On the morning of September 26, 1991, Raleigh police officers come upon the body of Jacquetta Thomas, a 26 year old African American, in a cul de sac at the end of Blount Street. The murder victim, who worked as a prostitute, had been severely beaten and her body partially exposed. Near by, but out of sight, is an SUV belonging to Gregory Flint Taylor, which had been abandoned earlier that morning after it became bogged down off-road in marshy land.
When Greg Taylor returns to the scene to see about extricating his vehicle, he identifies himself to the police at the crime scene as the owner of the vehicle and cooperates with their questioning in the homicide investigation. He does so freely and without legal consultation, and even goes to the police station to submit to further interrogation.
During his interviews, Greg Taylor gives consistent statements to the investigators. He he tells that he did not know the victim Jacquetta Thomas, never met her, and that she never was inside of his SUV. He states that his only passenger that night was Johnny Beck (an African American man), that they were riding around seeking and using drugs, and that while driving off road, his car got stuck in the moist terrain during the wee hours of the morning. He tells detectives that unable to remove it from its quagmire, the two decided to leave the vehicle to walk and try to hitch a ride home. On exiting the cul de sac, they noticed for the first time what appeared to be a body, but did not get close or examine it; planning instead to call authorities later in the morning if it had not been discovered by then.
Within twelve hours of the police’s discovery of Jacquetta Thomas’s body, Greg Taylor is charged with the murder. He is charged without forensic evidence linking him to the victim or vice versa, and without evidence confirming the victim’s presence in his vehicle. The unsubstantiated motive for the murder, according to Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford is that Jacquetta Thomas, a prostitute, refused to engage in sex with Taylor, which resulted in Taylor becoming so enraged that he severely beat her to death. As was pointed out during the February 2010 hearing before the three judge panel, Gregory Taylor has never had a history or reputation of violence, either before the murder or afterwards during his 17 years of incarceration (during time spent in prison, he was not charged with any violations or misconduct… a rare accomplishment).
Prosecutor Tom Ford, I strongly believe, does not care whether or not the killer of Ms. Thomas is apprehended and faces judgment because he has absolutely no compassion for the victim… an African American and a prostitute. His only priority is closing the case, and not solving the crime. So, he rushes to judgment in charging Greg Taylor with the murder of Jacquetta Thomas without reasonable cause or due diligence. Tom Ford heeds the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color” when he charges Taylor, who is white but admitted to drug use and did not come from a family of material wealth and privilege, with the murder of Ms. Thomas.
Now, this is where Tom Ford’s actions become really sinister and despicable. His plan is to entice Greg Taylor, the white owner of the SUV, to falsely implicate his black passenger and fellow drug user Johnny Beck for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. If Taylor refuses, Ford threatens to convict Taylor and have him spend the rest of his life in jail. By doing so, Ford could accomplish two objectives… close the case on a murder, and take a black man off the Raleigh streets (innocent or not). Ford initially believes that wrapping up this case would be relatively easy, thinking that Taylor would jump at the chance to avoid a conviction for murder and a lifetime in prison by simply implicating a black man for the commission of the crime, even though Taylor knew Beck to be innocent. However, Tom Ford does not count on Greg Taylor being a man of such integrity that it far exceeds what little that Ford, himself, possesses. Gregory Flint Taylor, at the repeated urgings and threats by Prosecutor Ford, refuses to give false testimony implicating Johnny Beck, a man he knew to be innocent.
Because Greg Taylor refuses to perjure himself by giving false testimony at the behest of Prosecutor Ford for the purpose of implicating another innocent man, Tom Ford makes good on his threat to convict Taylor of the murder. Ford achieves this goal by making deals with two other incarcerated individuals (a prostitute and a jailhouse snitch), who are facing long stretches behind bars, and like him, are lacking morals and integrity. They provide false testimony against Taylor in exchange for the promise of a reduction in their sentences. What is particularly egregious about this action is that Taylor’s defense team is not made aware by the prosecution of this backroom deal between Ford and the perjurers. In addition to the false testimony, false forensic blood test results, as well as the falsely misinterpreted actions of a scent hound, are used by Prosecutor Ford to win a conviction against Taylor in 1993 for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Greg Taylor is sentenced to life in prison.
Facing a life sentence for a murder he did not commit, Prosecutor Ford continues to offer Greg Taylor incentives for a reduced sentence and a chance at freedom in exchange for the false testimony needed to convict Johnny Beck, the black man against whom Ford was forced to drop charges because Taylor would not provide the false and necessary testimony to needed to convict. Despite the prospect of spending the rest of his life and dying within the dreary confines of a small prison cell, Greg’s ethics and integrity remain strong. Ford is unable to break him.
