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Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Murray seeking new trial

August 29, 2007

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Imprisoned former K-State professor seeking a new trial

A former Kansas State University English professor convicted of killing his ex-wife claims he was denied a fair trial and wants a new one. Enlarge video

— Thomas E. Murray, the Kansas State University professor convicted of killing his ex-wife, Carmin D. Ross, in her rural Douglas County home, says he was denied a fair trial and wants a new one.

Murray's appeal will be heard by the Kansas Supreme Court on Sept. 6.

"The state's case was a house of cards, built on dozens of minor circumstances," Murray's appellate attorney, Sarah Ellen Johnson, argued in a legal brief.

Johnson said there was insufficient evidence to convict Murray, who is serving a life sentence. She has asked the court to reverse the conviction and order a new trial.

But Assistant Douglas County District Attorney Angela Wilson said Murray received a fair trial and that any alleged errors in the trial were harmless when compared with the "overwhelming mountain of circumstantial evidence in this case."

Ross' body was discovered Nov. 14, 2003, in her home north of Lawrence, just days after she had told Murray that her boyfriend was moving in with her.

Murray and Ross, who had divorced in 2003, had been involved in a custody dispute over their 4-year-old daughter.

In his appeal, Murray argues that during the trial, prosecutors made improper statements in closing arguments and that the court wrongfully allowed the jury to hear testimony that Murray had invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and hearsay statements from witnesses that cast Murray in a negative light.

In closing arguments, prosecutors said Murray's blood was found in Ross' bathroom.

"There is no evidence to support that claim," Johnson wrote.

A prosecutor also said, "His best friend thinks he's a murderer." Johnson said that was a misstatement.

Also during testimony, a police detective testified that Murray had refused a follow-up interview on advice of counsel.

"The right to silence is meaningless if the invocation of that right can itself be used against a defendant," Johnson said.

But Wilson said Murray's attorneys opened the door to the detective's testimony about a follow-up interview when they asked him if there were other questions they had asked Murray.

Hearsay evidence, or what others had said Ross had said about Murray before her death, was allowable, Wilson said, because it was relevant to the marital discord and mental state of Murray.

As far as comments made during closing arguments, Wilson said Murray's attorneys failed to object at the time.

"Further, the failure to make objection deprived the trial court of the opportunity to cure any improper comment, if such comment was, in fact, improper," she wrote.

Comments

logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Py,

I appreciate the statistics. The odds of wrongful acquital vs. wrongful convictions seem roughly equivalent: 10% vs. 7%. A 7% chance exists that someone facing a jury trial will be found guilty when they are not guilty. This is why we have the "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt standard," which you allude to in your post. We both understand that the system was set up to err on the side of the "accused." The Duke rape case is a perfect example of the system operating correctly. This case however is a head scratcher.

It is not correct to say I am suggesting that because such murderous rage is not normal that therefore this guy should be acquited. The reason I would vote to acquit is because the state never proved that the guy was a control freak capable of this kind of outrage.

With Simpson we had the beating of the wife, the many instances of police calls to the home, the spying on her when they were not married, the constant hostility, and the wife's statements to her family that Simpson was out to kill her. With Simpson the murderous rage was very obvious.

With Murray there were no reports that suggested he was of like mind. Instead what we had is someone who supposedly planned the murder by researching it on the Internet and then staging a murder that looked like it was done by a psychopath. The state placed a great deal of emphasis on his Internet search, which of course he claimed was background for a Hollywood script he was writing. But they never tied the research to a murder of passion.

Again, the motive is not convincing unless there were psychiatric and other evidence that suggested this guy had a dark side that no one knew about. There was no testimony pointing to Murray's darker nature (like Simpson). So I have no evidence he was a control freak, and without it, I don't buy the prosecution's motive.

Without evidence supporting the control freak theory, I want proof the accused was at the scene of the crime. This does not mean a missing gap in being able to account for his time on the day of the murder. I want hard evidence. As far as I could tell there was NONE, ZERO, ZIP, NADA.

As a single guy I worry about that. What if a woman I was dating was raped and murdered while I was at home by myself? How could I prove that I was at home if they could convict me without having to prove I was at the scene of the crime? I also have no criminal record. Put yourself in this guy's shoes. What if he is innocent???? The state has an obligation to make a better case than the one they presented. That's all I'm saying. And right now, they haven't convinced me. And your facts that purport to tell me that normal people do extraordinarily violent acts in a fit of passion is all well and good. But there has to be a pattern, and if not a pattern, evidence the guy actually committed the crime. No evidence? No conviction. Period.

