Monthly Archives: April 2012

May You Have The Body


That’s the translation from the Latin, “Habeas Corpus.”  A “writ of habeas corpus” forces a hearing in front of a judge to determine if a prisoner is being lawfully held.  In other words, does the state have the right to imprison the individual.  It’s a last ditch effort for Ryan Ferguson to gain his freedom for a crime he clearly did not commit.  He’s not petitioning for a new trial, that was already denied, he’s asking to be released because the evidence doesn’t support the conviction, thus the State of Missouri has no right to imprison him.  His attorney, Kathleen Zellner, is hoping that the judge in this case, Judge Green, will rule that the State of Missouri “may not have the body” and will have to order a new trial if they want to keep him in prison.

The “evidence” – go ahead and look at it, it’s all over the Web, –  just makes you shake your head in disbelief and makes you hope to hell you don’t ever have a friend, or acquaintance, go to police and say you helped them murder someone.  It seems pretty easy to get convicted, especially if the prosecutor makes a plea deal for your friend in return for their testimony.  And let me just add, that the friend doesn’t remember any of this confession that implicates you, until two years later during a drug-induced episode, a dream, and…the police help your friend along with his confession by feeding him details of the crime.  You can watch that video, in its entirety, and in whatever state of shock you want.  

What I simply cannot understand is how, first, a jury convicted him, second, how judges can review the evidence and still believe that Ferguson is guilty, and third, how incompetent and careless the Columbia, Missouri, Police and Prosecutor (who is now a Boone County Circuit Judge) handled the investigation and trial of Ryan Ferguson.  How can anyone in Columbia, or the State of Missouri feel good about this verdict?  How can they believe that they have the right perpetrators, that the real killer or killers have not gotten away with murder?  And what about motive?  Did a jury really believe that they wanted a few dollars to go back to a bar that was already closed, so they killed “The Columbia Tribune ” sports editor, Kent Heithholt, and left the wallet on his car seat?

They walked around until they found a huge man they thought would be easy prey?  Especially since it would have been difficult to sneak up on him, even at 2:20 in the morning.  Not your most likely victim if all you want is a little cash.  Come on people.  You beat the victim with a tire iron, that has no finger prints on it, and results in no skull fractures, and strangle a very large man with his own belt?  There was plenty of physical evidence at the scene, but none of it ties Erickson or Ferguson to the crime.  Not one piece of physical evidence.  One member of the jury said he just couldn’t believe that Erickson, the “friend,” would lie about something when he knew he was going to jail.  Really?  Maybe that’s where the drug addict wanted to go.  And the janitor, Trump, that claimed to make a perfect identification of the two boys from over 75 feet away, but only after he saw a newspaper photograph of them while in jail for a sex-offense.  Really?  That’s all you got?  What happened to reasonable doubt?

I first wrote about this case on March 30th, 2011, after watching one of my favorite shows, “48 Hours Mystery.”  It made me so angry I decided to research the case further.  The more I dug into the evidence, the trial, the appeals, the recanted testimony, the inconsistencies in the time-line, and the reliability of the “witnesses” in the case, a conviction seems impossible.  But Ryan got 40 years for second-degree murder and first-degree robbery. 

The habeas hearing testimony started Monday, April 16th, and the judge has not ruled on the writ at this point.  The reports on the hearings are some of the most read stories in the “Missourian,” one of the local newspapers, so the case is still getting a lot of local attention.  The judge’s ruling on the writ should happen  soon.  My gut feeling is that the judge is not going to release Ryan Ferguson from prison and his last available attempt at justice will be for naught.  The state argues that there is no new evidence in the case.  They argue that Erickson recanted his testimony while in prison because it’s easier to survive in there if you’re not known as a snitch.  Boy, I’m buying that argument, for sure..

