Friday, January 3, 2014

Little Kids Do Lie

Danny Brown spent some 19 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.  

When the DNA came back to Sherman Preston, it wasn't really much of a surprise.  Back when Bobbie Russell was killed, Preston was a one-man crime wave, raping and killing.  In fact, when the DNA was finally tested, Preston was doing a life sentence for a similar murder - convicted years after the fact on a DNA match.  Anyhow, after the DNA, and after Danny passed a polygraph (because the magic box, so unreliable that its results aren't ordinarily admissible in court, trumps real science) Julie Bates, the Lucas County prosecutor agreed to cut Danny loose. 

The only witness to Bobbie Russell's murder, assuming he actually saw it, was her then-six year-old son Jeffery.  Jeffery said Danny did it.  Jeffery also said he saw things that would have been physically impossible for him to see.  But when an investigator went to tell Jeffery about the DNA, the young man (he was 25 or 26 by then) again said that Danny did it.  So Julie Bates figured that it was so.  After all, she said, mouthing one of the stupidest things anyone has ever said,
"I don't think little kids lie."
And though she agreed to cutting Danny loose and dismissing the charges against him (without prejudice so she could refile them when the DNA morphed into Danny's or something), she maintains that he killed Bobbie Russell.  Because kids don't lie.

Actually, I don't think Jeffery did lie.  I think he was mistaken.  And now he has a false memory.  It happens.  Way too much.

But little kids?  That thing about them not lying?  As I said, one of the stupidest things anyone has ever said.  Little kids lie all the time.  

Chaneye Kelly was 8 when she lied.

Her father, she said "stuck his pee-pee into my pee-pee."  

When she was 9, and on the witness stand, she lied again, this time with clinical precision (and clinical terminology).
The prosecutor Karen DiValentino started with a few benign questions but quickly got to the point: “Do you know why you’re here today?”
“Yes,” Chaneya said. “Abuse.”
“By who?”
“My father.”
“Do you know where that happened?”
“In the bathroom …”
“When you were laying on the floor, what, if anything, did your father do?”
“He, um, stuck his penis in my vagina.”
“And were you laying on your stomach or your back when that happened?”
“And did he do anything else to you?”
“He took his finger.”
“And where did he put his finger?”
“In my vagina.”
On that testimony, and on his witness-stand puffing of his military record (he claimed to be a Vietnam vet, which he wasn't, and to have a purple heart, which he didn't), the jury took just 4 hours to convict Daryl Kelly.  The judge called him a "pathological liar" and sent him up the river for 20-40 years.

It's been about 14 years now that Daryl Kelly's been in prison.  About 13 since Chaneya acknowledged her lies.  

She lied because her mother (the aptly named Charade), a drug addict supporting her habit through prostitution, threatened to beat her with a belt unless she did.  She lied because the prosecutor promised to buy her a bicycle if she'd implicate her father.  She lied because she was a kid.  And kids lie.

Eventually a panel of prosecutors was convened to consider Chaneya's recantation and Daryl's protestations of innocence.  They interviewed Chaneya.  It didn't go well.
[S]he got the feeling they were more interested in protecting her father’s conviction than in listening to her. “There was a point in time in there that I just blew up,” she says. “I got really upset. I was just like: I’m tired of this. I just want you guys to listen to me … I’m telling you that nothing happened. Why is it so hard for you guys to understand that? Absolutely nothing happened.”
They decided, those prosecutors did, that prosecutors don't lock up innocent people.  Daryl Kelly denied he was guilty.  Since it couldn't be true, they concluded that he was a pathological liar. And guilty.

The cops, of course, were free to lie.  
Detective Mancinelli grilled Daryl. “Mr. Kelly, if you didn’t do anything wrong, how did your finger­prints get on her thighs and buttocks?”
He scrambled for an explanation. “Maybe while I was sleeping,” he said, “my wife took my hands and put them there?”
“How did your semen get inside your daughter’s mouth?”
Daryl tried to make sense of what he was hearing, offering a couple of explanations before saying, “Maybe while I was sleeping my wife had sex with me and then took the semen and put it on her?”
Which is, of course, bullshit. That never happens except in Scott Turow novels. Certainly it didn't happen in this case. Kelly's explanations were implausible because he was trying to account for things that didn't happen. Mancinelli was making them up. But since the explanations were implausible, since Kelly didn't just admit the things that hadn't happened, he was lying.  And only bad guys lie.  Oh, and cops.  Cops are free to lie.  They're the good guys. 

