Witness to History When No Cameras Allowed: Artist Bill Robles has built a career on drawing courtroom dramas and bringing them to life. As KCRW writes, “Bill Robles has the mellifluous baritone of a broadcaster, but he’s made a living for over 40 years with his eyes — and his hands.” See some of his spectacular work in this article and related interview here: http://blogs.kcrw.com/whichwayla/2015/02/no-cameras-allowed-artist-bill-robles-makes-a-career-drawing-courtroom-dramas. And please see the eBook and print book versions available via http://www.amazon.com/The-Illustrated-Courtroom-Years-Court-ebook/dp/B00JMV2ZVU Thanks for your support of these great artists.
I’d heard of “Serial”, the podcast series centered on a reporter’s journey covering a real life crime investigation, and was just gearing up to watch it when I had a nice surprise. Very jazzed that Business Insider’s Emmie Martin named “Lethal Intent”, my Aileen Wuornos biography, to her “11 True Crime Books You Should Read If You’re Obsessed With ‘Serial'”. Surrounded by some of my most admired books and authors, no less. Forgive the drooling but now and again, it’s permissible, right? What a kick! Here’s the list: http://tinyurl.com/lalc8bj
Hot on the heels of the excitement about being named as one of the Times Literary Supplements’ “Books of the Year 2014” comes this nod from Kirkus Reviews, known to all authors. My co-author, courtroom artist Elizabeth Williams, and I are very jazzed about both. “The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art”, which spans trials from Jack Ruby’s and the New York Black Panthers’ to Bernard Madoff and Michael Jackson’s, is available at a special price of $30. Great gift idea, if we do say so ourselves! (Above, Elizabeth Williams’ portrait of Martha Stewart during her trial. Elizabeth spent hours – no, make that days – waiting for Martha to turn her head enough to grab this image, created at warp speed.)
A disturbing case out of Texas once again puts the spotlight on Open Records policies and how critical they are to justice. The case also highlights the perils of allowing jailhouse informants’ words to replace solid evidence. Dennis Lee Allen’s and Stanley Orson Mozee’s murder convictions were overturned last week after the two served 15 years in prison. They were convicted of the 1999 murder of Rev. Jesse Borns, Jr. The convictions were based on Mozee’s unrecorded – and immediately recanted – confession (he claims he was pressured to confess) and the word of two jailhouse informants. No DNA since tested ties either man to the murder.
As Nancy Petro writes on the Wrongful Convictions Blog:
“Law enforcement and prosecutors who have not yet fully supported the practice and spirit of open records should follow the lead of Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins and others. Providing transparency places them on the side of both truth and history.”
Amen to that.
Dallas County (TX) District Judge Mark Stoltz issued findings of fact and conclusions of law last week before recommending that the murder convictions of Dennis Lee Allen and Stanley Orson Mozee be overturned. The two men were subsequently released after each had served 15 years in prison. The judge’s findings will now go before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review. ABC News WFAA 8 reported (here) that the two are expected to be exonerated.
Allen and Mozee were convicted of the 1999 murder of Reverend Jesse Borns Jr., who was found stabbed outside his workplace, a retail store. No physical evidence linked the men to the crime. The conviction was won on the unrecorded confession of Mozee — who immediately recanted and claimed he was coerced into signing the police-written statement — and the testimony of two jailhouse informants. The informants denied under oath at trial…
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Twelve years after her execution, Aileen Wuornos — who confessed to killing seven men in Florida, where she was convicted of six murders — is still a hot topic with followers of crime stories, true crime television shows and books (like my own, LETHAL INTENT.) Aileen wanted to “be like Bonnie and Clyde” and looking back I’d have to say she has surpassed that and achieved her very own lasting notoriety.
There were only 106 volunteers for execution in the United States between 1973 and 2003 and in 2002, Aileen was one of them. For the December 2013 edition of LETHAL INTENT (paperback, eBook, Audible), I interviewed forensic psychiatrists and criminal justice experts about what might have spurred her to make that rare and final decision. Their thoughts are fascinating. (Check the book’s new section!)
Aileen’s last mystifying words were that she would be back, “like ‘Independence Day,’ with Jesus – June sixth – like the movie – big mother ship and all. I’ll be back.” Did she really think that? Who knows? Her pre-execution mental state concerned many, but suggestions that she was “crazy” irritated her no end. Ultimately, those who tried to halt her execution against her wishes were forced to stand aside while she was put to death.
October 9, 2002, was a solemn day and felt strange and disturbing.
Aileen was a victim but also a victimizer. Today she receives more empathy and compassion than any other serial killer I can bring to mind. Can you think of another? Male or female?
I’d like to discuss Aileen with folk interested in proof and evidence. If I’m honest, I’ve grown a little weary of those who don’t accept that Hollywood movies are fiction, either inspired by, or loosely based on, fact. The evidence at the first murder for which Aileen was convicted did NOT show what folk say so often — that she killed to save her own life during a brutal rape. Her victim was first shot while fully dressed, sitting behind the wheel of his car. They can’t both be true.
Aileen also carried Windex with her to remove fingerprints on what she called her “killing days.” Her stories changed many times but the physical evidence (and Aileen’s original confessions) are in accord. She was a robber who killed to avoid leaving witnesses and who carefully concealed her crimes.
I believe that she robbed and killed while desperately trying to keep her girlfriend Tyria from abandoning her. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, abandonment was Aileen’s greatest fear.
She had a tragic life full of isolation, rejection and abuse. But we can’t talk about her honestly or realistically unless we also accept that she took seven lives. Funny thing is, I sometimes think that Aileen was better able to accept what she did — she wept with guilt over it many times — than are many of her fans. I felt and feel empathy for Aileen but can’t forget she took seven lives.
Katherine Ramsland has long written about crime and criminals. Indeed, she has used courtroom art to illustrate her own writing. Elizabeth Williams, my artist co-author, and I were looking forward to her review, published on “Psychology Today”, of our book “The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art.” It was worth the wait. You can read it here. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201407/mansons-menace-and-coppolas-beard