The Guilty Project documents flaws in the justice system that enable serial offenders to commit more crimes.

Failure to Prosecute, Wrongful Acquittal by Jury, Early Release by State, Family/Employer Cover-Up

Dennis Earl Bradford

Dennis Earl Bradford made the news recently when cold-case investigators in Houston linked his DNA to the brutal kidnapping, rape and throat-slashing of an eight-year old child in 1990.  The child survived and was able to give investigators an excellent picture of her assailant and his first name, Dennis, which he told her.  Unfortunately, Bradford was not identified at the time as a suspect in the crime.

He moved to Little Rock, where he was caught, six years later, after committing a similar crime: he kidnapped a woman, raped her at knife-point, and slit her throat, telling her he was going to kill her.  That victim survived as well and was able to provide Bradford’s tag number to authorities.

According to CNN, Bradford was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, but prosecutors took the murder charges off the table for some reason.  Sometimes, saying you’re going to kill someone while kidnapping them, raping them, and slitting their throat just isn’t murderous enough, I suppose.

Then a Little Rock jury refused to convict Bradford for the rape.  He had bought his victim a beer and offered her a ride home.  Therefore, they reasoned, she was asking for the rape, and she must have been hankering for a throat-slitting as well.  They did find him guilty of kidnapping, thus putting the final touch on an incoherent, irresponsible verdict: according to this brain-trust, he moved the woman against her will, but she went right along with being cut up with a knife.  And women who drink beer can’t be raped, you know.

Bradford was sentenced to 12 years in 1997 but strolled out of prison a mere three years later.  He had a toddler and a baby at the time he committed the Little Rock rape.  His boss thinks he’s a fine, upstanding citizen despite that little attempted murder/rape/throat slashing thing, and now the revelation about the eight-year old victim:

Bradford worked as a welder for United Fence in North Little Rock. A company representative said Bradford had been working there for 10 years and was a “good guy” who had mended “his old ways” and “changed his life.” He wouldn’t go into specifics about what those “old ways” were.

His family is similarly convinced of his excellent nature.  Good thing he can’t get to his own young daughter anymore:

Members of Dennis Bradford’s family . . . say the Dennis Bradford they know would not do these things.  They say he is a man his grandchildren know as a loving and gentle man.

Why can’t people like this just keep quiet, out of some simulacrum of human decency?

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Lessons Learned, or Not Learned:

Dennis Bradford’s 1996 acquittal for a violent sex crime looks very much like the several free rides Sarasota (Florida) jurors and judges handed Joseph P. Smith before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Carlie Brucia.

Joseph P. Smith

Prior to having the shockingly bad luck of being caught on video abducting the 11-year old, Smith had been caught three other times attempting to abduct other victims.  But after each attack, judges or jurors judged the victims instead of Smith and let him go.

In 1993, Smith jumped a woman who was walking home from a club, breaking her nose and bones in her face.  A police officer interrupted the attack before Smith could make away with the stunned woman, but Sarasota Circuit Judge Lee Haworth decided to go easy on Smith, allowing him to plea to a lesser offense, granting him a mere sixty days in jail, and then reducing that sentence to weekend incarcerations.

For breaking a woman’s face, trying to drag her away, rape and likely kill her.  But she’d probably had a beer or two, after all.

In 1997, Smith, armed with a knife, pepper spray, and confidence that he would not face judicial consequences, attempted to abduct a woman at a gas station by claiming he needed a jump start.  She wouldn’t let him into her car but agreed to follow him back to his vehicle: luckily, someone who witnessed the odd exchange called the police, and they interrupted him again and found the weapons concealed in his shorts.  The officer who stopped him wrote that Smith “intended to do great harm” to the victim.

But another judge let him off easy, letting him plead to a concealed weapons charge in exchange for probation, rather than attempted abduction.

The third attack was witnessed by a carload of retirees, who grabbed their golf clubs and chased Smith away from a screaming woman he’d jumped by the side of a road and was dragging into the woods.  The retirees testified at Smith’s trial, but the jury acquitted him nonetheless: the woman had drunk a few beers, after all.  Jurors bought Smith’s risible story that he thought the woman looked suicidal and he was trying to help her into the woods, to safety.  They shook his hand and called him a good guy, a victim of persecution.

Then Smith raped and murdered an 11-year old.

Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford both targeted children, targeted adults, and got let off easy for acts of extreme violence against females on the grounds that the women were asking for it.  Judges and jurors simply excused their violent assaults because some of their targets were women in bars.  Such prejudiced acquittals aren’t supposed to happen anymore, but any prosecutor will tell you they’re common, even with the levels of violence displayed.  In some jury boxes, drinking a beer can apparently still spell “deserving rape, or death.”

And in Bradford’s case, the details of his 1996 assault suggest an experienced rapist with the forethought to do away with evidence, good character kudos from his boss at the fencing company notwithstanding:

According to a 1996 police report, the victim told investigators Bradford drove her around for 20 or 30 minutes listening to a cassette tape. He took her to a secluded area and once the car stopped, immediately he began choking her and beating her in the face.

She told investigators Bradford held a knife to her eye and threatened to cut her jugular vein several times while she was raped.

Afterwards Bradford took her to a nearby creek and demanded she wash off all of the blood and evidence.

The victim told police her attacker then drove back into town and dropped her off in front of Oaklawn racetrack. He told her he planned to kill her, but got scared at the last minute.

How many more victims will surface?  You don’t start out kidnapping victims from their bedrooms and slitting their throats, nor do you simply take five years off between violent, thought-out attacks.  What you do is concentrate on victimizing the types of women nobody will believe, women who drink beer, for example, who will be dismissed by jurors who look at their broken faces and slashed throats and say: “she sure was asking for it.”

Anti-incarceration activists often complain that putting men in prison “turns them into hardened criminals.”  In the case of Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford, judges and jurors letting them off easy for their crimes appear to have done the same.

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