Injustice in Focus

Archive for October 2012

The Case of Teresa Fargason

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Case Background

Teresa and Taylor

Teresa and Taylor

It was approaching midday when six year old Taylor Fargason returned from spending the weekend with her father, Charles. Her mother, Teresa, had divorced Charles in 1990 after seven years of marriage.

That afternoon Teresa took Taylor to the beach for a swim. On the way home they dropped by to visit Tanya Garrett and her kids for an hour or so. Later that afternoon Teresa drove to the Fountain Car Wash on Hardeman Avenue to vacuum sand from her vehicle, a requisite chore, owing to the earlier beach trip.

While there, Taylor came up to her mother with a small teddy bear which she said was given to her by a policeman. Teresa would later recall not having seen the officer, James Glover, at the time. Thinking nothing of it, Teresa finished cleaning her car then drove by the Farmer’s Market to purchase some peanuts.

On their way home they stopped at the residence of Jordan Michael, a man whom Teresa was seeing at the time. After a short visit, they left him some peanuts and headed to the Kroger supermarket on Forsyth Road in Macon. Teresa had planned on making some Mexican food for work the following day and purchased the ingredients she needed before returning home.

Taylor then went over to a friend’s home to play and have supper and Teresa picked her up at around 8.15pm. Once home, Teresa ran a bath for Taylor, after which she dressed her and put her into bed.

Teresa went to the kitchen and began to unpack the groceries and to prepare the meal for the next day. It was getting late, so she decided to forgo the cooking and return to the Kroger store for something ready-made. She gathered up Taylor, her shoes and her blanket prior to setting off for the store at around 9.30pm.

They arrived sometime just before 10pm, parked the car and went into the store, heading for the deli counter. When Teresa got to the counter she turned to speak to Taylor, only to find that she was no longer behind her.

Panicked, she began to search the aisles alone before enlisting the aid of customers and employees of the store. She ran out into the car park to see if Taylor had made her way back to the car. She hadn’t. It was then, at around 10pm, that a store employee phoned the police.

Several squad cars were immediately dispatched to the Forsyth Road address. The second officer to arrive on the scene was James Glover, the man who had contact with Taylor earlier that day at the car wash.

Upon the arrival at the scene of the K-9 unit, Teresa was asked to supply the officers with an item which had been handled by Taylor to give the dogs a scent to track. She gave them Taylor’s blanket from her vehicle.

As the search for Taylor got underway, a visibly upset Teresa was taken to the police station to provide a statement of the evening’s events. It was there when she learned Taylor’s body had been found just off the paved surface of Interstate Parkway by a passing motorist.

A distraught Teresa broke down and wept as she was taken to the hospital by her friend, Tanya Garrett.

At the hospital, Teresa was administered a sedative. On the doctor’s advice she took another when she arrived home. Soon after she received a call, asking that she return to the police station for further questioning. She complied, arriving at about 3.00am on the morning of June 10.

Teresa was then interrogated for in excess of five hours, during which time it became apparent that the police suspected her of having caused Taylor’s death. She was then asked for permission to have her home searched. She allowed the officers to search her home as well as her vehicle.

The search by Detective Jimmy Rogers and Officer James Glover produced no incriminating evidence linking Teresa to the crime and she was released that morning.

The investigation then turned toward another potential suspect, Officer James Glover, whom I will discuss later in this article.

When spring of 1992 arrived, no arrest had been made and the Macon PD was making little or no headway with their investigation into Taylor’s death. It was decided that they would place a wiretap on Teresa’s phone and interview her family and friends once more.

It was around this time that the Macon PD had also begun showing up at Teresa’s workplace and following her around town. If this was designed to push Teresa to the limit, it only worked insofar as to make her unable to eat or sleep due to the unwarranted stress it placed upon her.

By late December, all the investigation had gathered in the way of evidence was Taylor’s blanket which had a small blood stain on it, a hair believed to be one of Teresa’s, the tyre mark on Taylor’s arm and an essentially inaudible recording of a conversation between Teresa and Jordan Michael.

The police alleged that during the conversation with Michael, Teresa had said “I suffocated her” and that the bloodstain left on the blanket was a result of it. Both allegations were untrue. What Teresa had actually said was “I’m so scared”. The bloodstain had in fact been left on the blanket when Taylor’s aunt pulled a milk tooth sometime earlier.

