in the Darkness Bind Them"1
The Story of John Wesley Frazier [also see John's web page]
"we ought to be upon our gaurd lest our zeal for the public interest lead us to overstep the bounds of the law and the constitution; for although we may thereby bring one criminal to punishment, we may furnish the means by which an hundred innocent persons may suffer." Judge Cranch, 1807
|In August, 2005, I briefed an Ohio Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus for a man at Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio. I
sent it to my counsel, William R. Gallagher of Cincinnati, who took it
home with him, reviewed it, and told me he would file it the next week.
The Ohio prisoner that was the subject of the Writ is a friend of mine.
He granted me exclusive rights to tell his story.
Between February 1993 and May 1996 he was in five Ohio County Jails before he was sentenced to 43 years to Life for the Aggravated Murder of a Police Officer and an Aggravated Robbery. He was facing the Death Penalty. He has been in prison for 9½ years. This is the story of John Wesley Frazier.
John grew up hard. His family was an extended family, with a strong Cherokee heritage, that moved suddenly and frequently while John was young. In the investigation report for his mitigation hearing, records from one school stated he had been enrolled in six previous kindergartens that year alone. John was 5 years old at the time. The report stated family members would testify John's family had moved no less than 20 times between the time John was 4 and 17 years old.
Investigators could not find all the records of John's schooling, due to the transient nature of his extended family, but came to the conclusion John was enrolled in no less than 20 schools between kindergarten and the 10th grade. John says they missed another year when he was in at least seven schools. It was further discovered the moves were unexpected and without thought as to where the family would live or work. The lack of planning resulted in the family sleeping in cars, or sharing homes with one or two other families most of the times they moved.
John also lived most of his life before he found out he had Dyslexia. It was never discovered or compensated for by his schools, because he never was in one place long enough to be diagnosed. All he knew was he did not like books, and had to struggle with them. He compensated for this by learning to study harder and read where there were no distractions. Even today, he still studies and reads alone in his cell and cannot concentrate with interruptions in places like a Law Library.
My insistence that he become familiar with the cases I cited in his
court actions resulted in a marked improvement in his reading ability over
the past four years. He writes poetry, but uses Old English. He says Old
English makes more sense to him than modern English. The amount of effort
he expends in improving his reading staggers me. John has the ability to
focus on one thing and not quit on it until he understands it. Once given
something to read, John will read it, read it again, study it almost line
for line, usually with a worn out dictionary beside him, and not discuss
it with me until he is comfortable that he understands it. I found that
something I could read in 15 minutes might take John 3 hours to grasp,
but once he grasped it, his understanding is as good as mine. It just takes
him a little longer.
John, as he grew older, was traveling back and forth to Florida. In 1993, a friend of John's, that everyone called "Indian," introduced John to the owner of United Shows one day. United Shows is headquarted in Nashville, Tennessee. They had an $80,000 Sea Dragon that needed to be hauled from Nashville to the Florida State Fair and set up. The Fair was held that year in the first week of February. John had a Class A Commercial Drivers License and occasionally drove the big rigs on a freelance basis.
As a Lineman he used the license to haul line poles, and expanded that to a second profession, so he could pick up extra money when an opportunity came along. United Shows saw an immediate advantage in hiring John. Not only could he drive the Sea Dragon down to the State Fair, but as a Lineman, John could do all the electrical setup on the Sea Dragon. The owner of United Shows killed two birds with one stone in hiring John, and the money was good for both of them.
John was also an amateur gunsmith. He bought old guns and restored them as a hobby. He customized guns by carving Cherokee signs in the stocks, or etching the barrel, before he blued them. John was a patient person and he did really detailed work. He made good money when he finished and sold a gun he had customized.
On his previous trip back to Florida, from Lancaster, he had been stopped in Kentucky and the police had searched his van. They saw the gun parts he had with him and told him they preferred he not bring them with him on his way back through Kentucky next time. John wasn't doing anything illegal, it's just that John, with his tattoos and long hair, wasn't exactly the type of gunsmith the police are used to. He had been stereotyped, as is all too common in America, and singled out for "special attention." This wasn't the first time John had run into this in his life, and his reaction was to sigh and decide to stop hauling his gun parts around with him to work on in his spare time.
