an ordinary crime
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interviews: judge knox jenkins

The presiding judge in Terence Garner's trial, he discusses the significance of the victims' eyewitness testimony, the reasons he disallowed an expert on eyewitness indentification to testify, the unprofessional actions of Wayne County officers, and he explains why he has no second thoughts about the outcome of the Garner case.

... Eyewitness identification was central to the prosecution's case, wasn't it?

She was so emphatic and unequivocal in her responses and her identification. And the fact that these people were in there, by their own admission; there's no question about this, over ... at least 20 minutes or longer. ... As I stated before, the normal armed robbery is over in seconds, or maybe two minutes. They were in there 20 minutes and arguing with each other and talking back and forth. There was interaction between the victim and the manager of the store. You don't normally see this in an armed robbery.

But with eyewitness testimony, there have been many cases where it's been proven it is in error -- rape cases, for example.

Well, there's no comparison between the situation in this case and a rape case where a woman is hysterical. I've tried those, too, and it's a trauma that a woman never, never recovers from completely. And in this case, they were talking much like you and I are talking. You didn't have the type of degradation and humiliation and trauma that's inflicted on a woman who's being raped by a total stranger.

What about the decision to disallow an eyewitness expert in the trial of Garner?

To this day I don't have any second thoughts, any doubt at all about [the case].

The appellate court gave the reasons that I did that are valid reasons, and there's no way to question or argue with their reasoning in this particular case. If you had a case where someone was in there a minute or less with ... faced with a loaded gun in their face, then you could very well have a situation where an eyewitness expert could be of some value to the jury in determining the credibility to be given the victim. But this is not the case we have here. You've been with me in here for, what, ten minutes? Do you think you would have any problem a month from now identifying me if you should see me on the street? Of course not. ...

But I was wondering whether an eyewitness expert could help.

Not in this case. It would be of no help to the jury. If they didn't believe a woman and a man who'd been in there 20 minutes, two feet from their face, carrying on a conversation give-and-take with them for that length of time, I don't know that... I mean it. ... And eyewitness testimony, for someone to come up and say that eyewitness testimony is generally suspect -- which it very well might be, in the ordinary case where something is done in a very short period of time -- but it wouldn't be relevant to this case.You wouldn't find an eyewitness testimony or eyewitness expert that was truthful that would say that someone who had been with another individual for 20 minutes, past the point of fear, and was actually arguing with the person and carrying on a give-and-take conversation would fall in the same category as someone who had a gun stuck in their face and was with them 30 seconds.

You think not?

I know not. I don't have any doubt about it. ...

Did Kendrick Henderson's testimony impress you?

Not one bit, because I didn't think that either of those individuals who testified were credible witnesses for anybody. I think the district attorney made a mistake putting the other guy on the stand. Of course, that's his call. My opinion is based in retrospect, after everything's over.I didn't believe either... I didn't find either of those people credible on any given subject. With their records and their prior conduct and what I heard that occurred in the trial of that case, any of those people that testified... I think the evidence was so overwhelming based on the people who were actually ... the two people who were actually there. The third person was a lady who was a customer and she was hysterical. She couldn't have identified her own mother if she walked in. So the two... Well, for lack of a better way to describe ... the two scumbags that testified, one for the state and one for the defendant, I didn't find either one of them, as a presiding judge, credible on anything. ...

Riddick's polygraph failed, and yet he got plea bargain agreement.

He would lie if you asked him his name. I mean, a polygraph, you can talk... That's why a polygraph is not admissible in any state that I know of for any... It's just simply not admissible. I don't believe that anyone in that trial except for the two victims could have passed a polygraph if they were asked their date of birth.

The lawyer said I knew it was true.

I'll use a phrase that you probably have heard: that's lawyer talk. That's what they told you. That's not unusual for a lawyer to say.

But isn't a plea agreement supposed to involve telling the truth?

