by Don Gaddis
| I declare that I am
Innocent. I'm a 28 year old African American, and the father
of a beautiful 2½ year old little girl, whom I love dearly, and
so very sorely miss. Still, here I sit, labeled as a sexual predator,
serving 8 years for a crime that never happened.
The mother of my child is a white female, with green eyes and blonde hair, a divorcee with 2 children from a former marriage. Those children, approximately 11 and 15, have recently been returned to her by her ex-husband, under the stipulation that neither she nor my daughter will have any further dealings or communication with me.
It was alleged that I had molested one of the children from that former marriage. The allegations arose after this child had been told by a friend, another child, that she had been molested. How this conversation was initiated is unknown. It is arguable that a seed had been nurtured by the ex-husband, who was enraged that his wife and kids had left him for an African-American, under whose care the children flourished.
Under this backdrop, and out of the clear blue, I was arrested on October 14, 1997, right after returning home from work. I was charged with 4 counts of rape and 1 count of gross sexual imposition, although the allegations only included 2 counts of contact.
To this date, many of the facts and circumstances of the allegations against me are still elusive, all I know for certain is that I am in prison for a crime I did not commit, and for the life of me, cannot figure out why.
No one, including the child's mother, wants to, or is permitted to speak to me. At the same time, no one, including the child's mother, had any idea that such allegations could ever have been made by this child, our home life had been quite good. It would be more reasonable to conclude that the ex-husband may have been the compelling force behind my arrest.
From the outset, by his racial enmity constantly expressed and impressed on the children and their mother, one could easily reason that he must have prompted the allegations in order to do indirectly, what could not be done directly, i.e., to get me out of the picture, and to use this as leverage in the divorce. However, there is far more to my nightmare.
Although I originally pleaded not guilty, I was faced with 4 life sentences, plus an additional 10 years, and the sexual predator specification, so my court appointed counsel advised me to agree to a plea bargain, and then I pleaded guilty.
My court appointed attorney advised me that regardless of my innocence, I would still be convicted and sentenced to life in prison, simply because I was an African-American, and facing a white jury and a female judge on such highly sensitive charges involving a young white female, it would be better for me to plead guilty. He said I would still be "fairly young" after serving the 8 years imposed.
I had never had any experience with any court, (except for a minor traffic violation), or police, (outside of the usual racial profiling), and I foolishly believed that my lawyer had my best interests at heart, and that he was advising me under the facts and circumstances involved in this case. However, I was never advised that forensic test results excluded me as a suspect; nor was I ever advised that my lawyer had never so much as read the discovery packet or the bill of particulars, to know at a minimum, the nature of the charges against me. Neither did he object to the court that such vital information had not been furnished upon request.
He never discussed the facts of the case, beyond the allegations, because he never knew the facts of the case, nor did he make an attempt to prepare a defense against those charges. Again, he had no idea that the forensic test results excluded me totally and completely, as a suspect in this case, because he never reviewed the requested discovery materials.
This would show how little it mattered
to my attorney, that despite the allegations, and with the small amount
of diligence required in such an important job, my innocence could have
been easily uncovered and defended.
My Legal Rights
| In Ohio, Criminal Rule
16 requires the prosecution to turn over to the defense (upon request)
all evidence, statements, and other such materials in which it intends
offering to the jury. This rule of law equally embodies what is referred
to as the "Bill of Particulars", which sets forth the government's case
"in particularity", and lists as well exactly what the allegations are,
and what the government intends to prove at trial.
The purpose for such mechanisms is simple: "It allows the defense to both be fully appraised of the allegations leveled against the defendant, and sets forth each of the essential elements to which the defense must prepare." In other words, it particularizes all facets of the government's case and thereby serves the constitutional mandate of according a criminal defendant "notice" of the charges and the particulars thereof, brought against him.
Likewise, the constitutional necessity for such disclosure of information is to allow defense counsel to prepare the case for trial, and to fully discuss and examine the allegations and their underlying circumstances with the defendant. In the context of a guilty plea, a plea of guilty is unconstitutionally invalid where, as in my case, that exchange of information has not occurred.
Why? Because the defense counsel is charged with an affirmative duty to discuss the facts of the case with the defendant, and even in the absence of a viable defense, the defense counsel must still seek to prepare a defense, to which that information is critical. In the absence of this required process, it would be impossible for an attorney to adequately prepare a defense, or for that matter, even to determine whether the charges are defendable.
In my case, my appointed defense counsel requested the Rule 16 discovery and bill of particulars materials, but the Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney's Office flatly refused to turn over those mandatory documents, exhibits, witness lists, medical and scientific reports, and even the exculpatory materials.
So, my attorney was not aware of any of the facts of the case, and could not discuss them with me, and didn't bother to attempt to prepare a defense. What he did was instruct me that if I did not plead guilty, I would be convicted on all counts and sentenced to 4 life terms in prison. He told me that either I accept the 8 year prison term offered by the prosecuting attorney, or I would surely spend the rest of my life in prison, regardless of whether I was even, in fact, innocent!
After arriving in prison I met Robert Norris (every one here calls him Johnny Cochran) and after I explained to him what had occurred in my case, he began preparing and filing many documents seeking to withdraw my guilty plea. All of the pleadings that he's filed for me, to date, have never been responded to by the Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, and even my appeal, which is currently pending in the Cuyahoga County Eighth Appellate District Court is unattended by that office.
First I filed a "Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea", which was denied by my trial judge without commentary. Then I filed an application for "delayed appeal", which was granted, then the court appointed counsel to me.
At last, after many months of delays, a brief was finally submitted and filed on my behalf, on May 30, 2000.
I believe that this pleading, (and its accompanying affidavit and evidentiary documents), clearly and irrefutably establish not only my actual innocence, but of greater importance here, a prima facie case for the conclusion that substantial exculpatory materials were intentionally withheld from me by the Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, and my court-appointed trial counsel, Mr. Thomas Shaughnessy.
Simply put, I was tricked into entering a plea of guilty to charges that even the State of Ohio had documented proof counseling to the contrary.
In turn, I ask you, my readers, to please read for yourself this most telling document, and if your conclusion is the same, that I have known in my heart of hearts to be true, I ask that you would include these matters in your prayers, so that a just resolution would soon follow.
The views and opinions expressed
on this site are not necessarily
those of the IIAO, however, wrongful conviction and
imprisonment are quite obvious.
©2000 IIAO Inc.