After setting up the Sea Dragon the first week of February 1993, John headed back home to Lancaster. He hadn't sold all the guns he had with him yet, but decided to chance being stopped in Kentucky. He had a couple of friends in Lancaster who would probably buy what he had left. What they didn't buy he could leave at his sister's house. Besides, most of them were in parts, except for a Rossi Interarms .38 revolver John kept for protection while he was on the road.
Returning home around the 7th of February 1993, John went out partying with friends. They went to the Eagles and hit a couple of other bars. John ran into a woman named Melissa McCoy, who he had not seen in a couple of years. They hooked up and started running around together. Melissa had skipped out on her parole and wanted to go back to Florida with him when John left. She had been avoiding arrest for around six months by staying with different people and not working. The clutch fan went out on John's van the first week he was back, and he had to replace it. John stayed a night with Melissa at her mother's home another night. Melissa wanted to go see a friend in Reading, Pennsylvania and John drove her there the second week he was back.
They were gone for a couple of days. Melissa and John ran around for a couple of weeks doing these things. They were planning to return to Florida around the 22nd or 23rd of February. On the evening of February 20th, 1993, John went to Tony Romine's house to see if he could sell his gun parts, and a few guns he had kept at his sister's house. One he had customized. He figured he would be pushing his luck to take them back through Kentucky again.
After leaving Romine's house, John and Melissa stopped at Rob Cox's house around ten or eleven P.M. and hung out for a while. John asked Rob if he could park his van in the alley in front of his house later that night, because John had not seen his probation officer for two or three months and didn't want to park it out on the open street, thinking the police might be looking for it. John's van had a bed in the back and he usually slept in it at night. John and Melissa left Rob's and dropped off the guns he had back at his sister Robin's house. He kept the Rossi Interarms .38 revolver, which he carried in the van for protection while on the road.
He was at Robin's house for about ½ hour. When he left, he put the Rossi on a cabinet in the back of the van. He and Melissa drove out to Clear Creek, listening to the stereo in the van, and then drove back to Lancaster sometime after 12:30 A.M. on the morning of February 21st, 1993.
After arriving back in Lancaster, as John and Melissa were driving around, Melissa told John she had Herpes Simplex B and John was pissed off and arguing with her because she had not told him before he slept with her. (John wants you to know he did not catch Herpes from Melissa). John pulled over on Broad Street and parked close to Paul's Night Club. He got out of the van to cool off. Melissa started the van up and drove away. Police reports indicate Melissa went to the Bottle Cap Bar and drank for about an hour after she left John standing outside Paul's Night Club. It was around 1:30 A.M. on the morning of February 21st, 1993, when John began the last walk he would take as a free man for the next 12½ years.
John was 29 years old that night. Remarkably, in light of his family's history, John only had a minor criminal record. He was a rough old boy, a biker, and had a reputation as a loner. He had a wild look in his eyes, long brown hair and a strong build from working the lines and trucks. He was a free spirit...he was a Cherokee in heart, mind and spirit.
If he was mad at you for doing him wrong, he'd sit down with you, hand you a fifth of whiskey, break one open for himself, drink with you--then whip your ass. John didn't do anything rashly, he was a thinker. He spent a lot of time alone on the road, and liked it that way. He didn't talk much. He had a couple of Harley's and he would come off a good job and hit the road for a month at a time, riding and sleeping under the stars.
John was a member of the IBA, the International Biker's Association. Like most law enforcement, the Lancaster police didn't care much for bikers, or John and his friends. They kept a close eye on them. But they had never caught John doing anything wrong. The only record John had was for a misdemeanor drug abuse charge he caught in Columbus. At 1:30 A.M. on the morning of February 21st, 1993, John was on probation for that charge and hadn't reported to his probation officer in a couple of months. He was planning to go see them on Monday morning before he left for Florida. Since he hadn't been in any trouble, he figured at most he'd get warned to report more frequently. That played a big role in his decisions that night.
