Mind Over Murder (2022) s01e05 Episode Script

Episode 5

Could you tell me where you were
and what you were doing
on the night Helen Wilson died,
February 5th, 1985?
We went to the apartment.
I see it in my dreams.
The people that we were with,
like, Winslow and all them,
I have that in my mind.
I remember going
to the apartment.
I have nightmares
of seeing her dead,
scenes of her, Helen Wilson,
how she was tied.
I have bad memories of that.
I thought I was guilty.
I thought we were guilty,
so yeah,
when they said that we weren't,
I was surprised.
There's Ma.
Mom and Dad.
Yeah they had to come out and make sure
y'all weren't running off with me.
Yep, make sure you
wouldn't kidnap him.
Don't wanna
lose him again, do you?
Can I get a picture?
Yeah I have to beat on him every once
in a while to make sure he's still here.
My family
has always stood with me.
People I've grown up with,
people that have known me
since I was youngster,
people who were born
after I left
They looked at me
as one of theirs.
They're my family,
and I'm theirs.
That's what kept me going.
When Joseph
came out of prison,
he said the first week
he was home
that I was glued to him.
He said, "She never let me
out of her sight."
For about the first week
after he came back,
he stayed around the house
and worked
in the garden again.
Hey, there.
He liked being outside.
What, what, what, what, what?
Let's dance.
He and his girlfriend Paige
were getting married.
They were
in high school together,
and they got reacquainted,
and then
they moved in together
and were planning
their life together.
Right now,
working on get a job
and start putting
some money together.
Then I also want to do
a motorcycle tour of America,
just going around
with a camera
and take some pictures
of the beauty that's out there.
In fact, I'm wanting
to put together
a sort of coffee table book.
Already got the name
of it picked out.
"An American Odyssey:
"A Man, a Motorcycle,
and a Camera
in Search of Freedom
and Beauty."
He was looking for work.
He couldn't get anything
other than pick up
then a friend of Paige's
got him a application
at ABC Coke.
Coke is coal
that has been refined
and used
to produce electricity,
and it was very, very hot.
He went to work one night,
One of his coworkers,
and some way or another,
between the machine
and the coal bin
and was crushed.
when I heard about that,
it was really more unbelievable
than when he come
and told me he'd been arrested.
He was kind of into
western type movies,
and he just liked the idea
Which is a lone wolf.
I don't think he was really
as much of a lone wolf
as he wanted to be
because Joseph
was always looking out
for the little guy,
and lone wolves
don't usually do that.
Joseph did all this.
He got us all exonerated
and pardoned,
and he got to enjoy it
for a year and a half.
And then
right before he got married,
he died.
Where is the justice?
In my eyes,
Joseph White's a hero.
I mean, it's plain and simple.
He's a hero.
'Cause he
actually solved this crime.
It wasn't Burdette Searcey
and all them.
Joseph White.
When Joseph
came out of prison,
he thought
they all deserved justice,
so they did the civil suit.
Gage County
had made a terrible mistake,
and they needed to pay for it.
And although he thought
if he got money,
that'd be okay, but if he
to be wrong,
that was the big idea.
The civil suit
started in 2007.
Jeff Patterson
spent countless hours
working for
justice for Joseph.
This story is so complex.
I was certain
that it would take a long time,
but I didn't know
that it would take ten years.
When I first got this file
and took a look at it,
I wondered, "How in the hell
can this possibly happen?"
Very early on,
I knew that we were
gonna have to explain
why people falsely confessed.
I ended up representing
Joseph and Tom
and JoAnn Taylor
and Kathy Gonzalez.
James decided
to go a different way,
and he hired a local attorney
named Herb Friedman
who I'd known quite well,
and so Herb then joined us,
and the sixth of the Beatrice Six
was Debby Shelden.
I felt that we could not
represent Debby
because, at that time,
Debby still believed
that she was involved
in a murder.
When the whole story broke,
the local paper did a story
on everything, and I know
that she told reporters
that she believed
that she was still there.
Interview with Cliff and
Deb Shelden at their house.
The date is 10/29/09.
So you say now,
still, that you were there?
Um, so they're advising me to lie.
And say that we weren't there
Who's saying that?
All of the other defendants, you know?
But I told them I've seen the
half a $5 bill on the floor.
- I've seen it.
- Right.
