Thursday, November 04, 2004

Frank Chandler 11/12/2004

Nov. 12, 2004 set as the execution date for Frank Chandler

7/20/1993 - Frank Chandler was sentenced to death in Surry County Superior Court for the first-degree murder of Doris Poore a 92-year-old widow who was killed during a burglary of her home on December 11th, 1992. Attached to this murder charge was an attempted larceny of over $200.

Chandler was tried before a jury, which found him guilty of the first-degree murder of Doris Poore under the felony murder rule, with first-degree burglary as the underlying felony. The jury also found him guilty of attempted larceny, but not guilty of attempted first-degree rape or first-degree sexual offense. After a separate capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended and the trial court imposed a sentence of death for the first-degree murder conviction and a three-year prison sentence for the attempted larceny conviction.

The victim was lying on the bed with her pajama top open and her body was nude from the waist down; smeared bloody fingerprints were on her abdomen. A pair of pajama bottoms and a pair of panties was wadded together at the foot of the bed between the victim's legs, but slightly beneath her right foot. Mrs. Poore died from a single "massive blow" to the head. The blow resulted in a hinge fracture to the scalp, which effectively caused the skull to snap in two resulting in extensive swelling and hemorrhaging of the brain. Mrs. Poore had numerous abrasions, lacerations, and bruises.

Chandler’s palm and fingerprints were found on the wooden door leading into the kitchen. He has an average-range IQ and was competent to stand trial.

Defendant, in this case, broke into and entered the home of an elderly woman who lived alone, seeking either marijuana or money. Based on defendant's testimony, if believed, as he walked through the house, he heard Mrs. Poore. Upon hearing her, he struck her in the head with such force as to break her skull in two. Thereafter, he carried her to her bed and wiped his bloody hands on her stomach. He then removed her pajama bottoms and underpants. He told his cellmate Jeffrey Kyle Wilson that he did this because he wanted to see what an old woman's "pussy" looked like. He then covered her up and proceeded to search the house for her purse. Unable to find it, he left the house and returned to his aunt's house and went to sleep. Defendant never attempted to seek medical attention for Mrs. Poore after he struck her, but instead left her in her bed in a pool of blood to die.

After the murder, defendant immediately began a failed attempt to establish an alibi. He lied to the police. He tried to convince his cousin to lie to the police and to say that he never left the house on the morning of the murder. He also tried to destroy his fingerprint cards after the police obtained them. He told Wilson that he would try to avoid conviction and would "play crazy." Defendant's lack of remorse is evident.

Chandler has committed no less that 26 infractions during his incarceration, they include:

Chandler record of prior incarcerations includes: B & E VEHICLES (PRINCIPAL), B & E (FEL/MISD) (PRINCIPAL), and MISC MOTOR VEHICLE VIOLATION (PRINCIPAL).

Persons who support Chandler say that Doris Poore’s murder was “accidental”. This claim conflicts with the findings of a jury, which made its decisions based on evidence, testimony, logic and facts. These persons or groups who defend Chandler also claim that Chandler did not premeditate the killing without any specific reference to the court documents that they supposedly quote.

Defenders of Chandler also claim that his counsel used illegal drugs prior to trial and as a result he was ineffectively defended. Obviously no one else noticed this at trial (judges, witnesses, prosecutors, jurists, bailiffs, reporters etc). The lawyer’s subsequent behaviors (post-trial) and disbarment have nothing to do with how well Chandler was represented at trial. Chander’s case has been argued at various levels in the appellate courts and confirmed the effectiveness of his trial counsels representation of him. Claims of potential conflicts of interest with his attorneys do not include any specific complaints about what was (or not) said or done which prevented him from getting the assistance he was entitled to. If the appellate courts find no wrong with the representation he’s gotten so far or that any errors that might have occurred are harmless this means that an execution should proceed as scheduled.

Chandler’s supporters have found fault with the prosecutors who handled the trial. Those financial issues that they had have not been linked in any way to the trial or the handling of this case are irrelevant.

Persons who defend Chandler has also attacked the credibility of witnesses who testified against him without providing proof that any of their testimony was false. These claims represent speculation, not fact. Courts should not base their decisons on their imagination. If evidence indicates that false testimony exists, it has not been presented in the proper forum (court). What seems more likely is that when this case was lost in the courts, it was taken to the media so that what their pleas could be heard there (and conclusions would be made on speculation and supposition?).

If judges have dissented over the case, it’s been over technicalities. Chandler is in fact guilty of murder. He murdered a defenseless, old woman and defiled her memory and body after she was dead.

In short, the weakest of arguments have been made to spare Chandler from an execution. This is not due to lack of effort or because qualified persons were not involved in his defense, it is because that is what they are “weak”. These persons are entitled to their beliefs that life without parole might be an appropriate sentence (in their minds). Those arguments however conflict with common sense, the expressed decision of a jury when they recommended sentencing (or death), and with Chandler’s history of behavior on death room. These are not arguments of strength nor do they indicate innocence in any reasonable way. When one considers real facts and arguments, these requests or false justifications for clemency represent a series of digressions or an outright dimissal of what should be justice in this case.

It is clear that Chandler represents a danger to himself and to others. He will remain a danger for as long as he is allowed to live. For these and other reasons, this execution should be allowed to proceed as scheduled.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ballroom full of lawyers


Someone heard a “ballroom full of lawyers” laugh the other day and decided that it could only characterize an instant dismissal of the seriousness of the occasion. Yes, laughter is usually associated with a comedic atmosphere but you have to consider “the laughers” for what they really are. Steve Ford didn’t consider that trial lawyers (most of the laughers were in fact lawyers) in some ways often resemble hyenas. Hyenas are usually associated with being scavengers but they are completely capable of predatory behaviors, even with their own kind. The sounds that hyenas make are often mistaken for laughter, but make no mistake about it, when they start circling a carcass (or something soon to be dead), they aren’t really laughing and many take equal joy in the spoils (living or dead) for as long as they aren’t the meal. Ford didn’t share that observation with readers because it is beyond his imagination. I suppose that the fact that his wife is a trial lawyer has nothing at all to do with that too. Another thing to consider is that every animal (hyena or lawyer) has his place in the food chain. It's understood that each serves it's own unique purpose, so "hyena" is not meant to evoke disrespect for them. They are what they are, they can't help it. One can't argue with what lawyers are. As in any profession, there are many good ones and others many agree need "a good spanking".

One shortsighted observation usually deserves another and Ford didn’t let readers down in that respect. Ford can’t “let go of Gell” and attacked the North Carolina Bar Association or persons entrusted to discipline lawyers for bad performance. It’s an easy guess that this pattern (and associated revenue stream?) will continue.

No one knows better than Debra Graves and David Hoke about their personal knowledge (or what they didn’t know) of case files or about the murder of Allen Ray Jenkins in Gell’s first trial. They’ve claimed to not know about all of the withheld evidence. Ford isn’t buying it. Maybe some other folks aren’t either. One can’t argue with the fact that this disagreement has resulted in continuous employment for a number of N&O reporters and columnists and that uncertainty and doom trigger ratings and revenue. Gell has been used as a prop for persons who oppose capital punishment.

Hoke and Graves (to their credit) have not disputed that the evidence in question was withheld from defense attorneys in the first trial. Had they known about the existence of it, it’s possible that their prosecution strategy would have been different too. Some might even wonder if the case would have even gone to trial a first time. That kind of speculation is only possible if you acknowledge what they have said and accept that they weren’t aware of the conflicting evidence.

To conclude that some kind of conspiracy was concocted solely for the purposes of securing a conviction would be “just plain stupid”. It contradicts what has already been reported. If Hoke and Graves were really trying to get a conviction “at all costs”, they wouldn’t have left exculpatory evidence in the Gell case files. Evidence that might have conflicted with the verdict would have “disappeared”. But it didn’t.

Obviously, Steve Ford and some other persons are clairvoyants. These skeptics (or mystics) seem to know more about what Hoke and Graves knew prior to the end of the first trial. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Bar had to make a decision on disciplinary action based on evidence, testimony, logic and facts (not clairvoyance). Ultimately, no one (not even Ford) could prove that Hoke and Graves lied about the prosecution of Gell.

It’s doubtful that skeptics (like Ford) will ever be silenced. The thought that what some persons now call a wrongful conviction may have resulted in an actual improvement to the judicial process is too much for them to handle. Forget mentioning that new laws have since been enacted to require full disclosure of evidence before trial (not after).

Don’t be fooled by Ford’s digressions into thinking that the hearing concerning Hoke and Graves’ performance was anything about what happened (or might have happened) to Gell. It was all about their performance (or lack of it) as lawyers. In the strictest sense of what the Bar was considering that day, they were not concerned about Gell at all. They were there to address a performance issue (at trial) with two of its lawyers. Ford knows this was not the forum for Gell to “play victim”, but he played that card in his column. Gell’s presence at the occasion was expected and by all rights, he should have been there. If no one asked what the personal consequences of the first trial were for Gell, it was not because they didn’t care. It’s worth mentioning that all persons involved in the disciplinary action understand that the case was initially a capital one (some facts are now self evident). It’s also worth mentioning that some persons in the media have almost forgotten about the Jenkins family and what they deserve in terms of justice. The real victim is in a grave.

It’s entirely possible that Hoke and Graves did their job to the best of their knowledge and provided a zealous prosecution (to a fault). They missed the exculpatory information in their own review of the evidence (and admit as much). Appellate review resulted in extra eyes and understanding of the case, and resulted in a second trial (as it should have).

It’s a shame that the folks at the News and Observer haven’t put as much effort into other cases that resulted in early or wrongful releases of known predators. They haven’t looked more closely into who actually murdered Allen Ray Jenkins, have they? That could mean that a case might be closed, Lady Justice might be satisfied, and revenues (and gloom and doom effect) would be reduced. Wise readers probably shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for a conviction on the Jenkins (not Gell) case, should they? One might as well ask when the killer of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson will be convicted.

Yes, some persons will look at recent events and snort and giggle. To some extent, this amounts to unbecoming or disrespectful conduct (as lawyers, columnists or citizens at large) concerning the decisions leaders make on important issues, one must be prepared to live with it (and learn to love it). Ford and other persons who disagree (or giggle) with the Bar are entitled to their opinions, but if they cannot accept that the buck has to actually stop somewhere (or nothing gets done on any case), perhaps they should consider a different kind of employment (where life is more black and white and all of their issues will be more simple). If the issue has been turned into a “fiasco” they have only themselves to blame. One could just as easily conclude that the abuse of power is occurring at a more public bully pulpit (a.k.a. Raleigh News and Observer?).

The next week’s (election) decisions will require us all to separate such wheat from the chaff. Maybe that’s the real agenda of the N&O, to support the election of candidates that loathe or disrespect the system (along with them)? Or perhaps folks at the N&O will refer to this court case as “The Jenkins Case” (which is still unresolved)? Jenkins happens to be the name of the real victim(s). That family and their loss should not be forgotten.

Yes, the prosecutor’s said “My bad” and they’ve accepted the shame and ridicule (and warning from the Bar) that goes along with it. They've been publicly "spanked". Changes have been made to the process to prevent such things from happening again too. Don’t expect to read much more about it in the N&O or from Steve Ford (unless they find fault with it).