Pubdate: Mon, 11 Jan 1999
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: Bob Ray Sanders


The state of Texas, preparing for the Wednesday execution of Troy Dale
Farris, is about to make an unforgivable mistake.

All Texans should take note of this case, especially Gov. George W. Bush,
the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Legislature, and all those who view
capital punishment as a God-given ritual to punish sinners, even if the
wrong person is executed.

Farris, found guilty of the December 1983 slaying of a Tarrant County deputy
sheriff, should not be executed. Period.

Frankly, I don't know if he is innocent or guilty of the crime. But I do
know that no one -- absolutely `no one' -- should ever be found guilty of a
crime based on the evidence (or lack thereof) presented in Farris' case,
much less put to death.

Because his case involved an obviously bungled investigation, destroyed
and/or tampered evidence and, at the least, misstatements by a law
enforcement official, Farris should be a free man today.

Deputy Clark Rosenbalm Jr. was shot to death on an isolated road near
Saginaw after, police said, he interrupted a drug transaction involving
Farris, Vance Nation and Charles Lowder.

Eleven months after the killing, someone told police that Nation had
mentioned the shooting at a party. That led to the arrest of the three men,
who were charged with capital murder.

Nation would testify that he thought Farris had shot the deputy, and Farris'
former brother-in-law, Jimmy Daniel, testified that Farris had confessed the
killing to him, and said he had thrown the .357- caliber Magnum pistol into
Marine Creek.

Divers "trained in underwater investigation systematically searched" Marine
Creek, but never found the gun.

Daniel also took officers to an area where he said Farris had fired
.357-caliber bullets into a tree trunk about a year earlier, but the .357
rifling marks on those slugs did not match the ones that were recovered from
Rosenbalm's body.

Farris, in an interview with `Star-Telegram reporter Jack Douglas Jr., said
that, as he drove away from the scene, he saw Nation tackle the officer. And
Lowder told Douglas that he believes the officer was killed by someone else
after all three men had driven away.

About a year after the trial, capital murder charges were dropped against
Nation. He did, however, plead guilty to possession of marijuana and was
given a seven-year probated sentence. Capital murder charges were also
dropped against Lowder, who was granted immunity in the case.

Complicating the case even more was the fact that marijuana was discovered
on the slain deputy, and investigators had a long discussion at the homicide
scene about what to do with it.

Sheriff's Capt. Johnny Prince initially said he took the marijuana from
Rosenbalm's coat pocket, but he would tell at least three different stories
about what happened to it. Regardless, the evidence disappeared from the
crime scene.

Prince took the Fifth Amendment in Farris' trial. Subsequently, he was
indicted on perjury charges, but a special prosecutor recommended that he
not be tried because of lack of evidence. The prosecutor also recommended
that Prince not be returned to the Sheriff's Department.

Today, he is a captain in that department.

Even the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in an opinion that upheld Farris'
conviction and sentencing, noted: "the circumstantial and forensic evidence
offered at trial not only failed to connect [Farris] with the killing of
Rosenbalm, but also failed in nearly all material respects to confirm the
testimony" of Nation and Daniel.

The opinion goes on to state, "We are not unmindful that Daniel's
credibility was seriously undermined by the fact that he had previously
testified under oath before the Grand Jury in a manner inconsistent with his
trial testimony and, therefore, inconsistent with [Farris'] guilt." Despite
that finding, the court said Farris' alleged confession to Daniel was enough
to uphold his conviction. In 1994, Farris was just hours away from execution
when he received a stay.

But by the time the appeals court acknowledged in 1994 that it had made a
mistake on at least one of the 12 points of Farris' appeal -- the trial
court erred by disqualifying one juror -- Farris' case was already in the
federal courts.

Now, after 13 years on Death Row for a crime he says he did not commit (and
which the state did not prove he committed), Farris is just days away from
being put to death by lethal injection.

There were too many errors made in this case, and too many questions still

Justice screams for this execution to be stopped.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

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