Many consider Captain Ahab’s obsession to kill Moby Dick, the great White whale that took his leg, to be the height of obsessive behavior. Well, you’ll need to push that aside and make room for Wake Prosecutor Tom Ford’s obsession to convict Johnny Beck, the African American drug partner of Gregory Taylor the night that Jacquetta Thomas was murdered in 1991. As has been stated previously, Tom Ford did not care a whit about the black prostitute who was murdered, and therefore had no desire to solve the crime. He was only interested in convicting someone for it, and if he could sentence a black male to spend the rest of his life in jail, so much the better. He pinned his hopes on charging and convicting Beck on perjured testimony of Gregory Taylor. However, things did not work out as planned for the wily prosecutor who had the art of perjury-based convictions down to a science. Mr. Taylor, to the dismay of Ford, was a man of principles and integrity, and he refused to commit perjury and implicate a man who he knew to be innocent of committing homicide. So, Ford, using his trademark m.o. of perjured testimony in exchange for lesser sentences, along with fantasy forensics, convicted an obviously innocent man for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas… and it carried a life sentence.
While serving this life sentence, Ford approached Taylor in prison, and offered the promise of a lighter sentence if only he would lie under oath in order to enable him to charge Beck with the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Even under these conditions, Greg Taylor held firm to his convictions… prepared to spend the rest of his life in jail rather than falsely finger an innocent man. And Taylor languished in jail for seventeen years until his case was finally heard by the Innocence Inquiry Commission, which led to his freedom and exoneration by Governor Bev Perdue in 2010.
According to an article in The News & Observer, dated October 6, 2010, Wake County prosecutors, led by District Attorney Colon Willoughby are focusing on Johnny Beck as the primary suspect in the 1991 Thomas homicide. The Mandy Locke article, titled “Taylor’s companion still investigated,” did break with tradition by mentioning Tom Ford’s name (in violation of the PAPEN Policy). And it was a powerful paragraph at the end of the article which bears repeating: “Charges against Beck were dismissed in August 1993. A month earlier, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Tom Ford wrote to Taylor and told him that he could persuade the governor to adjust Taylor's sentence if he would testify against Beck. Taylor refused.”
Charges were dismissed against Beck in 1993. So, what has changed in the subsequent seventeen years to make Wake County prosecutors focus their investigation on Beck now? I can think of only two things: (1) Gregory Taylor has been completely exonerated; and (2) Prosecutor Tom Ford, his prosecution against Taylor, and the SBI lab has been totally discredited. It was not only obvious to the three judge panel and the media that Gregory Taylor was innocent, but it is also obvious to the public. If Taylor is innocent of the murder of Jacquetta Thomas, then by all rationale, Johnny Beck, his companion of that fateful night, is innocent as well.
By pursuing Beck as a suspect, D.A. Willoughby and his team are essentially saying that the public is stupid. The N&O reported as follows: “Willoughby said in the motion that any evidence showing contact between Thomas and a white vehicle may be relevant to prosecutors or defense attorneys should anyone be prosecuted for Thomas' death in the future.” I fail to comprehend the logic therein. Personally, I am insulted by Willoughby’s reasoning for wanting to hold on to property of Taylor and Beck. It is almost as insulting to my intelligence as was the statement by Duke University’s Michael Schoenfeld that defined “solicitation” as handing out business cards.
The obsessive targeting of Johnny Beck for a murder he could not have committed not only insults the intelligence of Tar Heelians and wastes taxpayer money, but goes contrary to the supposed role of prosecutors acting as “Ministers of Justice.” A true minister of justice would have dismissed Gregory Taylor and Johnny Beck as suspects in the Thomas murder back in 1991 or early 1992 (at the latest). Alas, Tom Ford, and Colon Willoughby are no ministers of justice by their actions in this case. Neither was the Attorney General’s Office acting as a minister of justice when it re-tried Alan Gell after it became apparent that Prosecutor David Hoke withheld from defense attorneys 17 eyewitness statements that proved beyond doubt that Gell could not have possibly committed the murder for which he was sentenced to die.
A shining example of a true Minister of Justice can be found in the way former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong handled the Duke Lacrosse case. After initially charging the three Duke Lacrosse defendants with multiple offenses, Mr. Nifong dismissed the charge of rape when he felt that statements by the alleged victim no longer supported it. He, however, continued to pursue other charges against the defendants, including sexual assault. This is the action of a prosecutor with an open mind who is determined to aggressively seek a conviction, but with the priority of first and foremost attaining justice. Mr. Nifong never tried to solicit perjured testimony or false statements as did Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford in the Gregory Taylor case. Mr. Nifong never harbored personal ill-will or a vendetta against the defendants… he just merely executed his job to the best of his abilities and within acceptable standards.
Hopefully the judge hearing the motion filed by Willoughby, to hang on to evidentiary property that is no longer of value, will deny his request. Enough is enough. Johnny Beck is innocent… just like Gregory Taylor. It is past time to put an end to this Tom Ford foolery.
NOTE: Link provided below tells of interesting event featuring Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson. (Click the botton featuring that headline)