Kharon Davis’ long ten year wait for a trial is over

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Former District Attorney Doug Valeska confronting Kharon’s mother

I’ve posted a few photos below I took of the people connected to Kharon Davis’ wait for a trial. 

Many of you have texted and emailed me about the Kharon Davis trial and asked why am I not in Alabama covering it?

Truth is I don’t care to. For those of you following the case, he was found guilty yesterday. That is no surprise given the facts of the case.
My lack of interest comes from how I came to believe he was guilty.
That does not excuse how he has been treated. I believe Doug Valeska and Judge Kevin Moulton ignored the constitution, he was held in jail an unheard of for ten years while awaiting trial. There is no legalprecdent for such a wai in the U.S. history. Whether that becomes an over-turnable issue on appeal or not depends on how he is represented moving forward. The quality of his legal defense team would have to radically improve.

I never understood why his lawyers chose not to challenge the media narrative fed by the district attorney and attorney general’s office. They blamed the ten-year delay of the trial on Kharon and nothing by any credible source rebutted their narrative. Those close to the case know for years he was not allowed to see evidence nor legal documents by his lawyer. There is no other appropriate response but to fire them if your Kharon. Then they had the unsavory issue of a private investigator working the case who had an alleged past of drug planting and forced off the Dothan Police department. The mother of Kharon alleged he admitted to her he had not investigated her son’s case. Fowler of all people wanted this idiot back on the case at one point. That should give you insight into the quality of the defense team he had. But here is what bothers people, when allegations like these are made but no formal bar complaints or judicial inquiry committee complaints backed up by proof and sworn affidavits so those making the statements are held accountable it becomes just noise and more conspiracy theories. It robs them of credibility and becomes a negative in people’s view of Kharon Davis.

Their strategy, with a bit of old school lawyering by lead attorney Thomas Goggans, offered no defense just sit back and tell the jury the prosecution didn’t prove their case.
But south Alabama does not work like that, and anyone knows this. To the typical white juror who has read story after story about how Kharon has done everything possible to delay his trial and he is responsible for the ten-year delay, you damn sure better be able to prove his innocence and explain hsi actions. If not you’re doomed from the start.

It further does not help to have convicted felons contradict themselves and accuse prosecutors of threats and in one case simply refuse to testify out of fear to the judge that then holds him in contempt. None of that, although interesting to his supporters, makes a case for innocence.

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Cynthia Ward Davis, Kharon’s mother

When I learned of this story three years ago from Will Dickerson who was jailed with Kharon, I started with an interview with his mother. I pushed the story as much as I could as a photographer to media outlets which initially found it hard to believe. Never conspiracies, never linked his case to other cases, I  tried to stick solely with facts that could be independently verified. I met with New York Times reporter Serge Kovalewski a time or two and gave him access to what information I had, but I had to be candid and always tell him I thought Kharon was guilty. He has written the two best articles about this case in my opinion and are linked here and here.

This is why I stopped pushing and stopped writing about it. Why should I be promoting a case that could potentially free a guilty man? Right or wrong I just dont want my creative work to be used to free a guilty man.

And Ill say it, people sought to make this about race and it wasn’t. Pete Reaves ( the man murdered) blood was red, thats all that matters.

Unfortunately, you had a group of people who sought not to focus on details of the evidence and do investigative reporting. That, if anything, would be the only thing that would have made a difference to this jury. The narrative promoted by the Dothan Eagle and WTVY at the prosecutor’s request left unchallenged proved to be a fatal political move. Seeking to have Doug Valeska or Pat Jones not prosecute the case was a bad move when the state merely replaced them with a far better prosecuter with an unlimited budget.

I told Kenny Glasgow two years ago that if Kharon Davis has a prayer, it will be because his case has to be made not to black people and the NAACP, but to whites who will be the majority of the jury. His community didn’t want to hear this and refused to accept it.
This means facts, documents, real interviews about important issues that create an atmosphere of curiosity and questions on how this could be allowed. Not wild CIA conspiracy theories by Ruth Nelson or the flamboyant former male stripper Larry Ealy  who was a spokesman for the case for a time and discussed how black people were still technically being held as slaves by the federal government.

Former stripper Larry Ealy

In doing this Kharon’s mother and his supporters chose a route that did not help Kharon but hurt him. Instead critical hyper focused media that revealed ever deeper questions into his case and documented any misconduct could have been made part of the media discussion. Any misteps by lawyers and judges, there were plenty, could have been documented and reported to the bar association and judical inquiry comission if jusifed. At one point I caught his lawyer Fowler requesting that I print stories that were false about the previous attorney in an attempt to get him back on the case. A compelling argument could have been made for a change of venue and if what the family shared with me was true the judge forced to recuse himself.
Putting disgraced officers up like Keith Gray as a mouthpiece to black listening audiences in Atlanta is not exactly the best way to reach into the minds of white jurors from south Alabama. And no Mr Gray this trial had nothing to do with racism, confederate flags or white privilege it had to do with one man murdering another man.

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Former Dothan Police Officer Keith Gray

Choosing to have a spokesperson with maybe a couple of hundred followers rant on facebook that has accused a popular mayor of being a Nazi war child is likewise poor judgment. Rhetoric like ” white supremacy was showcased in its finest hour”  and promoting theories that the Dothan police assassinated Pete Reaves and staged the crime scene does not help people understand the facts of the case nor does it lead one to ask hard questions. In the case of potential white jurors it immediately turns them off from any further information from that source and further strengthens a negative opinion they have of Davis.

There is however a question unasked, that needs to be asked. Would Doug Valeska and Judge Kevin Moulton have kept a white man who owned property and could afford a lawyer in jail with a clean record for ten years while awaiting trial ? This has a obvious answer. But whether that is a function of Kharon’s race can’t be said. In other words would this happen to a poor rural white person with no political connections? Yes I think it could in Houston and Henry county.

My point, slaves come in many colors in this place, blacks have no exclusive right to having their constitutional rights ignored in Alabama’s judicial system. They just have a longer history and the data shows it happens in greater numbers to them. In a county where the sheriff is hispanic and the U.S. Attorney is black though this does not equal white supremacy at its finest hour.

What mystifies me is why the NAACP won’t listen to people that are actually from the community when they select cases like Kharon Davis or James Bailey to support. It might be a good idea for people like Mokolo and Simelton to pick an innocent man to defend or one that hasnt already confessed to murder. Just a novel thought… but what do I know.

Finally when a minister in the black community, Latonya Dorsey, brings a family member forward to explain how the three men came to her home trying to cover up the shooting instead of reporting it and getting the victim medical help is a death blow.

White rural jurors from Houston county are going to convict everyone involved in an incident like that if given half a chance.

But why people like Rickey Stokes and I are not writing about it is simple. We think he’s guilty and the jury thought the same. Kharon’s case was like the next case that’s coming up the NAACP has promoted as a example of injustice. Drug dealer James Bailey’s attempt to overturn a conviction of murdering C.J. Hatfield ( he confessed but is now claiming he lied in his confession). One filled with conspiracy theories and little facts, promoted by stark raving lunatics.

Guilty men trying to escape their day in court, or overcome a verdict they find hard to accept. A close friend asked me today can you imagine us ever having put ourselves in that situation, I said no I couldn’t. But even if I had, I would have done everything in my power to help Pete Reaves once he had been fatally shot.

Kharon Davis did not.

Mavising along in life

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Mavis getting a new steering stablizer

For those of you new to my blog Mavis is the name of my 31-year-old Toyota Landcruiser. Currently, she is also my home. Here are a few pics of her, traveling with her pulling a four-wheeler and hunting gear is an adventure. Any headwind reduces you to a speed of 50 mph.
An old Landcruiser is a great vehicle to do this in, especially the FJ 60 models. At night they make a perfect camping vehicle. Everything is solid, mechanical, predictable. The windshield is strangely large and puts everything on display. Even at night as trucks roar by you ( you’re always in the slow lane), things are more alive.

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Sleeping quarters

With no AC, no radio and an impatient dog you begin to appreciate different things in life. Sounds and smells of a landscape are noticed. You observe America at a different level. What is that, why is it there, what happened to it, where are the people now? Increasingly I noticed rural America as being abandoned as cities and suburbs continue their resource dependent death spiral.
But people move there for jobs, schools, a life they are brainwashed into thinking its better and bribed with needed paychecks.

That is the subject of what I am going to be working on the next year. Rediscovering parts of the Amercian west, documenting how things have changed while trying to capture the arrival of winter on this landscape. Think of a poor man’s version of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.
I want to see things anew and ask questions. Then use my camera to seek the answers.

I have not written or photographed anything in many months except a few photos of my girlfriend; I was caught up in caring for two elderly parents. My mother the victim of a stroke and father fighting a losing battle against leukemia.

South Alabama is a rough place to be stuck with little opportunity, in my case I have severe asthma and that climate is deadly, so it is time for me to be back home in the mountains for a while and have a break from what can never be fixed.

I will say this watching one’s parents suffer takes all the wind out of your soul, what creative energy one has evaporates. My camera was accumulating dust; I spent every day it seemed trying to figure out how to make things better in an environment that was never going to be any better. Being there off and on the past 12 months as time allowed caring for them, just being present meant something.
Hopefully.

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Motel 6, always pet friendly
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Micco says hurry up REI people and open we need camping supplies

 

 

Summer in the high country (something more)

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Moon over Mt. Kendal, Silverton Colorado. © Jon B. Carroll

SUMMER IS WHEN people should go on an adventure in my opinion.
Not just of the body but mind. In modern times we have forgotten this.
But for generations, American took to their automobiles and campers and ventured out across America. Some stayed in fancy hotels and spas, elegant retreats, many camped and could be seen socializing in hotel parking lots cooking on small grills. Sharing a beer and hot dogs.
This America is no more.
In Europe, the tradition remains and Australia and New Zealand as well, it is called HOLIDAY. Families for up to a month get away and relax.
Somehow our culture of money and materialism no longer can imagine this; the mere idea is reserved for the haves and not the lowly have-nots.

Many years ago in graduate school, I went on an expedition to Canada with professor Jack Williams at Auburn.
The reading list he required was long, among it though was Thoreau’s Walden, or “life in the woods.”
I spent over a month that summer canoeing from camp to camp spending 49 days in the wild without resupply or human contact.
I emerged as fall was upon us with long hair a scraggly beard and 35 pounds lighter. I did not want to leave the woods. Several shared that feeling and it was odd and new to me. We had become accustomed to the things cities and suburbs cannot offer. The call of the loon, a star-filled night sky and the crackling warmth of a campfire could not be compared to the sitting on a couch watching TV, nor dining at a restaurant. This was suddenly less than a greater reality we had shared.

Thoreau was sustenance more than food or water. All day we looked for wolf tracks, at night we listened for wolves. Algonquin provincial park offers one of the highest concentrations of timber wolves in North America. We saw few wolves. Fleeting glimpses, and once deep into the park when we would walk back over a trail to get our canoe there would be large tracks in our tracks.
We could not see them, but they were watching us.

After a few weeks, they grew comfortable as we would hear their late night serenades, this combined with the haunting calls of the loon is one of my most memorable adventures.
There is something out there. Something more.
I am about to embark on an another summer like this. I invite my friends to follow along as I will keep this journal.
There will be discoveries as I think about America, how it changed and I will be reading Thoreau again, but this time camera in hand.

It is time to head back to the high country.I’ve spent the eyar working in Alabama and have to be back in the fall but finally I get to go home for the summer and I’m excited to see my friends, maybe do a little guide work with San Juan backcountry.
Below are a few shots from last summer in Silverton and the trails I travel, come visit if you get a chance.

Happy Birthday Cheryl !

I took this photo of my friend Cheryl Money on her birthday a few days ago. In my hometown of Abbeville she, and her husband Carl, own a restaurant where they have been serving delicious hand cut steaks since the early 1980’s.
Cheryl and Carl both as well as the late Rupert Money (Carl’s father) were always a face of home for me after long travels.
Money’s Grill is iconic, a symbol of something more than just good food that is fast going away in this country. Money literally cannot buy what Money’s has.

Cheryl has this undying quality of optimism that in part comes from her faith. Owning a restaurant is just an opportunity for her to put that out into the world.

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Cheryl has this look, she will ask you a question like she just did before I took this shot, and then give you this look. Of course, she already knows the answer she’s just waiting for you to say it, so she can say, “see, told ya”.

 

 

Sam the Man

TRUE STORY, all of the following started when Sam Tew sent former police chief John White a chocolate cake.

Two years ago I met Sam Tew and watched him present an argument to the City Council of Dothan. According to Mr. Tew, he witnessed illegal weapons sales out of the Dothan fire department and was fired after speaking up about it. He then interestingly had his family’s life allegedly threatened by former police chief John White of which he claims he recorded. The mayor did not want to hear any of this but gave him five minutes.Sam had his Bible and said that is the only weapon he needed.

Mayor Mike Schmitz subsequently banned Sam, and his Bible, from attending city council meetings.

Since then he has been arrested dozens of times trying to return to speak at the City Commission. He, along with attorney Julian McPhillips, believes his constitutional rights are being violated and believes the community of Dothan has a right to know where those guns came from and where they went. The police refuse to investigate their former chief, the FBI was not interested. Sam believes the illegal guns made their way to gangs and violence in cities of Montgomery and Birmingham.

For the record… Chief Steve Parrish denies Sam Tew’s allegations and specifically that he is being targeted by the police. His arrests have been video taped according to Parrish and city employees have complained about feeling threatened by him. Parrish’s wife in a recent incident at a dental clinic where she works in Headland accused Tew of stalking her, Sam denies this.

In all of this no one it seems is willing to ask the question ( if Tew is being truthful) of where all these guns came from, and more importantly where did they go?

Tew and McPhillips spend a lot of time speaking about “drug planting” which as best I understand it has absolutely nothing to do with the two of them, even if true. Im certainly no fan of Dothan but in all fairness Mr. McPhillips, in all of his talk about drug planting and comparing Dothan to apartheid South Africa, is the not so small problem that he has no evidence to support such claims. In this case part of the documents he is quoting… I gave to Sam Tew.

But Sam Tew is preparing to sue the city of Dothan and run for mayor, to quote Mr. Tew, “I’m not backing down this time”.

He vows he will see the former police chief John White, now a lawyer and criminal justice professor at Troy University put in prison. Sam Tew plans to send him lots of cake.

John White does not like cake and I predict more arrests are imminent.

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Sam arrived for the press conference in a chauffer driven limousine
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“Democracy Man”. Sam Tew at the Dothan City Council. 2015. © Jon B. Carroll

“Growing old sucks, don’t do it”

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My father getting tests at a local hospital. Troy Al. 2017. © Jon B. Carroll

MY FATHER SAYS, “growing old sucks, don’t do it.”  (as he hobbles painfully into a hospital)

He did not illuminate the alternative which presumably would be death.

It’s hard to watch parents age. I’m an only child, so there is no support network of siblings, no cousins nearby. The nearest hospital that can provide any cardiac or stroke-related care is over an hour away. At best his brother lives nearby which helps. Outside of that, we have a caregiver from a family we have long known that has become the big sister I never had – Trish.

My parents made a decision in 1979 to retire early and return to my family’s ranch/farm in South Alabama. That did not last long, my mother started teaching school and pursued a second career which ended in her late seventies with a leg injury. My father…has hunted and fished since 1979, served on a local water board for a brief spell, and mostly watched television.

They choose to live in this isolated environment, the nearest town with coffee, or food twenty miles away.

I’m not sure this is a good idea for two older people, he is 84 she 82. She is bedridden after a stroke, he slowly dying of leukemia. Yesterday he told me he is almost at the point where he cannot walk. It is hard to come up with an encouraging response but I said…”golf cart”, he handed me a order form and said “wheelchair”.

Watching your parents cling to each other and suffer old age is not easy. Mine are fiercely independent; my father resembles an ornery longhorn bull at times, my mother the counterweight of peace and optimism. This leaves their days filled with watching tv and seeing no one for weeks.

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My mother and father at his 84th birthday

My Dad’s a guy you can forgive if you know his history, which in brief he was thrown into the jungles of southeast Asia in countries we were not offically present or at war with. Poisioned with agent orange, bombed and shot at, he was crippled for life, returned home and never complained once. In his room is a dust covered box of medals, their significance measured by the fact they are exactly where he threw them in 1979.

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My mother and the mighty Wren

In a sad chapter of American history, it took Congresswoman Martha Roby and an act of Congress 40 years later to get the benefits he deserved, most of his squad long dead.

“They waited until we died off so they would’nt have to pay us” he told her.

I never heard my father talk about Vietnam until I helped him prepare his testimony and statement for a congressional aide doing research last year. Before he finished the aide was crying. What I heard I will never forget, nor repeat, and wish I didn’t know.

I listened one afternoon while drinking moonshine with my cousin Morris Carroll ( he worked in the same place in Laos) as he told me he would crawl into dark tunnels with two knives and silently kill Viet Cong. I asked once why two, he said, at times I encountered deadly snakes and had to throw the knife. Tears streamed down his face,

“I did’nt like killing God’s creatures….sometimes there were two snakes, they aint done nothing.”

Cousin Morris was controversial, when he saw a darker complected person reminding him of the Vietnamese he would pull out two knives and stare at them. At times juggling the knives while wickedly grinning, black and hispanic people would run out of the stores and speed away. He had bible verses painted upside down and backwards on the interior roof of his car.

I miss Morris, he could play a mean guitar and taught me scriptures reading them upside down and backwards in his rearview mirror as we drove down the highway drinking homemade whiskey.

Men like this deserve peace. Rural communities offer that.

But here is this uncomfortable reality I am witnessing about growing old in a remote and isolated place. No friends visit because there are not any willing to drive far. My parents do not attend church and in this part of the country that usually fills that void of social interaction. There is no community involvement, i.e. my father was not a Mason or member of any Kiwanis civic-type club that meets on a regular basis.
His only social engagement is a 70 something mile trek per day to a restaurant in Ozark Alabama where he eats lunch. With an imminent loss of mobility that will likely end.

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The big sister I never had

What I have noticed about all this … suffering – let’s call it what it is, I see my parents still best friends and in love.
That’s quite an accomplishment these days.
I know one thing about my father’s advice, I have no desire to grow old…unless my best friend is right there beside me co-suffering and I am staring out my front door at mountains I love. Like them, I want to be a very long way from town so I can’t see what I’m missing.

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” Life is what it is, then we just die“, my mother on her 82th birthday in a rehab facility