John crossed Broad Street going east into a residential area that sits between Broad Street and St. Rt. 33. John walked from Broad Street, across several side streets in this housing area, towards St. Rt. 33 to the last street running parallel to St. Rt. 33 and turned right. His cousin Kathy lived on the other side of a factory located at the end of that last street, on a dead end street running parallel to St. Rt. 33. Kathy gave a sworn statement that John had told her he would stop by her house and see her before he left for Florida.
Walking towards the factory that night, all John was doing was what he did best, being alone and clearing his mind of another betrayal, in a long list of betrayals that had been his life.
John's intent was to go around the factory fence to Kathy's house. At the end of the street was a half-circle that circled back west and connected with Second Street, back towards Broad Street. John believes it was First Street he was on, but doesn't know that area of Lancaster that well and can't say for sure. He is sure it was the last street back towards St. Rt. 33. He walked south along First Street to the half-circle at its end and walked to the right on the half-circle, intending to turn left and go around the factory fence to Kathy's.
A man who lives in a house in the half-circle, between the joined streets, was standing out on his porch that night, watching all the police in the neighborhood, and saw John coming around the half-circle from the direction of St. Rt. 33. The man's house was located closer to Second Street, and he had seen the police before John did, because John was coming around the half-circle from behind the man's house. This was from the opposite direction, and outside of, where the police were expanding their search area, and from the opposite direction from where the police had been tracking a robber.
It was when John reached past the middle of the half-circle that John also saw the police cruisers driving towards him on Second Street. The Hocking River runs past Second Street, through a field, towards a park that was West of Kathy's house and between her house and South Broad Street. The "river" was more like a shallow creek at this point. The park was south and west, off to the left of where John was standing, as he faced west.
The factory, and Kathy's house, was to his left, or due South, the man's house was to his right, or North, and the police were coming South towards John on Second Street. The Hocking River ran through a field that was now in front of and West of John, and between him and Broad Street. John, upon seeing all the police cruisers, instead of walking left on towards his cousin's home, headed straight back towards Broad Street to the foot bridge that ran over the Hocking River, called Tarhe Run, and went down the embankment to wait for the police to leave the area. He figured it was just some response to a prowler call, and they would drive through the neighborhood and leave.
He was on probation for the drug abuse charge he had caught in Columbus, it was almost 2:00 A.M., and John wasn't in the mood to be stopped alone and hassled by the police after his argument with Melissa.
Unknown to John, on the other side of Lancaster almost an hour earlier, a Dairy Mart at 420 Lincoln Avenue had been robbed. The Dairy Mart was located less than a block from a house on George Street where John had lived for a couple of years. In fact, John knew the man who ran the Dairy Mart because he used to go in it all the time to shop.
A light snow was falling and the police had been tracking the man who had robbed the Dairy Mart for almost an hour. During that chase a Police Officer Brett Markwood had been found shot in the head. The shooting had to have occurred only a few minutes after John had got out of the van to cool off from his argument with Melissa.
The Lancaster Police Department was in a fury searching for the person who had shot one of their own, and unknown to John, the search was expanding right towards him from the other side of the Hocking River, and down Second Street.
A few minutes after John went down the embankment, police appeared at the top of the embankment with guns drawn and pointed at him, screaming for him to get down on his stomach in the water. They damn near drowned John that night once they came down and got their hands on him. John was handcuffed, arrested, taken to the City Jail and placed in a dry holding cell, without water.
A Columbus evidence unit was called. An Atomic Absorption test was performed on John's hands to detect any gunpowder residue. The test was negative. Police claim this was because John's hands were in the river. Yet laboratory tests show gunpowder residue actually burns into the surface of the skin and is removable only by vigorous scrubbing. A trace metal test detected trace metal on John's hands, "consistent with handling a gun." (John had just shown his guns to friends a few hours earlier. Sworn statements support this). Gloves, initially reported recovered inside the red ski mask near the Dairy Mart in the first police reports, are not mentioned in later reports. Officer Markwood died 13 hours after he was shot.
No gun had been taken from John when he was arrested. A later report claimed a Rossi Interarms .38 caliber revolver had been recovered the next day from the riverbed where John had been arrested. But no gun is listed in the evidence on file against John in the Lancaster Police records. Further, Melissa McCoy was arrested on Thursday, March 4th, 1993. The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, on Tuesday, March 9th, 1993, reported it stated in court documents that McCoy had a Rossi Interarm .38 revolver in her possession when she was arrested. John had not taken his gun with him when he got out of the van near Paul's Night Club.