Regardless, the police felt they had sufficient evidence to arrest Teresa, which they did on December 29, 1992. Teresa was indicted by a Grand Jury on January 23, 1993 for the offense of murder and her trial was set for September 13 of that year.

James Glover

This name continues to surface as you look further into Teresa’s case. His behaviour on June 9 and in the days and months hence was most unusual to say the least.

On the Tuesday following Taylor’s death, Glover visited Teresa’s home with a ‘deli tray’. One of Teresa’s sisters recalled the incident as being bizarre when Glover almost forcibly gave her the tray before leaving, hurriedly.

It was later revealed that Glover had also run checks on Teresa’s license plate on numerous occasions after the murder. The allegations of him having stalked Teresa for some time are not without merit.

On June 18, 1991, two detectives from the Macon PD paid a visit to Glover at his home at the request of Captain Gibson. Glover allowed the detectives to view his activity log for June 9 which included his account of meeting Taylor at the car wash.

He also claimed to have gone to City Hall at around 8pm, where he stayed until 10.30pm. Upon leaving there he went to “the gas pumps on Second Street” from where he was dispatched to the Kroger store on Forsyth Road, arriving at approximately 10.58pm.

On August 8 of the same year, Sgt. Dale Mason was sent to Glover’s residence. With the aid of a ruler, he took several photographs of each tyre on Glover’s vehicle, a red Monte Carlo.

Glover was also subjected to a polygraph examination in early 1993, the results of which have never been released. Curiously, no report on whether the tyre marks from his car matched the mark on Taylor’s arm, has been disclosed either.

An event involving Glover which took place almost a year after Taylor’s murder was perhaps the most bizarre of all his strange behaviour.

While on patrol, he radioed in that he had stopped a suspicious looking man. A few minutes later he called for help, saying he had been shot twice in the chest. In fact, he had removed his safety vest, shot it twice with his service revolver, then put it back on and called in for assistance.

Some say it was a tawdry attempt to impress his estranged wife, while others suggest it was to attract Teresa’s attention and for her to see him as a man of valour. Either way, it was ineffective and served only to damage his already tarnished character and force him to leave the police department in shame.

A plea bargain had been negotiated for Glover in that case by local Macon attorney, Lynn Finney. The two of them were to again cross paths later in 1992.

Just prior to Teresa’s arrest, Glover was concerned that he was being investigated in connection to Taylor’s death. He took the unusual step of visiting Finney with his mother to ascertain whether he should retain her to represent him in the matter.

During this meeting, Glover made a number of self incriminating statements to his mother which implicated him in the murder. Finney was to later state that “the information would have definitely been exculpatory as to Miss Fargason”.

Glover had told Finney that on the evening of June 9, 1991, he had picked up Taylor in the Kroger car park just before 10.00pm. After an ensuing struggle, he placed Taylor into his vehicle. He also claimed that when he left her by the side of Interstate Parkway, Taylor was still alive.

He further stated that “he meant no harm Taylor” and that “he did not mean for Taylor to die”. He explained his reason for abducting her was because he “wanted to be a hero and for Teresa to notice him”.

He had intended to be the one to find Taylor once a search for her had gotten underway. This all seems rather implausible, given that Taylor would have been able to identify Glover as the person who had abducted her.

Lynn Finney attended the trial of Teresa Fargason and, on its second day, became concerned that the jury weren’t being advised of Glover having been an alternative suspect early on in the case. Finney took it upon herself to approach Teresa’s attorney, Frank Childs, to discuss what was told to her by Glover the previous December.

On day three of the trial, September 15, an in chambers hearing was conducted with Judge Culpepper to determine whether Glover’s statements were protected by attorney-client privilege, stemming from Finney’s representing Glover previously.

Finney was under the impression that since the case where she had represented Glover was finalised there was no conflict, much less an abuse, of attorney-client privilege. While Finney did not divulge the details of what was said to her by Glover during this hearing, Judge Culpepper would not permit her to testify for the defense.

Curiously, trial documents do not reveal the Court’s exact ruling on the in chambers hearing.

Glover had dodged a bullet, for now.

Trial Summary

At trial, the State’s theory as to motive was scurrilous. Assistant District Attorney, Howard Simms, argued that Teresa had wanted to marry her boyfriend at the time, Jordan Michael. He alleged that Michael did not want any more children and for that reason alone, Teresa suffocated Taylor and left her lifeless body by the roadside.

