The story of a partially blind Englishman serving life in California for a murder he never committed. Following Paul’s guest blog, some readers asked for more details about the facts of Paul’s case. Here’s his story. Reading it made me angry and frustrated at California’s justice system, which in terms of evil and corruption seems to be right up there with Arizona’s. I only served 5¾ years whereas Paul has served 15. I can’t imagine what that feels like. Thinking of Paul rotting away in there really upsets me. It’s time he gets a DNA test, and is set free.
I was arrested in Los Angeles for the murder and attempted murder of Ed Weinmann; I thought that I would be in jail no longer than a week. After all, I had a fractured hand which did not match the description of the shooter. Ed was being targeted by gangs for his family’s connection with the Klu Klux Klan, and the arresting detectives harvested a bias against me. But in America anything can happen.
In 1994 I had flown to Los Angeles to meet Dolores Legaspi, a Californian girl that I had been dating from a prior visit to the United States. Dolores asked me to marry her to enable me to receive a work permit. We married in Las Vegas. However, during this marriage, Dolores began to see an old friend, Ed Weinmann.
Police reports show that Ed experienced 6 gang related problems in the winter of 1994, and early 1995. For example, his home was set ablaze with petrol bombs while he slept inside. Rocks were lobbed through the windows, the house was painted with “KKK HOUSE”, and car windows were smashed. A witness to these attacks described the perpetrators as African American youths. When the Weinmann’s were asked for any motives for these attacks they never mentioned any telephone death threats, but did describe an exchange of words some 6 months prior with someone tapping on their fence.
Then on a dark night in January 1995, someone fired a shot while Ed sat in his car. Luckily he wasn’t hit. Even though the crime occurred in a poorly-lit car park, a witness, Lorna Santomin saw the offender flee from the scene. He left behind a silencer and a shirt after a struggle with Ed. Police were able to determine that the perpetrator wore black gloves, picked a lock, dismantled a car light and struggled with Ed while holding a gun and silencer. Lorna had seen both the criminal’s hand’s from the wrist down, “there was nothing unusual about them” she would later testify. Ed described his attacker as clean shaven and they both stated that he wore a red hooded sweatshirt.
According to Dolores, Ed didn’t like me. Ed called Dolores from the police station where he reported the shooting and told Dolores he wanted to blame me for it. But Dolores said I was with her at home in Carson and asleep on medication because of a fractured hand. She told Ed that I had beard stubble as the injury prevented me from shaving, and I did not own a red hooded sweatshirt, and she knew that as I was living with her. The round trip from Dolore’s home to the crime scene is about 20 miles. Ed urged Dolores to feel the bonnets of my vehicles to see if they were warm. Protesting strongly, she finally did. The bonnets were cold. Proving no one had used them.
I could never be mistaken for an African American. I am serving a life sentence without parole. I have absolutely no history of violence to anyone, and could not be mistaken for an African American. In addition, my attorney never got Dolores to testify, even though a defence investigator concluded that Dolores would make a good defence witness. Neither did my attorney inform the jury that I was born with retinitis pigmentosa which makes me night blind. I cannot see in poorly-lit areas.
The trial judge didn’t allow the jury to hear about the KKK attacks. He considered the attacks as vandalism and he couldn’t see how they could escalate to a shooting. Neither would the judge allow Rose Legaspi to testify that Ed specifically told her that I was not his attacker.
I researched the crime statistics for 1995. There are over 26,000 serious crimes for the South Bay sector of Los Angeles. Most of these are racially or gang related. I wonder how a Californian judge can rule out this third party culpability evidence when most of the murders stem from race related hate crimes.
In January 1995, I was shot in an attempted robbery at Carson Mall. I have the scar on my hand where surgeons opened it to remove the bullet. It looks grotesque and I remember how much it hurt. It was pretty bad. I have two Medical Reports, describing this injury and the treatment. I was prescribed Tylenol No.3, a strong narcotic, and my hand was fractured, sutured, dressed, splinted and bulky dressed. The report is dated for the same day as the shooting incident, only hours before it took place. You might wonder why the jury didn’t believe these reports.
Unfortunately my lawyer didn’t get them for the jury to see. I told my lawyer about my hand injury, but he did not bother to interview the doctors that treated me.
