DEAR ATTY GENERAL BONDI: ABOUT GARY BENNETT

(This Op-Ed, by yours truly, appears today in Florida Today newspaper.)

 

Dear Attorney General Pam Bondi:

Gary Bennett is entering his 34th year of a life prison sentence for a crime he did not commit. As diligent as our justice system must be to seek justice against criminals and keep our communities safe, we must be equally as diligent ensuring we do not mistakenly rob an innocent person of his/her right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But Florida hasn’t done that, particularly prosecutors of the early 1980s in Brevard County

I’m sure you know about the Gary Bennett case. It has been exposed in newspapers for decades, most especially in recent years by FLORIDA TODAY as deftly investigated and recorded by reporter John Torres.

I’ve reviewed the so-called “evidence” in this case and have reached the same conclusion as Torres and others: A horrible crime has been committed and Gary Bennett is the victim.

My view comes with a degree of credibility. I spent the majority of my 30 years with Miami-Dade police as a homicide investigator and later, captain. I investigated, supervised or oversaw over 1,000 murders. Never did I — or did the Dade State Attorney’s Office — use the tactics to gain a court victory as was done habitually in the early 1980s, when wrongful convictions took the prime of lives away from William Dillon (27 years), Wilton Dedge (22 years) and Juan Ramos (four years). Ramos was acquitted in a retrial.

Those tactics included the use of a corrupt “expert witness” dog handler who was eventually exposed as a fraud and banned from courtrooms. Add testimony from jailhouse snitches who ironically gained in-cell confessions by the defendants when they never confessed to anyone else. Those snitches may not have been “promised” leniency in their cases, but they received leniency nevertheless. We both know how jailbirds can be primed to lie under oath if their sentences will likely be reduced. In Dillon’s case, the jailhouse snitch admitted his role in a Tallahassee hearing 27 years later.

In all my Dade County years, I never used a jailhouse snitch who was a stranger to the defendant. In some cases, I gained admissions from — yes — the snitches themselves, who were bargaining for favors. State Attorney Richard Gerstein and later, Janet Reno, were so leery of snitches, they required polygraphs in all such cases.

But not the Brevard prosecutors of 1981–1985. Now, Gary Bennett’s case reeks of the same incompetence and/or corruption while the innocent inmate faces a life of doom.

Yes, there was other evidence in the murder of Helen Nardi, 55, who was stabbed 26 times with four different instruments. Bennett’s partial palm print was lifted from a closet door. Never mind that he had been invited into the victim’s house not long before her death. Several other prints in the house were never identified.  Bennett’s print was irrelevant. Two pubic hairs found on her body were excluded as evidence against Bennett; they weren’t his. And never mind that Bennett agreed to a polygraph, which, according to examiner Phil Sellers, showed “no deception.” Never mind that Gary Bennett’s court-appointed lawyer — according to John Torres’ interview with a former law partner — was an alcoholic who should never have been assigned a murder case.

Over a period of three years, William Dillon, Juan Ramos and Wilton Dedge were all innocent men ramrodded into prison by use of the exact same M.O., by manufacturing evidence in order to win a case. It’s an M.O. I never used in 30 years. Gary Bennett suffered the same inhumanity.

All the appeals have been exhausted, but we know how that goes. It’s about fair trial and error-free procedures. It’s not about humanity and innocence.

That’s where you come in, Madam Attorney General. I implore you, FLORIDA TODAY implores you, the people of Florida implore you and Gary Bennett implores you to delve into this travesty of justice and do the right thing: Recommend to the governor that justice can only be served when Gary Bennett is awarded a full pardon.

 

 

9 Responses to DEAR ATTY GENERAL BONDI: ABOUT GARY BENNETT

  1. VERONICA Helen HART June 2, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    How disturbing. And if and when Mr. Bennett is pardoned and freed, how will he get on with his life? How old is he now? What a travesty.

  2. JustMe June 2, 2017 at 9:32 am #

    I trust your judgment Marshall. If this man is innocent, those people who put him behind bars ruined his life. It sickens me to think Mr. Bennett suffered because of their corrupt behaviors.
    Those who put men like Mr. Bennett and the other innocents behind bars should face
    some sort of punishment.

  3. Charles Pierce June 2, 2017 at 9:39 am #

    The most disturbing thing about the problems with false or manufactured evidence is that nothing happens to the individuals, attorneys, expert witness’s, and Scientists when they give false or misleading evidence. If we are going to do this we need to hold the feet of the people who (both sides) uses the courts as a game of I can best you.

  4. Pat Pesce June 2, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    With the exception of an alcoholic attorney, which could have been a fabrication by a disgruntled partner, I am perplexed as to why the rest of the evidence you presented did not pass muster with an appeals court.

  5. Patrick Pesce June 2, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    With the exception of an alcoholic attorney, which could have been a fabrication by a disgruntled partner, I am perplexed as to why the rest of the evidence you presented did not pass muster with an appeals court.

  6. George S. June 2, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    I read it in FLORIDA TODAY, and, as always, am a fan of your work. We have a real problem in life when the people who are supposed to uphold and support the laws of our country, state, and communities are, in my opinion, criminals themselves. There are prosecutorial issues and agendas in which these hot shot wanna-be politicians have to “look good” at the expense of innocent people, not to mention that, by prosecuting the innocent, the actual murderers are, in many cases, walking around among us. The prosecutors, snitches, even judges should be barred from practice, jailed, fired, etc. Sadly, in the system we live with, judges are lax enough to place the guilty back on the streets anyway, i.e., Markeith Loyd and others. Frustrating in that those who should be behind bars forever walk around among us, and those who are innocent are incarcerated because of the illegal and even criminal actions of those in the court and judicial systems. This Brevard County Prosecutor’s Office should be, and/or should have been investigated on a national level, i.e., Pam Bondi in our state, and by prior Washington, D.C. Attorneys General, whomever had been or is in office. No matter how you slice it, this is white collar criminal activity.

    Great stuff as always

  7. Huck Long June 2, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    Marshall — Your editorial in this morning’s paper was outstanding, in both content and persuasion. I sincerely hope it achieves the results you desire.

  8. Richard June 2, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    It seems those responsible for misfeasance in office should be identified and punished.

  9. Clearstory June 4, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    Thank you, Marshall: I will email our state reps today.

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