To access flog, click on the link below:
In the Saturday, June 04, 2011 edition of The News & Observer newspaper, an article titled “Accused stepdaughter wants her life back” by staff writer Thomasi McDonald chronicled yet another chapter in the malfeasance and misdeeds of Wake County prosecutor Tom Ford.
The name “Tom Ford” probably does not sound familiar to most but it should, as Ford was the prosecutor in the botched murder investigation of Jacquetta Thomas that unfolded nearly two decades ago. As is it’s PAPEN Policy (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong), The News & Observer article never once mentioned the Gregory Taylor case or linked Tom Ford to it. It was Gregory Flynt Taylor who Prosecutor Ford saddled with that homicide… but he did so only because Taylor, who is white, would not give perjured testimony in order to convict Johnny Beck, the African American designated suspect who was Ford’s primary target.
In 1993, Taylor was convicted by the use of perjured testimony, a specialty of Prosecutor Ford, and with some hocus-pocus forensics which manipulated evidence to favor the prosecution’s scenario. In Taylor’s case, a stain on the bumper of his car was misleadingly determined to be human blood… which, in fact, it was not.
Prosecutor Ford won a life sentence against Greg Taylor because Taylor refused to implicate another innocent man with perjured testimony.
Returning to the story about the accused stepdaughter… Carletta Alston was charged in June 17, 2009 with the death of her stepfather Michael Donnell Smith. Smith, standing in his Knightdale driveway, was shot in the face during the early morning hours as he prepared to drive to work. His wife Phyllis and stepdaughter Carletta were inside the house when they heard the gunfire.
Afraid to venture outside to investigate, they placed a hysterical 9-1-1 call. Police arrived later and conducted an investigation that produced a stack of letters between the murdered victim Smith, who was also a co-pastor at a church and another woman. The correspondence pointed towards a romantic relationship between the two. Michael Smith’s wife Phyllis, denied knowledge of any affair until it was brought to her attention by the police.
Two days following the murder of Michael Donnell Smith, June 6, 2009, Wake deputies first interviewed Carletta Alston. They could not determine a motive for her to commit the murder. According to the newspaper article, police focused on the stepdaughter Carletta because her account of the shooting differed with other witnesses… specifically, police stated that the time Carletta Alston gave for hearing the shot was significantly later than the time given by neighbors.
Police did not state how much different, but surely a record of the 9-1-1 call would narrow down the timeline. Allegedly gunpowder residue was found somewhere on Alston’s nightgown, but not on her hands, or the hands of her mother. And, as Alston’s attorney, Karl Knudsen of Raleigh stated regarding gunpowder residue, “There’s always the possibility of contamination.”
Based upon Alston’s version of the time at which she heard the gunshot differing with the time given by the neighbors and the forensic report that gunpowder residue was found on Alston’s nightgown… exactly where it was never stated… Carletta Alston was charged with the murder of her stepfather Michael Donnell Smith. Police and prosecutors did not even have a motive in arresting Alston.
What is truly absurd is the statement made by Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby which fundamentally stated that there was reason enough to arrest Carletta Alston, there was reason enough for a grand jury to indict Carletta Alston for the murder of Michael Donnell Smith, but that they didn’t have a strong enough case to take it to court. Tea Party conservatives and birthers may believe this line spewed by the Wake County D.A., but Jedi mind-tricks have no affect on me and others with strong logical minds and a modicum of common sense.
Put another way, if the prosecutors did not have a strong enough case to take to court, then Alston should not have been indicted. And, if prosecutors did not have a strong enough case to indict Alston, she should have never been arrested. It’s as simple as that. To aver otherwise is what makes North Carolina justice the laughing stock of the country.
So Carletta Alston upon being arrested lost the two jobs that she held at nursing homes, and she languished in jail at costly taxpayer expense for a year. When she was unexpectedly released from custody without explanation, she had in essence served a one year sentence for not committing a crime… courtesy of prosecutor Tom Ford and the state’s selective justice system based on Class and Color.
The North Carolina justice system is one in which the well-heeled, powerful, privileged, and connected are given “rare deals.” Most of these deals substitute a small fine in place of serving jail time. Those who are disenfranchised, indigent, and people of color are dumped onto the scrap heap of despair and injustice, left to fend for themselves after losing years of their lives and their self dignity to an uncaring, inhumane, and unsympathetic system.
What happened to Carletta Alston is not an isolated incident. The following are but a smattering of examples:
James Arthur Johnson was charged with the murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery of Brittany Willis by Wilson County prosecutor Bill Wolfe. Despite lacking credible evidence Johnson, who solved the crimes against Willis, served a 39 month sentence before being forced to agree to an Alford plea deal for a misprision of felony. A misprision of felony charge is applied to person who has knowledge of a crime but does not go to authorities with it. Even this charge did not fit the plea deal which Johnson accepted.
Not only that, but friends and family of Brittany Willis offered a $20,000 reward upon which they reneged after Johnson identified the perpetrator of the crimes against Willis. The media has kept quiet about this.