But they're saying that
it was told to me.
No it wasn't. I saw it.
I know I saw it.
They said, "Why don't you just
lie so you can get your money?"
And I said, "I'm not going to."
I need the money,
Why lie?
That's not going to
solve anything either.
As the case was developing,
I thought,
"We need to have Debby in it,
and we need
to try and figure out
a way to get her in it."
Without her in it,
it was just too much
of a glaring omission.
they're gonna look at it and say,
"Why isn't
this sixth person in it?"
Thomas Winslow told me
I had stayed there.
So I contacted
a colleague of mine,
Maren Chaloupka,
who is a very skilled lawyer,
and I asked Maren
if she would be willing
to get involved
and take Debby as a client.
A lot of my work
is in the intersection
of mental illness,
law enforcement,
jail and prison,
and a case like this one
was the worst of all worlds.
You had law enforcement
close a case
off of the backs of people
they see as disposable.
I knew
it would be a challenge.
I knew that I would want
to have a plan
to understand why
she believed
that she was still involved.
Why would I see this
if I wasn't there?
Why would I?
Why would I see
the people I saw?
But people say "No Deb,
you're brainwashed."
"You're stupid,
you don't know nothing."
Yeah, okay.
Your instinct
is to say, "Deb,
come on,
you weren't there, Deb."
And as I learned more
in working on the case,
I backed away from that.
The better approach was
to just try to understand
and be a better advocate.
Deb has lived on the margins
her whole life.
She was raised in foster care.
When she was about 19 or 20,
she was able to connect
with her birth mother
and lived
with her birth mother
and a stepfather
after high school.
My stepdad was an asshole.
I didn't get along with him
at all,
so I had troubles with him.
Like what?
He raped me at one time,
and my mom said
it was my fault.
It was in that timeframe
that she had a baby
and she got married.
The marriage fell apart
very quickly.
She had another boyfriend,
and the boyfriend
abused her daughter,
and the state became involved.
She was referred
to Blue Valley Mental Health
where she was examined
by a psychologist
named Dr. Wayne Price.
They told me to go to him
to get evaluated
and stuff like that.
He said I wasn't
taking good care of her.
She was being abused and stuff
by the boy
that I was living with.
She had bruises on her buttocks
and stuff like that,
and I guess
he was being abusive to her,
because I wasn't around.
I was out working
and stuff like that,
or something I was doing.
I was always gone.
Dr. Price evaluated her
and wrote a report
expounding that Deb
was just not able
to appreciate consequences
of her actions.
Through the courts and stuff,
I lost her.
I lost all my rights
to her and stuff,
and that was trauma because
it upset me quite a bit.
It took me a long time
before I got remarried.
She met Cliff.
Just kind of met him
around town.
I think they had
known each other
maybe about a month,
and he proposed to Deb.
I asked Cliff for a baby,
and he said no,
and I got him drunk,
and I raped him,
and that's
what he tells everybody.
I raped him to get her,
but I got her.
She was a gift of God,
I guess,
I was happy and everything.
I had a good time.
What was life like with
Cliff and your daughter?
It was fun, pretty funny
until he got in trouble,
and then they took him.
When Cliff was arrested
for his involvement
in the Harvester Motel
Cliff was looking
for a way to improve
his own criminal outcome
for this assault.
He began telling
the Lincoln police
and ultimately then
Burt Searcey
that he had information
about the Helen Wilson murder.
And Cliff
gave them a statement
that falsely incriminated
his own wife.
When they told me
that Clifford is the one
that turned me in,
I got to thinking,
"Wow, you know, really?"
If he knew it,
then it must have happened.
If he said that,
then it must have been true.
They've been married
for 40 years now.
- There's "Divorce Court."
- No.
- There you go.
- No.
Deb says that Cliff
is the best man
that she's ever known.
Deb says that Cliff
is her rock.
Deb says
that if Cliff ever left her,
that she doesn't know
how she would make it.
She thinks
in a very simple, linear way.
She was arrested and told,
"You participated
in a murder."
She can't look at a man
in an authority position
and say, "This is bullshit.
I wasn't there."
She's going to listen to him
and say,
"Well, he's saying this to me,
and if he's saying that,
"and he knows what the facts
of this crime scene are,
then I must have been there."
Those thoughts can be put
into her head,
and they get internalized,
and they become true to her.
