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Summary of Jeff Dicks' Story in Memory of Him

Information about the funeral and memorial for Jeff Dicks.

Jeff was laid to rest on Friday, May 14th, at 11:00a.m. in Asheville, North Carolina. The funeral was held at:

Anders-Rice Funeral Home
1428 Patton Ave
Asheville, NC  28806 USA

A memorial webpage for Jeff Dicks was created by Turid Sandberg Jacobsen of Nor-X, Norwegians Against Executions webmaster and the Coordinator for Norway, Sissel Egland, at: http://www.angelfire.com/ab/norway/jeffdicks.html

For a more complete account of Jeff's case, please see:

The entire staff of Justice Denied pays tribute to the Dicks family and its long fight for Jeff's freedom. Jeff Dicks is only one of too many who have gone to the grave before being allowed the retrial which might have resulted in an innocent verdict. (See "In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases", Michael L. Radelet,   Hugo Adam Bedau, and Constance E. Putnam.)

The wrongs against people in general in the criminal system today are many, and we are profoundly mindful of them. We have chosen to focus on people who claim to be innocent because this is the area where the system is most tragically offensive to anyone of conscience. We hope Jeff's death-- a possibly needless death if he had received medical attention--will awaken our readers to greater outrage against a system we must hold accountable.

In Memorium for Jeff from
The Staff of Justice Denied
Clara A. Thomas Boggs
Editor in Chief

Stormy Thoming-Gale
Anne Good
C'Rene Dana
Nancy Williams
Michael Carter
Frank McEvoy
Alana Mchaffey
Joanne Walker
Dick and Marie Stevens
Billy Krueter

Editor's Note: According to forensic pathologist Glenn Larkin, Jeff Dicks had the material for a strong appeal, but always went begging for a lawyer to help him. The record of his case, says Larkin, shows that serious constitutional claims for a new trial remain. The following edited brief summary comes from a letter Glenn Larkin wrote to the ACLU, and formed part of the article that appeared in the first issue of Justice Denied.

Jeff DICKS and Donald Wayne STROUTH were convicted of the capital felony murder of James Keegan on February 15, 1978 in Kingsport Sullivan County, Tennessee, during a robbery of a clothing store. The state tried to implicate Dicks as an actual participant in this murder in order to get the death penalty. Even if the state changes its theory, and uses a conspiracy theory (which it cannot prove) there are still nagging doubts concerning this case, and perhaps a serious violation of the ruling in Enmund v. Florida, 373US 782.

In this felony murder case, there loom a host of constitutional issues,some of which were never appealed.

After reading the transcript and autopsy report as well as other investigative material, I believe that not only was Jeff Dicks not at the scene of the murder for which he was convicted, but a technical application of the rules of hearsay evidence so gutted Jeff's defense that he could not present any viable defense at all.

Had this suppressed testimony been presented, it is more than likely that the jury would have reached a different conclusion. See Kotteakos v. United States, 238 US 750, Faulder v Johnson, 81 Fed 515 (5th Cir.), Matthews v Etheridge, 424 US 319

I amassed a fairly large file on the case, dealing with both a dispute of material fact, and a dispute of the application of law, citing both Tennessee case law, and federal law. These arguments include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The evidence putting Dicks in the store where the murder took place is an alleged set of footprints. These prints were allegedly seen, but not documented with pictures, casts or anything. These "footprints" --never identified as belonging to Dicks, cannot be placed in time. Further,the "expert" witness who testified admitted he did not know what he was doing. This alone must be considered reasonable doubt. (See In Re: Winship,378 US 90, State v Griffin, 208 NC 407, 436 US 904).

Circumstantial evidence is a powerful tool, but cannot be built on a frame of straw. (See United States v Rosa, 17 Fed 2d 1531 2d Cir.) The prosecutor took these mysterious footprints -- poor evidence at best -- proffered by an admitted non-expert acting as an expert, and built up a creative scenario of what happened in his summation, using statements not in the transcript. It is a good story, but pigs do not fly. (See Hicks v Oklahoma, 447 US 343, Thompson v. Loudville (?)362 US 199, Johnson v. Florida, 370 US 546, Jackson v. Virginia, 443 US 307).

2. Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the case concerns the suppression of hearsay evidence that tended to exculpate Dicks altogether. The judge n this case, Calhoon, was aware of the complex legal matter involved here. Codefendant Donald Strouth was previously tried and convicted of this crime. In his trial, several witnesses testified that Strouth told them segments of a statement, which put together, amount to a confession of sorts.

Strouth said to different people that: (1) he hit his victim in the head with a rock; (2) that he had to hurt the victim; (3) he had to slit his throat -- statements admitted against his penal interest under the Tennessee rules of evidence, in the trial State v Strouth. This is already part of a public record -- the trial of Donald Strouth. (See State v Donald Strouth, 620SW 2d 467)

If I am correct, by allowing these statements into evidence in Donald Strouth's trial, the state in effect vouched for the trustworthiness of that testimony and used it to help convict Strouth. Now, the court ruled in the case of one key witness (Barbara Davis) that the same evidence --because it tends to exculpate the defendant (?) -- is no longer trustworthy. Since this testimony is already used against Strouth, it cannot hurt him and he does not need the protection afforded by its suppression. Other witnesses, also offering evidence of Dicks' innocence were summarily prevented from testifying. (See House v State. 911 SW 2d, 705, 714 Tenn. US 97.)

In a series of cases, the United States Supreme Court stated that a need for fundamental fairness demands that a defendant be given a fair opportunity to present his case. (Chambers v Mississippi, 410 US 284, in Re: Winship, supra, United States v Augers, 427, Morressey v Brewer, 409, US 471, State v Oliver, 333 US 257, Pointer v. Texas, 380 US 400. By suppressing evidence that tended to corroborate Dicks' version of the events, the state gutted any defense, and denied him due process.

3. There is no physical evidence linking Dicks to the act of murder. Much material was submitted for analysis, but none was used by the state --all that was submitted was either not tested or negative. A negative result cannot be used to inculpate, can it?

4. The state claimed that a coat burned by the Dicks family (not by Jeff) had blood stains belonging to the victim on it. This testimony was not proved and can be accepted only if the non-evidence that Dicks was in the store at the time of the murder can be proved. "Could have" or "might have" is far below the standard needed.

5. The prosecutor tried to pull a fast one by submitting a pair of blood-stained jeans into evidence. Knowing full well they were Donald Strouth's and not Dicks' pants, they were introduced as Strouth's at his trial, and then claimed to be Dicks' jeans. They did not both wear them at the same time. After the prosecutor stipulated that the trousers were not Dicks' and removed them from sight, the damage was already done.

6. Even the medical evidence was misleading. The pathologist who did the autopsy said the victim was first rendered unconscious by a blow to the head, and that his throat was partially cut when he was unconscious. Because he was unconscious, the victim did not endure any pain or suffering. After reviewing the autopsy report, I have some question about how long it took this victim to die. (See State v Zagorski, 701 SW 2d 808,814 -- relates to depravity of mind.)

7. The issue of unconsciousness is not trivial, since it goes directly to the heart of the claim that the crime was particularly heinous or atrocious. (See Houston v Dutton. A proportionality review should show that the penalty was excessive.)

8. The bottom line is that a possibly innocent man can be electrocuted because he cannot get representation to present an appeal. The ACLU is supposed to have as its mission the correction of perceived constitutional violations. The deprivation of life, legally or illegally is the most serious denial of civil rights.

9. From what I have read (but not confirmed), Governor Sundquist will not exercise any clemency, nor even consider this majestic non legal right of a sovereign, believing that a jury is never wrong. You and I know otherwise, as do the approximately 75 men and women released from death row since the reinstatement of the death penalty. So much for stare décis!

10. I would be willing to discuss this whole case with an ACLU representative, or supply their office with the raw notes I have, as well as an analysis of the medical report (autopsy protocol) which I believe draws the wrong conclusions.

(Dr. Larkin wrote 14 chapters published in Cyril Wecht's collection,"The Forensic Sciences," including the chapter on sharp force trauma, published by Matthew Bender.)

© Justice Denied


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