Well, see, plea bargains read pretty much uniformly ... that the state agrees to accept, assuming that the defendant will testify truthfully at the trial of so-and-so. That's obviously a ploy by the state or a government attorney. So when a witness with a criminal record or whatever testifies, you've agreed to testify truthfully. It's a ploy to add credibility to someone who has no credibility. So the lawyer has an ethical duty to avoid placing a witness on the stand that he knows is giving perjured testimony. So the lawyer says, "Tell the truth. I've covered myself, now whatever he says is, you know..." I think that's pretty universal.

Is that the way it works?

You know it is. (Laughs) I mean, you aren't a lawyer and I think you could figure that out.

... So what about when Terence Deloach turns up?

He was a guy that was semi-retarded, I think, or something like that.

This is Riddick's cousin. ...

I was disgusted somewhat. Here, on the one hand, I'm seeing a woman who was working at a very low wage, because that simply was the best that she could do. We've never mentioned her throughout this conversation.

The woman who was shot...

The woman that was shot ... Her wages are low and working in a finance company located in a mobile home-type place. But at any rate, I see her here and then I see two individuals, one of whom is serving an active sentence to this very day for having sex with inmates, drug addicts. They interview an individual. They have no knowledge whatsoever of the underlying events, what allegedly occurred. There was no way for the detectives in Goldsboro to determine whether a person was telling the truth or not because they had no knowledge of what happened. There's not an investigator without basic knowledge of the events as they occurred [who] is not able to conduct any type of interrogation with any degree of certainty.In other words, if a witness, if the person they're interrogating says that I drove up in a Mercedes and they'd know full well that it was a Ford, they would have said, "Whoa. You know there's a big difference between a Ford and..." So the investigator knows the background.These people knew nothing. And yet, when the local authorities and the State Bureau of Investigation agent -- who is not a local officer -- attempted to go down to Goldsboro and at least assist or bring him back, which they later did, they were denied that access. I have never, in my professional career, known that to happen.

You're saying that they did deny that?

Yes, they did. They denied the local officers when they went down to pick him up. "We aren't through with him yet,..."And they didn't call in the local authorities for assistance in gaining background information in order to interrogate him. As the saying goes in the law enforcement community, it was not their case. Their responsibility was to make the arrest and turn him over to the officers who actually investigated the case for logical and common sense reasons.

I don't see the harm.

No, no, no. You'd have no way of knowing whether the person was telling the truth or not. The analogy I gave, that if they have no knowledge whatsoever and the true facts are that a Ford automobile was the getaway car and he says that that it was a Mercedes or some other vehicle with no similarity whatsoever, how would the other person know that? ...It just does not work that way. It cannot work that way. I've just never known that to happen. I've tried cases where defendants were arrested in New York and in other states; they'd never attempt to interrogate the person. Never. Because they don't have the background knowledge of the true facts ... that exist, the undisputed facts, in order to properly interrogate.

Didn't Wayne County call Johnston County officers about Deloach?

I don't recall that. That might have come out at the motion, the motion for appropriate release that we heard the next week. Well, I mean, I don't know how to comment on that, one way or the other. Wait a minute, let me think back. That is correct. I believe that then they actually went down and got the guy and then brought him back up here. ...

And you attacked Wayne County officers...

You mean in the trial?

In the motion.

In the motion, OK.

Why were you so mad at the Wayne County officers?

I don't know that I was mad. It's been four years ago. But I'll stand by what I said and did during the trial as far as their conduct was concerned. I just didn't think it was professional at all.

To question anybody who is not your case?

Well, I wouldn't say that's ... a solid rule. What we're talking about now is law enforcement procedure; I'm not a law enforcement officer. I'm expressing an opinion just like you would.

Yours counts more.

Well, yes, mine counts more, that's true. But whether I'm angry or not angry doesn't change the facts of a case. And the Court of Appeals addressed the very issues we're talking about in their opinion, and addressed them thoroughly.

Tom Lock called a press conference. Could you please comment on that.