Those that believe Ferguson is guilty say the press has continually slanted the story, especially CBS in their detail of the case on “48 Hours Mystery,” but I think it’s easy to be biased based on the evidence, or the complete lack of it.  The prosecutor says there is no new evidence to warrant a new trial.  That’s because there was no “evidence” in the first place.  I think so-called eye-witness testimony, especially related to identification of a suspect, needs to be weighted by the judge to the jury.  I’m pretty sure that I could see a murder with my own eyes, and the chances of me picking out the suspect, with certainty, would be slim to none, and I consider myself a pretty observant person.  I might get some physical characteristics right, maybe, but to sit in the witness chair and unequivocally say that the individual seated at the defense table was that person…not in a million years.

On the left is a composite sketch released and circulated in March 2003. Who would you say looks more like the police sketch, Ryan or this guy?

This is what Ryan wrote on a legal pad during his trial in 2005:  ” …As I sit here now, writing this, I don’t know what to think.  All I keep saying to myself is ‘Please don’t convict me of something I didn’t do “&” please don’t take my life for something I have no involvement in.’  I’ve never been more visibly shaken & scared in my life.  How can these people possibly think I committed this crime.  I’m Innocent! “

Whether Ryan is innocent or not, is really not the main issue here.  You have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.  The burden of proof, the fact that you are innocent until PROVEN guilty, that burden is on the state.  They didn’t even come close, and the system does everything it can to prevent a do-over.  Judge Green, let’s get this one right.

 

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The Collapse of “Sponge Bob”


My grandson had his birthday party last weekend.  He turned 11.  Don’t quote me on that, I’m not very good with ages.  He looks 11, so I’ll stick with it for the purposes of this story.  The party was in a city park, close to their house, and was well attended by his friends.  There were around, oh I don’t know, fifteen or so kids of around the same age.  His parents were able, through a friend of their oldest child, to arrange for a jumping castle – well not really a castle, it was a “Sponge Bob” jumping thingy.  I guess they call them jumping “houses” when they’re not really castles – and it turned out to be a big hit with the party goers.  

The “deal” on the jumping thingy turned into a downer, when, on the night before the party, at ten o:clock to be exact, the provider of the jumping house tried to confirm that there would be electricity in the park.  Those things are held up by a powerful blower that keeps them inflated and jump-able using a grounded plug that needs to be plugged in somewhere.

“Don’t you have a generator,” she asked.  Smart kid.

“No,” he said.  He explained that they usually set them up at people’s houses for birthday parties and they just plug them in.  The sister was visibly upset and even made the comment that it might have been a good idea to ask about this electricity issue sooner.

After some discussion, and asking around, they remembered that Grandpa did indeed own a generator.  So they called and I agreed to be there with said generator at the appointed hour, 11 o:clock Sunday morning.

“Are you sure it can run the thing,” my daughter asked?  I assured it that I was pretty sure it could because it runs the AC unit on my camper, although, in truth,  I wasn’t sure at all.  I had no idea how many watts this jumping thingy fan would need.  But I was now a “hero” for saving the day.

I actually hadn’t started the generator since I got it a year ago, and I was worried that it might be a little difficult to start even though it was virtually brand new.  So I got up early on Sunday and almost ripped my arm off trying to start the damn thing.  I must have pulled the cord a hundred times, and finally it roared to life.  Actually, it’s a very quiet generator, made for camping in the woods, so it doesn’t roar at all.  You can barely hear it.  It’s a very nice Yamaha generator.  I let it run for a while, filled it with gas and then loaded it up in the truck.  We made it to the park in plenty of time.

But “Sponge Bob” was late and the parents were starting to panic.  Before the placing of blame got out of hand, he showed up.  In reality he was only a few minutes late.  They set up “Sponge Bob” and plugged the fan into the generator.  A cough, then a surge in the engine, and the blower sprung to life, as did the jumping house.  Directions on safety and proper use of the jumping house were given after it was fully inflated and anchored down with five gallon buckets filled with concrete.  They were to stay away from a giant patch that was flapping wildly in the middle of the floor.  Shoes were tossed and the line formed.  There’s not much of a “door” on these things so as to keep the jumpers inside, so you kind of slither in through a flap in the front.  Throughout the party, they continued to have more than the five allowed kids in the thing jumping around when the adult supervision lagged.

