What did you find when you started looking into this story?
I found some very curious contradictions in the whole case that made me curious
about what the procedure had been to actually achieve the conviction; and then
subsequently for the judge to decide not to grant him a new trial, even though
someone else had come forward and had confessed to the crime.
What did you find peculiar?
I was particularly struck by why the system was so determined to make sure this
one particular Terence stayed in prison and the other particular Terrance did
not go to prison. The evidence was in. The jury had rendered a verdict in their
opinion, and that was the end of the case as far as they were concerned. And I
just found that a little peculiar.
Did you find Deloach's recantation troubling?
Oh, absolutely. How he came to recant was, to me, a fascinating part of the
story. Here was a witness, one of the other men who had committed the robbery,
going back down to his home county and called up the sheriff's department and
said, "They've got the wrong guy. But I know where the real guy lives," and led
the sheriff's department to Terrance Deloach, who seemed perfectly willing in
the end to confess about his own role in the robbery at the Quality Finance
office.And then, of course, the Johnston County authorities became involved and the
SBI agents became involved, and they were very confused about how to respond to
all of this. So suddenly the confession became a recantation. And yet, there's
no written record of the recantation, and there's no tape recording of the
recantation. So we don't really know what was ultimately said in that room
between Terrance Deloach and the SBI agent.
What is your theory? What is your guess?
It's not uncommon for a law enforcement official to say something along the
lines of, "You were mistaken when you thought there were four people in the
office, correct?" And eventually the person who's being questioned gets the
idea that there are certain things that he should agree to and certain things
he should not agree to. Ultimately, that's often that's how a recantation or
even a confession can be taken from someone.
Why one Terence over another?
That's an excellent question. And I have never been able to get a satisfactory
answer out of anyone in covering this story for three years. The official
story, of course, is that the jury rendered a verdict, and Terence Garner was
the person who was convicted of this crime. And so anything that related to
Terrance Deloach, as far as they were concerned, was kind of secondary to the
jury verdict.If this had happened before the jury had rendered a verdict, I think we would
have a very different outcome. But because it happened afterward, and in such a
scrambled way, there wasn't much time to do anything else except to try and
find a way to put Terence [away].
To what end?
To maintain the jury verdict, which was that Terence Garner committed this
crime. And to the other ends, I can only guess that they did not want someone
else to be tried and convicted of this crime. I think that's obvious.
Why they wanted to keep Terence Garner in prison? Well, the woman [Alice Wise]
who was most grievously injured in this crime said that Terence Garner did it.
And for a lot of jurors, a lot of lawyers, even though an eyewitness's memory
can be very faulty, that's what people want to believe. "She was there; I
wasn't; so she must be right." And juror after juror told me, "She was so
certain, she was so sure," and that's what they relied on. And they didn't have
any anything else to go on. They didn't believe anything Terence Garner said
about his background or where he was that day. So they'd much rather believe
There was no expert at the trial on eyewitness testimony?
No. It's my understanding that, at first, the defense lawyer did not ask for an
expert witness. I think Mr. Price believed that he had enough evidence to give
the jury reasonable doubt. He had four people testify in Terence's behalf that
Terence was 25 miles away at the time of the robbery and attempted murder, and
the jury didn't want to believe that.
What about Mrs. Miller. The prosecutors left a powerful impression on the
juror that Mrs. Miller was not reliable, that she had been hysterical at the
time of the robbery
And this is one of the interesting wrinkles of the case. Here you have one
witness, Miss Wise, who lost an eye in this attack and suffered brain damage in
this attack. She didn't see Terence Garner for five months after the attack,
and yet he was the one she identified.
But the other woman, [Mrs. Miller], who was also there, who knew Terence
Garner, who could have positively identified him if he had been involved in
this -- for some reason, she's hysterical. But the other woman who was damaged
and injured ... was the one who could make the positive identification. So
again, this is one of the peculiarities of this case.
What else bothers you?
