Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fitzgerald Ready to Cook More than One Goose...

It looks like Judith Miller had more than one source in the shameful outing of a covert CIA agent, and recently she was asked/directed to testify once more.

In spite of her bluster in front of an Alexandria court house that any future testimony by her would be limited to Libby, mainstream media now speculates a broadening of Fitzgerald scope with additional testimony from both Miller and Rove.

The Wall Street Journal reports that "prosecutors are now looking into contacts between administration officials and journalists" with attorneys familiar with the case saying Fitzgerald has started asking questions about the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a cabal of administration insiders dedicated to promoting the war in Iraq at all cost.

Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake has been blogging on the Rove/Miller/Plame case and like me, thinks a likely Bush administration candidate as a source for Miller is none other than John Bolton.

If the Wall Street Journal is right and the investigation now includes all WHIG members, then that surely would not only include Bolton but help explain his affectionate visit to Judy in jail as well as why Bushie had to pay him off with a UN appointment.

And if Bolton had a hand, he would become the latest captain in the White House mafia family to come under pressure to come clean and turn evidence against his mob bosses.

This is really heating up. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Fitzgerald to act. Think Progress has a pretty good thread going on this too with the whole WHIG gang listed. With this many people involved Fitzgerald must be hearing a different story everyday. No wonder it has taken so long.

Before insisting that remaining evidence from the case of executed Virginia murderer Roger Coleman be retested - please consider the often obscured circumstances of the case that conclusively point to Coleman alone as the sole perpetrator.

The guilt of Roger Coleman (executed in May, 1992 in Virginia’s electric chair for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law Wanda McCoy eleven years previously) was determined through careful police work, a fair trial and thorough appeals. At no point, have supporters of Coleman been able to present a credible argument that the wrong man was apprehended. I will review their claims issue by issue:

The Myth of the Neighbor Killer:

Appellate counsel that represented Mr. Coleman in the last years of his capital conviction appeals made public allegations that Donnie Ramey, a neighbor who lived in the house that overlooked that where Wanda McCoy was murdered, could have been the real culprit in the crime. However, this hypothesis of attorney Kathleen “Kitty” Behan of Arnold and Porter law firm ultimately would prove to be an erroneous and costly proclamation.

The admission that Mr. Ramey allegedly made about the killing of Wanda McCoy was heard by one Teresa Horn. Ms. Horn, who was largely crippled and homebound by a medical condition necessitating the consumption of numerous powerful painkillers, was visited on several occasions by Ms. Behan and Jim McCloskey of Centurion Ministries.

An affidavit from Linda Mullins, an acquaintance of Horn’s, shed light on the nature of these meetings. According to the affidavit, Ms. Behan told Ms. Horn that ‘[Coleman] could come into a lot of money if he came out of this thing and he may want to share it’.

(Source: ‘Coleman Did It, Town Says – In Grundy We Know the Real Story’ Paul Dellinger, Roanoke Times, May 15, 1992)

Soon afterwards, Ms. Horn came forward with the allegation that she had been threatened by Donnie Ramey, who threatened to ‘kill her like that girl up on Slate Creek (referring to Wanda McCoy)’. A day after this allegation was voiced to a Roanoke TV news program, Ms. Horn was found dead of an accidental overdose of pain medication.

With scrutiny intensifying on his whereabouts the night of the murder, Ramey bolstered his original alibi with evidence that stopped the defense allegations cold in their tracks. A pre-employment medical examination file showed that Ramey had a blood type which was different from that of the victim or killer at the scene of the crime.

Following Coleman’s 1992 execution, Ramey obtained the services of a respected civil case attorney in Roanoke and sued Kitty Behan, Jim McCloskey and Marie Deans for defamation. The case was ultimately settled out of court by all three in 1994. If they were still certain that Mr. Ramey was the ‘real killer’, I don’t think they would have so readily capitulated if they were so steadfastly certain of being able to prove his involvement in the murder of Wanda McCoy.

The DNA Test:

The appellate defense received an unpleasant surprise from their own chosen genetic evidence analyst Dr. Edwin Blake. Blake analyzed the genetic evidence from the scene of the crime and found that when the spermatozoa recovered from the victim was cross-referenced against the blood found at the scene, both matched Roger Coleman. As a matter of fact, it was narrowed down to 2/10th of one percent of the population. Donnie Ramey, because of the aforementioned blood type inconsistency did not qualify to fit into that small group.

Having lost momentum with the factual setbacks with Ramey’s blood type and Dr. Blake’s unexpectedly unfavorable test results, the defense nonetheless flailed away with scenarios. They suggested that perhaps Wanda McCoy was attacked by someone who tricked their way into the house or attacked her as she took out the trash.

However, as her husband Brad would attest on numerous occasions, his wife was a very shy woman and would have only opened the door at night to only three people - he, her father and her then brother-in-law Roger Coleman. At the time of the killing Brad was at work at the coal mine and her father was at his home with his wife some distance away.

But where was Roger Coleman that evening?

He wasn’t at work, because his coal mining shift was laid off that night. As the prosecution would suggest, he was on the prowl for a victim. He first went to a trailer of a female acquaintance, Sharon Stiltner and upon the unexpected early return of her husband, Coleman then explained his visit that he was visiting to exchange an audio tape and soon departed. It seems strange that he’d come through a pouring rain storm at night to exchange a tape. Perhaps his original plans had been thwarted by the unexpected discovery of the husband’s presence. One can only guess.

Getting Across Slate Creek:

The prosecution said that Coleman drove through Grundy and over to the home of Wanda McCoy his sister in law. There wasn’t any particular timing inconsistency, because Grundy is not a particularly large or congested town, particularly late at night. The appellate defense tried to make much ado over the prosecution’s speculation at trial that Coleman had parked his vehicle on one side of Slate Creek, which was running at high levels that night and waded across to where Wanda McCoy’s house was located.

However, that was just a theory. Coleman did not have to exert superhuman strength to cross the creek. Why?

If the creek levels were running high, too high for Coleman to ‘ford’, how did Brad McCoy manage to come home from work shortly after the murder during the ‘flood’ and discover the body of his wife in a pool of blood?

Simple, he just drove across the small bridge that is just down the street from his house across Slate Creek.

It doesn’t seem so far fetched to not assume that Roger Coleman could very well have done the same thing.

Yet the defense stuck wholeheartedly to discrediting the prosecution’s musing at trial about the possibility of Coleman having to ‘ford’ the creek to avoid detection, a seemingly more noisy thing to do than just walking over the bridge and down the quiet dark street to McCoy’s hillside driveway.

Forced Entry:

As for the allegations of ‘pry marks’ on the front door frame of the McCoy residence, Virginia State Police case investigator Jack Davidson later elaborated that his reference did not mean that he believed the door had been forced open by an intruder.

Rather, he believed the indentations appeared to be the sort that occur when you move furniture and graze the door frame while trying to fit it through. Brad McCoy and Wanda McCoy had moved into that house not too long before the murder occurred and it would seem reasonable to expect that they probably caused those indentations at that time.

After hearing a defense case which had garnered media luster, but evidentially seemed to be mere bluster, US District Judge Glen Williams returned a 23 page decision on May 12, 1992 which rejected their claims.

"There is not a colorable shade of innocence", and "the evidence against Coleman is as strong now, if not stronger" than it was at trial," Williams concluded.

The judge's decision continued,

"All of Coleman's evidence, which he claims is new and shows his actual innocence, does nothing more than attack the credibility of witnesses and evidence at the original trial."

I would concede that conducting Coleman’s lie detector test on the day of his execution was not a good idea and should have been held earlier.

Yet the polygraph was not something which had been denied to Coleman since the discovery of Wanda McCoy’s body in March 1981. Around the time of his arrest, authorities in Grundy did offer to hook him up to the polygraph machine. Coleman declined, claiming that medical conditions would prevent him from doing so.

However, ten years later, the state presented affidavits from two physicians (Dr. J.P. Sutherland Sr. and S.M. Zamzam) who were responsible for the defendant’s care at the time of his arrest. Both declared that they did not know of nor did they find any such ‘condition’ that Coleman claimed.

Coleman’s prior criminal behavior:

Did you know that prior to the murder of Wanda McCoy, Roger Coleman served time in prison for a brutal attack?

This is something which Coleman supporters try to downplay as much as possible. However, it shows that Coleman was capable of sexual violence – the sort that led to Wanda McCoy’s death.

On April 7th, 1977, he attempted to rape elementary school teacher Barbara Ratliff just a short distance away from where he would later murder Wanda McCoy. Coleman accosted Ratliff in her home at gunpoint that day, marching her and her then 6 year old daughter Megan to an upstairs bedroom, where he ripped at her clothing and forced himself on top of her, after binding her daughter’s arms to a chair.

Thankfully, Barbara was observant that her attacker had momentarily put down his firearm while preparing for a likely sexual assault. At this point, Ratliff screamed to her daughter to run – then guided the terrified girl out the door ahead of Coleman. She quickly identified Coleman, who was arrested and charged with the crime.

While awaiting trial, Coleman followed Ratliff and her daughter on occasion around town, in an attempt to menace them. He was ultimately convicted of the crime and served eighteen months of a three year sentence in state prison.

Then there was the indecent exposure incident in the Buchanan County Library in Grundy in January, 1981. Librarian Pat Hatfield and visitor Jean Gilbert both observed Coleman performing a lude act in front of them just before closing, then dashed out of the library. Both identified Coleman as the perpetrator in separate police interviews and stood by their identifications even after Coleman stated years later that another man must have been involved.

They were both familiar with the individual whom Coleman named and indicated to the media that the two were quite different in appearance. When asked by the media about whether she was involved in a conspiracy to frame Roger Coleman, Hatfield put it simply, “if people take the time to get to know all of us, they know that we’re truthful people, we’re honest people, and we don’t have any reason to lie.”

Indeed that seems a fitting note to end this summary of the Coleman case. The people of Grundy were not out to ‘get’ Roger Coleman like a farmer seeking to rid the litter of a runt. It was Roger Coleman who demonstrated sexual perversion in combination with varying degrees of violence against at least two women.

Personally, I did an about face in my perspective of this case. At the time of Coleman’s execution, I bought into the spin on the case offered by national media outlets such as Time Magazine and ABC’s news program ‘20/20’.

Their coverage was very favorable to the defense and gave little credence to the prosecution’s version. Having been guilefully manipulated, I recall concluding then that indeed an ‘innocent man was being put to death’. However, research I’ve done in the past few years changed my mind completely.

I learned about the DNA test results, the elimination of the alternative suspect and the prior attack on Barbara Ratliff, matters which were never addressed in the national coverage.

Additionally, having traveled through Grundy on several occasions, I discovered how easily Coleman could have traveled through that town and crossed the flooded Slate Creek without great risk. I am now convinced that Virginia got ‘the right man’ for this offense.
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To Tina, you could be right. But gosh, I sure hope you aren't.

But be that as it may, and come what may, let the DNA be tested and the chips fall where they will.
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