It’s Sunday. That must mean the New York Times is lying about a murder case. This time, reporter Brandy Grissom has slapped together an especially incredible whopper:
Appeal of Death Row Case Is More Than a Matter of Guilt or Innocence
The headline is the only factual part of the story. Will’s latest appeal certainly is, as the headline writers put it, “more than a matter of guilt or innocence.” It’s a demonstration of the lengths to which the New York Times and their hand-in-glove activists will go in order to mislead the public about our criminal justice system . . . particularly when the killer in question murdered a cop.
Robert Will killed Deputy Sheriff Barrett Travis Hill on December 4, 2000. Hill was shot multiple times: his murder was gruesomely audible over police radio. Chest, hand, face. Will could have disabled the officer and fled, but once Barrett Hill was on the ground, he chose to kill him instead. He then carjacked a woman, told her he killed a cop, forced her out at gunpoint, and fled. He was caught with the murder weapon.
Ever since Robert Will was convicted, various attorneys have tried to pin the blame for DS Hill’s murder on Will’s criminal accomplice, Michael Rosario. They’re not doing this because they care about Will, or care to capture Rosario: they do it because it’s the one argument they’ve got. Every few years, advocates for Robert Will (paid for by us) produce additional “witnesses,” virtually all jailhouse snitches who (temporarily or transiently) claim that Rosario confessed to the crime, a claim Michael Rosario, of course, denies. The real story of these witnesses is complicated, so the Times keeps their reporting on them very, very vague. At different times, most of them actually refused to commit to testifying in court. Nevertheless, the media myth keeps building, as in the Troy Davis case, that all of these “witnesses” were somehow blocked by court procedures from “telling the truth.” Oddly, the Times story tells us nothing about Rosario’s current status or his response to the latest round of allegations against him: they work very hard to avoid looking too closely at him, because doing so wouldn’t suit their desired narrative.
With every “new witness,” an expensive legal game reboots. In response, the state has repeatedly clarified the record by re-investigating and systematically ruling that each of these belated witnesses either had their chance to testify and refused, or that the defense themselves wouldn’t use them because they were hostile, or that they were, in fact, researched thoroughly despite allegations otherwise, or that they are so unbelievable that the court need not revisit the issue of Will’s guilt because they’ve come forward with unbelievable new stories. Nevertheless, the games plays on, shifting only slightly over time.
Robert Will has had his day — his decade of days — in court. The court has considered and rejected every new and unabashedly contradictory effort to invent or re-tread witnesses. Robert Will himself is stuck with a particularly hard set of facts to transform into lies. Yet this hasn’t slowed the liars, who call what they do “advocating” and sleep well at night because there are no consequences when defense attorneys make things up out of thin air . . . as admiring reporters pile on.
Also helping Will’s case is the theological realpolitik of death penalty reporting. There are no atheists in Times’ newsrooms: they all believe deeply in the myth of their own infallibility.
For the Times, article of faith #1 is that being convicted of a crime means you’re the victim, doubly so if you have killed a police officer. Dead cops whet their appetites. The fact that Rosario — the supposed “real murderer” — is the son of a cop further whets appetites. The Times mentions this twice in one article. The editors didn’t have room to address the actual facts of the case, but readers certainly come away knowing that Michael Rosario’s dad once wore blue.
Now that Robert Will has burned through another round of habeas corpus, the Times is focusing its attention on sloppily retreading all of his previous failed appeals in an effort to promote their utterly risible default argument: that the system is stacked against him. What really happened is that Robert Will lost his trial and was found guilty based on a very strong case, then lost multiple appeals based on a series of rejected claims about bias (policemen wearing their uniforms in the courtroom) and his pop-up alleged witnesses. But everything old is new again in newsrooms and courtrooms. Except evidence, of course.
The Times can’t explain away the facts, so they hide some of it and lie about the rest. They hint at the discredited claim that Mr. Rosario shot the handcuffs off his colleague’s hands to free him. They’re coy about it because they don’t want to acknowledge that this theory is a proven lie. Here is the Times’ intentionally vague description:
At Mr. Will’s 2002 trial, his lawyers argued that after losing the other officer, Mr. Rosario found Deputy Hill and Mr. Will, shot the deputy, freed his friend and took off.
But there’s a problem: the handcuffs weren’t shot off anyone. To say only that Mr. Rosario “freed his friend,” is to endorse a flimsy and laughable lie. But who would know, unless they read the transcripts from all the appeals Will lost?
The whack-a-mole witnesses are grounds for a few more bald-faced deceptions. Here is the Times, breaking all sorts of rules about objective reporting in their effort to make something out of the latest rejected “witness”:
Another key piece of testimony came from Mr. Will’s ex-girlfriend. At a 2011 hearing, she testified that Mr. Rosario had come to her apartment with blood on his pants and on one of his shoes. He told her that he had shot the deputy and then tried to shoot the handcuffs off Mr. Will.
This girlfriend has said, and not said, a lot of things over the years, while bouncing in and out of prison herself. Not that you’d know this from reading the Times’ description of her latest version of events. The girlfriend said nothing at all about this alleged conversation for years and just recently remembered it for a lawyer. Now she says she did tell people, once, but that nobody asked her any follow-up questions, so she let the subject drop as her boyfriend got sent up for capital murder. In a 2012 denial of one appeal, Judge Keith P. Ellison destroyed the girlfriend’s testimony, but the Times doesn’t mention that. In 2012 and also in 2010, Judge Ellison similarly eviscerated the testimonies of the other belated, alleged, witnesses, along with all of the excuses Will’s lawyers made regarding admissibility of the same. And, all the arguments about bias. And, all the arguments about inadequate counsel.
The Times ignores all of this and insinuates that Judge Ellison is, instead, merely “agonized” over having to reaffirm Robert Will’s sentence. Here is the Times’ summary of Judge Ellison’s decisions, which amounts to one quote plucked from an otherwise consistent repudiation of all of the claims Will’s lawyers have brought before the court over the years:
In his ruling denying a new trial, Judge Ellison said that the lack of physical evidence linking Mr. Will to the crime and the reports that Mr. Rosario had confessed gave him pause, but that he could not simply overturn the conviction. Judge Ellison wrote that Mr. Will had not presented enough evidence to show that Mr. Will’s claims of innocence and shoddy lawyering warranted a new trial. “The court laments the strict limitations placed upon it,” Judge Ellison wrote.
Here’s something Judge Ellison really wrote about that evidence, that the Times chose to ignore:
After hearing the gunshots, Deputy Kelly saw Will run from the area. As Deputy Kelly began looking for his partner, Will fled to a nearby apartment complex. Cassandra Simmons was dozing in her parked vehicle when Will opened her car door. Will ordered her outside and pulled at her arm. Ms. Simmons screamed as Will put a pistol to her neck. Will exclaimed that he had “just shot a policeman.” [Tr. Vol. 21 at 74]. Will stole Ms. Simmons’ car and drove away.
About a half hour later, searchers found the body of Deputy Hill approximately 470 feet from where Deputy Kelley had lost Rosario. The police conducted a thorough investigation of forensic evidence at the crime scene. The police recovered seven spent shell casings and two projectile fragments from the area near the body. Deputy Hill’s gun was in his holster, though it was not snapped shut. An investigator found Deputy Hill’s handcuffs on the ground, but later he could not remember whether they were in an opened or closed position. An autopsy revealed that Deputy Hill suffered gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest, and wrist. Will’s blood was found on Deputy Hill’s shoe.
Will drove west after visiting his apartment. Will replaced the licence plates on Ms. Simmons’ car with ones that he stole from a parked vehicle. When the Washington County police took Will into custody around three-and-a-half hours later, he had a .40 caliber Sig Sauer pistol in his belt. Will’s handgun had three rounds left from a ten-bullet magazine. Will had a full gun magazine in his pocket. Will was bleeding from a wound on his left hand. The police found bloody gloves and bleached-out dark clothing in the car. Also, Will carried $2,300 cash in $100 bills. No gunshot residue was found on Will’s hands, though traces of gunshot residue were discovered in the paper bags the police placed over his hands. A later police search of the apartment of Will’s girlfriend turned up several guns and some stolen property.
The prosecution tied witness testimony and forensic evidence together into a coherent version of the events leading to Deputy Hill’s death.
Sins of omission + sins of commission = NYT reporting.
Here’s the opening lines of the Times article about Robert Will:
No one saw Rob Will shoot and kill Harris County Deputy Sheriff Barrett Hill in the still-black morning hours in a Houston bayou on Dec. 4, 2000. No physical evidence linked him to the murder.
Except the gun, and the fact that, as the judge points out, “Will’s blood was found on Deputy Hill’s shoe.”
The article ends with another particularly ugly dissimulation, this from one of those pathetic women who attach themselves to murderers. She snapped at me that it was only one very teensy-weensy drop of Will’s blood on the dead deputy:
Dawn Bremer drives 90 miles from her Spring home to the state prison in Livingston to visit Mr. Will. She is among a cadre of advocates who believe [Rob Will] is innocent and fear he will be executed because of a legal technicality.
A legal technicality. That’s what they call “losing your trial and ten years of appeals because you’re guilty as sin,” in Times argot.
Actually, the only technicality involved is the one that might save Will’s life. If the courts allow for yet another expansion of activists’ ability to eternally retry settled cases, which is what is really at stake here, Will’s supporters might triumph over the facts of the case. If that happens, it will be memorialized, not as a technicality slam-dunk, but as “proof of innocence.” And the public will be instructed to believe, again, by the criminal fetishists embedded in the New York Times, that no conviction is legitimate. More killers will go free, laughing, with their advocates, at the people who happen to believe that it matters when you kill a cop.
Robert Will is not innocent. He has been convicted of murder. His conviction has been upheld through ten years of appeals. He is also not an innocent: he is a murderous gang-banger who attracts stupid or unhinged advocates with his “poetry” and scribblings as leader of the pseudo-revolutionary DRIVE movement (Death Row Inter-Communialist Vanguard Engagement). He has his groupies and his poetry and scores of activist law students. He has the criminal fetishists lobby of the Times, people who couldn’t locate a journalistic scruple if it bit them on the tush as they perched in the visitor’s room on death row, getting off on their own inflated roles in the fictions they’re creating.
Barrett Hill’s family have their memories of a good man who didn’t come home one day because he was brutally assassinated by a heartless thug.
If you want to read the real story of Robert Will’s appeals, you’ll have to do a little searching on the web: I can’t link them here.
Here, I think, is the 2010 Will vs. Quarterman (aka Will vs. Thaler):
And here is the 2012 decision: