|I have been convicted of a crime which I did not commit or have any
involvement in whatsoever. I have been incarcerated since the age of 15
after being charged in the city of Dayton, Ohio, for the death of Ms. Amanda
Simpson, and I am seeking to be fully exonerated and obtaining some sense
of justice after having been falsely imprisoned for what has been, so far,
almost half my life.
The following events start with the evening of April 28, 1991. They involve myself and my friend Robert, both of us were 15 years old at this time, my friends John and Scott who were 16, Scott's little brother Chris and his friend Cynthia, both 13, and their friends Elizabeth and Justin who were both 12. The last four kids I had never met before, and when I use the term “friends” I'm using it in the past tense.
On this evening of April 28, 1991, I was at Robert's house where I was staying with his family and we were playing video games, when around 9:00P.M.- 10:00P.M., our friend Scott came over, along with his little brother Chris and his friends Cynthia, Jestin and Elizabeth.
We all talked and played video games until around midnight when Cynthia asked Robert if he wanted to go "running around," which is a common activity in my neighborhood as we didn't have the money to do much else.
Robert said "sure" and Cynthia then told Robert to ask me if I wanted to go, which he did, and I said "yeah, why don't we go down to John's house and get some different video games," because I was tired of playing the same ones.
The seven of us set off to John's house. Upon leaving, Robert's Mom saw us from her bedroom window and told us not to get in any trouble because we would be out past curfew. Along the way we noticed that there was smoke coming from a house up the street. We ran to the house and upon arriving we found that there was already someone there, a lady later identified as Linda Allen, who was trying to get someone to call for help.
I looked in a couple of windows to see if I could see if there was anyone inside but there was too much smoke, so I broke a couple of windows to try and let some smoke out but it didn't help any. So then I went to the front door and kicked it in and started yelling to see if there was anyone inside. I could hear things being knocked over and the lady that lived there answered, and I repeatedly tried to talk her to the door but she just kept saying "my kid, my kid."
So I then tried to walk through the living room to get her but I couldn't see anything. I was about halfway through when something in the kitchen exploded, I lost my nerve and made my way back to the porch. Just as I made it back out the lady inside made it to the door and fell against it from the inside, accidentally pushing it closed.
Just then the fire department arrived and pulled her (Judy Simpson) out of the house. A minute or two later they brought her 12 year old daughter Amanda out through a window. Judy survived but unfortunately Amanda died about 7 days later from smoke inhalation.
While the fire was still being extinguished, John showed up from where he lived right around the corner and said that he had heard the sirens from the fire trucks. He and I walked around to the back of the burned house to see how much damage the fire had caused, where we found in the back yard couple of small dogs belonging to Judy and Amanda. We told the firemen that we would take care of them until the woman and her daughter returned from the hospital.
They agreed so we took the dogs around the comer to John's house and put them in his back yard. After that, John's Grandmother made him come in the house because it was late and I went back around to where all of my friends were, still standing across the street from the fire damaged house.
They told me that they had written statements for the authorities stating what had happened, I then went back to Robert's and told his sister and mother what had happened and then went to sleep.
What follows next I have learned since the night of the fire. The next morning a guy named Doug Brown, at the time an ex-convict who is at present in prison again, and is John's uncle by marriage, called the police to his home and told them that he had heard that I was the one who had set the fire.
When the police asked him how he had heard this, he said that his nephew had told him. The police then asked Doug where they could find his nephew John, and Doug somehow convinced the police to stay at his house while he went to get John from somewhere and tell him what to say to the police on the way back (John later admitted on the witness stand that he told the police what his uncle told him to say).
Shortly after talking to Doug and John the police began picking up my friends who had given written statements the previous day about the events surrounding the fire. They eventually picked me up also. The police coerced, threatened and manipulated the other kids. They used the same tactics on me and of course I was scared, but I refused to lie as to my actions or the actions of the others.
Due to my unwillingness to go along with the program, they manipulated the other kids into changing their original stories and not only implication themselves, but me also, painting me as the ringleader to remove the focus from themselves. They said that they were lookouts, and that I had set the fire. They all went on to write numerous revised statements each time the authorities wanted, and each statement differed not only from person to person, but from each of their own previous ones. However, the original statements made the night of the fire were all exactly the same when relating to how the fire was discovered.
It's next to impossible to get a group of young kids to say the same thing when they are separated and lying, so this says a lot.
Linda Allen who was at the scene of the fire before my friends and I, reported having seen three people walking in the alley which runs behind the house, and carrying a microwave oven. This woman described the three males as adults who could NOT possibly have been children.
The police and prosecution tried repeatedly to get this witness to change her story but she would not budge from the truth. Due to this information which conflicted with the State's case, a whole year after the initial investigation began, the prosecution gathered four of my co-defendants in one room and convinced three of them, John, (the oldest, the one who started the lying, the only one who was bound over to stand trial as an adult like myself, and who was facing the same charges as me, including murder, arson and burglary) and Cynthia and Jestin, (who were two of the younger and most impressionable, and like most of the other kids who had been charged as juveniles) to plead guilty to reduced charges.
Chris was found guilty at juvenile court. In return for their testimony they were told that if they did not live up to their end of the bargain, their deal could be revoked. They were told to confess to a new story in which all of us, including the three adults who Linda Allen saw, committed the crime.
Thus, the State's theory, and what they convicted me of, was a grand total of 11 people collaborating to steal a microwave oven. I feel confident in my belief that such a ridiculous collaboration never occurred in history. If you find this to be an outrageous travesty of justice just imagine how I have felt over the past 13 years.
I was convicted solely on the testimony of these three witnesses alone (John, Cynthia and Jestin). Everyone else testified for me, including all of the other kids who accepted "deals" from the prosecution, Robert's mother Betty, and Linda Allen who saw the people who actually did the crime.
The police made no attempt to find the people truly responsible. All they did was manufacture evidence to make their version of what happened work. Although this is absolutely no excuse for such reprehensible behavior, it has to be kept in mind that when the media extensively reports certain stories or just regular stories with a particular slant and sensationalism, there is often enormous public pressure on the authorities to “solve” the case so they can feel safe.
But the reality is that a large percentage of crimes are truly unsolvable. The authorities know that is very hard to convince the public of this, so they often take the easy route and find a scapegoat. The circumstances here made me a convenient one.
When I was arrested the police took my clothes as evidence and had them tested for gasoline or any other accelerants. They sent my clothes to the Miami Valley Region Crime Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, which is located right next to the courthouse.
This lab found absolutely no trace of gasoline or any other accelerants. (See report). The Detectives were not happy with this result so they took my clothes all the way to Columbus, Ohio, to the Department of Commerce where they performed an additional test on them.
This test concluded that there was gasoline on my shoes. (See report) But when my trial lawyer questioned the scientist who performed the test he stated that though he did find gasoline on my shoes, the amount was so great that there was no doubt in his mind that it would have been found in the Miami Valley test.
So apparently gas was added in between tests. Suspiciously, the prosecution chose not to use this evidence at my trial. Think about that for a moment: picture yourself as the prosecutor, you have an arson case where the Fire Marshal testifies that the fire was started with a petroleum based product which would be consistent with gasoline. You have a scientific report showing the defendant had gas on his shoes, what could make you not use that evidence?
I don't know about you but there's nothing that could make me not use it. But I can tell you why they didn't, it was because my sellout lawyer wasn't willing to go so far as letting them get away with that, and told them so.
But he didn't do what any lawyer is supposed to, and expose them, which
When I entered prison I was just a kid, but I quickly had to learn to think like a man as well as an inmate in order to function and survive the realities of prison life. Though I have obtained my G.E.D. and continued my education through personal study, I have never been to high school. I've never obtained a drivers license, a real job or my own place to live. I've never done a lot of the things which people between the ages of 15 and 18 have done.
I would like to have had graduated from college by now, I am very interested in politics, economics, ancient history and social justice, aside from just wanting and feeling I have the right to live my life in freedom. I feel I have a lot to contribute to society. I had absolutely nothing to do with the crime that I'm in prison for and all I want is to be given my life back.
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now I'm in the wrong
place all the time.
©2005 IIAO Inc.