Eventually, she wanted
to become involved
in this civil rights case
but wasn't really sure why.
If that doesn't quite
make sense to those
who are hearing this,
I understand that.
Deb's mind works differently.
Joseph White, he started it.
He got it going.
Tom Winslow,
everybody was telling
their behalf but me.
I was the only one
that wasn't,
so they told me
I should go see about it,
see what could be done,
so I went and found out,
and then the whole ballgame
just went boom, boom, boom.
We were going wild then.
Got all started,
all the trials,
all the meetings,
everything, yep.
We were ready
to go to trial in 2014,
both Maren and Debby
were now in the case.
And so we sued
a number of defendants.
We also sued Gage County
because they're the only ones
that are gonna be able
to pay anything.
We had to show that there was
a reckless investigation,
so you start
with the investigators.
Please state your name
for the record.
Burdette Lee Searcey.
Do you solemnly swear
to tell the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth so help you God?
- I do.
- Counsel, you may inquire.
Thank you, Your Honor.
The strategy was to show
that law enforcement
in Gage County were
deliberately indifferent
to whether the evidence
that they were compiling
was true or false.
Deputy Searcey,
Mrs. Wilson's body
was discovered at 9:30.
Lisa Podendorf told you
that there were police cars
all around the building
at 7:30,
two hours before
the murder is discovered.
Should cause you to question
Lisa Podendorf's credibility,
shouldn't it?
No, sir.
Burt was blinded by his ego,
and he wanted to be the guy
that solved the big crime,
and he had this lead from Lisa
where he just thought,
"Well, I'm gonna go with
what Lisa Podendorf told me."
That's not what
an investigator should do.
If he's looking for evidence
or looking for the truth,
he should be asking questions
and dealing with the answers,
and that's not what he did.
Are you sure in your own mind
that's North 6th Street?
Every interview
or interrogation he went into,
he went in with an objective
to get certain words
out of that person's mouth.
There was Lobo and another boy.
I don't remember
the other guy's name.
During this interrogation,
the one thing Burt
wanted her to say
that she
couldn't really come up with
was who was the other boy
with Lobo?
They want her
to name Tom Winslow,
and they kept making
little subtle hints.
Do you know what a
windmill looks like?
He thought
that saying "windmill"
would be close enough
to saying "Winslow"
that she would come up
with Tom's name.
I mean, it's just ridiculous
the kind of things
that Burt Searcey would do
to suggest
an answer to someone.
Deputy Searcey, you knew
after you arrested Tom Winslow
that none of the people
that you had arrested
had type B blood, correct?
At that time, yes.
It appears to me as though
you picked up
the investigation
by just going back
to the friends or associates
of Tom Winslow, Joe White,
or JoAnn Taylor.
Is that right?
I think, for the most part,
that's true.
So one of the guys
they wanted to question
was Debby Shelden's husband
Cliff Shelden.
Cliff said his wife Debby
was there
and that she cut her head
falling against a mirror
and breaking a mirror, right?
That's what it says, yes.
There's no broken mirror
in Mrs. Wilson's apartment.
- Is that correct?
- I don't believe there was.
What investigation
did you do to follow up
on Mr. Shelden's statement?
I can't answer that
at this time.
I'm not sure
what we may have done.
Next day,
they go pick Debby up.
They tell Debby,
"You're gonna lose your child
"because your husband's
in prison
and you're gonna go to prison
for the rest of your life."
Turns out that Debby
doesn't have type B blood.
Her blood type is AB,
so guess what.
They're still looking
for the person
with the type B blood,
and they ask Debby,
"Who else was there?"
She then went back
to her cell
and had some sort
of unrecorded communication
with Dr. Wayne Price.
And the next day,
she gave another statement.
We went to the apartment door, yes.
And in her new statement,
she now added another murderer.
The first one in was JoAnn
and then who?
Tom Winslow.
- And then who?
- Joseph White.
And then?
James Dean and I.
How did Deb come up with
James Dean's name?
James Dean
was one of the names
they brought up to JoAnn.
Let me put some
words in your mind.
Do you recall a boy by
the name of James Dean?
So James Dean was just a name
that they always had
in their mind
who could be a source
of the type B blood.
But why?
He knew Joe White.
He knew Tom Winslow.
I'm not saying
it's good investigation.
I'm just saying
this is what it was.
