The Baldwin County District Attorney Robert Wilters, was the presiding Judge in the Murray Lawrence case. Sheriff Hoss Mack was the lead investigator and David Whetstone was the prosecutor. They all signed a coroners report in relation to the exhumed body of Brandon Hastings. This report was recently found, however during the trial it was never provided to the defense. This was not an inadvertent mistake. Suppressing the report from the defense was willful and deliberate and deprived the defense of valuable information supporting the cause of death as suffocation, NOT gunshot.
More than 18 years after Murray “Bubba” Lawrence Jr. was sentenced to life without parole for the 2003 murder of a Baldwin County man, criminal rights advocates have unearthed a second autopsy of victim Brandon Hastings that was ordered by the district attorney and signed by the judge overseeing the case, but never revealed during the trial.
A “Rule 32 petition” is a petition that people can file to challenge their conviction in court where they were convicted. It’s called a “Rule 32 petition” because it’s filed under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. Generally speaking, someone would use a Rule 32 petition to attack their conviction once they’ve been convicted and once their appeals have gone final. A Rule 32 petition is how someone can get back into court.
The Job of District Attorney
“in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape nor innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor—indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
The above is part of the mission statement of District Attorney Robert Wilters. The same Robert Wilters, as a Judge suppressed evidence in a capital murder case. “ It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
The State has responded to the rule 32 filed by Haygood Kristi Deason. Haygood who is an assistant Baldwin County District Attorney. Haygood works for Robert Wilters, How in the hell can an Assistant District attorney be a filer for the District Attorney when the same District attorney is accused of suppressing evidence while he was the Judge in the case? Haygood was selected to cover the butts of Wilters, Mack and Whetstone, at any expense or error.
Judge Scott P Taylor is the Circuit Court Judge assigned to the Petition for relief from conviction and sentence pursuant to rule 32.
The prudent and just thing the court in Baldwin County should have done is recuse itself from the case and refer it to the Alabama Attorney general. Considering that the lead investigator was Lt. Hoss Mack who is currently the Sheriff. The Judge in the case is the current district attorney Robert Wilters, both suppressed the coroners report from the defense. The Baldwin County coroner at the time of the murder was Hoss Mack Sr. and Hoss Mack Funeral Home handled Mr. Hastings funeral. Additionally both Mack and Wilters, as well as the prosecutor David Whetstone, had a personal relationship with the victim, Brandon Hastings family. The parents of the Jarius McNeil, both worked at the satellite courthouse in Fairhope, at the time of the murder. Do ya see some conflicts of interest?
Instead of taking the just action to recuse or admitting to the suppressing of evidence. Baldwin County doubled down and answered the rule 32 with the same reckless abandonment displayed throughout the original trial.
The below article was written by Lagniappe’s Scott Johnson and it is accurate as far as what the filer, Haygood responded in her answer to the rule 32.
Haygoods response is riddled with inaccuracies, wrong dates and outright deliberate omissions and misleading statements. These are the same characteristics that the prosecutor and sheriff employed in the wrongful conviction of Murray Lawrence.
“(I have) no explanation for why this report was not disclosed. It was certainly a violation of the discovery order in this case for the state not to disclose this second autopsy report,” Haygood stated in the objection.
I am going to address the issues Haygood stated in the article. There are more errors in her filing however I will specifically target those in the article.
Column 2 paragraph 8; “Haygood noted that when the case was reviewed by the Alabama Court of Criminal appeals, it found that the co-conspirators testimony against Lawrence was corroborated, and there were additional circumstantial facts indicating Lawrence shot Hastings.” Please note Haygood does not use quotation marks when saying what the court specifically said. She does not list any corroborated testimony nor does she say what circumstantial facts indicated Lawrence shot Hastings.
No gun, no bullets, no ballistics, no DNA, no blood, no fingerprints, no witness, no evidence of a gunshot, no telephone records, no timeline, no crime scene, Haygood forgot to mention these details. The circumstantial evidence was that Lawrence knew Jarius McNeil, he did not know Hastings. McNeil named Lawrence as a co-conspirator when he was told by BCSO he was facing the death sentence if he could not provide a co-conspirator. McNeal accused Lawrence, to save his own life.