The police further took $74.00 and $15.00 in single dollar Food Stamps from John when he was arrested. They claimed the Food Stamps were part of what had been stolen from the Dairy Mart, based on tracing serial numbers to the persons the Food Stamps had been issued to, and determining those people shopped at the Dairy Mart. John had went over to his brother Paul's house early on February 20th, 1993, to see him. John's brother, which everyone called "Bear," lived with a woman named Angie, who received Food Stamps.
She was sick that day, and they gave John some Food Stamps to stop and buy some food for them when he had a chance. As anyone knows, one dollar Food Stamps are given as change whenever large denominations are used to pay for food. Angie, Paul and her two sons shopped at the Dairy Mart all the time. The Food Stamps in John's Blue Jean pocket may well have come from the Dairy Mart at some time, but they were given to John by Bear earlier that day, and were not what was taken during the robbery.
While he was in the Fairfield County Jail, the police obtained an order from the Court allowing them to open and copy all of his outgoing and incoming mail. John was placed in isolation. His phone calls were recorded. Everything was turned over to the prosecutor. John was Indicted and charged with the Aggravated Murder of Police Officer Brett Markwood, and the Aggravated Robbery of the Dairy Mart.
Officer Markwood had been shot around ten minutes before John was arrested on the morning of February 21st, 1993, while pursuing the man who had robbed the Dairy Mart across town, according to police reports and newspaper articles. The chase had been in progress for about an hour before Markwood had been shot. From the beginning of the legal process, it became obvious the police were hand feeding the media, hiding a lot of the details and holding back evidence.
This has distorted the facts of the case against John, relying on the outrage over the death of a young, good officer to prevent anyone digging any deeper into the facts, and discovering that nothing connects John to Officer Markwood's death, but John being where he was that night.
Adam Pillar, one of the police officers who arrested John, and who is now a Captain on the Lancaster Police Department, testified during a Suppression Hearing, to a statement he said John made when he was arrested, supposedly blaming another person for shooting Officer Markwood. Adam Pillar also testified that at the time he heard the statement, he did not know Markwood had been shot.
A report by the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, dated February 22, 2003, at page 11A, states Adam Pillar "was first on the scene and tried to resuscitate Brett." It would be unlikely that Pillar would not know someone he had just performed CPR on had just been shot...yet under oath he denied that knowledge.
The police released a statement to the press in which they claimed a gun, a Rossi Interarms .38 revolver, was found the next day in the river where they arrested John. Yet no gun appears on the Evidence List in John's case, and the same gun they claimed they found on John was later reported in Court documents as seized from Melissa McCoy when she was arrested at the beginning of March. Stranger yet, a month after John's arrest, all the guns of the Lancaster Police Department were seized and destroyed, and new guns issued to the entire Department.
I must jump ahead at this point to give you an overview of what happened to John between February 21st, 1993, and May 16th, 1996. For over three years John was kept in isolation most of the time. The jails he was held in started forcibly medicating John, increasing his medication until on May 16th, 1996, John was being given 400 milligrams of Thorazine, 350 milligrams of Elavil, per day, plus a small "nerve" pill they said was similar to Xanax.
John was transferred to five different County Jails during that period of time, across Ohio, starting in early April, 1993. At each County Jail John was treated to an intensive campaign of psychological torture by his jailers, such as is reserved for "cop killers." This included frequent reminders that he would soon die for "what he had done." The venue of his case was eventually transferred to Dayton in Montgomery County, Ohio. You had to have this information to understand the frame of mind John was in while he was being held, facing the Death Penalty for a crime he had not committed.
The State had John in a drugged out daze. This continued after John was sent to Ohio's prison system, with John only getting off of these medications four years ago after he talked to me. I told him I needed his head clear if I was going to help him, and for him to stay out of trouble. Today, as I write this, John is off all drugs and lives in the Super-Merit Block in a cell above mine.