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kansasdaughter 6 years, 7 months ago

happyface-don't you know that when jesus died on the cross he did so to have the sins of all people (who have accepted him) forgiven? They won't go to hell when they die, they are in hell right now, so keep praying for them.

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Pywacket 6 years, 7 months ago

A_A has offered an excellent response.

There are statistics suggesting that (in jury trials, at least), wrongful convictions might range as high as 7%, while wrongful acquittals go as high as 10% (Bruce Spencer-Northwestern Univ. Inst. for Policy Research: http://lsolum.typepad.com/legaltheory/2007/06/index.html).

Another viewpoint: http://wohlstetter.typepad.com/letterfromthecapitol/the_home_front/index.html Scroll down to the May 24, 2007 entry, titled, "Courts: How often do we convict the 'wrong man?'"

I would add, also, that many law scholars point out that a much higher number (an unmeasurable number, for which statistics, therefore, are impossible to calculate) of truly guilty people never are punished--they either are not caught, or (very often) the case never goes to trial because of lack of evidence, and so on... For the accused who do go to trial, the laws are stacked in their favor, due to the assumption of innocence until "proven" guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, if the available evidence (what the perp didn't hide, clean up, sink in the ocean, burn, etc) doesn't overwhelmingly point to guilt, the jury must acquit. It's only logical that more guilty people will walk free than innocent people are sent to jail. (Southern persecution of blacks is a whole 'nother animal, and I believe you and I would be on the same page there. But that is a skew from the statistical averages.)

Often a woman is in most danger from a controlling partner after she has left him--and when he feels he is losing that control over her and--significantly--any offspring. Nothing mysterious about this case. He wanted control over his kid w/o having to deal with any more hassle and expense of the legal system.

No--most people don't respond this way, but what kind of logic is that? By that "logic," I guess you'd be ready to disbelieve that anyone anywhere committed a crime, since "most people" don't commit the same crime to solve their problems.

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Azure_Attitude 6 years, 7 months ago

It's the video that really did this guy in. I believe that's what the jury indicated.

Log, you are right when you say that most divorced people don't kill thier ex just becuase they are moving out of state. But the fact is that in most cases where the ex's are killed at the center of the issue is a custody dispute (i.e. control). The parent with the controlling behavior - a well documented trait in Murray - just can't deal, no matter how mild mannered they may appear. Usually, those sick bastards go out of their way to appear the opposite in public. Then there is the sickening trend of murder/suicide, the ultimate in controlling behavior! The data is out there, just go look it up in the crime statisics. BTW. . . You don't have to physically batter somene in order to abuse them.

It is surely a coward who uses the privacy and security of their home to intimidate and terriorize their loved ones and Murray is a desperate, pathetic coward.

If you don't see a motive here it's because you don't want to see it. In this case motive is all over the place.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

This guy gets none of my sympathy, but I do want to see justice done. No one deserves to go to jail for life without a fair trial and a case that meets the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

I still don't see any motive. Please let me know what you believe the motive was. Most divorced couples don't kill each other because one of them is moving out of state with the child. Just doesn't happen. Instead, like with Miller, the murder takes place while the couple are still married.

Knowing the victim doesn't make him guilty.

Passion might result in a murder that involves stabbing the victim 13 or 14 times. My understanding is that her body was found on a table with the knife still impaled inside her. But this killing also shows a sadistic bent.

This guy had no criminal record. Nada. No evidence was presented that he tortured animals or beat his kid. There was no evidence of altercations between Murray and his wife.

When someone is looking up how to murder someone on the Internet, that's not a crime of passion. That's cold blooded planned murder.

Perhaps he planned to kill her in a way to make it look like a crime of passion in order to throw the cops off the track. Remember, the prosecution said he was researching murders on the Intnernet. However that's a reach and if it was cold blooded murder, there has to be a motive. No motive.

And still no evidence was provided that placed him at the scene of the crime. If it was a crime of passion, there are usually slip-ups. Something left at the scene. Blood. Look at OJ - footprints, bloody glove, etc.

BTW, please cite statistics to support your statement that more guilty walk free than innocent convicted. I was raised in the south, and I'm glad I wasn't born black.

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Pywacket 6 years, 7 months ago

Log..

Yeah, there are a few "false guilty" verdicts that get spectacular media coverage--which leads people to maybe believe there are much more prevalent than they really are. But there are far more "false innocent" verdicts (OJ, anyone?) where the guilty-as-hell perp walks.