I suspect that, before
she gave this statement,
Burt Searcey did
what he typically does.
He previewed
what Deb was gonna say
before the camera started,
before the recording started,
and the reason why
I think that's true
is that, in this statement,
when Debby says
that James Dean was with them,
you see no reaction
from Burt Searcey.
Um, James Dean and I.
Do you have any idea
how James Dean
all of a sudden
became involved
in Debby's story?
No, sir, I don't.
You didn't seem
the least bit surprised
when she said that to you.
You didn't question her
about that at all, did you?
I never questioned anybody
during an interview
that they're telling me stuff.
Deb Shelden says,
"Oh, by the way,
I think James Dean
was there too."
Out of the blue.
She could have easily said
it was Mickey Mouse
that was there.
He was just an average guy,
and he finds himself
in the middle
of this awful nightmare.
From the very beginning,
they knew that it wasn't
his blood or semen
that was there.
There was no physical evidence
that connected him.
And they throw him in jail.
He doesn't sleep.
He doesn't eat.
He's scared out of his mind.
Nobody believes him.
And I think three
or four times,
Dr. Price came to visit him
at the cell
to calm him down.
And then Burdette Searcey
showed James
videotapes that showed
the dead body of Mrs. Wilson.
They showed me the pictures.
Then the dream came.
The dead body, the lady's body.
That was probably the one
that stuck with me the most.
He reached
his breaking point.
After 22 days in jail,
he finally said,
"I think I'm guilty."
James Dean thought
when he gave
his false confession
that he was telling the truth.
After Dean's arrest,
they don't have anybody
who's the source of the semen,
the source
of the type B blood.
You have JoAnn Taylor,
Debby Shelden,
James Dean,
Joe White, and Tom Winslow
all arrested, right?
You're still looking for
someone who has type B blood.
That's correct.
At this point in time,
Searcey thought
that it might be Kathy Gonzalez
because Kathy lived
upstairs from Mrs. Wilson,
she knew Joe White.
Didn't you retrieve
a photograph of Kathy Gonzalez
from the Beatrice Police,
bring it to Deb Shelden's
jail cell.
- Hold it up for her to see?
- I did not.
had to been evidence
that I entered
the evidence room.
Do you see
what exhibit 49 is?
Yes, it's a Beatrice
Police Department report.
Lieutenant Fitzgerald
reports on 5-18-89
Deputy Searcey from the
Gage County Sheriff's Office
came to
Beatrice Police Department
at 2330 hours wanting to know
if we had a picture
of Kathy Gonzalez.
He indicated
that it might be used
in a photo lineup
in the Helen Wilson
homicide case.
One photo of Kathy Gonzalez
was removed
from the police department
mug and print file
and given to Deputy Searcey.
I read that correctly?
You did.
Do your recall showing
this single photograph
of Kathy Gonzalez
to Deb Shelden?
I did not.
Do you dispute
these records?
On May 24th,
both Debby Shelden
and James Dean
remember Kathy Gonzalez
being at the crime scene.
Was it just a coincidence
that they both remember
on the same day?
They were coming up with
added information continually.
How did Debby tell you
that she remembered
Kathy Gonzalez being
at this brutal incident?
I'm not sure
just exactly at this point.
They were willing to
interview and to interrogate
and to arrest essentially
anybody they could
and then see
if they had type B blood,
so Kathy was
just one of those people
who happened to know Joseph.
If Kathy Gonzalez
hadn't been someone
who had type B blood,
we'd be looking
at the Beatrice Seven
or the Beatrice Eight
or the Beatrice Nine
or however many it took to get
to someone with type B blood.
I was the last one
to be arrested.
I knew from the first day
they arrested me
that this was serious.
I just thought
I would tell the truth,
the truth would set me free,
and I'd get to go home
to Colorado.
Boy, was I wrong.
Back in '89,
I was in Denver, Colorado,
when they arrested me.
And I was still saying, "No,
I was not in her apartment."
Once they got the results
of my blood typing test,
they closed the investigation.
I had B positive blood.
That's what
they were looking for.
By God, that's all they needed.
They kept saying from the day
they arrested me,
"You were there.
You just don't remember it."
Especially any time
Burdette Searcey was around.
They said
it was 100% my blood.
How do you explain that?
I couldn't,
and I kept saying that I can't,
and Burdette just kept saying,
"Well, this proves
that you were there,
that you
just don't remember it."