Column 2 p 2: Haygood points out “other witness testimony” “ this included testimony from Kathleen Gordon, who said “Lawrence showed her a pistol the day before the April 5,2003, murder and told her he was going to shoot it the following night and kill somebody;” Haygood conveniently leaves out the fact that Mr. lawrence had a permit for his weapon and that no gun had been identified as a murder weapon. Another convenient fact that Haygood omits is that the prosecution had discredited all the witnesses, due to there admitted drug use and the time change the night of the murder. Haygood now wants to resurrect testimony the prosecution had dismissed. Haygood also omits the fact that Kathleen Blair Gordon is best friends with Cynthia Weston the live in girlfriend of Jarius McNeil. Haygood omits the fact that Blair Gordon went to school with Hastings. Haygood also omits the fact that Gordon had made advances towards Lawrence that he had rejected. Blair Gordon has absolutely no credibility.
Column 2 p.14 Witnesses at an apartment complex also testified they had seen Lawrence drive up during night of the murder and retrieve a pistol from his trunk. Haygood should be held accountable for misleading the court and the public. The truth of the matter is that Lawrence went to the apartment on Sunday night NOT the night of the murder. This is clearly stated by the prosecution two times in the trial transcript. Mr. Lawrence did go to Jarius apartment, SUNDAY night, the night after the murder. he admits he retrieved a permitted gun from his trunk. Lawrence did not know about Hastings even missing until the police announced it on Monday. Lawrence was suspicious of Jarius being up to something bad, however he did not know what at the time. Lawrence was fearful of McNeil, that’s why he retrieved the gun from the trunk. Haygood should have to amend her statement about this incident occurring on the night of the murder, that is patently false and she knows it.
Column 2 p 19 The last two paragraphs Haygood states that Elizabeth Mixon testified and told law enforcement that Lawrence had told her Jarius McNeil had been charged with murder for shooting and killing someone in Foley and that the weapon had been given to a neighborhood kid to hide. Haygood conveniently omits that the weapon was identified as a stolen gun from Fairhope and was in no way connected to the murder. Lawrence had no knowledge at the time what the cause of death was, only that Jarius had given the gun to Jeff Shaw in an effort to hide stolen property. Mr Lawrence Sr. heard that a gun had been given to Jeff Shaw to hold. Mr. Lawrence contacted the Fairhope Police who asked him to retrieve the gun and turn it over to the police, he did so.
Haygood made several more mistakes throughout her answer to the rule 32 that were not covered in the article. Haygood states that the last person to see Hastings alive was his mother. Not true the last person to see Hastings was Debra Fudge a co worker of Hastings in Foley. She identified McNeil in a lineup as being with Hastings in Hastings car at approximately 1:30 AM, April 5th. Haygood conveniently leaves out that the one alibi witness that was not doing drugs and not confused about the time of day was the Fairhope police. That’s right Fairhope Police. At 5:01 Fairhope police, officer Wendall Thomas, who also did not testify, stopped John Wayne Mixon, Tonya brother, and Crystal Lindsey in Fairhope. Crystal Lindsey testified that the police stopped her and John Wayne shortly after they left Mixons house where John Wayne also lived. John Wayne plead the 5th in court on the advice of his attorney. The point is Crystal testified to seeing Lawrence around 4:45 to 4:30am prior to the 5:01 stop. This is very important because the prosecution has said Lawrence and Jarius went to Mississippi to dump the body, a 3 hour and 15 minute round trip drive. It was impossible for Lawrence to have made the trip and be back by 4:30 am.
Haygood, Fairhope Police, the Judge, Prosecutor and Sheriff all were aware of the 5:01 stop.
Mr. Hastings was not killed by a gunshot, this was the narrative created by prosecutor David Whetstone, Mr Hastings was suffocated. Mr. Whetstone bragged years later how he proved the autopsy report and coroner in Mississippi were wrong and his theory of gunshot was correct.
The Judge, Robert Wilters and lead investigator Lt. Hoss Mack went along with the prosecution, even to the extent of withholding evidence from the defense.
No timeline was ever established during the trial. The last person to see Hastings alive, Debra Fudge never testified. The police officer, Wendall Thomas never testified to the 5:01 Fairhope stop.
Haygood says this is a Harmless error. Harmless? Lawrence has been in jail for 20 years, 7300 days for a crime he had nothing to do with! And Haygood says it was Harmless error. Are all her errors Harmless?