In the debut episode we discuss James Joseph Richardson. James Joseph Richardson was convicted of poisoning his seven children in the late 1960’s. He was later released after the harrowing efforts of his attorneys. In this episode we will discuss the facts of the case and our opinions as to what may have gone wrong.
You are listening to the very first installment of Bow to Fate- a podcast that will focus on true crime with an emphasis on the flaws in our justice system. For this episode we will be talking about James Joseph Richardson, who in the late 1960s was accused, charged, and convicted of poisoning his seven children.
James was married to Annie Mae Richardson, together they lived with their blended family comprised of
Betty Jean Bryant- Age 8 Alice Richardson- Age 7 Susie Bryant- Age 6 Doreen Bryant- Age 5 Vanessa Bryant- Age 4 Diane Richardson- Age 3 and James Richardson Jr- Age 2
Betty Jean, Susie, Doreen, and Vanessa were Annie Mae’s by her previous husband, who also happened to be James’ Stepbrother, Leonard Bryant.
Alice was James’ daughter by a previous wife. She actually moved in just a week before the poisoning and Diane and James Jr were the couples together
They lived in a 2 bedroom apartment in an area nicknamed The Quarter in the sleepy town of Arcadia Florida. The Quarter was the designated area for African Americans because well it was the South in the 1960s
The morning of October 25, 1967 began the way most did in the Richardson home. Annie Mae wakes up early to begin the days preparations. She decides to fry up some chicken for her and James to take to work, and in a pot prepares leftover rice, beans, and grits for the children’s lunch. James wakes up Betty Jean to start getting the kids up and ready to go, being the oldest Betty Jean was a sort of second mother for the children. She prepares them for the day making sure everyone is dressed and ready to go.
James and Annie Mae work in the orange groves 16 miles outside of town. They pick oranges by the crate, each crate garners the couple 25cents, they cleared $100 bucks a week on a good week. I couldn’t image feeding 7 kids on $100/week even in 1960, I suppose that was the reason Annie Mae reported that they had already began planning for Christmas, she told reporters that they were going to have goose and potatoes just like last year and they had already placed some gifts on lay- away
James goes next door to the neighbors house, Bessie Reese King, her daughter, Dorothy Bracer, usually watched the children for the Richardsons but she had errands to run that morning so Bessie had agreed to fill in.
Before that morning Bessie had only just begun speaking to the Richardsons again despite their apartments sharing an adjoining wall. Apparently her husband had joined James on a trip to Jacksonville to visit family while there Bessie’s husband had met James’ cousin and had decided not to return with James to Arcadia, instead shacking up with James’s cousin. You can imagine Bessie was not to happy with the arrangement and had blamed James for the entire ordeal. That morning however things had cooled off and things were back to normal around the Quarter
Bessie later told investigators that James had prodded her that morning to assure the children ate all their lunch even stating “don’t let them dawdle sometimes you gotta help them to get it all down” In light of what happened later this was a very damning statement.
Back at the apartment Betty Jean and Annie Mae were dolling out breakfast for the crew, afterwards Annie Mae placed the pre-prepared lunch into the icebox and secured the padlock and handed the key to James who placed it on a string around his neck.
They had recently begun locking the icebox as Doreen had started investigating things and had a habit of climbing in the icebox spilling the cornmeal and chick
peas all over the floor. To me this sounded really strange but I suppose when you live in a small apartment with 7 children you do what you gotta do. I mean their apartment had 2 bedrooms that’s it Annie Mae and James in one and 7 kids in the other sharing 2 beds.
Now for a point of contention, a young 8 year old says she ate breakfast with the Richardsons that morning her name was Virginia Dennis- she did not come forward with this story until 20 years later because she says her parents would not let her be involved, but we are going to talk more about her later.
So breakfast has been served, lunches are prepared, and the children are dressed. Betty Jean, Alice, and Susie head off to school and Annie Mae and James go to catch a ride to the orange groves for work.
We know that Bessie Reece is supposed to watch the 4 youngest but there isn’t really any play by plays for what they did because Bessie was never formally interviewed about the days events, we do know that the 3 oldest had a normal day and did not show any signs of sickness before school broke for lunch.
At eleven school lets out for lunch and Betty Jean, Susie, and Alice head home. According to Bessie she had removed the pot with the rice, beans, and grits from the locked refrigerator and cut it into seven equal portions. This however was not her first statement, she originally said she never entered the Richardson home at all, but quickly changed stories when the flaws were pointed out.
Now remember Virginia Dennis, the then 8 year old, who didn’t say anything until she was 28. Well she said that she regularly shared meals with the Richardsons and had gone to their home that day for lunch as well as breakfast however Bessie Reece had turned her away. Now if this is true it would have been big evidence however since she didn’t come forward until 20 years after the fact I don’t think her testimony holds as much weight as it would have back in 1967, her explanation for this is that her parents did not want her to be involved which I suppose I can get on board with but still- it seems a bit fishy.
So the children eat their lunch Betty Jean rinses the plates and the pot in the sink and again Betty Jean, Alice, and Susie head back to school.
The horror begins shortly after classes resume. Ruby Faison- Alice’s teacher recalls thinking Alice was having an epileptic fit she said she was gripping her desk and twitching with her mouth opening and closing, the others were having similar incidents in their respective classrooms. All the girls were taken to the nurses office, by the time they got there Betty Jean was the only one that could still speak.
Principal Lewis Anderson knew something was horribly wrong because he loaded up the girls in his car and drove them to the hospital almost immediately, He remembers Betty Jean saying she was “alright and that she felt fine” The only response he could muster was “of course you are sweetie”
Bessie Reece called the school looking for the older girls, she wanted them to come home to take care of the other kids because their were making a ruckus- in actuality they were writhing in pain from a deadly poison. She was told that Betty Jean, Alice, and Susie were already on their way to the hospital and that teachers were en route to the home.
When the teachers reached the home they found Bessie on the porch holding James Jr in her arms and Vanessa and Diane laying on the front porch screaming in agony, Doreen was inside the apartment hiding in a corner. They were all gathered up into the car and rushed to join their older siblings.
A call was placed to the Orange groves that a Richardson child was ill and they needed one of the parents to come to the hospital. Both Annie Mae and James decided to leave work as they knew James Jr was a sickly child and they were concerned for his health. They both made the assumption that the ordeal was regarding James Jr, neither showed any signs of knowing that all 7 of their children were dying from a deadly toxin.
One of the ranch hands agreed to give them a ride back to town, James jumped in the back of the truck and Annie Mae sat up from as they made the 16 mile journey back to their hometown
Meanwhile back at the hospital chaos and panic was setting in. Doctors and nurses were running from patient to patient trying to save the children. They were using tongue depressors to try to remove the foam from the childrens airways. Doctors said that their gurgling breath sounds could be heard from across the room the childrens lungs were filling up with fluid and they were essentially downing in their own bodily fluids.
John Minoughan was the first officer to respond to the hospital. Officer Minoughan was a member of the Arcadia police. Two separate law enforcement agencies are involved in the case obviously the Arcadia Police Department and the DeSoto County Sheriffs Department. It is important to draw the differences now as it will certainly come in to play later in the case.
Officer Minoughan arrives at the hospital he sees the horror unraveling before his eyes and wants to help. He immediately heads from the hospital to the Richardson’s apartment in an attempt to identify the cause for the children’s sickness. He reports that the smell in the apartment was so intense it made him physically ill and he had to put his shirt over his nose and mouth. After a general check of the apartment he is unable to locate the source and eventually returns back to the hospital.
When the truck carrying Annie Mae and James reached the hospital Bessie Reese was standing outside when James asked her what happened she just stood there for a minute and told him to just go inside, rather than report on the days events
By the time Annie Mae and James arrived at the hospital 6 of the children were dead, Dianne was the only one to remain alive. As we stated before the hospital was chaos, no one stopped to tell the parents what exactly was happening.
By this time The DeSoto County Sheriff, Frank Cline, had arrived. He took it upon himself the inform the parents that the majority of their children were dead, again being the south in the 1960s lets just say he didn’t inform them in the softest manner,
I believe is was something like “Boy, your kids are dead”
James was in shock- his response was to call the Sheriff a liar, which had to take some gumption being an African American man talking to the white Sheriff who wasn’t exactly pulling any punches.
Annie Mae and James were destroyed, Cline seemingly unfazed by their grief begins the initial questioning. He asks several questions the first set directed at Annie Mae- he asked her about poisons in the home. At first Annie Mae was adamant There weren’t any poisons but under pressure and who know what type of pressure. Annie Mae said there might be some rat poison when asked its location she said I don’t know maybe in the fridge. Ok so I am trying really hard here to understand… But seriously who the hell puts rat poison in a fridge???
He then turns to James, who is going to provide the proverbial nail to the coffin, he asks James to recount the day prior to the incident. It is here that James mentions a visit the night prior from a door to door insurance agent George Purvis. Purvis offered to sell James a policy for himself, his wife, and each of his children. By his own admission James wants the policy, but he cannot afford the premium. Purvis gives James a business card with the policy details and promises to come back to complete the policy once James has the money. This incident becomes the motive for the murder and essentially seals the fate of James Joseph Richardson.
So with this statement Frank Cline asks for the keys to the ice box which James removes from the string around his neck and Frank Cline and other officers go back to the Richardson Apartment to perform a more cursory search of the area.
It is reported later that a conversation was overheard between an officer and Annie Mae in which the officer stated “What would you say if I told you we think you and your husband murdered your children” To which Annie Mae responded “You’d be wrong about me” Now I found this in one article among many and it wasn’t listed in any of the original documents so who knows if it actually occurred but I mean why would you answer a question this way. You kind of get the feeling of the way this case is going to go right off the bat. The Sheriffs office has already zeroed in on their culprits now all they need to do is find the evidence to support it.
Upon searching the Richardson apartment again they take the business card from George Purvis and the pots and pans. Over various other searches they remove several items from the house. I believe the grand total was 59 items removed, of the 59 items removed they find the eventual poison on 22 of those items. They find it in the lunch pot, the breakfast dishes in the sink, the flour, sugar, soap powder, on a sweater, a windbreaker, a washrag and even in a hardhat. There was enough poison in this home to kill a large city full of people. Saying this was overkill was the understatement of the century.
What they do not find in the initial searches which I believe totaled over 5 times is the actual poison. They searched the apartment the grounds and a shed in the backyard and still were unable to locate the poison. In fact, the police do not find the poison at all. Charlie Smith a resident of the Quarter finds it the next morning with the prompting of Bessie Reese, while the Richardson’s are losing their 7th child, Dianne, in the hospital, she survived the night but could not go on any longer. Bessie Reese tells Charlie to search the shed and low and behold he finds a bag of Para-thy-on, damp with dew, despite the shed and area being bone dry. The investigator are called in and collect the findings, making note of the condition of the bag.
Some background on Para-Thy-On. At the time it was meant to be used as an insecticide, but its original use was warfare. It is the equivalent of mustard gas and was created in Germany where it was referred to as Mother-In-law poison. This stuff is bad, and when I say bad I mean really really bad. As of now it is either banned or restricted in almost every country. It smells terrible something of a cross between rotting eggs and garlic, and it can be deadly if ingested or even touched. In small doses it can be treated however in the doses given to the children and subsequently found in the home it is deadly. Not drift off to sleep death either this poison causes headaches, poor vision, convulsions, vomiting, abdominal pain, tremors, respiratory arrest, pulmonary edema, and finally death. These children did not go gently into that good night they suffered and it was obvious whoever placed that poison wanted to kill everyone in that home.
The media soon turned their cameras to Arcadia, the deaths of 7 children was big news and the nation was captivated. The public wanted answers, their cry of outrage put pressure on the police and sheriffs office to perform.
The funerals for the children had to be help at the gymnasium as it was the only building large enough to hold all the caskets along with the media, spectators, and family. Both James and Annie Mae collapsed out of grief, their morning period was to be short lived though as shortly after the funerals Frank Cline, the DeSoto County Sheriff had them both arrested on charges of child neglect, he made arrangements with the Arcadia Chief of Police, Richard Barnard to hold them both at the Arcadia Jail rather than transport them to county prison. Cline believe holding the couple at the Jail would mean that they would be more likely to speak with people and have the opportunity to incriminate themselves.
Cline begins digging into the case. He discovers that James has been married 3 times before, however had not divorced any of his prior wives instead choosing to abandon them. He finds out that Annie Mae had prosecuted James once before on a charge of abandonment and had recently threatened to do so again. He also learns that James had other children die in the past under what he calls suspicious circumstances. In fact he tells reporters that James had over 22 children and at least half of them are dead. Now James did not actually have 22 children, however he had had other children die in the past, Sampson age 2 and Sammey Lee Bonner age 6 months had previously died of dehydration and malnutrition and a girl Annie Laura had died at 8 months old from an infection, of these three cases James was not involved and there was no wrongdoing found. Cline had this information but chose to embellish for the media. He tells reporters all about his theories, Cline and others involved begin to try the case in the media.
Judge Gordon Hayes even inserts himself into the spotlight, he tells reporters that James and Annie Mae were given polygraph tests and the tests showed Annie Mae did not participate in the poisoning but surely she knew something, however the polygraph showed James was being deceitful and he had most likely performed the killing.