Also, a high percentage of the "false guilty" cases involve some poor schmuck who had the misfortune of looking like the actual perp and just coincidentally being in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading the traumatized victim to "identify" the person in a lineup. Often that identification was the key piece of evidence leading to conviction. Years later, DNA is revealing some of these convicted people as innocent.

This guy wasn't just some stranger who was unlucky enough to be in the neighborhood at the time... or to be identified by an observer as the person they saw in the vicinity. He knew the victim and had motive up the yinyang. As someone else pointed out, this was a crime of passion. As a rule (sometimes broken, but not usually) any time a murder is this brutal or violent, the victim is known to the perp and there is a lot of anger involved. Additionally, his comments to acquaintances, then his comments to the police, just didn't add up.

You're wasting a lot of sympathy on this bag of $h**. Can't fault you for being compassionate or wanting to see justice done, but this time, I believe you're betting on the wrong horse.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Folks,

Please read my post at 9:21 a.m. All of these INNOCENT Americans were convicted by a jury of there peers. People like to obey. They like to march in lockstep. It is the few that say why?

Just the Facts:

Are you citing motives from the case or just your opinion of what the motives were.

1) She left him and was much happier without him. So what? This happens every day with a multitude of divorces. This does not motivate one to kill the other.

2) Leaving the state with the child? Again, this happens every day. Divorced couples work it out. Generally, the woman keeps the child and during the summer the child stays with the father. i don't see that as being something that would rile a person enough to kill, especially a mild mannered guy.

Again, neigher of these so-called motives convince me. I don't see it happening. And the viciousness of the attack lends me to believe these reasons could not have been the motives.

You are correct when you say the jury found him guilty beyond a reasonble doubt. I am correct when I say that I would not have found him guilty based on the evidence reported in this paper.

As far as your last assertion that no one would ever be convicted if they had to meet the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt," you obviously don't understand the law or its standards. People are found guilty everyday beyond a reasonable doubt for the following:

1) The police are able to put the defendant at the scene of the crime (this was not done in Murray's case)

2) The police/prosecution are able to assign a motive (this was not done in Murray's case)

These two elements form the basis of any prosecution. The state did not meet its burden of proof. Murray deserves a new trial and possibly a non-guilty verdict.

Domino:

With all due respect, your husband being a cop doesn't mean anything to me. A cop is by definition biased. He is trying to put someone away, often without regard to guilt. There have been many innocent people railroaded into jail or forced to plea because they did not have the means to defend themselves. Dennis Rader is quite a reach. This guy was not a serial killer. Dennis Rader was tied to the scene of the crime by his own confession. This guy was not. And just because he was doing research on murders does not mean he committed murder. Your husband does research on murder too. Does that mean he committed murder?

Think people. Think.....

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domino 6 years, 7 months ago

My husband has been in law enforcement 25+ years - went to a Continuing Ed class that 2 of the prossicuting attorneys gave an overview of the case and the evidence used to convict him. No doubt in his mind the guy was guilty. Media only says so much - never the whole story, even though that's what they would like you to believe. Don't worry, he's guilty and was found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" by a jury of his peers. Remember - Dennis Rader didn't look the part either!

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justthefacts 6 years, 7 months ago

You keep saying that his guilt was NOT established beyond a reasonable doubt. Yes it was. To the people that mattered. You seem to forget (or ignore) the fact that proving it to YOU is not required. Proving it to the 12 people on the jury (and the judge) is what the system requires. No one would EVER get convicted if all the citizens of the city/state/country had to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Some people (you) are just harder to convince.

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justthefacts 6 years, 7 months ago

Here are two possible motives: (1) she left him and was MUCH happier for doing so and (2) she intended to take his daughter to another state. His daughter was the only human being who ever loved him, truly. He could not and did not form attachments well/easily. But a child.... he could fool her for awhile. People have killed over far less then someone they thought they owned leaving them behind, especially if there aren't that many people who have liked you in the first place! Sorry to say, but that's plenty good motive in the mind of someone whose shown a marked tendency towards being anti-social. Even on a good day most people can snap. But it takes a special kind of cold to do research on how to kill someone who has "done me wrong" and escape detection.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Don't know anything about the American Justice TV show....

Marty Miller's case was substantiated by ample evidence. I mean, his kid overheard the murder and he was at the scene of the crime.

That's not the case with Murray. The state did not establish that he was at the scene of the crime. According to the Journal-World, they built their case on a couple of (IMHO) minor inconsistencies in his TEN HOUR interview with the police (without a lawyer) and searches he did on the Internet related to research on murders (Murray said it was in preparation for writing a script for a movie or something). If this is all that is necessary to convict someone of murder, then everyone should look out....

Yes the murder was gruesome. Yes it was an outrage. Yes there were no suspects so let's pin it on this guy. But you have to ESTABLISH beyond a reasonable doubt that he indeed killed his ex-wife. That was not done.

I've argued this case with others and we had a daily debate about it. One thing that bothered me was what was the motive? They said he killed her because he was moving to California or some such baloney. Huh? And why such a vicious murder, when there was no evidence of any violence between them during their period of seperation? It's all very odd, and the state did not provide any evidence to address these questions except he did it and now let's convict him.

Not good enough.....

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justthefacts 6 years, 7 months ago

Log - there was NO direct evidence linking Charles Manson to those murders either. But thankfully, the prosecutor tied up all the circumstantial pieces into a bundle and got that lunatic locked up.

Like it or not, the criminal justice system has to rely upon circumstantial evidence most of the time. It is rare that there are any eye-witnesses to murder. And it is rare that a case comes together with all the pieces present. That only happens on TV and in movies/books. You want "beyond a reasonable doubt" - you got it. The reality is that a jury of his peers found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, after hearing the evidence. That means the system worked. IF there were due process problems, he will get his new trial. But the system is set up so that criminal defendants get way more protections (on purpose) then the state/prosecutors. It is really not that easy to get convictions (thus, may cases are pled out ahead of time).

How may innocent people do you know that do a ton of computer searches on how to kill someone, and that have that troublesome someone turn up dead/murdered right after the searches are done??? Yea, it could be a coincidence. This time. But it was not that alone that got him convicted. They put that piece of evidence along with a lot other things (and talk to people who knew this couple, in Manhattan - most all say he was/is someone whom they believed capable of murder). The prosecutors in this case did a great job of tying up a lot of mini-pieces of evidence. If necessary, they can do it again.

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consumer1 6 years, 7 months ago

If the grand jury is going to hear it, there might be something they see and want to take a closer look at. That is why the appeals process exist. If he is guilty as charged and convicted by district court, it will be simple. BUT, they must see something, so, let's let justice run it's course and the truth will win out. It is still the best system in the world so let's let it do it's thing.

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HappyFace 6 years, 7 months ago

I didn't see the piece on American Justice, but heard that there was alot more shown than what we saw in LJW. I think that it is a waste of taxpayer's money to grant a retrial to someone who has been found guilty and the evidence shows their guilt.

I suppose that someone will try to say that Marty Miller is innocent too. I knew Marty and thought I knew the man. I think that alot of folks felt the same way about Murray. But, just because someone doesn't APPEAR to have the makeup to commit murder doesn't mean that they didn't!

I am a Christian....and pray for both of these men. May God forgive them...and have mercy when He ushers them into hell for what they have done.

I feel sorry for the families left behind.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

I seriously doubt this family wants to see a potentially innocent man sentenced to life in prison. And in all fairness to the family, everyone has rights in this country, and this man has the right to request a new trial. If you don't like your rights, go live in Bush country (otherwise known as Saudi Arabia).

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Look, I'm just as ready to punish the guilty as anyone. But guess what? You've got to prove your case - and the legal standard is "beyond a REASONABLE doubt."

There was no direct evidence tying this guy to the crime. NONE. At least none that was reported and I read about this trial daily. Please anyone cite any evidence presented that put this guy at the scene of the crime. Anyone?

There have been many people convicted of capital crimes and have been put to death by this system that were innocent. It caused Illinois to reverse itself on the death penalty (citation posted below):

"In January 2000, Governor George Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty in Illinois. In reviewing death penalty cases since 1977, he determined that 13 death row inmates in the state had been cleared of murder charges, compared to 12 who had been put to death. Some of the 13 inmates were taken off death row after DNA evidence exonerated them; the cases of others collapsed after new trials were ordered by appellate courts. "There is a flaw in the system, without question, and it needs to be studied", Ryan said. Ironically, the Republican Governor had campaigned in support of the death penalty. Ultimately in January 2003, Governor Ryan commuted all death sentences to prison terms of life or less."

http://www.newsbatch.com/deathpenalty.htm

Of course, this guy was not sentenced to death. But he was found guilty.

Just the Facts wrote: "Log - Let's hope you or your loved ones are never murdered by someone who doesn't look the part. - because by your logic (?!) people should get off just b/c the press doesn't cover all the evidence."