Neither did my lawyer put my doctor on the stand to testify about my injury. The jury did hear about me wearing a big mitt on my hand when my sister-in- law was subpoenaed by the prosecution, but she never described my injury.
Yet the prosecution had possession of my medical reports and had full knowledge of my injury. The prosecution deliberately mislead the jury by informing them that I faked wearing a big mitt for an alibi and merely had a minor flesh wound and if the injury was serious then the defence lawyer would have introduced testimony through my doctor. This is Prosecutorial misconduct because the Prosecutor’s duty is to seek the truth. But here, they mislead the jury with an argument known by the Prosecution to be false.
But is does not end there, my injury has greater significance in this case and there’s a problem. Upon reviewing the police reports I notice that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department booked one bullet fragment into evidence from my hand. I was told by doctors and police that it came from a .22caliber weapon, as from point- blank range a larger bullet would have passed through like a juggernaut hitting a tomato. In other words straight through my hand almost blowing my fingers off. So I ask some police officers I know who have weapon training, and they agree. But there’s a problem because this one fragment passed through the custody of Detective McMahon and turns into two fragments. Detective McMahon then sent these for ballistic examination and are described to be .38 the same calibre as the bullets from Ed’s shooting. But I could not have been shot with the same calibre gun, as my injury was far less than the fatal injury that killed Ed. The prosecution used this evidence to link me incorrectly with the shooting. I wonder what my lawyer was doing when he was supposed to be making sure that the jury heard the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
In March 1995, Ed was fatally shot while driving on a Los Angeles freeway at night. One bullet caused his death. The .38 bullet that killed Ed passed through a tempered window then fragmented and lost velocity, two fragments struck bone and passed clean through losing velocity on the way, yet they continued and struck more bone passing clean through and lost more velocity before resting in soft fleshy tissue. Sadly, this is what a .38 caliber bullet does. There were no witnesses. Because I had been married to Dolores and Ed was seeing Dolores, then I became a suspect. Detective McMahon and Martinez were rude, abusive and threatening to me, when they interviewed me. McMahon knocked me continually on the head as he screamed, Bang you shot him. Bang you shot him. I recall the frightening, intimidating, encounter with detectives investigating the murder.
So I filed a complaint on them and consequently they framed me. The Detectives said that I denied owning a handgun. I never denied that. I had purchased one following a burglary on my home after being advised to get one. I registered it to myself. We talked about the gun during the interview and Detectives made notes. But when I tried to get copies of these notes I received a letter that states the notes are “Lost.” This is serious because the duty of detectives is to gather and preserve relevant evidence. After the interview I was no longer a suspect? So they lost their notes to keep me a suspect.
In August 1995, before I was arrested I filed a complaint on the detectives. They retaliated by ransacking my home. In a sworn Affidavit Detective McMahon swore that he had me under surveillance prior to the complaint to make the search appear to follow the surveillance. Detective McMahon states that he observed my blue Mazda pick-up on my driveway and describes the registration number. McMahon lied about that to cover his retaliation. My last contact with him had been April11th, 1995 when I owned that blue Mazda. I have a Department of Motor Vehicles statement to verify this.
In April 12, 1995 they changed the registration number, and in May 1995 it was painted Yellow. I have a photo of my yellow truck sitting on a sunny driveway. According to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the photo can be dated by the sun’s shadows. Also the film can be dated .My lawyer never introduced this evidence.
During the Los Angeles homicide, I had been in San Francisco some 350 miles away, and was not on any flight manifests. My vehicles were eliminated as suspect vehicles as one sat too low to have fired a downward shot and the other one was sitting on Legaspi’s driveway. Neither did my name show up at any Los Angeles car rental agencies that are requested by law to view and record the identification of all renters. The Detectives knew this. My lawyer never introduced all this evidence into the trial. And this evidence showed that I could not have flown to Los Angeles, nor could have driven a vehicle to commit the crime during the driving murder. I had no idea whatsoever concerning Ed's agenda - where he should be and when, because I hardly knew the guy.
The entire case is circumstantial. There are no fingerprints, confession, video footage, no direct evidence. Ed’s mother did testify that I telephoned and threatened to kill Ed in December of 1994. I never did. She never filed a police report about this, or even told police after her home was set ablaze, just weeks after the alleged threat.
The silencer recovered from the earlier attack had yellow tape on it and a roll of yellow tape discovered at my home which an expert testified matched 100% to the naked eye. This evidence passed through the custody of Det. McMahon.
