One of the many wounds of my time in prison involved my father. My father and I had a strained relationship prior to my incarceration in 93. We had both wanted one, but we both felt like we had been stripped of any potential while I was in prison. For those 16 years, I often worried about my relationship with my dad. I wanted one, but we had an impossible situation before us. I had been placed in a maximum security prison for 60 years. He couldn't come and see me but twice because it hurt him too badly to see me in that hell hole. He'd also been diagnosed with Diabetes early on in my sentence, was placed on kidney dialysis, had suffered a major heart attack as recent as 2005 and underwent major heart surgery. I remember talking to him just before he went into surgery. More than anything, I remember crying with him and praying. I remember being so angry and so hurt. I punched the concrete wall several times. I remember hitting my knees and crying out, like a little boy, to God.....PLEASE LET MY DADDY LIVE!
Yesterday was my father's 60th birthday. For the first time I can remember, I meet my dad's older brother Lee. Lee's birthday is the 13th of this month. He's 2 years older. I got to see my dad with his sisters, one of which is recovering nicely from cancer treatment. And my dad was glowing because, along with his brother and sisters, there sat his son. Thursday night, my dad and I went to see Grown Ups at the theater and we laughed together. Yesterday we shot pool and ate steaks. Today we're gonna go on the river and boat together. We're gonna fish. We've also got a rope and tube and we plan on acting like idiots together.....lol. The key word here being "together". God so obviously heard my cry in 2005.
To quote my dad, "It's like everything is brand new."
Some of you are wondering why I settled. You should know that we settled with an agreement that granted me a substantial amount. Second, had I not settled, this could have lasted years with appeals and more suits. I wanted to move on with my life.
Bill Ferrell (the old sheriff of Scott County) is irrelevant to me. During this process, I once offered him forgiveness. We were in the same room during mediation and I offered him forgiveness. He then responded directly to me by saying, "had I known the things we know now, I would have done things differently. I'm not the devil. I just want you to know that." And then he laughed. To me, it was obvious that he wasn't sincere. That was a crucial period for me. I had offered this man forgiveness for things the entire country knows he had committed and he still thought he could politic his way through the apology and deny things he and I know to be true. The truth being that Bill Ferrell concealed evidence regarding my case during the 93/94 expanse of the Lawless murder investigation that resulted in my wrongful conviction and 16 years of incarceration.
To quote Judge Richard G. Callahan's February 17th 2009 ruling/judgement in regards to the criminal case and Ferrell's involvement and my declaration of innocence:
"There is little about this case which recommends our criminal justice system. The system
failed in the investigative and charging stage" (pg. 1)
"Late on November 18, 1992, Lt. Bobby Wooten of the Scott City Police
Department interviewed Mark Abbott. Abbott unequivocally told Lt. Wooten that the person in
the white car looking for gas was Ray Ring, who is half African-American. He also told him that
he did not go to the Sheriff’s Office with this information because Deputy Beardslee thought he
was responsible for the murder.
In violation of the Missouri Supreme Court Rule 25.03, the State failed to disclose
the Wooten Report of the November 18, 1992 interview of Mark Abbott." (pg. 24)
"In violation of the Missouri Supreme Court Rule 25.03, the State failed to disclose
the investigative notebooks of Scott County Deputy Brenda Schiwitz, the primary investigator
for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department." (pg. 25)
"This Court concludes that the nondisclosure of the above-described exculpatory materials
constituted a violation of Josh Kezer’s constitutional due process rights within the holding of
Brady v. Maryland" (pg. 36)
"Howard admitted in a statement to Rosener that he made up the story of a confession under pressure from the Sheriff" (pg. 40)
"Another cellmate with Kezer and Howard, Jeff Rogers, testified by deposition that Josh
Kezer did not confess, but always insisted he was innocent. He also testified that Sheriff
Ferrell called him into his office and presented him with a statement, which already was
prepared, claiming that Josh Kezer confessed. He did not want to sign it because it was
not true but did sign after the Sheriff threatened to make life difficult for him if he
refused and to help him out if he cooperated. (Rogerts Dep. pp. 8-13). On advice of
counsel, he refused to discuss the matter in his deposition before Josh Kezer’s trial, rather
than lie; and the prosecution did not call him as a witness (Id. pp. 13-14). (pg.19)
Finding of fact, " Moreover, the testimony of Jeff Rogers—that Josh Kezer never told Rogers that he killed Mischelle Lawless and that Sheriff Ferrell coerced a false statement that Josh Kezer confessed from him too—corroborates Howard’s recantation." (pg. 27)
"This Court finds that Josh Kezer’s testimony that he was in Kankakee, Illinois at
the time of the murder, is innocent of Mischelle Lawless’s murder, and did not confess is
credible. He testified at the hearing and he answered all questions in a straightforward and
forthright manner." (pg. 28)
So, I had to decide what I was gonna do, how I was gonna respond.
Choosing to be the better man, I relunctantly shook his hand and reiterated my offer of forgiveness. Since that incident, I've been at a crossroads. I had to decide how to proceed. I knew I was tired of letting Ferrell get off easy, but I also knew that this case was exhausting me and I was ready to move on, so....I settled. Figuring I would be in a better position to make a difference in this world and in the fight against men like the old sheriff with the vast amount of money I would get in the settlement, I chose to accept it.
Bill Ferrell is nothing in the big scheme of things. His friends and connections in the Southeast area are nothing as well. If this case has taught me anything, it's that people, who think they're powerful enough to ruin lives and run others into the ground without any consideration of the consequences to the people and the communities they hurt, are nothing. Their substance is weak. In prison we had a term for men like them. "Paper tiger". It's a tiger that for all intents and purposes appears to be a real tiger from a distance, but when you get right up on it, where you can touch it and experience it first hand, they're merely paper. They're nothing. God has blessed the people of Scott County with a new era. More than once now the people have spoken up and anybody resembling the old good-old-boys network has failed getting re-elected. Paul Boyd and Rick Walter, if nothing else, are proof that in the hearts and minds of the good people of Scott County, Bill Ferrell is nothing but a paper tiger now. ....and....
....I am alive, free, at peace and headed toward something special in Christ Jesus. Case closed! (at least for now)