On October 12th, 1993, John's attorneys took John to Court where they had worked out a Plea Agreement that would prevent John from receiving the Death Penalty. John's family had been told by his attorneys they were not there to prove John innocent, or defend him, only to keep him from being sentenced to death.
By then John had been in solitary confinement for over seven months, and was being forcibly administered multiple anti-psychotic drugs. The State had released selected pieces of their "evidence" against John, to the media, creating a media frenzy about his case. No less than five TV stations had applied for permission to broadcast live from the court room. Part of the "evidence" leaked included a statement from Melissa McCoy that said John had told her he was going to rob the Budget gas station when he had gotten out of the van that night.
Melissa McCoy was charged as John's co-defendant, with her parole violation, with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and Aggravated Robbery. She had also been threatened with being charged as an accomplice in the Aggravated Murder of Officer Markwood. Melissa McCoy was facing spending the rest of her life in prison, if not the Death Penalty, when she gave the statement in exchange for a deal that ended in her being sentenced on May 5th, 1993 to 8 to 15 years in prison. She did less than 2 years and was released.
That isn't even a slap on the wrist for a parole violator with a gun in Ohio. A man across the hall, in A-Block, is doing 10 years flat because he was in his father's house, and his father had a gun cabinet in the basement.
With Melissa ready to testify to anything the prosecutor asked her to say, John felt he had little hope of avoiding being sentenced to death at a trial, so he agreed to enter the guilty plea in exchange for his life.
On October 12th, 1993, a three-judge panel discussed the Plea Agreement in chambers, before the hearing was held, with two prosecutors and John's three attorneys present. They opinioned the Plea Agreement, which contained a clause making it null and void if John was sentenced to death, was legal. The hearing was commenced. A statement of the evidence was read by the prosecutor. The three-judge panel found John Frazier Guilty of the Aggravated Murder of Police Officer Brett Markwood, and of the Aggravated Robbery.
The Court then had mitigation witnesses sworn in and heard their testimony. The Court then recessed to deliberate John's sentence. Understand that, by Ohio law, the three-judge panel was John's jury, even though he had entered a plea of guilty, as long as the Death Specifications remained undismissed. When they heard evidence and swore in witnesses, Jeopardy attached. An Aggravated Murder case, with Death Penalty Specifications, is a whole different world in the Courts from a regular guilty plea on a lesser crime.
Under Ohio law, Criminal Rule 11(C) requires the Court to make a determination if the evidence supports a conviction of Aggravated Murder, or of the lesser offense of Murder, and enter that Judgment of Guilt upon the Court Docket separately. Criminal Rule 32(B) requires a Judgment of Guilt to be entered on the Court Docket in all crimes, but evidence is not required to be taken through witnesses in lesser crimes.
The three-judge panel was supposed to reconvene the hearing that afternoon. They did not. In fact it was not until October 19th, 1993, that the Court reconvened.
At that time, despite having previously accepted the Plea Agreement as legal, and having heard testimony and witnesses, the three-judge panel unaccepted the Plea Agreement and Guilty Plea, stating they believed it infringed upon their independence, that they believed the Plea Agreement had been coerced and could never have been entered into voluntarily by John, and entered a Plea of Not Guilty upon the Court Docket for John Frazier. This amazing turn of events left everyone in the courtroom stunned, and what followed resembles old Keystone Cops movies.
The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the first three-judge panel dissolved. A second three-judge panel was convened. On December 10th, 1993, the second three-judge panel held the first three-judge panel was correct in rejecting the Plea Agreement and held they would not accept the Plea Agreement either. Understand the prosecutors, Brett Markwood's family, the Lancaster Police Department, John and John's attorneys had all agreed to the Plea Agreement. But this is just the start of the fiasco that followed.
When the first three-judge panel had "unaccepted" the guilty plea, after hearing evidence, finding John guilty, and hearing sworn testimony, John's attorney's filed a Motion to Dismiss the entire case, claiming that Jeopardy had attached at the first hearing, and John could not now be placed in Jeopardy twice.
The second three-judge panel opinioned that Jeopardy had not attached. Ohio is one of a few States that does not recognize the denial of a Motion to Dismiss on Double Jeopardy grounds as a "final appealable order." This means no appeal can be taken from an order denying dismissal on Double Jeopardy grounds.
