‘SHORTY’ TAKES A GIANT STEP
[col. Writ. 9/11/13] ©’13 Mumia Abu-Jamal
There are many men and several women, on Pennsylvania’s Death Row, but few are like ‘Shorty’.
‘Shorty’ – known to courts and counsel as James Dennis –has been on Death Row for over 20 years.
For 20 long and terrible years, he has lied in a cell the size of an apartment bathroom, fighting for his freedom, his life and his very sanity.
That’s because for all this time he’s been protesting his innocence of the 1991 killing of Chedell Williams, an adorable high school girl, who was robbed of her earrings and fatally shot.
Shorty, arrested for the crime based upon eyewitness testimony, had every reason to expect an acquittal, as he had alibi evidence that seemed rock-solid. At the time of the crime, he was in another part of town, according to his dad, and an acquaintance who saw him on a bus quite distant from the girl’s shooting.
I said he was somewhat different from others. How so?
Shorty had no significant criminal history, there was no physical evidence tying him to the killing, and, of course, an alibi. Right?
Well, wrong. For Commonwealth played ‘hide the ball’, by hiding alibi evidence by losing physical evidence, and letting witnesses testify falsely - knowingly.
Citing the 1963 Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland, a federal judge in Philadelphia last month threw out his murder conviction and death sentence.
U.S. judge Anita Brody wrote, of ‘Shorty’, he “was wrongly convicted of murder, and sentenced to die for crime which, in all probability , he did not commit” [Dennis v.Wetzel, No. 11-1660, p.11.]
Miss Williams was a tall girl, standing 5’10”, Shorty was (is) 5’5”.
That’s significant because almost all of the witnesses said the shooter was almost as tall, or taller, than the victim.
Police literally ignored evidence from other sources, and prosecutors hid evidence from Dennis’ lawyers until 16 years after his trial.
Shorty Dennis, perhaps one day soon, will walk free from two decades in hell.
But it’s a sure bet that that he’ll never be free of the memory of life on Death Row.
--© ’13 maj