The whole circumstances surrounding the arrest of Terrance Deloach and
ultimately what they did with him. They sent him off to Dix Hospital for an
evaluation and came back with an evaluation that was the most peculiar thing I
think I've ever seen: a conclusion that this was a man who was sane enough to
recant a confession, but was crazy enough to confess to something that he may
or may not have done. So it was completely opposite what people normally look
for in a case like this.The antagonism between the law enforcement departments in Johnston County and
Wayne County was quite striking, because if there's one thing that's true, law
enforcement officers work together; they have to work together. They depend
upon each other and rely upon each other. So for the Wayne County detectives to
do what they thought was right, and then to come to court later and be scolded
by the judge for doing what they thought was right, was most peculiar.The judge's decision that Terence Garner did not deserve a new trial simply
because the white witnesses believed him to be the person to have committed
this crime, as opposed to all the other evidence suggesting that someone else
did it, was peculiar to me, especially given that Judge Jenkins was a very
experienced criminal attorney -- had been on the bench for a long time, and
knew exactly what he was doing. ...Eventually the case was appealed, and both the Court of Appeals here in North
Carolina and the Supreme Court decided there was nothing to look at here. Their
view and their charge really is to look at how the law was observed in the
trial, and they saw no flaw in how Judge Jenkins conducted the trial. So far as
they were concerned, the evidence was not relevant. The law had been followed,
and everything had been done to the letter. Therefore they did not see any
reason to overturn the verdict.
They didn't see new evidence as new?
Judge Jenkins had a lot of the new evidence after the motion for appropriate
relief or the request for a new trial was kind of incremental. The thing that
was really going to do it one way or the other for Terence Garner was going to
be if Judge Jenkins had decided that the presence of Terrance Deloach at least
warranted a reexamination of the facts.Once he decided it did not, Terrance Deloach could not be brought forward again
as evidence for a new trial. Once he decided that it was not relevant, the
appeals courts could not then again bring it back in and say, "Well, perhaps
this should have been done a different way." So it's hard after you have
someone who confesses and then recants. Everything else after that was kind of
add-ons, but not as explosive as actually having someone who confessed to the
Still, you covered it?
I am curious about how the court system operates, in every form. It was just a
fascinating study of what can go wrong and how it goes wrong. And how does the
system respond when something goes wrong? At every turn in this story as I was
following it, things just did not seem to add up to me. Conclusions were being
drawn in ways that I did not understand.I'm not a lawyer; but I can read the evidence in this case. And it doesn't take
a law degree to see that some things just did not add up. That's what kept me
intrigued about the case, especially as it kept going up the appellate court
system, and appeals court after appeals court refused to look at it.
The system protects itself, in the same way that doctors protect each other
and lawyers protect each other; in some instances, the way journalists protect
each other, lawyers and judges protect each other. And this was a case where
there's this formalized system of judges overlooking each other's work. And
unless there is something that in the legal world is called "shocking to the
conscience," they are very reluctant...
What do you think is the truth?
I think the truth is that Terence Garner at least deserves a new trial. I think
a jury of his peers ought to be able to look at everything and come to its own
conclusion. To have all these questions floating out here, and the very real
possibility that a very young man is going to spend the vast majority of life
in prison, seems to me worth the time and money to find out if that's true.
One by one, could you list the things that went wrong, as you see it?
The first thing that was obviously a problem was not looking hard enough for
Terrance Deloach when they were actually going out looking for the person who
participated in the crime. They had Kendrick Henderson's description of a
Terrance, who was Keith Riddick's cousin from New York. They knocked on one
door and when no one came to the door, someone else in that posse that night
said, "Oh no, I know of another Terence, let's go check that guy out."When they finally arrived at Terence Garner's apartment, he approached them. A
16-year-old boy approaches this group of police officers and says, "What are
you doing here? What do you want?" When they asked him his name, he gave it to
them.Now, I'm not a person who commits crimes, or at least tries not to. But if I
had committed an armed robbery and had attempted to kill someone, I wouldn't be
at my house. I would be a long way away. And so here is this kid, and no one
seemed to think that was peculiar. Maybe it's not peculiar in Goldsboro, I
don't know. But it seemed peculiar to me that this kid who approaches the
police, freely identifies himself, tells them all the way to jail, "I'm not the
one you're looking for."Then you have Kendrick Henderson's own description, "No, that's not the guy."
He sees him in jail and ... that's all Kendrick Henderson has ever said, from
the moment he was arrested: "That's not the guy. It's not the guy." All through
the trial he kept telling the jury, "This isn't the guy." That, to me, should
have ... might have set off some alarms; apparently [it] did not.There is the perjury that Keith Riddick committed that he acknowledged
committing in court -- which was to accuse Terence Garner of being the third
party. ... It was part of a plea agreement. He had failed his polygraph test
and yet the prosecutor decided to put him on the stand anyway, knowing that
there was going to be a problem; at the very least, there was a problem with
this witness.The whole characterization of Bertha Miller as being hysterical or being unable
to give a good description of the person had a whiff of sexism, at the least.