Watching from their respective homes were Mark Lane, an author and civil attorney, and John S Robinson, a defense attorney. Both were disgusted by what they were witnessing on national television in regards to the Arcadia 7 and both knew that there was no chance James would receive a fair trial. Robinson reached out to Joel Atkins, The NAACP President at
that time and asked that they represent Richardson as it was obvious at this point charges were going to be filed. Atkins agreed, Robinson then went to meet James. He presented him with a list of attorneys to choose from, James eventually chose John Robinson to represent him.
Meanwhile the Arcadia Police were doing a bit of investigating on their own. They discovered that Bessie Reese was on parole for shooting and killing her second husband at the time of the poisoning and Bessie’s first husband had died after eating a meal of beef stew that Reese had prepared for him. Pairing this with the fact that Reese was angry at James for introducing her then 3rd husband to the woman he would leave her for, along with the fact that she had lied to police upon her initial statement about not being in the Richardson home, they believed she may have played a role in the killings. They had also happened to find a matching glove to the one used to disburse the poison in Reese’s home. Minoughan and Barnard brought their concerns to Frank Cline but he quickly dismissed them, insisting that Reese had nothing to do with the crime, but providing no further explanation.
Cline was hot on the trail of a murder unfortunately the District attorney Frank Schaub and Assistant DA John Treadwell still did not believe he had enough to actually charge James with the crime. That is when Cline produced three jailhouse informants, Emell Washington, James Weaver, and James Cunningham. Each had wildly different stories but each confirmed that James Richardson had confessed to each of them regarding the murders. One even went so far as to provide a motive that it was revenge because Annie Mae had had a lesbian affair with a neighbor. With a bit of clean up though their stories came back in line and over time they all matched identically.
Still even with the introduction of the jailhouse informants Schaub and Treadwell still declined to prosecute saying there was not enough evidence to move forward. When Cline speaks to Judge Gordon Hayes about the predicament, he decides to step in, Hayes was not only the presiding Judge in DeSoto County for over 30 years but he also happened to be the coroner, and it was his right to hold a Coroners Inquiry to decide if charges should be filed. Hayes commanded a lot of respect in Arcadia so when he spoke people listed. Before the Inquiry he told the panel (that he had chosen) that by the end of the day Frank Cline would file charges against James Richardson for killing his 7 children. Before they even got started James was already considered guilty.
At the Inquiry, which was open to the public and media, they presented their version of events. Cline outlined the motive and George Purvis testified. Despite stating on several occasions that the policy was never actually sold and that there was no chance that James would ever come to the conclusion that there was a policy in place, the inquiry continued. The 3 jailhouse informants testified regarding James confession to each of them. Bessie Reese and Charlie Smith testified regarding their roles in the matter. At the end of the day no new evidence was actually submitted however, Prosecutors Schaub and Treadwell agreed to let Frank Cline charge
James with first degree murder of Betty Jean. They only charged him with the murder of Betty Jean with the intention that if for some reason they lost the case they could then charge him again and again until a conviction was made.
The jailhouse informants were all released within a week of the inquiry each obtaining a favorable plea deal that allowed them to skirt the charges they were in the jail for. They essentially got to swap places with every other person in the case. Cline had Annie Mae and Charlie Smith jailed as material witnesses and arrested Bessie Reese on a parole violation. I have no idea what the point is behind keeping the key players locked up but that is essentially what happened.
A short time after Emmell Washington, one of the jailhouse snitches, was shot and killed in a bar fight.
Judge Gordon Hayes also passed away shortly before the trial, meaning the presiding Judge for the Richardson case would be Judge JD Justice (so not kidding)
John Robinson, James’ attorney tried to have the trial moved out of the county but the best he could achieve was that the jurors would be from a neighboring venue, the trial would still be taking place in Arcadia.
So Jury selection begins, Judge Justice removes 15 potential jurors because they are opposed to the death penalty and 2 more because they do not believe circumstantial evidence is enough to convict someone of a capital crime. They end up with a jury of 12, 11 men and 1 woman all white, and many of them former members of the KKK. A lot is said in the articles and stories of this case about potential racism, I guess I don’t personally believe that was all this was about but there was certainly the atmosphere for some gross miscarriages of justice happening all over this case.
The trial begins on May 27, 1968-
The prosecution begins, Treadwell is confident and smooth, but hell he had pretty much already released everything to the press so by the time James walked into that courtroom there wasn’t a sole on this earth that could truly believe he was innocent.