Yes I hope none of my loved ones ever have to face this terrible tragedy. But I never said the guy should get off because he doesn't look the part of a killer. That's a ridiculous position. And I also did not say he should get off because the press didn't cover all the evidence. But my only view of what went on during this trial was the view presented by the Journal World. And based on the evidence presented in this article, it was not enough to meet the standard of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can cite evidence that did not make it into the Journal World, then do so. Or you need to follow your hero Billo's advice and Shaddup!

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CindiCat 6 years, 7 months ago

He WANTS a new trial? Well, there are people in HADES who want ice water too. Take a jug of it when you go.

I agree with "Pywacket's" post.

My 2 cents.

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staff04 6 years, 7 months ago

Due process, anyone?

If the prosecuter said that there was blood found in the bathroom and there was no evidence of such and the statement was allowed by the judge, then the guy deserves a new jury. If he's guilty, they will figure it out. If it turns out that jurors made their decision based in part or in whole based on that prosecutor's comments, then the guy didn't get a fair trial, guilty or not.

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Centrist 6 years, 7 months ago

"" I also find it very weird that a college professor (non known to commit violence) would do so in such an extreme manner ""

It was a 'crime of passion' - people go off the deep end all the time when they can't let go of their Ex. So-called 'fine upstanding citizens' get crazy when it's about these types of issues. Happens every day, and besides, murderers always have a first (and possibly only) victim ....

If he gets a new trial, I hope they leave no stone unturned. Otherwise this POS will get off.

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justthefacts 6 years, 7 months ago

Log - Let's hope you or your loved ones are never murdered by someone who doesn't look the part. - because by your logic (?!) people should get off just b/c the press doesn't cover all the evidence.

Not all murderers are or look like they are murderers.

Anyone who sat through the whole trial or know all the facts of the case have no doubt this guy did it. He just thought he was too clever to get caught. Thankfully, the jury figured it out despite attempts to throw them off the scent.

Yes, the government should not rail-road people to jail. But so also should the system not be so full of holes that a murderer gets away with it b/c he out-wits everyone in playing legal games. When that type of thing happens (too much) the whole justice system will fall like a house of carboard in a monsoon rain.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

To the "hang em high" posters - your attitude have caused the deaths of innocent people accused of crimes and found "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." The system is not perfect. Look at OJ for the other side - those probably guilty are allowed to walk.

But when you get to this case, a few misstatements in a 10-hour police interview and his research on murder is not enough to find this man guilty. I mean, I read up on murders of interest to me, especially unsolved ones. I watch Law and Order on TV. I find it fascinating. Does this make me a murderer? NO.

You've got to tie him to the scene of the crime, a very violent and in my opinion a sloppy scene. There was evidence presented in court of strange vehicles parked in front of the house. Were these followed up on?

I also find it very weird that a college professor (non known to commit violence) would do so in such an extreme manner. And he gave a 10-hour interview to the police without a lawyer. That suggests he did not have anything to hide. Look at the Ramseys. They wouldn't go near the cops without lawyer. Never tried or convicted. The very fact that he granted the interview suggests innocence to me.

Perhaps he was guilty, but the state did not present a case "beyond a reasonable doubt." And when you have questions about what happened, you don't chalk it up to a "perfect" murder and then pin it on the most available suspect. You work harder to solve the crime.

Just my two cents.... I hope he gets a new trial.

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blue73harley 6 years, 7 months ago

He's probably corresponding with OJ on how to get a book deal.

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northtown 6 years, 7 months ago

Just another waste of money,take him out and hang him from a bridge,leave him for the turkey buzzards.Save some money!!!!!

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soiledbrown 6 years, 7 months ago

i understood she was moving to california with the boyfriend, not him moving in with her. ljw once again false reporting

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plumberscrack 6 years, 7 months ago

This slaying was on American Justice not to long ago and it showed a lot more information concerning this murder.......He's guilty!

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Steve Jacob 6 years, 7 months ago

The long video of him with police before he was ever charged convicted him. Should have got a lawyer from the start.

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FormerCentralKansan 6 years, 7 months ago

Thomas Murray was beyond arrogant in his actions. Mr. Smart Guy thought he had an answer for everything but the truth always comes out. Guilty as charged your Honor!

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Pywacket 6 years, 7 months ago

Railroaded my little red caboose!

Murdering sleazebag.

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Godot 6 years, 7 months ago

logrithmic, hopefully the court requires more evidence than the JW chooses to report.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

I think this guy was railroaded. The evidence as reported in this paper did not meet the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." He may be guilty, but the State did not prove it.

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Pywacket 6 years, 7 months ago

Piece of crap should be taken out and shot. Save the state a lot of money and the murder victim's family a lot of grief.

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