Over the years, my client and friend Paul Ripp has brought more than a few disturbing cases to my attention. Nothing prepared me for the outrage and ultimately disbelief as I read through this exhaustive transcript (the trial took two weeks). You see I’m one of the bad guys, in that I was unaware of how easy it is for an overzealous Prosecutor (Mr. David Whetstone, an irratic sort, who I have known since I was 16), a detective whose judgment led the State to pursue this “theory of the crime” (Huey Mack has been the Sheriff here for four terms about to start his fifth), and a former FBI agent/Prosecutor/Hanging Judge (who I have know my entire life, about to serve his second six year term as our Baldwin County DIstrict Attorney) to lock up an innocent man on the word of a murderer.
The Law abides, under appellate practice, for a person who has been convicted to appeal on several grounds. One is a Rule 32 plea, where your guilt was caused by ineffective counsel. I have spoken with Willie Huntly Jr, the Defendant’s trial counsel and former Federal Prosecutor for the Southern District of Alabama. After the State presented its case to the jury, Mr. Huntley, confident that the jury could not possibly find his client guilty based on the evidence, rested without putting on a defense. He has conceded that this was follie and would be the grounds for such a plea.
A handgun was introduced into evidence in this trial. It was improperly identified by Jarius as a different caliber but he was corrected on the stand. There were no shell casings, no gunshot residue, no prints on the handgun, nor any ballistics (bone or bullet fragments present in the remaining flesh of the head and torso- the neck was consumed by animals as it lay undiscovered in the heat for days, which let to the theory that the victim was shot thru the neck). I can not find any criminal defense attorney nor Judge in Alabama who can explain a gun being entered into evidence without it being identified as the murder weapon by ballistics, chain of custody, or any physical evidence that he was killed by a firearm at all, much less this one in Particular.
You see Dr. Paul Garrity has a bit of a reputation as a very competent and reliable medical examiner not just in Mississippi, but along the entire Gulf Coast. He says that based on his examination of the organs, the victim died of asphyxiation by strangulation. That would account for the abrasions, contusions, or limited bleeding that may lead a wild animal to feast on that portion of the body first. Of course Jarius tells us that the victim was shot at point blank range with this pistol. Then they loaded the victim in the trunk of his own car, presumably soaked in blood. At the conclusion of the trial the Court and State are scrambling to get the trunk liner (where no blood was found) to the Courthouse because this key piece of evidence had never been produced and turned over to the Defense; in violation of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. I could keep throwing rocks but my arm is tired.
I looked up Mr. Lawrence on the Holman Prison Website and went with Mr. Ripp to see Cam Ward (who I worked with at the City of Alabaster Alabama for seven years) who is now the Director of Pardons and Parole for The State of Alabama. Unfortunately The Defendant got Life Without The Possibility of Parole. But we did learn that Bubba Lawrence has no tattoos, no known gang affiliations, and works in the prison ministry. In a system where the Crips, Bloods, and Aryan Nation have more control of the place than the Warden, Bubba is called upon to parlay the peace between such factions routinely. One of the very few people (in that torture chamber of violance and rape) that everyone trusts. I will continue to do whatever I can to draw attention to this case and the plight of a man that I am certain did not commit this crime. I have been so terribly ineffective at bringing this to the attention of the public that I have considered sending a care package: a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Heyworth. Harry Bartlett Still, III