The Prosecution alleged several times that James was guilty of murdering other children, even though they had no proof.
They brought in doctors, nurses, and expert witnesses to explain the poison
They brought in some of the poison used, Cline brought it in with other officers wearing protective gear and holding it far away from their bodies.
Cline testified they had obtained a receipt for the insurance policy George Purvis supposedly sold him, which they never produced.
They had the two remaining living jailhouse informants each of whom testified that James had confessed to the murders.
Remember Emmell Washington, one of the jailhouse informant that died in the bar fight. Judge Justice decides to allow hearsay evidence from 5 different people
to bring his testimony to the jury. They will hear from 4 reporters and Treadwell himself to support Washington’ s testimony, each will state the facts as they were given by Emmell Washington. All of the hearsay witnesses are much more believable than the actual jailhouse informant. The reporters and Treadwell (who is prosecuting the case) get on the stand and all say the same thing Washington told them that James confessed to him.
Well it turns out that John Robinson’s partner, a man named Whitson had also spoken with Washington and Washington told him that he had essentially made the whole thing up, but when Whitson tried to take the stand to state as much. Treadwell objected on the grounds that he was participating in the trial, despite the fact that he had just done the exact same thing. Unbelievably Judge Justice agrees with
Treadwell and threatens Whitson with disciplinary action if he testifies. Because they believed that the prosecution had failed to make a compelling case of guilt, Robinson and Whitson agree to have Whitson sit this one out and not testify.
At the end the prosecution had called 37 witnesses, they had not called however Bessie Reese, the last person to see the children alive, Charlie Smith, the man who found the poison, or George Purvis, the insurance agent who had supposedly sold Richardson the insurance policy that was their primary motive for the murder. In fact no one testified that James had bought or was ever seen with the bag of Para-Thy- on. This did not stop the prosecution from acting as if all these people had testified in their closing arguments, in fact Treadwell even tells the jury that the bag of poison was found in the locked icebox, rather than
in the shed damp with fresh dew where is was actually found by Charlie Smith, but he had never gotten on the stand so what did it really matter anyway.
Now it was the Defenses turn. By this time again they feel like they have an easy acquittal here. No believes that prosecution has actually made its case. They call 13 witnesses, including Annie Mae, she testifies that James would never harm the children and that he did not even have access to the food that she herself had prepared. On cross the prosecution destroys her character by pointing out that like James she didn’t really believe in divorce, as she was still technically married to his step brother.
The Defense brings in all the items contaminated with Para-Thy-on collected from the apartment and drop them in a pile
in front of a jury. Robinson grabs the hardhat and places it on James head in front of the jury, stating “he may be stupid, but he isn’t that stupid”.
They bring in people who were in the Arcadia Jail with James, each of them state that James had never confessed to anyone at the jail and all were relatively clear that James had spent the majority of his time at the jail crying for the loss of his children
After all this the defense rests and the case is now in the hands of the Jury. John Robinson goes back to his hotel to get some rest while the jury deliberates. Surprisingly he receives a call just 30 minutes later from his partner the jury has their verdict. There is not even enough time for him to make it back to the courthouse.
On May 31, 1968 just 4 days after the trial began, 12 jurors delivered a verdict of guilty against James Joseph Richardson in the killing of his 8 year old step daughter, Betty Jean Bryant. The sentence is death.
John Robinson immediately appeals the decision on the basis of the hearsay evidence being included and Cline influencing the jury by bring in the poison wearing gloves and protective gear, unfortunately he loses the appeal.
Mark Lane, the author and civil attorney who was watching the case unfold in the media, contacts Robinson and asks for a meeting with James. Together Lane and Robinson meet James in prison, it is there that Lane is sure of his innocence and promises James he will not stop until he is set free. The “Free James Richardson”
Campaign is started. In 1970 Lane publishes a book called “Arcadia” (which by the way you should all read, it is incredibly hard to get your hands on but well worth the effort). The book outlines all the inconsistencies in the case and makes the charge that someone else had actually committed these murders.
While James is awaiting his death sentence that Supreme Court decided to abolish the death penalty and James sentence was commuted to 25 years making him eligible for parole in 1993.
Treadwell, the prosecutor on the case, however is getting drunk and bragging about railroading James Richardson, claims he vehemently denies once sober again. His secretary however does not believe him and complains to her boyfriend. He then steals the keys to the
prosecutors office and takes the Richardson case file. He tries to get it to John Robinson unfortunately he believes it is a crank call and ignores it. The boyfriend then decides to turn it over a police friend of his where it stayed collecting dust until Mark Lane started making waves.