And then the whole question of where Terrance Deloach came from is another
bizarre set of circumstances all unto its own, and how the court handled it.
Every time you turn around, there's something about this case that just isn't
right. ... And that's not a moral judgment; that's according to the book. When
you look at the law books, when you look trial procedure, there's just
something not right about this. ...
Whose fault is this?
I think we Americans have a charmingly naïve view of our legal system, and
that is we think that whatever decision that's made is right; or, at least, is
done with the full knowledge of the facts -- that there is a determined search
for the truth, and out of that comes the correct punishment or the correct
outcome.And in many cases that's exactly what happens. I think in this case, there is
so much human error, deliberate and inadvertent, piled on each other, layer
upon layer upon layer, that after a while it's very difficult to tease apart
what was a mistake, genuinely, and what was deliberately done to hide something
else.I'm not good enough to be able to find my way through all of that. Even as I
sit back here and look at the whole story in one piece, it's hard to know. I
don't have anybody saying, "This was a giant conspiracy that started at A and
ended at Z." Newspaper stories rarely come out that way.
Do you think it might have had anything to do with politics?
I'm sure that was a factor in some way -- how much, I don't know. Because by
the time Terence Garner's trial began, the filing deadline had passed, meaning
that both Judge Jenkins and Tom Lock had no competition either in their primary
or... Well, no, Tom Lock had general election opposition, but it was minimal.
Johnston County is a heavily Democratic county, and probably will be for a
while. And Judge Jenkins was unopposed all the way through to November. So
there was probably some political something in there, but neither one of them
was facing much of a challenge
The DA, Lock, and Judge Jenkins are at peace with this case.
I think they have found a way to be completely at peace with this. I don't know
how, but they have. I think judges and prosecutors in particular have to be
able to compartmentalize things. I don't think it's because they're being cruel
or hard. I think that they see a lot of hideous things that people do to one
another in one way or the other, and they have to be able to put that aside and
move on. Whether they should or not is someone else's judgment, but I think
they have to do that as part of their job. Police officers, too.
What are your thoughts on how race might have entered into this case -- or
I think in some cases -- and this one perhaps in particular -- the racial
question is so obvious that people kind of shove it to the back of their minds.
What they had there was, on the one hand, a woman who lived among them in their
county, who was middle class. I think the thing that most affected them was the
injury that she suffered. I think every single person in that jury thought
about what it must have been like to lie on the floor of your place of business
with your hands bound and over your face and someone pointing a gun at your
head.And I think they took that and thought, "Well if someone is going to be that
seriously injured, she must be right." There could be no doubt, because of
course we all think when we're in that situation that we will never forget that
face, that we will never forget who that person was. In fact, almost every
eyewitness survey shows that, first of all, there's a racial disparity and
secondly, when there's a gun involved, people look at the gun. They don't look
at the face of the person who's holding the gun.So there's no doubt that she probably saw a face behind the person holding the
gun, since that person was standing over her. But I think that face was
probably very, very fuzzy to her for a long time, until all of a sudden it
became very clear five months later. And that's what they believed. They want
to be able to put this person who lives among them at her ease. They want her
to know that they've put this person in prison and he will never hurt her
again.And so I think that's really what was more at work than do we believe the white
person or the black person. They wanted to believe the person who was hurt. I
think that's what juries respond to more than anything else.
So did the judge.
And the judge as well, yes, and the judge as well. She [Alice Wise] lived
there. Miss Bertha [Miller] lived in another county. That makes a difference in
eastern North Carolina, it really does. It does make a difference where you
come from, what county you come from, even what township you come from. So I
think that much more what the jury responded to was this nice lady who was
terribly injured, would never be able to see out of her eye again.
Terence Garner never seemed important.
No, he was charged with a crime, with a terrible crime. And they had a witness,
so whatever he had to say was pretty irrelevant to anything that was going on
there. It was a train that was leaving the station. He was a minor. He had a
good trial lawyer. But arrayed against a witness who was certain and a jury who
was predisposed to believe her, [there] really wasn't much they could do.
home - introduction - faqs - behind the story - thoughts about the case - interviews - readings & links
FRONTLINE - pbs online - wgbh
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation