingerprints found in room 1215 was damning evidence, but it now appears that parts of Maharaj's statement were held back from the jury.

The prosecutor advised the jury at the original trial that "the defendant told police that he had never been inside the Dupont Plaza Hotel on October 16, and what's more, he had never been on the twelfth floor. Nobody said that he had ever been on the twelfth floor."

The jury understood the implications of that final sentence straight away. How did he know there'd been a murder on the twelfth floor if he hadn't been there? And how had his fingerprints appeared in the room? Maharaj says, "I told police from the beginning that I had been in the room earlier that day for a meeting arranged by Neville Butler."

The prosecution's claim that Maharaj said he had never been to the Dupont Plaza is shown to be false when Officer Romero of the Miami police later states that, "he (Maharaj) said he had been there prior to the homicides, that's correct."

The jury are also told that Maharaj denied knowing the Moo Youngs' and had never had a business relationship with them. This is a prosecution ploy to portray Krishna Maharaj as a devious liar. In fact, a portion of a statement taken by Detective Buhrmaster is never revealed to the jury. It clearly shows that Maharaj not only admitted knowing the father and son, but also detailed his business involvement with both men.

The prosecution also fail to mention to the jury that both Butler and Maharaj have taken polygraph (lie detector) tests. This information is withheld for obvious reasons. Krishna Maharaj passed the test and Neville Butler failed.

Neville Butler, 1987
Krishna Maharaj says that Neville Butler set up a morning meeting between himself (Maharaj) and a man called Eddie Dames, in whose name the hotel room was booked. Several years later, Dames confirmed this statement was true.

Maharaj wanted to discuss with Dames, a Bahamas air traffic controller, a business proposition regarding the distribution of a newspaper in the Caribbean.

After arriving at 8:00 am and waiting more than an hour and a half for Dames to turn up, Maharaj becomes impatient and leaves around 9:35 am. He drives to Fort Lauderdale, some thirty miles away from the murder scene where several witnesses report seeing him at 10:25 am - two hours before the Moo Youngs' are murdered in the Dupont Plaza. Maharaj is also seen, by several witnesses, dining at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant at 12:05 pm. This is five minutes after the murder took place.

So, according to the evidence that has since emerged, there was no meeting arranged with the Moo Youngs' and Maharaj had not arrived in the hotel room to collect $160,000 that was allegedly embezzled from him. In fact, Derrick Moo Young did owe money to Maharaj, but the amount owed was actually $443,000, which bank records show he paid to Krishna Maharaj in two cheques, one for £200,000 and one for $243,000. These cheques were banked by Maharaj some time before the murders occurred.

A police file contains copies of the Moo Youngs' passports. In the nine months leading up to their murders they had taken at least thirteen international flights, staying in expensive hotels wherever they went. Further documents show that the Moo Youngs' were negotiating, on behalf of a third party, to buy a bank in Panama for $600 million.

Why was all this information held back from the jury?

Because it didn't fit the prosecution case and effectively destroyed Maharaj's motive for murder.

With the fingerprints and the motive not quite as damning as would first appear, what about the murder weapon? A ballistics expert reveals that a 9 mm pistol is used to murder the two men in room 1215. Although he can't determine the make of gun (it could be any one of half a dozen different 9 mm pistols) the expert believes it to be a Smith and Wesson.

Which is convenient for the prosecution, as they can prove that Krishna Maharaj once owned a Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol. Unfortunately, they don't have the gun and are therefore unable to match the bullets that killed the Moo Youngs' with any gun that may have been owned by Maharaj. It is inconclusive and uninstantiated evidence, but it plants yet another seed in the minds of the jury.

A question that must have bothered the jury was why hotel staff heard no gunshots. Neville Butler testified that Maharaj shot the gun through a pillow to deaden the noise. This might work in crime movies, it doesn't in real life. A pillow would not muffle the sound of a 9 mm pistol being fired at least eight times. No pillows with gunshot marks were found at the murder scene.

The jury never heard the name Adam Hosein. Police records reveal that this man left a message for room 1215 on the day of the murders. Miami police never questioned him. Fifteen years later, an associate of this man, one George Abchal, told investigators that Hosein kept a gun and a silencer in the drawer of his desk. He said, "On the day of the murders Hosein took the gun, a 9 mm Smith and Wesson with silencer, and went out to the Du Pont Plaza hotel. When he returned he told me not to mention to anyone that he had gone out or where he had been."

George Abchal didn't have to worry. Nobody asked. The day after the murders, Adam Hosein returned to Trinidad.

And what about the victims? According to Miami police, Derrick and Duane Moo Young had barely a cent to rub together. However, the picture painted of the father and son at Krishna Maharaj's trial was not quite accurate.

Pablo Escobar
Documented evidence examined by Ernst & Young accountants has now emerged which proves that the Moo Youngs' company, Cargil International SA (Bahamas), was used to launder money for the Columbian drug cartels. In September 1986, the company owned by the "impoverished businessmen" conducts transactions in the United States, Barbados, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, and Paraguay.

Approximately $100 million dollars is involved in buying gemstones, bearer bonds and foreign currency. And then two letters of credit appear in the Moo Youngs' bank account, both issued by "International Bank of the South Pacific" and both are for $100 million. In one, the original recipients name is crudely blanked out and filled in with the name Cargill International SA. The letters are dated September 17, 1986, one month before the murders, and both bear the identifying code (ODA-170986-SL5-10). In fact, they are the same document and they are being used to instigate an unsophisticated forgery by Derrick and Duane Moo Young. This attempt to rip off the Medellin drug cartel is the first fateful step in a lengthy chain of events that will lead to their deaths.

It is also around this time that the Moo Youngs' take out personal life insurance policies amounting to more than $1.5 million.

Back at the Dupont Plaza hotel, police find blood on the floor outside the door leading into room 1214, the room opposite the murder scene. On the day of the murder a man who has occupied room 1214 checks out of the hotel after a stay of three months. Police barely speak to him. They ask him his name - Jaime Vallejos Mejias - determine some personal facts and then let him go.

Drug cartel busted
What police fail to establish is that Jaime Vallejos Mejias, a Columbian national, is under investigation by drug enforcement officers for carrying $40 million to Switzerland . He is, in fact, a money man for the Medellin drug cartel and an enforcer.

Police also discover that somebody has made an effort to ensure that only two rooms on the twelfth floor, 1215 and 1214, are occupied on the day of the murders.

Why would anybody do that? Didn't it strike the Miami police as odd that somebody should go to so much trouble?


  • If Krishna Maharaj had no qualms about murdering Derrick and Duane Moo Young, why did he not kill Neville Butler at the same time? Why leave an eye-witness to testify against you?

  • If Neville Butler was in the room when the murders occurred, why was he not charged with being an accessory before and after the fact? In Florida this charge carries a life sentence. The prosecution denied offering him a deal, but failed to explain why he didn't face any charges.

  • Tino Gedes, a Jamaican national, originally agreed to testify for the defence. On the eve of the trial he
    Tino Gedes
    switched sides and testified against Krishna Maharaj. At that time, Gedes was facing gun-running charges in Jamaica which could have resulted in a lengthy jail sentence. He was eventually fined just $1000 after Florida prosecutors flew to Jamaica to support him. After he died in 2011, it was discovered that he had been involved with the Medellin drug cartel for more than forty years.

  • Why did Maharaj's counsel, Eric Hendon, rest the defence case without making an effort to question the prosecution's evidence. Had he been threatened by the cartels, or was he just incompetent?

  • The trial judge, Howard Gross, arrested by undercover drug agents and then charged with taking a bribe from the Medellin cartel should have raised some concerns. It didn't.


In 2014, a member of the Medellin Cartel admitted that the cartel had murdered Derrick and Duane Moo Young. Can that statement be believed? I think so. It's easy to see why that might have happened. There is documented evidence to show that a $100 million letter of credit had been doctored by Derrick Moo Young. If you are going to rip off a drug cartel, do it in a big way.

The Moo Youngs' were involved in laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for the cartel. If they'd been discovered doing it once, how many other times and how many millions of dollars had they already taken?

So why didn't the Medellin Cartel murder the Moo Youngs' then quietly dispose of the bodies? The usual reason. They wanted to send a message to all the money men. Cross the Columbians' and you are dead.

Problem was that after years of police corruption in Miami, with the "Cocaine Cowboys" flooding Florida with a mountain of drugs, law enforcement agencies were now beginning to fight back. In 1987, the last thing the cartels needed was to be implicated in a high profile murder, especially when the money trail left by the Moo Youngs' led directly back to Columbia.

Claire Phillips painting of Krishna Maharaj 2009
They needed a fall guy. Krishna Maharaj fitted the bill perfectly. A multi-millionaire British national with a taste for the high life. He travelled the world, dipping into several diverse business deals.

How might they have pulled it off? Jaime Vallejos Mejias in room 1214 was the organiser, bringing all the elements together over a period of three months. Eddie Dames was used as bait, Tito Gedes coordinated everything concerning Krishna Maharaj, Adam Hosein pulled the trigger and Eddie Butler provided the eye-witness account that changed at least six times during his time on the witness stand.

Even if you don't buy into this sequence of events, does it raise a reasonable doubt about Krishna Maharaj's conviction for murder? At the age of 75 and after 26 years of imprisonment, he still maintains his innocence. How much longer does he have to live? 5 years? Wouldn't it be easier for him to say, look I haven't got much longer to live, I did it.

But he still refuses to say that. What he actually says is:
 "I want to be vindicated now. I don't want to be vindicated after I'm dead."
Are they the words of a guilty man?

Krishna Maharaj

Victim of the Cocaine Cowboys

Pictures and information courtesy of:

Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America


Clive Stafford Smith


The Sun Sentinel, Miami

Miami Dade Police

U.S. Justice Department - Miami FL.

*Cocaine Cowboys is a 2006 documentary film directed by Billy Corben. The film explores the rise of cocaine and resulting crime epidemic that swept the American city of Miami, Florida, in the 1980s. The producers of Cocaine Cowboys use interviews with law enforcement, journalists, lawyers, former drug smugglers and gang members to provide a first-hand perspective of the Miami drug war.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Eddie Gilfoyle: Riding the Midnight Special*

Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me,
Let the midnight Special shine her ever-loving light on me.

June 4, 1992. Grafton Drive, The Wirral, Merseyside. 4:40 pm. 30-years-old ex-soldier Eddie Gilfoyle, a theatre assistant at a local hospital, arrives home in a pensive mood. His three-year marriage to Paula is falling apart and he doesn't know what to do.

It is a difficult situation. Two months earlier in April 1992, Paula writes Eddie a letter, later known as 'The Nigel Letter', in which she states that the baby she is carrying is not his. 

She tells him that for the past fourteen months she has been having an affair with a man called 'Nigel'. She concludes the letter by stating that she intends to live abroad with this man. 

On June 2, 1992, just two days before she dies, Paula informs Eddie that 'Nigel' is actually a family member, whom she now believes is the father of her unborn baby. She admits that she made up the name 'Nigel' to hide the man's real identity.

It is a marriage at breaking point as Eddie has also been involved with a woman called Sandra, a co-worker at the hospital.

Nevertheless, he has prepared himself for the inevitable showdown with his wife. He enters the house and is surprised to find that she is not there. Paula had promised to reveal the full details of her affair and Eddie is secretly hoping that, as they are both as guilty as each other, they might be able to repair the damage done to the marriage and rebuild their lives. 

After checking all the rooms, he finds a letter propped up on the draining board in the kitchen. It is addressed to him. Without even knowing the contents, he immediately suspects that his wife, as she threatened to do, has finally left him.

Police transcript of suicide note
He tears the envelope open, but only reads the first two paragraphs before the tears roll down his cheeks, clouding his vision. (Click on police transcript right to read Paula's note.)

Not comprehending that the letter he is holding in his hand is a suicide note, Eddie leaves the house in a state of despair and drives to his parents' home, hoping his father, Norman, will be able to offer him some advice.

Unfortunately, Norman is not at home but Eddie's mother, Jessie, reads the letter and tries to console her son by suggesting that it is probably a cry for help rather than any real attempt to commit suicide.

Norman eventually arrives home at 6:10 pm and is shown the letter. Eddie and his parents leave immediately and drive to Grafton Drive, where they search all the rooms again and then telephone Paula's family and friends.

Paula has disappeared. Nobody has seen her for hours.

Norman now rings his son-in-law, Paul Craddick, a police sergeant at a local police station. Fortunately, he is off duty and immediately leaves for Grafton Drive. He arrives at 7:10 pm. After reading the suicide note, he is concerned for Paula's safety and rings a colleague at Upton police station, a Constable Tosney. He asks him to come to the Gilfoyle's house immediately and bring the 'Missing from Home' book.

Shortly after Constable Tosney arrives, Paul Carrick conducts a through search of the outbuildings and garage. He eventually finds Paula Gilfoyle's body hanging from a white cord attached to a roof beam in the garage. She is quite obviously dead. He also finds a set of small aluminium ladders close by. 

The police sergeant is shocked by what he has discovered, but leaves the scene untouched and locks the door leading to the garage.

It is now 7:30 pm.

Various police and associated agencies arrive at Grafton Drive, including the Coroner's officer, a CID and scenes of crimes officer, a police surgeon and an undertaker. 

Although Eddie shows the 'Nigel Letter' to the police he does not reveal that he knows the true name and identity of 'Nigel'. He does not want to cause any further upset to Paula's parents by revealing her affair with the family member she named 'Nigel'.

Police transcript of the 'Nigel' letter
The Coroner's officer reads both the suicide note and the 'Nigel' letter before, in contravention of police guidelines, he cuts down the body of Paula Gilfoyle and lays her on the floor of the garage. 

He also unties the remaining rope attached to the beam and puts it into his pocket. No photographs are taken of the body before it is cut down and any evidence that would have been available to CID officers is now tainted.  

The police surgeon declares the incident at Grafton Drive as a straightforward suicide by hanging. That should have been the end of a distressing incident.

It wasn't.

Despite the suicide note and the 'Nigel' letter, Paula's family and friends' refuse to believe that she is capable of suicide or of having an affair. Unfortunately, Eddie Gilfoyle has never got on with Paula's family and the animosity between them reaches boiling point. Somehow, Paula's family and friends persuade Merseyside police officers to investigate Paula's death as suspicious.

The following weekend police interview several witnesses, mainly friends and family of Paula Gilfoyle. Investigating officers are told that Eddie had cut the brake pipes on Paula's car three times. A wild fantasy later proved to be a complete fabrication. Police are also told that Eddie had forced Paula to write the suicide note as he was supposedly doing hospital work connected to suicide. Another false and highly fanciful story.

One woman tells police that Eddie had taken Paula into the garage and showed her how to put up a rope to commit suicide. A complete forensic examination of the garage is ordered. The only rope fibres found is on the beam where Paula is found suspended. 

The information being collated by police now becomes ever more bizarre - and yet officers seem ready to believe everything they are told, except what Eddie Gilfoyle tells them. Everything he says is questioned. 

Police are now convinced that Paula did not have an affair and that Eddie somehow coerced Paula into writing both the suicide note and the 'Nigel' letter and then, unbelievably, forced a seven-month pregnant woman to climb a stepladder, place a rope around her neck and hang herself - presumably against her will.

Post mortem examination of Paula Gilfoyle's body finds nothing suspicious. There are no traces of drugs or alcohol and no marks of violence or restraint. If Eddie Gilfoyle murdered his did he do it? The remaining portion of the rope is still tied around Paula's neck and should have been recovered as evidence. It wasn't, because no police officers attend the post mortem and the piece of rope (the only remaining item of evidence) is discarded by a mortuary assistant. Without this piece of evidence, it is impossible to determine whether Paula or a second person tied the rope to the beam in the garage.

Now it just becomes guesswork and the ex-soldier is about to become a victim of a flawed police investigation. On June 8, 1992, Eddie Gilfoyle is arrested for murder. Police search his house at Grafton Drive and find the beginnings of another suicide note written by Paula Gilfoyle. (See picture right.) They declare it irrelevant to the investigation and discard it. 

Eddie is interviewed at length and denies every accusation put to him. With just hearsay witness statements and no forensic evidence of any kind, police have no option but to release him. Eddie is interviewed on two more separate occasions and police tell him they've found a piece of rope that could have been his 'practice rope'. Eddie denies all knowledge of the rope and, for the third time, is released without charge. Naively, he believes that the police will eventually realise that Paula committed suicide and drop the case - there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

He's wrong.

Despite the inadequate investigation and the patent lack of forensic evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service instructs the Merseyside Police to arrest Eddie Gilfoyle for the murder of his wife. He is taken into custody and remanded to Walton jail to await trial.

The murder trial commences on June 10, 1993, with the prosecution alleging that Eddie told Paula that he was studying a suicide course for his work as a hospital theatre technician. The jury is told that Eddie dictated the suicide note to Paula who then wrote it out in longhand. How Eddie managed to get Paula to write the 'Nigel' letter, which did not refer to suicide in any way, is not discussed by the prosecution. The jury is informed that Eddie had merely dictated it to his wife who then wrote it out in longhand, as she had done with the suicide note. The reasons why she would do such a thing is never raised by either the prosecution or, more crucially, the defence.

The prosecution then alleges that Eddie coaxes his wife into the garage, still under the pretext of playing out a suicide scenario, asks her to stand on a stepladder and then places a rope around her neck. He simply kicks away the stepladder and watches his wife die by strangulation.

Evidence from Paula's family and friends is excluded from the trial on the basis that it is hearsay, but the prosecution calls countless expert witnesses to explain why Paula would not have committed suicide.

Then the alleged 'practice rope' that was found in a drawer in Eddie's house is produced. Despite forensic scientists finding no fibres linking it to the beam in the garage, or indeed anywhere else, it is a dramatic piece of evidence for the prosecution that seems to sway the jury.

Unfortunately, Eddie Gilfoyle's defence team is woeful. Instead of refuting every point made by the prosecution and highlighting the lack of forensic evidence, including Paula's medical history (acute depression), the defence, without calling a single witness, offers no evidence to the court and leaves it to the jury to decide Eddie's guilt or innocence. The defence, in effect, is that the prosecution has not proven that a murder has taken place.

After deliberating for three days, the jury disagree with the defence and find Eddie Gilfoyle guilty of murder. He is sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve at least seventeen years.

Eddie Gilfoyle and Susan Craddick 
A month after the trial, Eddie's sister, Susan Craddick prepares a dossier outlining over one hundred anomalies in the Merseyside police investigation. It alleges that Merseyside officers conducted a biased investigation, tampered with evidence and planted evidence to secure a conviction.

On November 23, 1993, the Police Complaints Authority agrees to supervise the complaints made in the dossier and appoint Superintendent Gooch of the Lancashire Constabulary to reinvestigate the whole case.

One of the first anomalies uncovered by Susan Craddick is police bias regarding the time of death. Merseyside police know the time of death was prior to 2:00 pm and they also know that the only time Eddie could have murdered Paula was before he went to work sometime between 11:00 am and 11:20 am because after that time Eddie Gilfoyle was seen in the canteen at work by several people. In other words, he had a cast-iron alibi.

Moreton Post Office.
The murder investigation grinds to a halt when a witness, Maureen Piper, tells police that she had spoken to Paula Gilfoyle in Moreton Post Office at 12:40 pm on the day of her death. Investigating officers are aware that if Maureen Piper is correct, and they concede that she has no reason to lie, they will have no case against Eddie Gilfoyle. They have to find a way around this untimely statement.

And they do.

Paula's sister Susan Dubost now makes a statement saying she was in Moreton Post Office at exactly 12:40 pm. With this new statement, police officers are now able to say that Maureen Piper did not see, or speak to, Paula Gilfoyle. They claim that she had actually spoken to Paula's sister, Susan Dubost.  Detective Constable Gregson, one of the investigating officers, then informs Maureen Piper that she is mistaken and her statement is discarded.

The police also disregard the fact that Maureen Piper has known Susan Dubost for more than fifteen years and could not have possibly confused the identity of the sisters. Two friends of Maureen Piper also see Paula in the Post Office at 12:40 pm. They are never interviewed and never give a statement.

At a pre-trial conference, Detective Constable Gregson and Detective Chief Inspector Baines tell the Crown Prosecution Service that Maureen Piper has mixed up the two sisters. They all agree that Piper's statement is unreliable and should be placed into the unused material file.

Maureen piper is never called to the witness box.

The most serious anomaly raised by Eddie Gilfoyle's sister concerns the 'practice rope'. Phillip Rydeard, a forensic scientist present at Grafton Drive on June 23, 1992, discusses with investigating officers the need to find further significant items of evidence. Later that day Detective Constable Gregson searches a drawer in a cupboard in the garage and discovers a piece of rope.

It is this piece of evidence, the only significant piece of evidence, that sways the jury. It is plausible that if Eddie Gilfoyle intends to murder his wife then he would indeed need to use a rope to practice. And here it is. Left in a drawer in the garage for investigating detectives to find.

However, one piece of information is withheld from the jury. They are never told that on June 8, 1992, two weeks before Detective Constable Gregson finds the piece of rope, a Merseyside Police Search Team systematically searches the house at Grafton Drive. Constable Cartwright, a member of the search team, categorically states that the so-called 'practice rope' is not in the drawer in the garage when the house is searched.

Yet another anomaly is raised by Susan Craddick's dossier. Paula Gilfoyle's true medical history is withheld from the jury. Several witnesses testifiy that Paula is always in good spirits and has never suffered from depression. The prosecution paints a picture of a well-adjusted, perfectly happy young woman looking forward to giving birth to her first child. The fact that her GP prescribed Mellaril, a drug used to control personality disorders, is not revealed to the jury.

Another item, an item that would have proved Eddie Gilfoyle's innocence beyond all reasonable doubt, is never presented as evidence. It is a locked metal box, found at the house in Grafton Drive, and, among other items, it contains a diary belonging to Paula Gilfoyle.

Merseyside police officers deliberately conceal this metal box from Eddie Gilfoyle's defence counsel, at one point even denying its existence, and this most valuable piece of evidence does not come under public scrutiny until some sixteen years later when 'The Times' newspaper makes a request under the freedom of information act.

Despite the prosecution painting a picture of a happy young woman with not a care in the world, her five-year diary reveals a very different story.

The diary, in two volumes, (pictured below) covers Paula's life from the age of 12 to 22. A number of entries describe Paula's attempts to commit suicide by overdose. She writes about how she pursued a prison romance with a previous boyfriend jailed for a sex murder. She details the abuse she suffered at the hands of previous boyfriends before she married Eddie. A lengthy relationship with a married man is mentioned and she writes extensively about her recurring bouts of depression. The woman depicted in this diary is not the one presented to the jury.

