Groove of the Day
Groove of the Day
Politics in Memphis, as in most places, is pretty inbred. Even though power has been parceled out among the players along clear-cut jurisdictional and functional lines, the reality is that everyone is partying together and in bed with everyone else.
In the picture above, we see James Prindle’s judge Bobby Carter with his impartial arm around James Prindle’s prosecutor Jennifer Nichols at a fundraiser for Carter on May 28, 2010.
Last week I had a conversation with an aide of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell in which the aide asserted that there is nothing Luttrell can do to influence Judge Carter’s handling of James Prindle’s case—that Bobby Carter’s criminal court is outside Luttrell’s jurisdiction. True.
And yet here is a picture of Mayor Luttrell at the same Bobby Carter fundraiser (if you blow up this picture, you’ll see the lady is wearing a Bobby Carter for Judge sticker). Luttrell is apparently one of Carter’s supporters, and Luttrell is influential. I think we should ignore what Mayor Luttrell’s aide said and continue sending Mr. Luttrell e-mail messages as I suggested in my June 23 post. They talk.
It’s worth the effort. Your e-mails to Mayor Luttrell over the weekend had the desired effect. A conversation at the bench on Monday was overheard. Audible consternation was shared by Judge Carter, Prosecutor Nichols, and Defense Attorney Ferguson.
The whole world is watching, folks.
Mayor Luttrell’s aide told me that Luttrell is the chief executive of Shelby County, not the city (down here in Texas we call these people “judges”; in Tennessee they are called “mayors”.) He suggested that we should be contacting the Mayor of the City of Memphis, instead. After all, it is the poor work of the detectives on his city’s police force that failed to identify the real perpetrator of this crime of which James has been wrongfully accused and convicted.
This is a good idea. The name of the mayor of the city of Memphis is A C Wharton, Jr. His e-mail address is Mayor@memphistn.gov.
Mayor Wharton may be able to empathize with James’ predicament. In 2007 his son, A C Wharton III, then 34, was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old he met in an Internet chat room. Wharton III has recently been released from a Knox County jail and, as he pleaded guilty, he will now be a registered sex offender. Mayor Wharton is a lawyer. He knows the consequences for his son are serious and lifelong.
Perhaps Mayor Wharton will take an interest in helping spare an innocent boy a fate far worse than that which has befallen his own son. Wharton is said to be a good man and an extremely popular politician.
Write to him. Tell him what you think of what’s being done to James. Maybe he will listen. Maybe he will ask Judge Carter to reconsider his court’s politically self-destructive actions with regard to James. It cannot hurt. It might even help.
Judge Carter knows this trial has placed his court in a bad light. On Monday, he, Jennifer Nichols, and Claiborne Ferguson were overheard discussing how they could bury the transcripts from the previous Friday’s court session.
Believe me, all these politicos understand that crime is bad for business, both public and private. Memphis has been recently ranked as the #5 city in the US for high rates of crime. The way to turn this around is not to be putting innocent people, especially vulnerable juveniles, in jail or prison. It only fuels disrespect for the law, the police, and public officials.
Whether or not they are all friends, these politicians do not want the mud being stirred up in Carter’s courtroom to splash on them. The injustice being perpetrated against James in Carter’s court may be within Bobby Carter’s sole jurisdiction, but it’s everybody’s problem and it’s getting bigger, more visible, embarrassing, and—here is the crucial thing—more memorable.
I talked yesterday with a scriptwriter in Hollywood with one of the networks. He is developing a script based on James’ story. When this story airs in a year or more, the voters will be reminded of what is happening in Memphis today.
No matter how dismissively some politicians may regard voters in any given jurisdiction, most voters are not retarded. They may have short attention spans, but many have long memories. Long enough to be brought into the voting booth.
Groove of the Day
Strange things are happening in Memphis.
We have still not heard from the judge about our offer of a solution to his problems. That’s no surprise.
“Shouldn’t we be communicating with the judge through James’ attorney?” you may ask. Ideally, yes… unfortunately Claiborne Ferguson is not returning our phone calls. The other day, according to James, Ferguson said he was going to try to get this case moved back to juvenile court “where they can’t help you”—“they” meaning us. Ferguson has told James that he filed a motion to accomplish this. If the case were moved back into juvenile court and then properly waived back into adult court (Judge Lane made some serious errors in the original waiver which denied James due process), then James would lose credit for the two years he has already been incarcerated. Today we heard there’s rumor of a re-trial.
Yesterday Stephen received an anonymous call on his unpublished cell phone number in which the caller said, “If you can raise five hundred thousand dollars, we’ll release him.” (“Him” meaning James.) That caller never called back.
