an ordinary crime
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photo of a gunjoin the discussion: What are your thoughts on the Terence Garner case and what it says about America's criminal justice system?

notes on viewers' response to the terence garner story


Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm literally sick to my stomach. Even after 3 (ok 4) years of law school, I didn't want to believe that this type of, so called, "justice" existed in America today. Terence Garner has been railroaded. There's no other way to say it.

I don't know exactly what I'm going to do; but I know that something must be done! I guess I'll start by writing Terence Garner a letter of support.

And next, I think the Governor of North Carolinaís going to get a piece of my mind. What I'm going to do after that - I haven't figured out yet. But I can't stand by and do nothing this time. Our justice system failed Terence Garner!

Bill Stanley
bloomfield hills, mi


Dear FRONTLINE,

What a strong show! I am going to write to that judge and that D.A. to express my feelings but I wonder if they will bother to open a letter from someone in NJ who does not vote for them! Do they have e-mail addresses? Thanks to Court TV I have seen several cases where the judge is obviously prejudicial to the defendant (and it's not always a black/white matter). But in this case you had a combination of lazy police work, collusion in the D.A.'s office and an arrogant judge. (Obviously an expert in cross-racial misidentification should have been allowed in the hearing--that alone should be cause for another hearing.)

Barbara Hudgins
basking ridge, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

Prosecutors get elected and reelected on the basis of CONVICTIONS, justice never enters into it.

Why else would they routinely refuse to agree to DNA testing in cases? And routinely argue that a clearly bad verdict must stand, not because of guilt, but solely because the proper procedure was followed?

Joseph Olson
st. paul, minnesota


Dear FRONTLINE,

January 12, 2001

We can hope that the Governor of North Carolina may grant a pardon to Terence Garner. In the year 2002 the Governor of North Carolina is Michael F. Easley. However, it is unlikely that Michael F. Easley will grant the Pardon. You see the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard the Terence Garner appeal on August 23, 1999. The attorneys arguing for the State of North Carolina against Terence Garner were Jill Ledford Cheek, Special Deputy Attorney General, and the Attorney general of the State of North Carolina at that time -- Michael F. Easley.

This gets curiouser and curiouser.

Free Terence Garner! He Did Not Do It!

JOHN DUNBAR
los angeles, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

I want to thank you for your story "An Ordinary Crime". I was deeply touched, pained, and moved after seeing Terence Garner's story. I was so moved that I immediately wrote Terence to tell him that he has support and people that believe in him.

The fact that so many people have been responding to this story gives me tremendous hope and faith that he will be exonerated. Americans have shown, within the last few months, our ability to mobilize and get positive things accomplished. I know that each of us doing something -- anything, will help to free Terence Garner SOON.

Dionne Nickerson
gainesville, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

It is after midnight here in Nebraska and I just finished watching "An Ordinary Case." Like so many others, I am deeply disturbed and angered by the result of the case. My heart goes out to the poor victim of the original crime, but I now believe that the justice system in Johnston County has added to the list of victims. What a travesty of justice. How can this be so obvious to me and so many others and yet remain unresolved? Why is there so much stock put in eye witness testimony? I am a black woman married to a white man and I can not tell you how many times my husband has misnamed and mixed up black people's identities, even those that he has seen on numerous occasions. It is just not that reliable, particularly when someone of one race is asked to identify someone of another. And I am absolutely terrified of the power that a judge wields. That power seems to be in this case unchecked and absolute. No one should have the discretion to hear the case and then also to hear the appeal. The vanity of many human beings is such that they are not going to be to happy about admitting mistakes. In essence, our justice system allows a judge to act as his own self-contained check and balance system. How ludicrous is that?

chaka heinze
lincoln, nebraska


Dear FRONTLINE,

Like others, I could not turn the program off and, like others, I was expecting Terence Garner to be set free right up to the last moment. I sat there dumbfounded when he was not.

Clearly testimony by white people was believed, and that by black people discounted. The shooting victim has had a horrible experience and deserves something by way of closure but, regrettably, her testimony should not have been given so much weight.

Surely a pardon by the Governor is inappropriate, as it implies guilt, but if there is no other way to free Garner, then so be it, that's what should happen.

The chilling thought is that the first black person found by the police, whose first name happened to be Terence, would have been convicted.

John Waller
plainfield, ct


Dear FRONTLINE,

If state and local authorities in North Carolina are unwilling to grant Terence Garner a new trial based on the information presented, is there a recourse through Federal law or the U.S. Justice Department?

Samuel Lawton
acton, ma

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
See the "FAQs" section of this website for information about the options left for Garner.