Paula Gilfoyle's diary.
But most damning of all is another item found inside the metal box. It is a suicide note from a previous boyfriend containing the same words as in her own suicide note - the note that police insisted was dictated to Paula by Eddie.

Despite two investigations by outside police forces, two separate appeal hearings and a disciplinary hearing undertaken against two Merseyside Detectives, Baines and Gregson, for the inadequate handling of the case, no action is taken to exonerate Eddie Gilfoyle.

Unsurprisingly, the charges against Baines and Gregson are dismissed by the Chief Constable of Merseyside. The fortuitous discovery of the 'practice rope' in the drawer is not raised.

Eddie Gilfoyle serves out his full sentence of eighteen years and is released in 2012. He remains, as of April 2014, a convicted wife murderer. One final anomaly was raised after the post mortem on Paula Gilfoyle's body. The paternity of the baby she was carrying was established. It was Eddie Gilfoyle's baby. If Paula lied about the father's identity, did she also lie about her affair with a family member? Was it possible that the personality disorder that blighted her early life had returned and disturbed the balance of her mind?

One simple question remains unanswered. Why did Merseyside police investigate this case with such vigorous enthusiasm, despite all the evidence pointing to a suicide?

"The police knew that senior officers could be held responsible for the failures at the death scene and this potentially compromised the investigation so as to put pressure to secure a guilty conviction - the jury should have been made aware of this. This was an accident waiting to happen, and to keep quiet all these years is a disgrace. I asked for material specifically at the highest level three years ago and was told it wasn't relevant." 
Matt Foot, Eddie Gilfoyle's solicitor

"There's been a huge miscarriage of justice."
Alison Halford. Former Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police.

Eddie Gilfoyle
An Innocent Man

Information and pictures courtesy of:

The Times Archives

BBC news Liverpool

The Liverpool Echo

*John and Alan Lomax, in their book, "Best Loved American Folk Songs", told a credible story identifying the Midnight Special as a train from Houston shining its light into a cell in the Sugar Land Prison. The light of the train is seen as the light of salvation, the train which could take them away from the prison walls.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Vincent Simmons: The Louisiana Whipping Boy

Warning: This article contains racial epithets and explicit details of rape.

May 9, 1977. It's a little after 9:00 pm at the 9-11 gas station in Marksville, Louisiana. 18-years-old Keith Laborde and his twin cousins 14-years-old Sharon and Karen Sanders have stopped for gas.

As Keith pulls his car into the parking lot, he notices a young black man staring at him. Keith gets out of the car, approaches the man and asks him if there is a problem.

The man answers in an aggressive manner. He says he is annoyed because he thinks Keith almost ran him over as he was parking his car. Keith says that he did no such thing and asks the man if he wants to fight. The man replies that, "I don't fight, I shoot."

Despite the disagreement, they shake hands and Keith offers the man a ride, which he accepts.

Little California Road, Marksville
The two girls get into the passenger seat next to Keith. The stranger gets into the rear of the car and directs Keith to a remote location. The girls are beginning to get nervous when the man tells Keith to turn into Little California Road, and orders him to stop the car and turn off the engine.

The man flashes a large handgun, takes the keys and orders Keith to get into the trunk of the car. Turning to the two girls, he tells them to undress. Karen tries to run away but is caught and also locked in the trunk.

The man then vaginally rapes Sharon Sanders. When he's finished he puts her in the trunk with her sister and cousin and drives to a second location. On arrival, Karen Sanders is dragged from the trunk, threatened with a switch-blade and then raped anally and vaginally. The man then drives to a third location with Karen sitting next to him in the passenger seat. Again, he stops the car, rapes her anally and forces her to perform oral sex on him.

Marksville, LA.
The man then gets a tool from the trunk and "pops" one of the tyres. Nobody seems to know why. He then makes Karen write their names down on a piece of paper and tells them he will come after them if they tell anybody what has happened. Finally, they drop the man off at a payphone and drive to their grandparents' house, where they stay the night.

The girls do not tell anybody about the incident until almost two weeks later on May 22, 1977, when Karen Sanders tells her first cousin. The incident is reported to the police on the same day. Sharon and Karen Sanders tell Sheriff "Potch" Didier, Major Fabius Didier, Captain Floyd Juneau and Deputy Barbara DeCuir of the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's office that, "...a black man raped us."

While inside the police station, they wrongly identify another black man as their attacker. When asked why they picked this particular man out they say, "All niggers look the same to us."

They provide a basic description. "Black, short hair, 160 lbs, 5-8", age 19-20. Colour of eyes. Not known. They cannot name the alleged rapist because according to their first statements, neither Keith, Sharon nor Karen ever hear the man mention his name.