I was exhausted.
I don't know
exactly how long it was
after they put me in the cell,
but they wanted to know
if I wanted to talk
to somebody
that would help me calm down
and try to gather my thoughts,
and as Burdette said,
"Remember what happened."
This guy come in,
and he introduced himself
as Dr. Wayne Price,
and he said
that the crime was so violent
that I was traumatized.
That's why
I didn't remember it,
but that he was pretty sure
if I would just calm down
and relax,
I would remember,
and it would come to me,
and I would remember
my dreams.
We're taking ourselves
to page 22, please.
We're going to invite Kathy
and Dr. Price into the arena.
Just beginning with
the interrogation.
Usually what happens
is pieces will start
to come back in dreams.
Then it will become clear,
but odds are it looks like
you were there and blocked it.
One of the things
that can happen, though,
as the shock
starts to wear off,
things that were traumatic
will come back in some ways,
often in dreams,
in little bits and pieces.
They will come back to you
in little pieces
like a jigsaw puzzle
that don't make a lot of sense
but after a few dreams
or a few days,
enough pieces
will come together
in which you start having
some recall,
and you can help yourself
by remembering.
If I had seen what took place,
I would have blocked it,
too, Kathy,
but we'll work with you.
We're not out to railroad you
in any way, okay?
Okay, I want to remember.
Thank you.
So what do you think
of Dr. Price?
His role in establishing
these false memories
His role is different
than Searcey being, like,
an interrogator, you know?
- Yes, yes, yes.
Because instead of,
"Okay, let's really try
"to figure out
what you remember.
Let's try to figure out
where you were, how you were."
It's more goal oriented in,
"We need to make sure
that you were there."
And he's using his skills,
this do no harm skills,
being a doctor,
against these people.
Please state your name
for the record.
Wayne R. Price.
Could you tell us
whether you would prefer
to be called Dr. Price
or Deputy Price.
I think,
in this circumstance,
Deputy Price.
So he was actually
a commissioned deputy sheriff.
When the law enforcement
needed to consult
with psychologists
regarding everything,
anything about a case,
they'd go to Doc Price.
Wayne actually was JoAnn's
treating psychologist in 1983,
so he knew about her diagnosis
and knew how frail she was.
Dr. Price,
you had diagnosed JoAnn
as having borderline
personality disorder
with sociopathic features.
Do you recall that?
It wasn't unusual
for JoAnn to hallucinate
- about unreal events, correct?
- Correct.
Is borderline
personality disorder
a condition that'll go away
with treatment?
Do you recognize exhibit 288
concerning an encounter
that you had
after JoAnn's arrest in 1989?
You wrote, "She did not have
any hallucinations
or flashbacks."
I read that correctly?
"The borderline
personality disorder
"seems to be in better control
that at any time
during the clinical contact
with her in the past."
- I read that correctly?
- That's correct.
He had also treated Debby
and was involved
in the termination
of her parental rights
with her first child.
You found that Deb had,
and your quote was,
"A lack of awareness
of consequences
and social ramifications
of her actions."
You made findings
that Deb Shelden
- was impulsive, correct?
- Yes.
"She needed help
to become more effective
"in her interactions
with others
and with society."
You recommended psychotherapy
for Deb, correct?
Now, I should clarify,
was your encounter
with Deb Shelden
in October of '78
as law enforcement
- or was it as a therapist?
- As a therapist.
Now, your next encounter
with Deb
was about 11 years after that
when we get up to 1989.
This time is when
she was in custody
- for Mrs. Wilson's homicide.
- Correct.
And then you were contacted
to evaluate
Ms. Shelden's intelligence.
You found that Deb Shelden
was fully competent, correct?
You found that she had
normal intellectual function,
In 1989, was your encounter
with Deb Shelden
as law enforcement,
or was it therapeutic?
It was not therapeutic.
That leaves
law enforcement, correct?
He's a deputy
with the lead agency
investigating this case.
The selection of Dr. Price
as the psychologist
to evaluate Deb's competency
was shocking.
Dr. Price said I blocked
a lot of things out.
He says,
"You don't remember this.
You don't remember that."
Searcey would show me pictures
and things like that.
Then I started to remember
all the things
in the apartment
that happened.