The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of witnesses claiming not have seen Taylor in the Kroger store on the evening of June 9. The testimony of those witnesses was proven to be less than reliable.

Simms was to further argue that blood found on Taylor’s blanket was left as a result of the suffocation. He also told the jury that Teresa had said she “suffocated” Taylor during an inaudible part of the recorded phone call between her and Jordan. This was nothing short of scandalous.

The State contended that the mark on Taylor’s arm was made by the tread of a tyre on Teresa’s vehicle. Defense expert William O. Jungbluth, from the US Army crime laboratory in Atlanta, testified that there was “a 90% chance” the tyre on Teresa’s car did not make the impression.

Simms’ assertion that the hair found on Taylor’s hand had been “forcibly removed” from Teresa’s head as she suffocated her was unfounded, given that the medical examiner could not determine with complete certainty that it had.

The defense’s inability to point to another viable suspect in this case did little to help Teresa’s cause. Since Lynn Finney was not able to testify to what she had been told during her meeting with James Glover and his mother in December of 1992, the jury was left to believe that no other person could have perpetrated this crime other than Teresa.

After a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty for the offense of murder and Teresa Fargason was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 17, 1993.

A Motion for New Trial was immediately filed by counsel for Teresa, Frank Childs. An Amended Motion for New Trial was filed by her appellate counsel on July 15, 1994. On September 27 and 28 of that year, Judge Bryant Culpepper heard the Motion for New Trial and in his May 10, 1995 ruling denied the motion.

Teresa’s conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Georgia on March 11, 1996. On April 23, 1997 a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was filed by Teresa with the US Court for the Middle District of Georgia which was denied on June 18, 2001.

Teresa is currently housed at the Arrendale State prison in Alto, Georgia.

Written by Injustice in Focus

October 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

The Trials and Tribulations of Doug Mulder – Part II

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Doug Mulder graduated from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor of Law degree in June of 1964. By October he was gainfully employed in the misdemeanour court for the Dallas County District Attorney Office under Henry Wade.

Wade had participated in the prosecution of Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby, and was to also take part in the landmark case of Roe v Wade. He was someone whom Mulder viewed as a mentor while working his way up to becoming Wade’s first assistant within a few short years. Wade’s bullish approach to prosecution was something not lost on a young, ambitious Mulder.

Described variously as flamboyant, irascible and even a con artist, Mulder’s overzealous “win at all costs” style would earn him the moniker “Mad Dog”. Melvyn Bruder , a high profile Dallas appellate attorney, remarked “He is one of the finest pure prosecutors I ever saw. He is thorough, he is heartless, and once the objective is made known to him, he pursues it at all costs”.

This was more than evident in two particular cases which were to live in infamy. The first, as a prosecutor.

Randall Dale Adams

The case which was to haunt Mulder, was that of Randall Dale Adams. In 1977, Adams was sentenced to death for the murder of patrolman Robert W. Wood.

On November 28, 1976, Wood was shot to death by David Ray Harris during what began as an innocuous night time traffic stop on a Dallas street. Adams had only met the sixteen year old Harris the previous afternoon when he was offered a ride after running out of gas.

The car Harris was driving was in fact stolen, as were many items in the vehicle which were pawned that afternoon. One of those items, a .22 calibre handgun, was to be used in the commission of the crime.

The two spent the evening at a drive-in theatre before Adams returned to the motel where he was staying at around midnight.

At approximately 12.30am Patrolman Wood and his partner, Officer Teresa Turko, noticed Harris driving a blue car with its headlights turned off and proceeded to make a traffic stop. As Wood walked up to the driver’s side of the vehicle, he was hit by a volley of shots and died at the scene.

As Harris fled, Turko fired off several rounds at his vehicle to no avail. She was unable to get the tag number but was to later state that the car had only one occupant. Turko’s account of that morning was to be brought into question and cause much conjecture.

Returning to Vidor, from where he had attempted to escape his shady past, Harris soon proceeded to brag to friends about how he had “offed a pig” in Dallas. When police heard of his boasts, they took him to the station for questioning.

Harris claimed he had only made the comment “to impress his friends” and became nervous when told that the ballistic experts had identified a handgun he had stolen from his father as the murder weapon.

It was at that juncture that Harris’ story began to change. While maintaining he had not shot Wood, he had placed himself not only at the scene but in the vehicle. The gunman, Harris said, was Randall Dale Adams.