 After the water balloon fight, the pizza, the gifts, the cupcakes, and a pretty entertaining rendition of “Happy Birthday,” about two and a half hours had passed with the Yamaha running at full throttle.  I figured I should check to see if the gas was running low.  It was.  In fact, it was on empty, and there were still eight kids in the jumping thingy and I ran over to the side screen and started screaming for everyone to get out.  Nobody listened.

I went back over to the generator and what everyone thought they saw was me turning it off.  I didn’t.  It ran out of gas as I was leaning over it to look at the gauge.  “Sponge Bob” started to immediately deflate and kids started screaming as the roof of the thing fell in around them crushing them to the floor.  Now, it’s made from a heavy vinyl, but I was never afraid someone was going to get trapped in there like an avalanche…but the parents did.

Through all the hysteria, we lifted the roof as best we could and kids started squirting out the front flap like Sponge Bob was giving birth.  When everyone had slithered out we dropped the roof.

“There’s still a little boy in a white T-shirt in there,” a woman screamed.  

“No,” I said calmly, “I think he’s standing right next to you.”  I walked over to the visibly shaken kids, and asked one whose eyes were still wide with panic.  “Are you okay?”

“I was the last one out,” he said with a slight squeak in his voice, and shook his head as though he didn’t believe he had survived.  I saw him later on his cell phone, probably telling his parents about his near-death experience in the “Sponge Bob” collapse.  I’m worried about pending lawsuits.  I see myself going from a hero that saved the day, to the defendant in a civil suit over an empty tank of gas.

In the aftermath, it seemed unlike a mine disaster.  Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing, and retreated to the parking lot with my generator.  My grandson’s mother said one of the other mother’s said to her, when the generator abruptly stopped, “He must be in a hurry.” 

Her response was, “No, my Dad’s not like that.”  I don’t know, maybe I am.  I’m still laughing out loud.  Maybe next time they’ll follow the rules and not have more than five jumpers in there at a time.  Maybe they’ll listen when someone tells them to get out now, there just might  be a reason, and maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t be suffering from those nightmares about getting trapped in the bowels of “Sponge Bob.”  WTF.

 

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The Lunch Box Cruncher


I’ve decided I’m finally going to come clean.  I’m the guy that ran over your lunch box in April of 1974.  Maybe it was the spring of 1975, I’m not really sure, but I know you’ve been looking for me ever since.  I was the driver of the white Ford sedan with the Mountain Bell logo on both doors and the 800 number in the back that told you to call if you had a problem with my driving.  I got away clean, so I guess you didn’t get the number.  I’m guessing you were eight or nine at the time.  I saw you clearly in the rear view mirror.

To be honest, which I clearly couldn’t be, since I didn’t stop and at least give you lunch money or even apologize for accidentally flattening your metal lunch box, I didn’t mean to do it,  and I didn’t even see it.  I knew I ran over something  though and then I saw you run over to your crushed lunch box and hold it up in disbelief.  Just so you know, I can still see it.  It’s haunted me for a lot of years.

Let me explain.  I was given the responsibility to collect the pay phone route once a week after the person that had been doing it resigned.  They decided not to replace him, and instead give me the responsibility.  It got me out of the office once a week, so I was more than happy to accept.  The job involved driving the company car, which required you to take a “Defensive Driving” class that was a full day at company headquarters in Cheyenne.  The manager got me scheduled for the class, and I headed out from Laramie, Wyoming, where I worked in the business office, early in the morning.  The drive to Cheyenne would take about an hour, and I really wasn’t sure where the hell I was going.  It was pre-GPS,  I didn’t have a “real” map, just a hand-drawn one, and I had never been to the “plant” building where the class was held.  So I gave myself plenty of time to make the 8:00 start time in the event that I got lost.