Today as Stephen was leaving the jail after visiting James, he saw Monica Sanders and her mother Pam Croft arriving at the jail, presumably for a visit with James—the first since about a year ago when she showed up, lawyer in tow, to tell James she was finished with him. Why is she visiting James now? We cannot answer that question because Monica and her mother were denied access since James’ visits for the day had been used up.
Monica, James wanted us to tell you to please stay away.
One possibility may have to do with a damage lawsuit against the city of Memphis in which Monica is a plaintiff. Her case is scheduled to begin on July 12, one day after James’ sentencing hearing. Maybe she needs James’ cooperation in some way so that her chances of cashing in on her lawsuit are enhanced.
Another possibility is that Monica and Jefferson Sanders have figured out that we are developing additional information about Sanders. For example, we have learned that the scope of the abuse James allegedly endured is much broader than we had known until now. When we saw the photographs of Neily Shea’s injuries, we were struck by similarities with injuries James has told us he suffered at Sanders’ hands.
Today Steven looked out his window at the motel and saw Jefferson Sanders stalking him. What is Sanders afraid of?
Maybe Sanders and Monica are aware that events are playing out as if according to some plan Sanders might have devised. We surmise that Sanders was nearby when Neily Shea’s assault happened. According to reports, Sanders arrived at Monica’s apartment 20 minutes after receiving the call that Neily Shea had been hurt. At the time, Sanders was living at least 40 minutes away. Maybe they’re afraid this whole thing will boomerang on them.
I just don’t know.
What I do know is that James is scared and believes his life is over. He’s preparing himself for the worst. Yesterday he was asking Stephen about the abuse Blade Reed has endured in adult prison. “How bad does it hurt to be raped?” he asked.
Stephen’s answer was honest and not exactly reassuring.
Groove of the Day
The powers-that-be in Memphis are striking back. Yesterday someone in Memphis hacked our researcher’s Internet account and temporarily disabled it. And overnight several attempted fraudulent charges showed up on one of my credit cards.
These are only minor inconveniences, and they will not distract us from our defense of James Prindle. Such activity will only create electronic trails which may eventually lead us back to the lawbreaker nuisance-makers. We are intended, no doubt, to occupy ourselves swatting mosquitoes while the real threat is organized beyond our reach.
We’ve been following up on evidence of official corruption in connection with James Prindle’s trial. We’ve contacted the FBI and other federal authorities and have been sharing the information we have developed. The toothpaste is out of the tube.
Yesterday we learned through James that Judge Bobby Carter may be intending to send him directly to an adult prison where his life will be at greatest risk—an unofficial death sentence. He was told that the most likely facility for this purpose is Hardeman County Correctional Center in Whiteville TN, a private prison operated by the Correctional Corporation of America. James’ lawyer Claiborne Ferguson also said Hardeman was a likely landing spot for James. However, when I called Hardeman, public information officer Tasha Mitchell told me they do not accept inmates below 18 years of age. So why James was told this, we do not know. However, it scared the hell out of James and it occupied the better part of Stephen’s day to calm the poor kid.
Is this a diversionary tactic, or is there an element of truth to the story James was told? If not Hardeman, then to what facility will James be sent?
Is it possible that the powers-that-be in this disgraceful tale do not want James Prindle’s appeal to go forward? If the boy is no longer living, goes the reasoning, the appeal would die with him. James’ lawyer Claiborne Ferguson told us that if James is sent to an adult prison, he will likely be dead within a month.
The appeal may die, but our investigations won’t end. Creating a martyr through the sacrifice of an innocent child would only throw fuel on the fire and burn everyone around it. It is in everyone’s self interest that James Prindle’s welfare and safety are guaranteed.
We are prepared to offer the court a solution that will meet its requirements for a secure institution answerable to TDOC and assure James Prindle’s welfare and safety while his appeal goes forward. This is a youth facility with a best-in-class reputation worldwide. Plus, it will cost Tennessee taxpayers not so much as a single dime.
It will, in fact, save taxpayers at least $24,000 a year and maybe even save a few political careers and jail time.
Judge Carter, please contact me.
Groove of the Day
It was left up to Stephen to break the news to James Prindle last Friday that he had been found guilty.
James had been transported back to the jail and it was apparently not worth the effort for the authorities to make arrangements so he could face his jury and hear their verdict for himself.
After James had a major meltdown at the news, he worked all weekend to memorize a statement he wished to make to the court when the verdict was read to him on Monday. James reasoned that at the very least, standing up and speaking for himself was a way to salvage a scrap of dignity from this travesty. But instead, he was treated like he was some kind of beast.
James was brought into the courtroom in leg shackles and handcuffs, and then he was seated in a chair, his wrists cuffed to the arms of the chair and his feet chained to the floor. He couldn’t stand up; the scene was reminiscent of movies in which a condemned man is strapped into an electric chair, completely immobilized.
“Will I be allowed to speak?” he asked the bailiff Ms. Stone.
“What would happen if I tried?”
“We’d have to put you down,” she said.
So there was no statement from James. He was not allowed to face his jury, and he was not allowed to address the court. Roland Freisler* would have been proud.
We have no way of knowing whether judge and former prosecutor Bobby Carter will ever hear or acknowledge it, but here is the statement James had intended to present:
The person who is speaking to you is not guilty. The true individual who committed this unspeakable act against my little sister is walking the streets free and I sit here being punished—possibly for the rest of my life—for an act I did not commit.
I understand the court has an obligation to the public, but its highest duty is for justice. How is it justice when an innocent child is convicted?
I also understand the prosecution has a job to do. But when a person is wrongfully convicted, what good is served to the community when the person who really assaulted my sister is walking the streets in freedom and I suffer with its loss?
My stepfather Jefferson got everything he wanted: me out of his life and he gets my mom all to himself. I’ve been hurt, abused, deserted, and abandoned by my family and it’s hard to accept this, and this verdict, when this is what I’ve lived since I was little.
I would never do what I am accused of doing to my sister. I loved her and I still love and miss my family. I am innocent and I pray that one day soon my innocence will be proved to everyone, most of all, to Jefferson Sanders.
Groove of the Day
* Roland Freisler (1893-1945) was the chief judge in Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1945. Approximately 90% of all his proceedings ended with sentences of death or life imprisonment; more than 2,600 death sentences were handed down through Freisler’s court. In October 1939, Freisler introduced the concept of ‘precocious juvenile criminal’ in the “Juvenile Felons Decree”. This decree provided the legal basis for imposing the death penalty and penitentiary terms on juveniles for the first time in German legal history. The Nazi courts sentenced at least 72 German kids to death. It was all perfectly legal.
Juvenile life-without-parole: Unconstitutional!
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an historic ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.
Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, sentenced to life in prison without parole at 14, are now entitled to new sentencing hearings. Today’s 5-4 ruling will affect hundreds of individuals, including Nathan Ybanez, whose sentences did not take their age or other mitigating factors into account.
Read the Justices’ ruling at:
God bless Bryan Stevenson!
Our Newest Cause
The Redemption Project has taken on the cause of Noah Crooks, age 13, of rural Osage IA, who is accused of having murdered his mother Gretchen on March 24, 2012. Gretchen Crooks died of gunshot wounds. He is also accused of assault with the intent to commit sexual abuse. The boy is not culpable in connection with either charge.
Through our efforts, and with the assistance of Noah’s father William, we have convinced William L. Kutmus (reputedly the best defense attorney in Iowa) to take the case. He and his partner Trever T. Hook attended a hearing last week and now have officially replaced a court-appointed lawyer as Noah’s defenders.
The first thing Kutmus and Hook did was to introduce a motion to suppress an involuntary psychological interview conducted by state witness Dr. Michael Taylor, which abridged Noah’s Fifth Amendment rights. Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk is seeking to have Noah tried in adult court by having his status changed from “juvenile” to “youthful offender.”
The next hearing has been continued to September. The Redemption Project will immediately be creating a web site and trust fund for Noah. Of course I will be keeping you thoroughly informed of the background facts and developments in this very important case.
And some not-so-good news from Memphis
After a whole weekend of thinking and conferring about last week’s trial, we have concluded that it was not a fair one. Even the judge said the state had not met its burden of proof. The only thing last week’s trial proved is that honest justice is hard to come by in Memphis.
This conclusion is reinforced by new information received today that an effort appears to be underway to conceal certain irregularities which compromised the integrity of the trial. The information I am receiving has gotten so weird that we no longer know whom to trust in Memphis.
We are seeing there’s good reason official Memphis does not welcome the participation of outsiders. I imagine they would love for us to leave about now.
But we won’t. At least not until we are confident of James’ safety and welfare. But right now we are seeing enough shenanigans that we are very worried for James.
James’ sentencing hearing has been accelerated to July 11. It appears the powers-that-be are trying to sweep his case under the rug and out of public view as quickly as possible.
The judge may send James himself far away, and he may take comfort that the appeal will be heard in some distant courtroom, but the politics of this case are going to stay in Memphis where this whole cluster’frig’ was incubated.
We will keep shining light on James’ story and all the people in it. We will bring worldwide attention to James’ situation because that is the best way to assure his safety. We will become a huge pain-in-the-behind to the old boys network.
Memphis, we’re not going away. Get used to it.
Groove of the Day
The phone lines have finally cooled down and I’m enjoying a quiet night at Estrella Vista.
Thanks sincerely for writing a note to the mayor for James.
Things are getting better for all of us.
Groove of the Day