Judge Osmond Smith III sentenced 15 year-old Erick Daniels to confinement for ten to fourteen years after he was convicted of an armed robbery in which prosecutor Freda Black offered not a shred of credible evidence. The victim of the robbery picked out the young boy’s photograph from a middle school year book based solely on the shape of his eyebrows.
Although he has been proclaimed “innocent” by a judge, the governor and her Office of Executive Clemency has refused to issue a pardon to Erick Daniels who is struggling to get a job with a false felony conviction on his record.
Crystal Gail Mangum, who was the victim and accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case, had charges trumped up against her in February 2010 after police were called to her apartment by her children out of fear for their mother’s safety. Crystal had been repeatedly punched in the face by her ex-boyfriend after she made an insulting comment.
When the responding police realized the identity of Crystal, they dropped attention from Crystal’s abuser and focused on her instead. In order to have Mangum convicted of a crime that would carry serious jail time, the Durham Police, the only ones with the motive, means, and opportunity, set fire to clothing in the bathtub, claimed it was arson, and attributed it to Crystal.
With a slew of other bogus charges, initial bail was set at $1 million. Like Carletta Alston, Crystal Mangum lost her job… but in addition lost her apartment, many of her belongings, custody of her children, was dropped from graduate school classes in which she was enrolled, and she lost her independence.
Crystal spent three months in jail before a $100,000 bail was unexpectedly satisfied by a benevolent bail bondsman. Even though her attorney, Mani Dexter, put up an almost non-existent feather-weight defense, Mangum was not convicted of the most serious arson charge, and was sentenced to time served on other frivolous charges for which she was convicted.
The system of selective justice based on Class and Color thrives in North Carolina because civil rights groups, politicians, and community leaders allow it. They remain silent while the vulnerable individuals, who look to and depend upon them for protection, are mashed under the uncaring heel of those in positions of power in the justice system.
The NAACP, under leadership of Dr. Rev. William Barber II, remained silent as a dormouse. Where was his voice, or that of the NAACP, when Carletta Alston was thrown into the slammer because her recollection of events differed from others about the time at which a gun was fired? State senators and representatives in Wake County have also remained silent when their constituent Carletta Alston languished in jail at taxpayer expense despite the fact that prosecutor Tom Ford had not built a case against her.
Clergymen throughout the state may deliver fiery sermons to their flock from within the confines of their houses of worship, but when it comes to speaking out publicly against the injustice against the very people they serve , then it is as though they have suddenly lost their voices.
Because of the deafening silence amongst community and civil rights leaders, prosecutors like Tom Ford are emboldened and have no compunction against tossing the disenfranchised, poor, and people of color in jail in order to close a case. So what if innocent people are serving time behind bars while the real culprits run free? Who cares?
And, Tom Ford can count on the media coddling up to him, in conjunction with the media’s PAPEN Policy. Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor Mike Nifong in doing his job within acceptable standards, was vilified and butchered by the media… but not so with the Greg Taylor Prosecutor Tom Ford.
Even though the Greg Taylor case received plenty of media press, the prosecutor of the case Tom Ford was rarely mentioned. SBI lab agent Duane Deaver was the designated scapegoat for the case. Well known defense attorney Joseph Cheshire, in defending Greg Taylor, was lenient when discussing the prosecutor who snatched seventeen years of his client’s best years from him. No disparaging words about Ford were uttered from Cheshire’s lips… even referring to Ford as a capable opponent. Cheshire saved his criticism for Mike Nifong only.
In fact, that was Cheshire’s strategy in the Duke Lacrosse case. Not to defend the defendants, but to attack Nifong, the prosecutor who was too independent and would not yield to the tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” So with the media in tow, the Duke Lacrosse defense set out to destroy Mike Nifong, which was culminated with his disbarment, making him the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933.
I have to hand it to The News & Observer for even having the gumption to mention Tom Ford’s name in the article. However, even in doing so, it attempted to mislead. Take the passage “Knudsen also noted that the prosecutor handling the case, Tom Ford, has a reputation for being very thorough and willing to do everything he can with the available evidence.” Ford exhibited his talents with evidence in the Greg Taylor case when he turned a bumper stain into human blood, and when he took a negative scent from a tracking hound and with a little abracadabra turned it into a positive one.
Then the article tried to define Tom Ford as a dedicated prosecutor by stating, “But he backed away from taking Alston to trial.”
“He came to the conclusion that it was not a case they wanted to move forward with,” Knudsen said.
I have not a problem with that decision, but why did it take twelve months for Tom Ford to come to the conclusion that he did not, and never did have a case against Carletta Alston? Twelve months while Ms. Alston served time without being convicted of a crime. The fact of the matter is, as was previously stated, that Carletta Alston should never have been arrested and charged with the crime.
Thanks to Tom Ford’s handiwork, the state of North Carolina owes Carletta Alston. As Ms. Alston struggles to find work and deal with other problems related to her unjust incarceration, the state needs to step in and help make her whole… as much as is humanly possible. That is what true justice demands and that is what we, as Tar Heelians, should demand.