Lane continued his work on the case for several years telling anyone who would listen that James Richardson was innocent, however he really didn’t begin to make any traction until 1988.
That year the only remaining living Jailhouse informant, James Weaver, recanted his testimony signing an affidavit that he was coerced into testifying by Frank Schaub, the district attorney and Frank Cline, the DeSoto County Sheriff.
After this the pieces begin to fall into place, Lane obtains the copy of the case file that had been sitting on a shelf collecting dust for so many years and finds the proof he needs. The defense was never told of Bessie Reese was on probation for shooting and killing her husband, and they were not told of the potential poisoning death of her first husband.
They were never given a copy of an insurance report from Union National Life Insurace (the company George Purvis worked for) that lists the clients recruited during the week- James’ name was not on this document
The defense was not made aware of a search warrant for Bessie Reese’s apartment that says traces of Para-Thy-On was believed to be on her clothing, A February 2, 1968 status report contained a
statement that said “ a pick bag recovered in Bessie’s apartment contained a left hand glove similar to right hand glove found in Richardson’s apartment. The right hand glove contained definite traces of para-thy- on . The left hand glove has been sent to the Belle Glade Laboratory for analysis.” No further info about the glove was included.
They were not aware the prosecution had a report from the Duval County Sheriffs Dept on 11/20/1967 that stated no evidence Richardson was involved in any of his other children’s deaths, remember the prosecution continued to insinuate James was responsible despite having this report.
Lane made copies of the incriminating evidence and started distributing them to the press, people began to pay attention.
Bessie Reese was in hospice care suffering the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Two nurses who cared for her came forward and provided affidavits that she had confessed to the crime over 100 times never providing a clear reason.
And the final straw, Former Arcadia Police Chief, Richard Barnard provided an affidavit stating Richardson was an innocent man that was framed by Frank Cline in order to protect Bessie Reese, he does not elaborate on the reason why Cline would need to protect Reese (more on that later.)
Lane turns everything over to the Florida Governor, Robert Martinez, after reviewing the information he assigns a special prosecutor The Dade County State
Attorney, Janet Reno to take a closer look at the case.
By this time John Robinson had withdrawn from the case believing that James would either be re convicted if tried again or released soon anyways, so Mark Lane enlists the help of another attorney Mark Rubin.
Well Reno starts her investigation and finds dirt a lot of dirt. Recall that Barnard had said that Frank Cline was protecting Bessie Reese for some reason, well turns out that Cline may have actually fathered her grandchild with her daughter of course, Sarah Black. The facts are pretty murky on this but apparently either Reno asks Cline to take a paternity test or he volunteers to take one who knows, regardless I could find nothing to support either conclusion, but that would certainly
make the whole picture a lot clearer.
Reno ends up writing a scathing report siting 6 different Brady violations (for those of you who don’t know what a Brady violation is its essentially when the prosecution has something that could help the case of the defense but either refuses to or forgets to provide that information to the defense). Reno also cited possible evidence of a cover-up by Frank Cline, Frank Schaub, and John Treadwell also the potential involvement of a judge.
They were all later cleared of any wrongdoing in the Richardson case and still to this day insist that they convicted the right man the first time.
On October 25,1989, twenty years to the day of the crime, in the same courtroom he was convicted in Lane, Rubin, and Reno
appear before Judge Clifton Kelly and are in agreement that Richardson deserves a new trial.
Judge Kelly reviews the facts and ultimately agrees with all parties he releases James into the custody of his attorneys. The state decides to not retry the case.
So what happened here? Was this a huge cover up? Did the police and prosecutors intentionally try to frame an innocent man?
Usually I like to give civil servants the benefit of doubt, you know innocent until proven guilty. I’m sure Frank Cline was a good man, he was well respected and well liked in the community but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t intentionally frame James for this crime, hell that doesn’t even mean that James didn’t actually poison his
children. The truth is we may never actually know the truth. Bessie Reese’s “confession” and I say that with air quotes could have been her guilt over feeding the children the meal that killed them and not because she actually placed the poison in there herself, she only stated, “Lord forgive me I killed those children” we don’t actually know what that means, this woman was suffering from the early side effects of Alzheimer’s. A proper investigation was never really done. The investigators through either malice or tunnel vision fixated on James and then only allowed in the evidence that supported their theory.
This is the case in all too many cases of wrongful conviction, if we form opinions before seeing all the facts this will continue to happen. In future episodes we will continue to review cases of injustice so please keep listening.
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