Jermane aged 19. Taken during trial 96/97
‘Street Gang Code’ of Silence Cost Me My Life
My Trial can only be described as an ‘out of body experience’ from my perspective. The Jury found me Guilty. I was given 1 count of Aggravated Murder/forgery and misuse of credit card with gun specifications on all of the charges. The Jury found me guilty by using the ONLY evidence available and presented to them. That I was found in possession of the victims credit card and the FALSE testimonies of those 2 State Star Witnesses. My name/character was trashed and dragged through the mud throughout the trial by the Prosecutor and the press (led by incorrect information fed to them by police). Due to lack of actual physical evidence the Prosecutor decided to get round this problem by creating a very distorted picture of me to the Jury. I knew just from first sight of that Jury that none of them would understand my background/my neighbourhood or be able to relate or empathise to any of it. That Prosecutor made me sound like a monster. Made my connection with the Streer Gang I was involved in (bearing in mind I was 19 yrs old at this time) sound like I was the next big Honcho Gang Lord (when the reality was I was no more than a little teenage punk, smoking and selling pot). I was made to sound like some reckless man who needed to be put in prison for the safety of the whole community. It was made out that I was destined for badness so therefore I deserved a place in hell (Prison). My ‘defence’ did absolutely nothing to correct these lies that were spoken. The Jury found me guilty of all charges and I was sentenced and I stand by my belief that the Jury would not have found me guilty based on the lack of evidence against me presented to them in court had the Prosecutor not lied about my actual true real character or if my defence had bothered to produce character witnesses who would have happily testified I was a kind, caring and protective brother/son and friend. The death penalty was the prosecutor and police hoped for outcome. I was on a Capital Murder charge which if found guilty in Ohio is an instant death penalty spec. During trial the death penalty was mentioned as the only outcome for me. However during a mitigation hearing which saw my own Mother begging the Judge and Jury to spare my life. It was agreed the death penalty specification would be lowered to one of Life without the chance of parole. This lowering of my sentence was due to the Jury not unanimously agreeing to the death penalty specification of my charges.
Section of appeals documentation giving a brief mention after a mitigation hearing that the Jury recommended life imprisonment and not death
I was sentenced to LIFE (which in itself is just another form of a death penalty but slower and more painful and full of torture). The prosecutor was reported in one Newspaper article to be angry that I did not receive the death penalty as he left the court house steps after this mitigation hearing took place. The Jury NEVER heard any defence evidence, they NEVER heard my side of events/my story. They NEVER got told the truth about who I really was (and am). They NEVER got to hear my alibi (for the night of the crime). There was NO defence at my trial. Heck I wasn’t even allowed to speak or take the stand. I wanted to but was told by my defence I couldn’t. So here I am serving life without ever having the chance of parole for a crime I did not commit. Now I want to share more with you about what led up to my current predicament. I do believe my involvement (however minimum it was) with a street gang led me to face such harsh injustice. I do believe that it was my link to a gang that saw that Jury decide I was guilty (without any actual concrete evidence to prove this bar a tarnished reputation thanks to the Prosecutor). I also know that it was my link to a street gang that made me behave the way I did during the investigation and my trial. Let me explain what I mean…..
Street Gang Codes
As you now all know I was a member of a Street Gang before the crime. I had left this gang and all its connections a few months prior to the date of this crime. I left because I grew up and realised it was pointless and not for me any longer. I wasnt (and am still not) a violent person and I was never actively involved in that gangs ‘goings on’. So I left. . Im ashamed to say all I was interested in back then was smoking pot and girlfriends. Being in a gang did impact my decision-making and in hindsight may be did go a long way in the reasoning behind me being found guilty and me being sat here (behind these prison walls) for the rest of my life. In the section of this website ‘My Testimony of Events’ I gave you the truthful version of what happened to me that fateful day of how I came into possession of that credit card. This story of facts was never told to the police by me. Although I did trust my public defenders with this information believing that my best interests would be at the forefront of their minds (not so it turned out) I never told the police any of this (bar telling them I was innocent and my only guilt lay in the use of the credit card which I was given) because in the scary lifestyle world that I was involved in (that of a Street Gang) giving the police ANY information was heavily frowned upon. In the street life they call it ‘snitching’ and if you get labelled a ‘snitch’ your life gets real unpleasant real fast. So naively to avoid going against ‘Gang Code’ I just told the police exactly what I know I did and then their own investigation would lead them to the truth (and that is what would have happened if they had bothered to follow the physical evidence they had in front of them). I was extremely naive about the whole situation. I believed what I had seen on T.V about how the cops always ended up finding the bad guys and that the ‘Truth would always Prevail’. I also believed that sticking to the Gang Code (of silence) would help me when I would be released without charge (and returned to the streets). It was self preservation. I had no idea that my admittance of using that credit card would implicate me further. I just told the truth that yes I had used that credit card. I was utterly convinced that the police would see the glaringly obvious truth of the matter that all I had done was use that credit card that I had been given. I knew that I couldn’t be sent to prison guilty of murder for just using a stolen credit card. I could have (and in hindsight should have) told the police ‘hey those 2 dudes that are pointing the finger at me is where I got that damn credit card from’. But I didn’t…That Gang Code Influence prevented me from doing so. ‘Not being a snitch’ was heavily ingrained in me (and a lot of others like me). It had been ingrained in my head by fellow gang members, so I kept my mouth shut!
I was held without bail and my face was plastered all over the local News (and Newspapers) for over a week ’19 year old robs and kills retired city school teacher’ (this was even before I had been found guilty – I was already guilty in the eyes of the press/police/community and Justice system). I spent 9 months in county jail fighting the charges against me. The one thing I knew I had in my favour was the FACT that I didn’t kill anybody. My defence attorney only visited me between 6 or 7 times in that whole 9 months in jail, for a Capital Murder case I might add (this was no small petty charge). And when they did visit they stayed no more than 60 minutes at a time. I calculate they spent about 6 hours in total in that 9 month period speaking to me and spending time on my case (they gave me very little legal advice). My Trial came and as stated above the Jury was presented with the only 2 pieces of evidence against me (the fact I was in possession of that credit card and the FALSE testimonies of the 2 State Star Witnesses). A whole lot of people testified but the fact that only 2 people put me in the victims car and home (and that DNA evidence did NOT support either of their claims) was NEVER taken into consideration. The police (under questioning) reluctantly admitted to NOT having (and never having – even though they had told me and the 2 State Witnesses they had) any DNA evidence/fingerprints of mine in or on the victims car, in the victims home, on the victim (nor any DNA evidence of the victim on me or my clothes). None of this was seen as ‘relevant’ during my trial as the prosecutor and police were convinced they had the person they wanted and the evidence be damned.
With the help of a mentor (I met in prison) Many years ago I learned it was time for me to start believing in myself and stand on my own 2 feet as a MAN and not as a gang member or ex gang member. My mentor showed me I had potential. He showed me I have my own code of conduct and that was absolutely fine to do. I had kept my silence out of a VERY distorted view that I was honouring my vows to the Gang I joined so many years ago as just a young naive boy.