Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dream Confessions -- How reliable are they?

The star witness against Ronnie Kimble is Mitch Whidden, in whom Ronnie confided a dream he had about Patricia Kimble's murder. Whidden relayed this information to the investigators and testified at Ronnie's trial. This dream was interpreted as a confession. Ronnie Kimble was barely spared the death penalty, but was sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

Dream confessions have also played a prominent role in two other murder convictions. John Grisham wrote about the case involving Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz in The Innocent Man, and Bob Mayer wrote about the case involving Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot in The Dreams of Ada.

The two true stories are set in the same southeastern Oklahoma town and involved a young female victim, a dream-based confession, the same jailhouse snitch, and the same prosecutor.

Williamson's and Fritz's convictions have been overturned and they have been exonerated by DNA. Ward and Fontenot have not been so fortunate. While their first conviction was overturned, they were again convicted in 1988. Ward was sentenced to life without parole and Fontenot to death. Fontenot's sentence was later commuted to life without parole because of a judicial error. There is no DNA that can exonerate them.

Click here for the website that Grisham has created to highlight Ward's and Fonenot's innocence.

When Ronnie Kimble told his dream about Patricia's death to Mitch Whidden, he was simply sharing a dream. To dream about such a traumatic event as a murder that happens so close in your family is not at all uncommon. But apparently Mitch Whidden assumed that Ronnie would not have dreamed about Patricia's murder unless he was the one responsible for it, even though Ronnie could not give any details, not even where he put the gun.

Ronnie also had the curse of snitch testimony. Not snitches against him, but against his brother Ted, who was married to Patricia at the time she was murdered. After Patricia's murder, Ted spiraled into a moral decline, not only dating much sooner than most people think is appropriate, but also getting involved in a construction burglary ring with an employee and friend -- Robert Nicholes and Patrick Pardee. When Ted was arrested, both Nicholes and Pardee seized the opportunity to get their "get out of jail free" card from the ADA Richard Panosh by telling the investigators what they wanted to hear, that Ted Kimble confessed to them.

Nicholes alleged only a very general confession, that Ted admitted to being responsible but that he didn't personally do it. No details. Pardee alleged that Ted confessed that he hired Ronnie to do it, but again no details.

Whidden no details, Nicholes no details, Pardee no details. This lack of details is very convenient, because then the confessions can't be disproved. Less is definitely more when creating evidence.

1 comment:

Barbara's Journey Toward Justice said...

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