Adams gave the police a statement in which he detailed the events of that evening, maintaining his innocence throughout. Unsurprisingly, the police advised him that he had had failed a polygraph test which he had agreed to take.  This is a ploy often used by police when short on leads and facts of a crime, ultimately resulting in wrongful convictions.

At a pre-trial hearing for Adams, assistant district attorney Mulder struck a decisive blow. He was able to convince Judge Don Metcalfe that Harris’ criminal record ought to be kept from the jury. This ruling was to derail Adams’ defense attorneys, Dennis White and Edith James’, strategy.

Mulder had already earned the ire of White after a visit to Harris’ hometown of Vidor to investigate the case; “Mulder had been there the week before I had and had told the people in Vidor that I was a …eastern educated civil liberties attorney, and that I was down there to discredit David Harris”.

Mulder’s next coup was when he cunningly interpreted the statement Adams gave to police as a confession. In fact, all that Adams had stated was that he had been in the general area of where the crime took place when he and Harris were driving around Dallas the previous evening but not at the time of the murder.

Another act of Mulder’s underhandedness which stymied the defense was the testimony of three alleged witnesses to the crime. These witnesses’ accounts varied and were far from factual. Judge Metcalfe had ordered Mulder to avail the defense of a list of witnesses he had planned to call during the trial but noticeably omitted the names of rebuttal witnesses Emily and Michael Miller, along with that of Michael Randell.

Mulder claimed that under Texas law, he was not required to inform the defense of these witness statements because they were called only to rebut the testimony of Adams. Judge Metcalfe would not permit the defense to admit the testimony of one of those witnesses, Emily Miller, adding that it would be unfair to impeach her testimony because she had moved away from Dallas.

Unsurprisingly, this was far from the truth. Miller had merely relocated to another part of Dallas and not gone to Illinois as Mulder erroneously claimed. Therefore, she was indeed available to be examined by the defense after all.

In fact, the day Mulder managed to convince Judge Metcalfe of her unavailability, she was filmed by a local news crew standing outside her room at the Alamo Plaza Hotel. Regardless, Mulder had claimed yet another decisive victory.

Defense attorney Dennis White was unaware of Emily Miller’s prior statement wherein she had identified the gunman as either “Mexican or light skinned African-American”. Even more startling was Miller testifying to having picked Adams out in a police line-up. She had done no such thing but White missed this opportunity to pounce.

Filmmaker Errol Morris was later to discover that as part of the prosecution’s investigation, Officer Turko had been hypnotised and denied having seen the shooter. This was conveniently suppressed by Mulder since it would have only served to harm his prosecution of Adams.

An internal affairs investigation of Turko was also kept from the defense but Mulder had never lost a capital murder case up until this point and he was determined that this would not be his first. Full disclosure of his office’s investigation was not high on his list of priorities.

He even enlisted the dubious expertise of Dr. James Grigson, a forensic psychiatrist, to seal the conviction of Adams. Known as “Dr. Death”, Grigson had testified in more than a hundred capital cases where he claimed the defendant would not only pose a threat to society, but kill again.

Grigson described Adams as “an incurable and extreme sociopath with no regard for the life or property of others and who would continue to present a danger to society”. Given that Adams had no history of violence whatsoever, it was an extraordinary opinion to proffer.

It wasn’t the first time Grigson was able to persuade a jury to accept his flawed diagnosis. One judge who sat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote:

“When Dr. Grigson speaks to a lay jury . . . about a person who he characterizes as a “severe” sociopath . . . the defendant should stop what he is doing and commence writing out his last will and testament—because he will in all probability soon be ordered by the trial judge to suffer a premature death.”

Grigson’s questionable ethics  mattered not to Mulder and both sides rested on Friday, April 19. The following Monday, Judge Metcalfe sent the case to the jury for consideration, during which time several jurors sought clarification of the rebuttal witnesses’ testimony. Remarkably, Metcalfe denied them on each occasion.

The jury, after having deliberated for less than three hours, returned with their verdict. Guilty of capital murder.

Adams was subsequently sentenced to death. Not only had a satisfied Mulder condemned an innocent man, he had allowed Harris to walk free.

Six years hence, Harris would kill again.

Randall Dale Adams’ case was far from finished. His subsequent appeal of the verdict would give Doug Mulder many a sleepless night and will be examined in the next installment.

Written by Injustice in Focus

October 8, 2012 at 8:40 am