At 9:00 am the next day, May 23, 1977, Vincent Simmons is walking down Waddil Street in Marksville when a police patrol car stops alongside him. Captain Floyd Juneau and Lieutenant Robert Laborde (a relative of Keith Laborde) arrest Simmons for two counts of aggravated rape. They do not have a reliable description, an arrest warrant or a probable cause to justify taking Vincent Simmons into custody.

At the police station, Captain Melvin Villemarette organises a line-up that consists of seven black men and a lone white man, who looks slightly bemused by events.

The photograph (left) shows Vincent Simmons holding the number 4. He is the only man in the line-up that is wearing handcuffs. Keith Laborde and the twins, who are hidden from view behind a glass screen, point at number 4 as the knife wielding black man who raped them at gunpoint on Little California Road two weeks previously. Despite their crass remark that "...all niggers look the same to us," not only do they immediately recognise Vincent Simmons they also remember his name.

There are two versions detailing what happens next. According to a police statement, Vincent Simmons is taken from the line-up, still in handcuffs, to an ID room where he is to be advised of the charges against him.

According to Lieutenant Robert Laborde, Vincent Simmons, despite being handcuffed, scuffles with Captain Melvin Villemarette and manages to get hold of the officer's gun. See Laborde's statement right.

Simmons now points the gun at the officers and shouts, "I ain't going to take this God damn rap." He fires the 9 mm pistol four times; good fortune smiles on the officers because the gun misfires - four times. Lieutenant Laborde draws his .38 Smith & Wesson and shoots Vincent Simmons in the chest just above his heart. The alleged rapist collapses to the floor and is rushed to hospital, still in handcuffs. He is admitted to the intensive care unit.

This shooting is never investigated, Vincent Simmons is not charged with threatening behavior and none of the officers' present are ever required to explain their actions. Strangely, not one of the officers' involved in the shooting take the stand at the subsequent trial.

And Vincent Simmons never makes a statement.

With regard to the incident in the ID room, Simmons tells a completely different story. "I was taken to another section of the jail, still wearing the handcuffs. One of the arresting officers told me to make a statement admitting the crime of rape. I told him I wasn't going to do that because I didn't rape anybody.

I was kicked and beaten by the two officers and then asked if I was ready to talk. When I refused, one of the officers drew his gun and pointed it at me. I heard a shot, then felt a burning in my chest before hitting the floor. I don't remember anything else until I woke up in the hospital."

Barely recovered from his gunshot wound, he now faces trial by jury, held on July 19 and 20, 1977. He is charged with two counts of attempted aggravated rape. Other than the testimony of Keith Laborde, and Sharon and Karen Sanders, there is no physical evidence offered against Vincent Simmons. Not a single fingerprint nor a strand of hair or a fibre of clothing is recovered from the car that Vincent Simmons allegedly drove around for more than an hour.

Sharon Sanders alleges that her underwear was stained with blood and semen. Unfortunately, both girls wash all their clothes, including the underwear, thoroughly - and then wait two weeks to report being violently raped by a black man holding a switch-blade knife and a large gun.

Even in 1977, detailed forensic evidence was available to investigation officers. If Vincent Simmons was in that car and raped those girls, he would have left fingerprints everywhere, not to mention a host of bodily fluids. No forensic evidence was found in the car or it would have been placed before the court.

Indeed, no physical evidence of any sort was offered against Vincent Simmons. For reasons that became obvious at a later date, even the girls' medical reports, conducted by the Coroner of Avoyelles Parish, F.P. Bordelon, were withheld by the prosecution. Apart from the complete lack of any physical evidence, the prosecution also contravene all the rules of court procedure by revealing Vincent Simmons previous criminal convictions. A breach of protocol that should, at the very least, have led to a retrial.

But it didn't. Nothing the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's Department or Louisiana Justice System did, rightly or wrongly, seems to make much difference to this case. Somebody had to go down for the alleged rape of the two sisters, and Vincent Simmons, who acknowledges he was not a pillar of society, was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

With no physical evidence and several witnesses testifying that Vincent Simmons was elsewhere at the time of the alleged rape, there is more than a reasonable doubt as to the perpetrator's identity.

It makes no difference. He is convicted solely on the testimony of the alleged victims. The jury, despite knowing the severity of the sentence for attempted aggravated rape, is out for less than one hour before returning with a guilty verdict. On July 28, 1977, Vincent Alfred Simmons is sentenced to 50 years on each count, to run consecutively. He will serve 100 years.

There is a question that bothers most people who read about this case. Why did the prosecution withhold the medical reports? Surely, the reports would have been the smoking gun that proved Vincent Simmons' guilt. Not really. It was more than twenty years later in 1997 before Vincent Simmons manages to acquire the medical reports that were hidden from the court.