I think it was somewhat premature, I'll put it that way, to make a comment like that. But I think he would say the same thing of this in retrospect. But that had nothing to do with my decision or the decisions I made during the trial. I find press conferences by lawyers today are somewhat repugnant anyway, period, during any kind of trial. I mean, I just don't like it. I don't think the state's attorney or the defense lawyers should be commenting on cases that are pending, and obviously at that juncture, something was pending. ...

The trial was over.

I know, but there were some other matters that were coming up, and to...

Did you think a mistake was made?



No. Because I sat and heard the testimony of the woman who was injured and the manager of the store. The three guys or four guys, none of them really looked ... they were not similar in appearance. I mean, this guy really stood out, in stature, his color. You could take any trial and pick out little parts here and little parts there and little parts there. That's what defense lawyers do. I did it when I was defending people and try to create some doubt as to the outcome or the validity of an investigation or a trial, or whatever. ... You have to take the entire scenario.

Ever have second thoughts?

No. Absolutely not. Never. And to this day, I don't have any second thoughts or any doubt at all about it.

Because of Mrs. Wise?

And also the manager, what's his name?



But as far as how I personally feel about it... It's predicated on the testimony and my personal observation of these two people, their demeanor, the way they conducted themselves in the trial. ...

So you feel at peace?


What if Mrs. Wise changed her mind?

If she came to me right now? That's purely hypothetical; I wouldn't know how to answer... I mean, that's hypothetical beyond...

It's impossible?

Her comment, "The last thing I saw with my two eyes was his face." Did you read that in the record? Pretty strong.

Maybe too strong...

Well, it was spontaneous. It was spontaneous.

But can't sometimes such trauma obliterate everything?

I don't know. You're asking me questions that I would have no way of knowing. But she was pretty graphic about the walk down the hall, her legs being taped together, about the conversations that went on about arguing with Garner, and all the things that led up to the actual shooting itself. I mean, 20 minutes in that atmosphere is a long, long time for someone, I would think The only thing I can relate it to... I can recall standing guard duty in Korea, really frightened, and how long five minutes would be. ...

You believed there were four men involved in the robbery?

Yes. I think one was the lookout and one stayed in the car and two came in in the trailer. I remember that was my opinion from everything that I heard during the trial, then after the trial.Yes, yes.

Why did the second Terence (Deloach) get off?

I don't know. See, that's another thing, I have to be very careful. And I think if you check with the defense lawyers here, I do not... My relationship with the district attorney is purely professional, and I try to make a point to keep the same relationship with the defense bar. If I criticize the district attorney, it would be in my home, or in private. But I don't confer with him.

The only time I talk with the district attorney or one of his assistants is during, like this week, we're having an administrative week about the number of sessions of court we have available, the number of cases that are scheduled. But not [about] the merits of anything -- I do not do that. When I started practicing, judges did it. And I was a recipient of that type of conduct, and I make an honest effort to avoid that.

Do you think it might have been a c rime of three or four people?

Thinking back, I think there were four. That's just my opinion. I don't know, but I think that there were four involved. And I think the least intelligent person, normally in a robbery, they have as a lookout. But I don't know. I would put it this way: If you read the transcript, your opinion is just as good as mine.

I know your opinion from that...

Yes, I think there were four there.

So the puzzle fits. ...

I think it's virtually impossible for an individual -- be it you or an attorney or someone -- to take a case and take the transcript, and not having personally observed the people, their demeanor and putting everything in context, to make a an objective judgment in certain areas. Others, you have a better position to do it, because you aren't influenced by those things.

But you are influenced...

Now I say, it cuts both ways. I think if you're there and hear the entire case, then you're in a better position to evaluate than if you were not there. But there are some areas that, if you aren't there, you aren't influenced by certain things that happened in the trial, and can be more objective. So that's why I do not take offense to someone reading a transcript and then talking with people after the fact that draw a different opinion than what I'm drawing, having sat there and personally observed it. So I don't take offense to that. If I did, you wouldn't be here.

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