Dr. Price thought that James
and all these other people
had repressed
the memory of this,
and by God, it was there,
and now
it came back miraculously.
You also had some contact
with Mr. Dean.
Mr. Dean did not admit to you
at that time
that he was involved
with the Helen Wilson murder.
But at that point in time,
you began telling him
he might have repressed
the memory.
- Is that right?
- Might have.
Did you know what the facts
of the case were?
Didn't know
what the blood types were
- that they found?
- No.
Didn't know
what the photographs showed?
- No.
- Didn't know any of that?
You formulated an opinion
that he witnessed the scene
and that he repressed
the memory.
- Is that right?
- Yes.
And that was your opinion
as a deputy sheriff
or as a psychologist?
Which one?
Deb and James
both started having dreams
of Mrs. Wilson's homicide
after speaking with you,
- correct?
- Correct.
It did not trouble you that
Deb recalled Kathy Gonzalez
in a dream after you had asked
her who else was there,
- correct?
- Correct.
Well, as you know
from this case,
Deb Shelden has held onto that
memory for decades now, right?
And she has been tormented
by that memory, hasn't she?
And you can't answer
whether in 1989
you really thought
that Deb's memory
of Mrs. Wilson's murder
was authentic, can you?
When you interviewed
Kathy Gonzalez,
you provide Ms. Gonzalez
with some advice.
"But the important thing
is the odds are
"at this time it looks like
you were in
but did in fact block it."
"Did in fact block it."
That's what you said
to Ms. Gonzalez.
Well, it sounds to me
as though
you had already assumed
that she was guilty, right?
Because in your view, she was,
in fact, blocking it, right?
- It appeared that way.
- It appears that way.
I asked Dr. Price
if he had ever imagined
what it would be like
to be arrested
because someone
And he said he'd never imagined
what that would be like,
of how horrifying
that would be,
that you would be arrested,
and your life ended
because someone
had dreamt about you.
That's not what
we're supposed to do.
All the stuff that came out
in trial I couldn't believe
because yeah.
All the stuff
that was testimonies and stuff.
The police and everything,
they all lied on the stand.
They sat right there and said
a bunch of stuff
that was not true,
and then when I heard
all the lies
and everything,
I put two and two together.
I couldn't
have possibly been there.
At the trial,
the civil trial in 2014,
how was it, like,
seeing Burt Searcey again?
Sickening stomachwise.
You had a knot in your stomach
when I saw him the first time
after all those years.
He walked in just like he did
any other time in life
that I'd seen him.
He would wear his uniform,
I mean, like,
"Mm, I'm still a police officer."
You know what I'm saying?
That's the attitude he gave off
when he came
into the courtroom.
on his face was pure defiance.
If there was a thought bubble
over his head,
it would've been "Screw you."
You know, Burt, again,
and so sure of himself
when he's just so wrong.
It would be easy for a lawyer
to just really make him look bad
and embarrass him,
and that's something
that I didn't want to do.
But out of all of 'em,
I would say Dr. Price
probably was the one
And thinking that maybe
he really, really did
make a lot of mistakes.
He didn't say it,
but you could see it
in his facial expressions
and the way he'd look at you
when he walked in or whatever.
He wasn't cold.
You could see the emotion,
feelings there,
like he was really sad
for what he did.
I do have a certain amount
of professional respect
for Wayne Price.
What he did at that time
was just despicable,
but I'd be very surprised
if he doesn't regret it
at this point in time.
Dick Smith
is a different story.
Dick Smith is an evil man.
He knew exactly what he did.
Exactly what he did.
If I had done
what Dick Smith had done,
I would have a difficult time
living with myself.
It was all about ego
for Dick Smith.
He was gonna solve
the Helen Wilson murder.
He was gonna be the big hero.
Dick Smith had
a fake law enforcement badge
made for himself
with the number one on it
because he was the chief
law enforcement officer
in Gage County.
We felt that he was as much
an investigator in this
as he was a county attorney.
He was always involved
in the interviews.
He was always involved
in the whole thing, saying,
you know, "Hey, you need
to tell us what happened."
And is there anyone else
present in this room
at this time other than
yourself and myself?
My attorney John Berry.
County Attorney Richard Smith.
Dick Smith would be
In a powerful position,
thinks he's okay
to abuse that power
because he makes himself
believe he's untouchable.
And every time
that a trial lawyer
tries a case
and a jury comes back,
the system worked,
and in this case,
the state won the case.
Dick Smith knew
that the evidence
wouldn't convict everyone.
At sentencing, Toney Redman
asked for DNA testing.
Dick Smith told the judge
"DNA testing isn't available.
"If the state
could have done it,
the state would have done it."
DNA testing
was in its infancy in 1989.
It could have been done
and Dick Smith knew that.
August 8th of 1989,
you received a letter
from a company
called Cellmark.
Do you recall that?
I didn't recall it,
but I've seen it since.
Can you tell us
what exhibit 22 is?
It's a letter written to me
from some guy
from Cellmark Diagnostics.
And this concerns
your inquiry
to Cellmark Diagnostics
regarding DNA profiling,
And the company
sent a letter
to Dick Smith's office saying,
"Absolutely, we can help.
"Here's what we can do.
We can work with old samples.
"We can work
with blood samples.
We can work
with whatever you've got."
"Cellmark Diagnostics
can provide results
"that differentiate
individuals from one another,
"sometimes to the degree
of excluding
the world's population."
That's what it says, yes.
Had Dick Smith
done that DNA testing,
it would've cost him probably
$250 a DNA test,
but he said,
"No, we don't want to do that."
And I don't think he turned
any of that information over
to the attorneys
that were involved.
It's Dick Smith who's working
with the defense attorneys
to get stories straight
because the stories
that were being told
were all over the place
up until the time
of Joseph White's trial,
and they needed to get
some coherence to the story.
In working with Dick Smith
as the county attorney,
he always let me know
that he was the man.
He was in the driver's seat
down there,
in the position of power,
and if he was the king,
I was the citizen,
and I was the supplicant
that came to beg from him.
I have never had problems
with him in any other case.
This is the only case that has
come back in this manner,
he's dealt with me
in reasonable ways.
We always gotten along fine.
I considered him a friend.
I thought we got along well
in this case
until I discovered
long, long after the fact
that there was information
that I hadn't received.
Do you think anything that Richard Smith
did in this case was problematic or not?
I won't give you yes or no.
I will tell you that I cannot
isolate a single action
that he took
or a single decision he made
that would have me
filing complaints against him,
so no, I cannot think
of a single action.
When you look at
the whole thing put together,
yeah, it becomes
a little problematic.
We have a letter from
him about the DNA.
So there was a DNA test done
in this case?
No it wasn't done, but
there was a request.
The DNA company said that they
are available, they could do it.
was sent to Dick Smith.
It wasn't sent to me.
And it wasn't sent
to Toney Redman.
I want to show you a document.
"Cellmark Diagnostic
"Results that differentiate
"Enclosed you will find
information kit
that you have requested."
All right.
No, I don't ever remember
seeing that at all.
Yeah, I would have liked
to have known this.
If they had done the tests,
there would have been
exculpatory information.
If there was
exculpatory information,
it would have had
to have been turned over to us.
If it had been turned over
to us,
then there would have been
no convictions
and no wrongful incarcerations,
This is sad.
This is a sad thing to see.
So much of this is sad.
I will choose to believe
that it was carelessness
on Richard's part
or lack of sophistication
that was not sinister.
That is
what I prefer to believe.
That's what
I'm comfortable believing.
I hate Dick Smith.
Wasn't it Dick Smith
that was supposed to say,
"You know what?
"I'm not seeing any actual
scientific evidence here.
Why should I put these names
to the judge?"
When I got sentenced,
they took me into
an offshoot room
because they were waiting
for another deputy
to show up to escort me back
to the jail,
and asked me how I was doing.
And I said something
to the effect,
"I just signed ten years
of my life away for nothing.
How do you think I'm doing?"
And he kind of chuckled
and he said,
he said, "Well,
just between you and me,"
he said, "I always knew
you were innocent."
There was no air in the room.
I said, "How do you sleep?"
He goes, "I sleep just fine."
And he left the room.
Gage County
fought ferociously.
Gage County's theory
in defense the whole time
was that Joseph and Tom
and JoAnn and Kathy
and Debby and James
were actually guilty,
that the confessions were true.
The defense may inquire.
Defense called JoAnn Taylor.
Ms. Taylor, you see exhibit 77
now on the screen
in front of you.
Yes, sir.
You could
hear her screaming.