Daryl Kelly sits in his cell.  He's pretty much lost touch with his kids.  They're young adults now. They've moved away.  They have lives of their own.  They don't much come to visit.
Recently he was transferred to Fishkill, a medium-security prison, and when he got to his new bunk, he didn’t put up any photos of his family. “Prison is not my home,” he says.
Instead, he keeps his pictures of his children hidden inside a photo album. Every now and then, when he wants to feel less lonely, he’ll sit down on his bed and study snapshots from all the years he missed: the kids posing in front of their church, Chaneya in her gown at high-school graduation. When he gets to the last page, he slips the album into a plastic bag to protect it from dust, places it back inside his locker, and closes the door.
* * * * *
There are lessons in all this.
  • Don't talk to the cops.  It's really true.  What you say will be used against you.  The police say they just want to clear things up.  They clear things up by arresting people.  Don't help them.
  • Don't tell stretchers on the witness stand.  They'll come back to bite you.  Cops can get away with testilying.  When ordinary folks do it, it's perjury.  
  • Don't believe what they taught you in civics.  The people who run the system don't believe that it's better for 10 guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be convicted.  In fact, they think it's better for 10 innocent people to go to prison than for one guilty person to go free.It won't all work out in the end.  
That's all trivia.  You knew that if you'd paid attention.  The harder lesson, the more serious one, is that the system doesn't give a shit.  Nobody cares about Daryl Kelly.  At least, nobody with the clout to do anything.  Those projects set up to investigate and free the innocent?  They ignore him or blow him off. The government?  It is to laugh.  The prosecutors whose job is to do justice (whatever the fuck that means)?  We've seen what they did.

Up against everything is that kids don't lie when they accuse.  Jeffery Russell told the truth.  He was telling the truth when he spoke of things that he saw through solid walls and he told the truth about Danny Brown.  And we know it was true (OK, we don't, but Julie Bates does) because "little kids don't lie" when they accuse.  Chaneya Kelly told the truth when she accused her father.  Because little kids don't lie.  When they accuse.  She lied when she said that what she'd said before was a lie.  We know she lied then because before she'd accused and little kids don't lie.  When they accuse.

Daryl Kelly might have a shot at parole sometime if he'll just fess up and lie and admit that he raped his daughter.  Which he didn't do.  But since speaking the truth makes him a pathological liar, it just stands to reason that lying makes him truthful.

Joseph Heller, of course, wrote of a particular fucked-up system.
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.”
I got the story of Chayneya Kelly and her father from an article by Jennifer Gonnerman in New York Magazine.  The quotes are from Gonnerman's article.  You should go and read the whole thing.  

1 comment:

  1. In State v. Doriss, 2002, the state put on a six year-old boy who "testified" against me. He was four years old at the time of the alleged incidents. He spoke no English; his Spanish had to be translated for the Court. He testilied that I sent my dog(s) over to hurt the children. (No such thing even remotely happened.) A funny thing happened on the Way to the Forum: The State unwittingly put his father on the stand. The father contradicted the son, in Spanish. The prosecutor lady (unnamed) went ballistic. She tried five times to get him to change his story, on direct. It's in the transcript. He was not budging. Either the State failed to coach him (in Spanish), or else he was too dumb to lie under oath in an Amerikan court of law.
    Additionally, as if that were not enough, the State put on two police officers who lied with impunity. The icing on the cake were the self-appointed "Block Watch Captain", and wife, who contradicted each other on details. Neither was present. This is what you call a Triple Whammy.
    Not to worry, the jury was not convinced by these malicious shenanigans by the State of CT.
    It rendered 11 not guilty verdicts, including nine felony counts, thus freeing me of 67 years prison.
    Two misdemeanor verdicts were achieved when the lady judge instructed the jury that it "need not consider 'intent'" when deliberating. Turns out, the words "with intent" were embedded in the middle of the full statute, which the jury never saw. Don't tell me the system is not rigged. It's a total farce, as posted by me for ten years.