After sixteen years in prison, the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission takes up Greg Taylor’s case and presents it to the Innocence Inquiry Commission. After a thorough review of the case, the eight member board unanimously recommends that Greg Taylor’s case be brought before the three judge panel to determine whether or not he should be proclaimed innocent and freed, or remain in jail… the burden of this hearing being placed on the defense.
Wake Prosecutor Tom Ford, with full knowledge of the sleazy backroom deals made with the jailhouse snitch and the prostitute, and full knowledge that the SBI lab test results were not confirmatory for the presence of blood on Greg Taylor’s SUV, nonetheless decides to work with Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby to fight and try to keep an innocent man in jail for the remainder of his life. Tom Ford is definitely no “minister of justice.”
In February 2010, the truth, as cogently and orderly presented by Attorneys representing Greg Taylor (Mumma, Klinkosum, and Cheshire), combined with the pathetically convoluted, disjointed, and irrelevant presentation by the state assures a pronouncement of “innocent” by the judicial body at the hearing. Gregory Taylor, at long last, is unfettered by shackles and bars, and tastes freedom for the first time in nearly two decades. Seventeen years of his life are lost because of the actions of a prosecutor who, is angered by Taylor’s refusal to work with him to wrongfully convict an innocent black man in the Thomas murder. This anger is what led Ford to punish Taylor by convicting him of the Thomas murder.
Clearly, actions by Ford in the Greg Taylor case, warrant Tom Ford the dubious distinction of being hailed as among the “worst of the worse prosecutors in the Tar Heel state. Other deserving North Carolina prosecutors include David Hoke, who withheld from the defense attorney of Alan Gell exculpatory testimony of seventeen independent eyewitnesses which absolutely refuted Gell’s guilt in a murder for which he was sentenced to death and served a decade wrongfully behind bars. Wilson County Prosecutor Bill Wolfe deserves mention as one of North Carolina’s worst prosecutors for charging James Arthur Johnson for the murder of Wilson teen Brittany Willis, a crime that Wolfe knew Johnson did not commit… a charge based on the statement of Kenneth Meeks, a black teenager and the true killer of the victim. Meeks made the statement implicating Johnson (who is also African American) in the murder of the Wilson teen after police informed the killer that Johnson snitched on him. When Meeks, more than a year later, recanted his statement and admitted that he made it out of anger, Prosecutor Wolfe had no case against Johnson because there was no forensic evidence tying Johnson to the crime. Therefore, Wolfe shortly thereafter manufactured two eyewitnesses, both related to the Wilson Police Department (one being a retired police officer) to implicate Johnson in the crime. The use of these two false witnesses was quickly jettisoned by the prosecution after Dr. Reverend William Barber, President of the NC NAACP became involved; because with his involvement came closer media scrutiny… scrutiny that the false testimony of Wolfe’s two eyewitnesses could not withstand.
As horrendous as these overt acts of prosecutorial misconduct are, and the terrible injustice for which they are responsible, only one of the prosecutors, David Hoke, was taken before the unregulated North Carolina State Bar’s Disciplinary panel. He was merely given a mild reprimand by the group. However, professionally Hoke did not suffer as he was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. Rev. Barber filed a complaint of prosecutorial misconduct with the North Carolina State Bar against Bill Wolfe, which the Bar proceeded to ignore. Likewise, the North Carolina State Bar refused to act on my complaint against Tom Ford (for his actions in the Gregory Taylor case) which was filed in August 2009. As things now stand, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong remains the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933.
And why was Mike Nifong disbarred? He was disbarred because, as Rae Evans (mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans) so insightfully put it during an interview on “60 Minutes,” he “picked on the wrong families.” In other words, Mr. Nifong did not automatically stop the investigation and he did not refrain from pressing charges in the alleged sexual assault against the Duke University student-athlete partygoers who came from families of wealth, status, and privilege, as was expected from a Durham district attorney. Instead Mr. Nifong pursued the investigation and prosecution as he would in any other case, without Class or Color entering the equation. To express the displeasure by the state, Mike Nifong was singularly persecuted to an extent never before seen… and it was done in order to set an example for other North Carolina prosecutors who might consider not complying with the unwritten state tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color. In addition to disbarment, Mr. Nifong was convicted on a trumped up contempt of court charge and sentenced to jail; the U.S. Department of Justice was asked to launch a criminal investigation into Mr. Nifong for depriving the Duke Lacrosse defendants of their civil rights; Mr. Nifong was denied immunity to which he was entitled as a state employee carrying out his duties; the Attorney General’s Office refused to represent him at his hearing before the North Carolina State Bar; the North Carolina State Board of Elections chose to harass Mr. Nifong by singularly auditing his campaign without cause; and he was blatantly bashed by the biased mainstream media.
The unregulated and self-serving North Carolina State Bar was so hard pressed to come up with a complaint carrying enough substance against Mr. Nifong to appear legit that it was forced to amend the complaint initially filed… a rare action indeed and not supported by law. The Bar alleged that Mr. Nifong withheld evidence… which he did not. The Bar alleged that Mr. Nifong lied to the court… which he did not. The Bar alleged that Mr. Nifong made prejudicial and inflammatory statements against the defendants… which he did not (most, if not all, of the statements for which Mr. Nifong was accused of making took place prior to any indictments being handed down). It is the position of the Committee of Justice for Mike Nifong that Mr. Nifong acted within the acceptable standards of the state’s prosecuting attorneys.
F. Lane Williamson, the chair of the Bar’s grievance panel, used his divine powers of mind reading to reach the conclusion that Mike Nifong prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case solely for political gain (to retain his post as Durham district attorney). A rigged poll by SurveyUSA conducted for WTVD – ABC 11 News helped fertilize the idea that the May 2, 2006 primary for Durham district attorney was close and that wooing black voters would assure Nifong of victory. In actuality nothing could be further from the truth, as black voter registration was low, and black voter turnout was even lower. Using common sense and logic, the best route to a victory would have been for Mr. Nifong not to have brought charges against the Duke lacrosse player or to dismissed them. Instead, his pursuit of the prosecution turned a landslide May 2006 primary victory into a narrow one, and enabled another campaigner (who ran on a platform of solely beating Nifong and promising to give up his position to enable an appointment to the Durham D.A. position by Governor Mike Easley) to garner a whopping 39% of the fall election vote. The only person to use the Duke Lacrosse case for his/her own political gain was Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose main television campaign ad begain with a screen showing in big letters: “The Duke Lacrosse Decision.”
It should be noted that Mr. Nifong acted as a “minister of justice” as evidenced by the fact that he dropped the rape charges against the Duke Lacrosse defendants after the alleged victim could not give assurances in later testimony, to his satisfaction, that a rape had taken place. Mr. Nifong’s actions in this respect are in stark contrast to those of Tom Ford, who continues to press for Greg Taylor to remain in jail for the rest of his life in spite of the fact that his contention that blood evidence used to convict Taylor was false, as was the interpretation of actions by a scent hound in the initial trial. Also, the Attorney General’s Office continued to fight for Alan Gell to remain locked up after it came to light that 17 eyewitness statements that proved Gell could not possibly have committed the crime for which he was sentenced to death.
Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford is no minister of justice, but as a prosecutor he most definitely is among the worst of the worse. Yet, the state does not go after him professionally or personally. The biased mainstream media follows the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy and shields his identity from the public whenever possible when discussing the Taylor case. Even Greg Taylor’s attorney, Joseph B. Cheshire V, has not a disparaging word to say about Tom Ford, the prosecutor responsible for his client losing 17 productive years of his life due to Ford’s malicious vendetta. Yet, Cheshire, the most powerful attorney in North Carolina, is quick to chastise and criticize Mr. Nifong for his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case (well within standards practiced by other prosecutors), even though Cheshire’s client (one of the Duke Lacrosse defendants) does not spend one day in jail, and receives a $7 million out-of-court settlement with Duke University.
What I find most disheartening, however, is the response, or lack thereof, by the leadership of the African American communities in Durham and throughout the state of North Carolina. To my knowledge, Dr. Reverend William Barber (president of the NC NAACP) and other leaders have not been critical of Prosecutor Tom Ford and his actions in the Gregory Taylor case. To my knowledge, leaders of the black communities have also been silent about the barbaric treatment of Mike Nifong by the state and the media for his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case in which he adhered to the principle of “equal justice for all.” And now that fallout from the Carpetbagger Jihad against Mike Nifong etal. has engulfed Crystal Mangum (charged with attempted first degree murder for allegedly scratching her boyfriend and held in jail on a million dollar bond), the black leadership continues to follow its course of timidity, and remains silent about this injustice. This is disgraceful.
Don’t believe the hype fostered by the Carpetbagger Jihad Juggernaut and dutifully disseminated by the biased mainstream media that Mike Nifong is the worst prosector in North Carolina history and the only one deserving of disbarment. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Mr. Nifong’s nearly thirty years of service to the state has been exemplary and exemplified by the principle of “equal justice for all.” The truly worst of the worst designation, without doubt, goes to Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford, although compelling arguments could be made for prosecutors Bill Wolfe (in the James Arthur Johnson case) and David Hoke (the Alan Gell case.)