You saw the blood and also
saw Lobo with the knife
in his hand stabbing her.
Yes, sir.
Exhibit 79.
- Yes, sir.
- What did you say?
"I was present
at the time it happened."
And I take it you believed
you were telling the truth
- at that time.
- Yes, sir.
In the Joseph White trial,
you consistently
told jury at that time
that you were present at
Mrs. Wilson's murder, correct?
Yes, sir, I believe so.
There was so much
that she was questioned about,
statements she made that she
just could not recall making,
and she seemed deceptive
because of that.
When we were in trial
in 2014,
Deb was afraid
that the outcome
of the civil case
could put her in prison.
She didn't have
an understanding
that this was a civil trial,
that the outcome of it
could have no chance
of putting her in prison.
She became more nervous,
and the more nervous she got,
the less she could explain.
Ms. Shelden,
do you remember anything
concerning the investigation
of the Wilson homicide
- from 1989?
- No, I don't.
do you remember anything
from the period of time
in 1985
- when Mrs. Wilson was murdered?
- No, I don't.
Do you remember ever talking
to Dr. Price?
I don't remember it, no.
So you have
no independent recollection
- of talking to Dr. Price?
- No.
Do you remember talking
to Dick Smith
- in 1989?
- No, I don't.
And you don't remember
talking to anybody
- while you were in the jail?
- Correct.
And you don't remember
talking to
any law enforcement officers
while you were in the jail?
I don't know how much
is a loss of memory
and how much
is a defense mechanism.
There may be part of it
where she fears
that if she
remembers something,
she will be challenged on it,
and if she's challenged on it,
she's afraid
of what will happen,
and so it is a safe place to go
to say she doesn't remember.
When you're putting
a decision
in the hands of 12 people
that you don't know,
it's really a big roll
of the dice,
and you just don't know.
You don't know
what resonates with them.
You don't know
how it's gonna come out,
and you just have to take
whatever it is.
The jury was hung,
and so Judge Kopf
declared a mistrial,
and that was the end
of this trial.
When that happened,
there was a lot of profanity
coming out of my mouth,
so we appealed,
and I knew that I just
had to double down
and win that appeal.
The phenomena of people
believing false stories
is something
I never really considered
until I got involved in this.
but I've just
never really looked
at how prevalent it is,
and I've never really thought
about how destructive
it can be,
and, of course, this destroyed
not only the six lives
of the people
that I represented,
but their families.
What they're going through
is just not fair
fair has got nothing
to do with it, I guess.
After going through
all the evidence
and everything that was said
I just couldn't have
not coming back with a verdict.
But when we were told that it
came back the other way,
Disbelief that there was
actually some people
in there
that didn't get reached.
But then we go back
to Gage County now.
There's still some people
that's not reached.
Yeah, I don't think
anybody will ever know
exactly what happened
that day.
I mean, we can all say
that they were responsible,
and then you'll have some
that say they weren't,
and, I mean,
I think it's pretty divided
on that front, but I mean,
it seems apparent
that they were there.
The gentlemen that were doing
the original investigating
are really pretty respected
here in our area,
and so I think there are
probably still people
who doubt whether or not
the overturn
was correct or not.
I think most people just think
that they were there,
I think that there's more to it
than what we know.
Scene 27, civil trial.
I thought the six were there
because that's what we heard
in the news,
but then
as working on this project,
it's like,
"No, there's no proof
that they were there."
Anybody that we can
tell the story to,
they're gonna tell the story
to somebody else,
and maybe we can get rid
of some of the anger
and the misinformation
that surrounds it now.
I guess that's what
my hope is for this
is that this may be an ending,
something definitive
that everybody
can move on from.
I hope they embrace it
with an open mind
because how we react right now
is how we'll be known
probably forever.
Now to a real life drama
that's being played out
at the Beatrice
Community Theatre.
The show is called
"Gage County, Nebraska."
All 16 actors
are from the area,
each portraying
real-life people from the case
and in the community.
Putting together the play
didn't come
without its challenges.
Some in the community
were against revisiting
such a painful story.
This project was receiving
social media feedback.
Several people
were accusing us
of being just as bad
as people
involved with the murder.
We have asked
the Beatrice Police Department
to make sure that we've got
some presence
on the nights of the show.
The play runs from
August 13th to August 15th
at Community Players Theatre
in Beatrice.
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