Had the jury known the content contained in these reports, they would surely have found Vincent Simmons innocent of all charges. Considering both girls say they were violently raped at gunpoint, both vaginally and anally, F.P. Bordelon, the coroner who examined the girls, found no bruises on either of them. He also wrote the following about Sharon Sanders: "There were no bruises on her body. The vaginal examination showed that the hymen was intact and I was unable to insert one examining finger."

Now we know why these medical reports were never used by the prosecution, and, more to the point, why they were never made available to the defence. It really couldn't be any clearer.

When Sharon Sanders was examined on June 10, 1977, she was still a virgin.

The Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's Department investigation into the rape of Karen and Sharon Sanders transgressed just about every protocol of recognised police procedure, turning it into an organised witch-hunt, which descended upon the head of the first black man they placed in the frame - the unfortunate Vincent Simmons, who just happened to be strolling through Marksville one sunny day.

The District Attorney's Office now joined the police in the deceit by withholding documents from the court and denying Simmons a constructive defence. The documents are eventually released twenty years later under duress, documents that would have created reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury members. This was not an indiscriminate, or thoughtless oversight, it was the kind of oversight engineered behind closed doors, the kind of mistake that requires a special effort by misguided people in positions of power. There are just too many anomalies for it to have been anything other than orchestrated.

Anomalies such as:

(1) The police did not interview one independent witness to validate the statements given by Keith Laborde and Sharon and Karen Sanders, statements that changed significantly when they took the witness stand.

(2) The defence did not conduct any pre-trial investigations. They allowed the prosecution to portray Karen and Sharon Sanders as two little girls who were pure and innocent.

In fact, both girls were suspended from their school, they both used drugs (Karen admitted to carrying dope in her bra) and they stole the petrol they put in the car on the night of May 9, 1977.

(3) Karen Sanders stated that she left her panties behind on Little California Road. They were never recovered. Police records now indicate that neither the car nor the area around Little California Road was ever searched for evidence. Which was why forensic evidence was thin on the ground and the justice system had to rely on the uncorroborated and contradictory evidence of two minors.

(4) For instance. On the witness stand, Karen and Sharon Sanders testified that the assailant waved a gun around and threatened them with a switch-blade. In the initial statement given to police on May 22, 1977, no mention is made of any weapons being brandished by the assailant.

(5) In the initial statement the name of the assailant is not known because Keith Laborde and the two sisters state categorically that names were never mentioned. However, on the witness stand both girls contradict themselves by testifying that the assailant used the name "Simmons" on several occasions. The defence counsel does not raise an objection to the obvious discrepancy between statement and testimony. Several further discrepancies are allowed to stand unchallenged.

(6) Keith Laborde and Karen and Sharon Sanders gave a description of the assailant that was so lacking in detail as to be meaningless - and yet, Vincent Simmons was arrested and then picked out of a line-up by two girls who had just stated they couldn't really describe what the alleged rapist looked like because "...all blacks look the same to us."

To understand exactly what is happening to an innocent man, one has to have seen the parole hearing that Vincent Simmons attended in 1997. You can see it here. It was part of an HBO documentary called "The Farm" filmed in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. If slavery was still in operation today this is what it would look like.

Take a good look at the two men below. If they had been wearing pointy hats in KKK white they could not have been more overtly racist. It is unbelievable that these men hold the fate of so many in their grubby hands. If you want to see red-neck racists in action, watch these two jokers discuss a man's future.

Despite Vincent Simmons showing them the line-up picture with the handcuffs and the newly released medical reports, and explaining in great detail what happened when he was shot in the chest by one of the Sheriff's deputies, it took these two morons less than a minute to deny parole and send Vincent Simmons back to his cell for another twenty years.

There was also a token black man on the parole board panel. But having been verbally bullied by Louisiana's answer to Itchy and Scratchy, he had so little of consequence to contribute to the decision that his presence was irrelevant.

There are just so many anomalies about this miscarriage of justice that it is not practical to list them all in this article. The word that keeps popping up is why. Why did the Sheriff's Department not investigate the crime in a professional manner? Why did the legal system deny this man justice in 1977? Why is the State of Louisiana still denying him justice in 2014?

What is it we still haven't found out about this case? What is it that we don't know?

Vincent Simmons never made a statement about the events that occurred on the night of May 9, 1977, in Little California Road, Marksville, Louisiana. He couldn't.

He wasn't there.

Vincent Alfred Simmons

The Louisiana Whipping Boy.

Information and pictures courtesy of:

The Vincent Simmons Project

Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's Office

Louisiana v Vincent Simmons: Frame up in Avoyelles Parish
by Katja Pumm

Office of the Attorney General 
State of Louisiana

Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola.

HBO's The Farm: Life in Angola Prison