This is directly contrary to Federal Law, which holds the Double Jeopardy Clause protects citizens from the risk of a second trial, not that the citizen must suffer through a second trial, and then raise the denial of a Motion to Dismiss on Double Jeopardy grounds in a Direct Appeal, after the citizen has already been convicted at a trial that was prohibited from taking place in the first instance.
To be safe, John's attorneys appealed the issue to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals rejected the appeal on April 1st, 1994. Appeal was then filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, which refused to hear it on August 31,1994. Bear in mind John is in solitary confinement and his medications are being gradually increased during all this time.
On February 21,1995, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. John's attorneys then filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the U.S. District Court in Dayton, Ohio. At no time did the attorneys tell John they had filed a Federal Petition for Writ. John's signature is required to be placed on a Federal Petition for Writ by 28 U.S.C. §2242, as a verification that he authorized the Writ. His signature does not appear anywhere on the forms filed. The case was assigned to Magistrate Michael R. Merz. Magistrate Merz, by the way, is one of the persons President Bush is now considering for appointment as a Federal Judge.
A Stay of Proceedings was issued in John's case on August 9th, 1995, until a decision was made by the Federal Court. On February 9th, 1996, in a back room deal, an Order was issued by Magistrate Judge Merz, ordering the Ohio Court to Sentence John Frazier, through the "Conditional" grant of John's Federal Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
This Order is unreported and not published in any law book. There are several serious legal problems with this order. First, the law is clear that Jeopardy had attached when the panel of judges had heard evidence and witnesses on October 12th, 1993. Second, the only legal remedy for a Double Jeopardy violation is the Unconditional Grant of a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ordering the Discharge of the citizen with prejudice to retrial. Third, and most importantly, John had never been convicted.
When the first three-judge panel, on October 19th, 1993, had entered its Order on the Court docket, it entered a Plea of Not Guilty for John. Nowhere did it enter upon the Court Docket a Judgment of Guilt. The second three-judge panel had likewise rejected the Plea Agreement, and affirmed the first three-judge panels "unacceptance" of the Guilty Plea.
On May 16th, 1996, John was brought before a single Judge in Lancaster, in Fairfield County, Ohio. By then John was on 400 milligrams of Thorazine, 350 milligrams of Elavil, some unknown "nerve" pill, and had been in solitary confinement for most of the three years since his arrest. Long term Solitary confinement alone, for that length of time, has been known to induce insanity. John doesn't remember the hearing.
According to the transcripts of that Sentencing Hearing, which we finally received the second week of August, 2005, John was asked to sign a Waiver of his right to a Jury Trial, a Waiver of his right to a Three-Judge Panel, and a "Reaffirmation" of his Guilty Plea. His signature appears on these documents, although he doesn't remember signing them.
The Court Judge Otho Eyster, a visiting Judge from Knox County, stated he had taken Judicial Notice of the Statement of Facts read by the prosecution on October 12th, 1993, had taken Judicial Notice of the mitigation witness testimony heard by the first three-judge panel on October 12th, 1993, and accepted the Plea of Guilty to Count Two, Aggravated Murder, Death Specifications One, Two and Four, and Count Three, Aggravated Robbery.
He then, according to the Sentencing Entry of May 16th, 1996, (everybody else in Ohio's prison system has a "Judgment and Entry,"), stated the prosecution had dismissed Count One, Specifications One, Two, Three and Four; Specification Three as to Count Two, and Specification Three as to Count Three.
The Court then provides the Defense with the opportunity to present additional mitigation evidence. It then allows Brett Markwood's family to read the victim impact statement into the record.
The Court then sentenced John Frazier to 43 years to life. That afternoon John was transported to the Ohio Penitentiary.
Nowhere, in any court record or court docket did John Frazier receive a Judgment of a Court finding him Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes for which he was sentenced. They just sent him to prison.