Detective McMahon and Martinez had the silencer in custody on March16, 1995. Detectives testified that in April of 1995 they were searching for tape to match the tape on the silencer and obtained a roll from my home. On August 31 1995, the even executed a Search Warrant that specifically searched for rolls of tape. But they found none at my home. Now this shows that any tape they had prior to August 1995 could not have been a match, that’s why they continued looking. In August I filed my complaint and 8 months later the roll that they got in April 1995, was submitted for forensic analysis resulting in a perfect match to the naked eye. So it appears they were not a good match until I filed my complaint.
They look similar, but not the same. For instance one is wider than the other and they only join up at the same width because someone has altered the narrower one... I look at the rip pattern caused as the tape was ripped off its roll. The piece from the silencer has a pattern that changes course across the rip, none of this is seen on the leading end from the roll. My lawyer never had this evidence examined.
I had been in jail awaiting trial for a year and never knew it was going to start, until a bailiff threw some clothes at me. When I asked what they were for, he told me I was starting my trial. That’s how I found out as my lawyer wasn’t communicating with me, neither did he return my calls I made through British Consulate.
The first days of my 1998 trial were terrible. While handcuffed, I was strangled unconscious and beaten, by other inmates. I don’t want to say it was terrible; I want to describe how terrible it was. During the attack I was reciting the Lord’s Prayer and then woke up and it was later..The attack occurred at about 7am and I was still bleeding at 1.30pm while in the courtroom. The trial transcripts states,
“The attackers ......put chains around his neck, and then beat him......a quantity of ...dried blood fairly slashed about leaving him with a fair quantity of dried blood fairly slashed about his upper garments...both his eyes are black looks like he probably has a broken nose...his lip will be swollen throughout the trial...Paul’s been crying...very shaken...he’s in fear for his life right now...he may not be competent to assist in his defence in the next few days”
This attack secured my conviction, as I was unable to assist in my own defence to correct the false and misleading, prosecution’s evidence.
Despite my physical and mental condition the trial continued as the prosecutor argued that a delay would be inconvenient for her witnesses. I did not see a doctor for three days, and then I was prescribed narcotic medications. I can’t remember much of the trial; as the narcotic drugs made me feel giddy and drowsy.
But something I do remember was when someone sitting close to the victim’s mother began to shout out instructions for a witness to say. This was while the witness was on the stand and the judge had stepped out of the courtroom. In the absence of the jury, the judge immediately held an evidentiary hearing and concluded that Det. McMahon and the victim’s mother deliberately lied to the court. Both were critical witnesses for the prosecution, yet my lawyer never used this evidence to attack their credibility.
With false and misleading evidence, and no defence at all, the prosecution secured an easy conviction. Since my 1998 conviction, I have attempted to appeal on the grounds of ineffective assistance of my trial lawyer. The British Commonwealth Office reviewed my case in 2002 and because “there are concerns concerning the fairness of the trial procedure”, they assisted me in obtaining a barrister. Unfortunately, the barrister was not qualified to practise law in California.
In 2003 the organisation Fair Trials Abroad also reviewed my case and stated that “we have grave concerns regarding the professional conduct of (Paul’s) lawyer.” However, as European lawyers they were unable to assist in the United States.
I really need to prove my innocence by getting DNA testing of the perpetrator’s shirt, the one he left behind with the silencer. They can do these tests now when someone has worn or handled clothing, I plead.
I have written to the courts asking them to test this and to have the yellow tapes chemically analysed for comparison. I’ve also told the courts about my hand injury and my lawyer’s total failure to present any evidence for me. Or question witnesses for me. But the California courts just ignore me. I thought I’d only be in jail for a week, but it’ll be 16 years shortly.
Fairness is the very fabric upon which the justice system is woven. I was entitled to a fundamentally fair trial but through prosecutorial misconduct, rogue detectives, an ineffective lawyer, and violent jail inmates, I was denied that. The sad truth is that as a result of this, I will remain in prison for the rest of my life unless I can get a competent lawyer to fight for an appeal.
Paul John Denham
If anyone wants to help Paul he would like them to send a copy of "Paul's Story " to their MP or to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or both and ask what is being done. Then to write to the media and explain that the MP or FCO did nothing or very little.