Dear FRONTLINE,

I've seen many of your great reports over the years, but this one, The Garner Case, made me physically ill. Where is the ACLU, the Urban League, NAACP, Governor Easley, Senator Helms, Senator Edwards, Amnesty International, Oprah Winfrey, Time, Newsweek, CNN, Interpol, the World Court, the Nuremberg Trial, Ralph Nader, Martin Sheen, Jesse Jackson, Norman Mailer??? Somebody out there MUST get this innocent man out of jail, and just as importantly, PUT THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS HORROR IN PRISON! In the meantime, can someone tell me what I can do?

Lewis Fox
edenton, north carolina

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Many viewers have said they are writing authorities involved in the case as well as the governor. See the "FAQs" section of this website for more information.


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

I could feel the growing tension in my face muscles as I watched the program, anxiously anticipating the ending to see Terence being set free. Imagine how crushed I was to see that nobody cared that he is innocent and that he still remains in prison.

Those in power, meaning Judge Jenkins, scare the hell out of me. Just knowing that these are the people, the mere humans who can determine if one lives or dies in our society, gives me less hope for any kind of happy world to live in.

... I must continue to pray for young Terence and his family and go about the business of uniting people in my own community to raise our voices against injustices like this. I will also began a writing campaign to Terence to keep his hope alive. I would also like to send money to aid in his defense.

Barbara Wynn Cincinnati, OH

Barbara Wynn
cincinnati, ohio

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Information on the Garner Defense Fund can be found in the "FAQs" section of this website.


Dear FRONTLINE,

Would it be possible to obtain a copy of this documentary? Could a fund be set up to provide copies of this program to key officials?

Amanda lowther
round rock, tx

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Tape purchasing information is available on this website in the "Tapes and Transcripts" section.


Dear FRONTLINE,

Every time I see a story like this where the witness is absolutely positive as to the identification of a witness, I remember the story you did, "What Jennifer Saw". I found the link you provided to that program but it's a story that I wish everybody saw.

From what I remember it involved a rape case in which the victim was absolutely positive as to the identity of the assailant but DNA evidence came along and the wrongfully accused was set free.

For those of you who have not seen the episode I encourage you to see it as it will make you rethink the total value of eye-witness testimony. I feel bad for the victims in that they are absolutely positive a person committed a crime against them, but memory and conviction aren't solid scientific facts. Think about the person sitting in jail who's in there for doing nothing wrong and there's nothing they can do about it. I feel no sympathy for the people who commit crimes. In fact, I think the system is too lenient on most criminals. But to be wrongfully accussed and convicted is in some cases worse than the actual crime.

David Thiel
niles, il

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
The "Readings and Links" section of this website offers a link to FRONTLINE's "What Jennifer Saw Report" on eyewitness error.


Dear FRONTLINE,

I know the justice system is unfair but it is unbelieveable how corrupt this case was. And just think about all those who do not have the benefit of having Frontline tell their stories.

M. J. Thompson
memphis, tn


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for the hard work in putting together this story. It was really awesome.

As a practicing attorney who has spent many hours defending people in criminal courts in years past, your story was very accurate representation of the way lawyers and DA's cut deals for shorter sentences in order to obtain testimony that is critical to convicting another person. It is not always pretty or fair, but when accomplished correctly it does help further justice.

Prior to the airing of this show, I supported the death penalty. No longer. These investigators did not set out to frame Garner from the start. But, once they realized early on that they made a mistake, instead of having the moral fortitude to correct their error, they set out on a plan to create evidence to cover up their mistakes. Most attorneys and DA's do not behave in such an unprofessional manner as some did in this cae. But, with the possibility that more people will be (or were in the past) vicitimized by DA's and investigators like those in North Carolina, the death penalty must go. Thank you for your show.

Jay Jackson
murfreesboro, tennessee


Dear FRONTLINE,

Terence Garner ought to be pardoned immediately by the Governor Michael F. Easley of North Carolina:

Governor Michael F. Easley Office of the Governor 20301 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

Ofra Bikel has done more for justice with her work of putting the facts together on this FRONTLINE documentary than any of the following, -- who all should be voted out of office or resign.

Judge Knox V. Jenkins (presiding judge in the Garner trial) Superior Court Judge, Johnston County P.O. Box 2739 Smithfield, NC 27577

Tom Lock (the prosecuting attorney) Johnston County District Attorney P.O. Box 1029 Smithfield, NC 27577

Judge Sydney Eagles, Judge Ralph Walker, Judge Linda McGee State Court of Appeals judges who denied an appeal for a new trial North Carolina Court of Appeals P.O. Box 888 Raleigh, NC 27602

Free Terence Garner.

JOHN LONGENECKER
los angeles, california

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