And I did get lost.  Which is why I was traveling down the rural gravel road, having missed the turn a quarter-mile back.   I realized I had missed the turn , but I couldn’t find anywhere to turn around, and then I saw the bus stop turnout.  There were some kids there, standing off to the side, waiting for the bus, and I clearly had enough room to make a turn and head back the other direction.  That’s when I saw you running toward the car, and I had no idea what you were doing.  Then I scored the direct hit on the lunch box and sped off down the gravel road, hoping, but worried none-the-less, that you weren’t quick enough to get the number off the trunk of the car.  I worried all day.  I was going to a defensive driving class to get my company permit, and a call from your mother or father, would have put the kibosh on that for sure.  After eight hours of watching movies, practicing reaction times, driving a company van around town verbally describing all the safe things I was doing while I propelled the vehicle in traffic, would have been for nothing.  I wouldn’t get my company permit because I totaled a lunch box that morning on my way to class.

So, almost forty years later, I’m reaching out to you, sort of.  In retrospect, you shouldn’t have put the lunch box down in the first place.  You should have protected it better.  I still believe that you ate lunch that day.  I’m certain you were able to pry the box open and get your lunch out of there.  You must have been resourceful enough for that.  But I’m guessing you got in trouble when you brought the lunch box home and explained to your mother what horrible thing had happened at the bus stop that morning.  The crazed driver in the Mountain Bell car that didn’t even stop after he drove over, what I’m sure, was you’re favorite lunch box of all time.  “The Fonz,” or the “Six Million Dollar Man,” or “Batman,” or “Laugh In.”  Maybe you claimed you lost it, and had to take your lunch in a brown paper sack for a while.  School was almost over the year anyway.  Now that I think about it, I’m sure the “Thermos” bottle was toast, so the sack lunch wouldn’t have been that big of an issue for a few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not offering to pay for the lunch box.  I didn’t have enough money on me at the time to buy myself lunch that day.  I’m not offering that as an excuse, just thought I should state the facts.  I’ve struggled with this, like I mentioned, for a long time, and I still don’t know what the “right” thing would have been to do.  I really don’t.  Should I have stopped and apologized and given you the two dollars I had in my wallet?  Would it have made any difference?

Anyway, if you were the kid in Cheyenne, Wyoming that got his lunch box crushed by a white Ford sedan with that prominent bell and circle logo on both doors at the bus stop on that morning in April 1974 or 1975, that was me.  At the very least, I’m sorry you left it lying where you did.

   

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An All Ages Easter Egg Hunt and Stripper’s Panties


Last Sunday I decided to have an Easter Egg Hunt for all ages of “kids” in my immediate family on what I call the South 40, although it’s technically west of the main house.  That’s the back yard of the house we currently live in which is situated on a half acre.  I bought a bucket of 50 plastic eggs and spent a good portion of Easter morning filling them with change and five jelly beans each.  The amount in each egg ranged from two cents, to a golden egg that had a twenty-dollar bill.  Like I said, each plastic egg contained exactly five jelly beans.  Not any real reason for the five beans, except that it seemed to be the right amount to put in the egg, and I had no idea what a faux pa I was committing at the time.  The “kids” ranged in age from eight to thirty-nine.

The idea for the “All Ages Easter Egg Hunt” came from one of my daughters who said she wanted to hunt for Easter eggs because she hadn’t done it in a long time.  Like maybe thirty years.  The rules were simple.  Some of the eggs were hidden fairly visible and obviously intended for the younger hunters.  The idea for the older hunters was that there wasn’t going to be a big “score” in the easily found eggs.  The golden egg with the twenty, or the harder to find eggs with pictures of other dead presidents enclosed, should be their mission.  The only problem with that theory was I didn’t really pay attention to what was in the eggs when I hid them, easy to find or otherwise.  Except for the golden egg.  I hid that where I was sure no one would easily find it.  None of the eggs were buried, and there weren’t going to be any hints.  Thems  the rules.

After about an hour or so of hunting there still remains in the South 40 around six eggs that have still not been found.  I have no idea where I hid them now, and expect to find them sometime later in the year.  At least they weren’t real eggs, which will make them no easier to find, but more aware that they are hidden somewhere when they start to decay.

One young hunter had raked it in.  He was sitting by the fireplace counting his money, and piling the jelly beans separate from the coin and bills.  When my older daughter grabbed a jelly bean and popped it in her mouth from the pile, the younger egg hunter said something to her that almost made her choke.

She came out to the patio where we were sitting and walked up to his mother, her sister, and said, “Do you know what your son just said to me?  I was eating a jelly bean from one of his eggs and he said…”

The other sister finished her sentence, “…not to eat them because they’ve been in stripper’s panties.”  The rest of us almost choked on our drinks.

Well, technically, the jelly bean hadn’t been there, but the idea was that it was “touching” a dollar bill which possibly could have been stuffed in a stripper’s panties, or so she explained.  When my granddaughter was younger she was smelling money, and my daughter, totally aghast that she would put that near her nose, came out with the only horrible thing she could think of.  “Don’t do that.  Do you know where that money has been?  It’s been in a stripper’s panties.”  

Her children now think that all money is passed through the panties of strippers, and knowing full well that neither of them have been to a strip club, I wonder, truly wonder, what mental images these two youngsters have that keeps them from eating a jelly bean that might have touched a quarter or a dollar bill in a plastic egg.

I was told by my mother, at a very early age, that it wasn’t a good idea to put coins in your mouth.  I don’t remember what horrible place the money may have been before it came into my possession, but I know she never said it might have come from the panties of a stripper.  Whatever it was, I never put money in my mouth again, although I’m sure she was more worried about the choking hazard than the “germs.”

Obviously, germs can get on money.  I read where some viral strains can live up to ten days on a bill.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it makes sense that someone with the flu could touch money, infect it and if you put it to your nose to smell it, you might, if you’re immune system is down, get the flu.  I don’t know what you might catch from a stripper’s panties, that could survive on a bill.  Maybe it’s all about worrying more about the guy that gave it to her, but then you never know.

Personally, I love the smell of money.  I’m going to think twice about putting anything less than a hundred under my nose though.  I don’t have hundreds very often myself, and I’m pretty sure it would be rare for someone to part with one by putting it in a g-string.  But it could happen, I guess.

I’m pretty sure though, if I have an “All Ages Easter Egg Hunt” next year, I’m not going to waste my jelly beans.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Salsa In The World


You know what was fun?  One time I got to drive a police car to Phoenix from Sahuarita, Arizona where I was the Town Clerk.  I got to drive the car to Phoenix because we were taking them to have the painting done.  So they were all white police cars with just the Christmas trees on the roof and sirens.  I had to take the car home, because we were leaving the next morning to Phoenix.  I was driving one car, and the Police Chief was driving the other.  We were to meet up in Marana, just north of Tucson, where the newly hired Chief lived, and drive together from there.

So the first thing I did was pull into the mobile home park and turn on the lights and siren as I got close to my “house,” and pulled into the driveway.  The phone started to ring off the wall.  All the neighbors wanted to make sure everything was okay.  It was fun.  We told them all different stories.  It was a drug bust, I told Mel across the street.  They found the stash he left in my shed and they were hauling me off to jail.  “I told him it was your’s, but they don’t believe me.  They’re coming over there next, so you better hide it.”  It was fun.  I learned later that his wife Mary flushed what little pot they had.  Mel was pretty mad.

The next morning I took off on I-10 through downtown Tucson on the way to Marana.  It’s a four lane section of interstate there, north and south, and I was purposely going 10 miles below the speed limit.  The line of cars behind me was building.  No one dared to pass.  I had  cars on my left and right, riding abreast in all lanes, trying to figure out if I was Tucson Police, South Tucson Police, Tribal Police, Marana Police or what.  Behind me were rows and rows of cars.  It was fun.  Finally, someone decided I couldn’t pull them over if they were going the speed limit, so they sped up.  Probably looked in the car as they passed and saw I wasn’t dressed like any police officer they had ever seen either.  So just for the hell of it, I turned on the siren and lights and sped off after them then went around and ahead.  It was fun.  After that, I turned the lights and siren off and followed the directions to the Chief’s house.

It’s just fun to mess with people.  I just heard about Alan Abel who might just be one of the greatest pranksters of all time.  He started SINA, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals.  The slogan, “A nude horse is a rude horse.”  He not only got the press to believe the ploy was real, but he would leave pamphlets stating that all animals should wear clothing, all over the place, in restrooms, in library books.  During the Kevorkian assisted suicide period in the 1990s, he decided to start a cruise line for people who wanted to end it all.  He called in “The Last Supper” cruise and only sold one way tickets.  You should read up about him.  His daughter, Jenny, did a documentary on her father called “Abel Raises Cain” in 2005.

My favorite “prank” was when I had to deliver a gallon of salsa to Dallas.  It didn’t start out as a prank, but turned into one pretty quickly.  I was working as a manager in a Citi-Bank collection region in Albuquerque, and one of my best friends was the back-end manager in the same capacity in Dallas.  We decided to have a contest between the regions.  If I won, my friend would deliver a gallon of the best BBQ sauce in Dallas, personally.  If I lost, then I was to deliver, personally to his group, a gallon of salsa from the famous “Sadie’s” restaurant in Albuquerque.  Reportedly the best salsa in the world, and the restaurant was in a bowling alley.  Truth be told, I didn’t really want to win, because I wanted to fly to Dallas on the company’s dime for the weekend.  I had a girlfriend there at the time.  Delivering a gallon of salsa was just an understanding between us because he lived in Albuquerque for a time and worked in the collection office.  He took a promotion to the Dallas region to get back to Texas where he was from, and he loved Sadie’s salsa.  In short, he knew all about the girlfriend and the real reason for the contest.

So we got it written up, approved and broadcast all over the company, and the contest was on.  I had to admit, the desire to win took over there towards the end, but it was too late and I ended up committed to deliver the gallon of salsa.  Now, salsa needs to be kept cold.  So I got one of those Styrofoam coolers, just a small one, put the dark red salsa enclosed in a clear plastic container into the cooler and filled it with ice.  I was on the red-eye Southwest flight to Dallas and I couldn’t very well “check” the cooler, so I carried it on.

I was dressed like Don Johnson.  I had the blue jeans, the T-shirt, the white blazer with the sleeves pushed up, and the shades hooked in the collar.  Carrying the white cooler I boarded the plane.  I tried to get the cooler under the seat in front of me but it wouldn’t go all the way.  During the pre-flight check the steward says, “You can’t have that there.  It has to fit under the seat or in the overhead bin.”

“I can’t let this out of my sight, ” I replied.

“What is it?” the male flight attendant asked.

“It’s a human heart,” I said without much thought.  “I’m a surgeon and I have a transplant operation in Dallas in two hours.  I can’t let this out of my sight,” and I lifted the lid exposing the red, blood-like substance, visible through the top of the container surrounded by ice.

The flight attendant scurried away to the front of the plane and I watched him down the aisle talking to the other two stewardesses, as he pointed toward me several times.  After a few minutes he came back towards me down the aisle, stopping along the way to tell a passenger to put his seat back in the upright position.

“Okay,” he started, “what do you really have in there?”

I reiterated my story that I had to be in Dallas for a heart transplant operation in two hours.  It was imperative that the organ in the cooler remain in my possession.  I just couldn’t let it out of my sight.   Maybe the Don Johnson outfit convinced him a little that I was possibly a heart surgeon.  I don’t know, but he walked away again.  I struggled to get the cooler farther under the seat.

I looked up and saw two stewardesses and the steward walking down the aisle toward me.  I guess I figured the jig was up.  I told them what was really in the cooler, and they admitted I had them going pretty good for a while.  They promised to stow the cooler safely in the front and would return it to me when we deplaned, which they did.  But it was fun…for a while. 

I’ve had other fun times on Southwest.  I’ll tell you about them some time.

 

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