The most telling evidence is the statement of Judge Otho Eyster made
on the record of the transcripts of the Sentencing Hearing before he proceeded
to Sentence John. Judge Eyster stated on May 16th, 1996:
Why? The answer is simple. Shortly after John Frazier was arrested, another police officer on the Lancaster City Police Department committed suicide. Investigator's reports show that before he committed suicide, he confessed to his fiancé that he had shot Officer Brett Markwood by mistake during the chase on the morning of February 21st, 1993.
The fiancéís name is Dona McCrackin. She's told half a dozen people in Lancaster about his confession. It's allover the streets. Everybody knows John is innocent. But she's afraid of the police, and she is convinced it was John who robbed that Dairy Mart, thus leading to the suicide. She blames John.
Instead of ruining a good police officer's life or reputation over a mistake, (and convinced John Frazier had actually robbed the Dairy Mart that night, and if he had not done that that Brett Markwood would still be alive,) the police remained silent and let John take the fall for Brett's death.
That is why all the guns were seized a month later from the entire Police Department and destroyed. That is why the gun taken from Melissa McCoy was said to have been found in the river the next day. That is why Melissa McCoy was threatened until she gave the statement against John. That is why John was bounced between five County Jails, and placed on so much medication he was unable to function. That is why no gunpowder residue was found on John's hands that night. That is why no gun appears on the Evidence List in his case. That is why the man who ran the Dairy Mart that night swears it was not John who robbed him that night. He knew John. John had lived just across the street from there for two years and been in the Dairy Mart almost daily.
John Wesley Frazier is innocent. Locking prisoners accused of serious crimes in solitary confinement for years before trial, and being allowed to forcibly administer drugs known to break down their will, has become accepted practice in this nation. Such tactics leave citizens without the ability to fight for their freedom, even when they are innocent. As shown by John, even strong men can be made to sign their name on anything placed before them, just to escape from the hell of their jail cell and threats of death to the lesser hell of "freedom" in prison.
By allowing perceived criminals to be treated as John was, we "furnish the means by which an hundred innocent men may suffer."
One of the standard questions asked persons pleading guilty is whether or not they are on any drugs or medication that could affect their knowing waiver of their rights by entering a guilty plea. That question is suspiciously missing from John's sentencing transcripts.
Shuffling, drug dazed prisoners, squinting at the light in the court room, because of being confined in total isolation for months or years, should not be a part of the judicial system of the United States. Yet we, the people, have turned our head and allowed this to become accepted practice in cases where the charges are extremely serious.
Most people believe our justice system has too many checks and balances, because they are told to believe that by the very people who are supposed to be stopped from abusing their power by those checks and balances. Told that all too often, until they are willing to give up their Civil Rights for a phantom promise of security.
"A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will deserve neither and lose both."2
Let a cop get killed, or a child raped, and today's justice system is all too ready to throw the Constitution out the door. And you, the people of this great country, are too willing to let them.
When was the last time you made trials in your city really public trials, and sat in on them to see for yourself what was happening?
Why do you think so many citizens are being proven innocent by new DNA evidence across this country? Some prosecutors and police are out of control. Are the ones you voted for or hired treating the people they arrest and prosecute fairly? Once they pick someone up, they're going to jail or prison. They know you don't even care enough to show up. They know you have better things to do. After all, it doesn't affect "you."
John Frazier was sentenced to Life in prison without ever being first found guilty of a crime. Roll that around in your mind for a while. What if it happened to you, or your son, or your father? If it happened to John, it can happen to anybody who, by chance, walks into a police search like John did. Especially if you don't look or live a "normal" life, or don't have 2.4 kids, a picket fence and an SUV.
Decimus Junius Juvenal asked, "Sed quis custodient ipsos custodes?"
In a democracy, it must be the people who guard the guards. Do you think jury duty is your only civic duty, and that a bother? Most people seem to today. If you do not "guard the guards," then an unknown author's statement will surely come true:
"A population of sheep, in time, will surely beget a government of wolves."2
Think about that the next time you read how we must give up our Civil Rights for our security. Think about that the next time you have a fight with your girlfriend or wife and decide to walk over to your cousin or brother's house, like John did that night 12½ years ago.
Until next time, this is Jim Love reporting From The Front Line.
1Written on the One Ring in "The Lord
of the Rings" by Tolkein.
James Love. All Rights Reserved.
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