No death penalty for AL man jailed 10 years awaiting trial & now dismissal hearing set

Kharon Davis has been held at the Houston County Jail for almost 9 years with no trial or bond
Kharon Davis has been held at the Houston County Jail for 10 years with no trial or bond

Earlier this year (March 27th 2017), the newly appointed Alabama prosecutors announced that they were no longer seeking the death penalty against Kharon Davis, who has been jailed for nearly 10 years while he awaits trial. The $64,000 Question has to be, why did it take only 30 days for the new prosecutors to make the decision that the previous prosecutors seemingly let drag on for a decade?

Kharon Davis has been held without bail in the Houston County Jail since his arrest in 2007, his supporters say that he has been relentlessly and unfairly punished during the time that he has been held in the jail. He is accused of killing Pete Reeves of Dothan. Davis has maintained his innocence throughout, being charged with capital murder because prosecutors said the shooting occurred during a robbery. Davis’ supporters have argued there was no evidence to support that charge.

The trial, now scheduled for September, has been delayed several times, however the Alabama NAACP announced on May 26th 2017 that a hearing with Judge Kevin Moulton has been scheduled to dismiss the charges altogether. The hearing is on June 6th 2017,  08:30 at the Houston County Courthouse.

Alabama NAACP request dismissal hearing in the Kharon Davis case.
Alabama NAACP request dismissal hearing in the Kharon Davis case.

Bill giving Alabama jail inmates free feminine hygiene products moves forward

Article originally posted here on April 12, 2017
Jail Cell
Jail Cell (Wikimedia Commons)

Houston County Jail inmates have long complained at the atrocious and unsanitary conditions in which they are confined, many being held for years, unable to bond out and denied basic human rights, as they await trial.

Today, Alabama lawmakers have passed a bill requiring county jails to give inmates feminine hygiene products for free.

The House Public Safety Committee unanimously passed the motion on Wednesday.

Legislators said the bill was a “common sense” measure and questioned why some jails weren’t already providing female inmates with such products.

Arley Republican Rep. Tim Wadsworth is sponsoring the bill and says some smaller county jails aren’t giving the products to women who cannot provide them for themselves. Lawmakers asked the sponsor to compile a list of those facilities.

The legislation will now move to the full House of Representatives.

Alabama Prosecutor Sets the Penalties and Fills the Coffers

Jarvis Bracy and his wife, Khadijah Ross. He was charged with a felony for misidentifying himself to a police officer one drunken night. Credit William Widmer for The New York Times

DOTHAN, Ala. — It was a run-of-the-mill keg party in an open field, until one guest, Harvey Drayton Burch III, objected to paying for his beer. Witnesses said Mr. Burch fired a gun over the crowd and began spraying Mace. With partyers fleeing, Mr. Burch jumped into the back seat of a car as it drove away.

The driver had a name well known in Henry County: Douglas A. Valeska II, the son of the local district attorney. When the car was stopped, a deputy found a loaded magazine and knife in Mr. Burch’s pocket, a gun and pepper spray in a backpack, and a pink pill on the floorboard. After Mr. Burch admitted to firing his weapon, he was arrested. The district attorney arrived to take his son and two other passengers home.

No Money, No Mercy…Articles in this series examine how money undermined reforms to America’s criminal justice system. 

Mr. Burch, then 28, was charged with gun and drug possession, but not with firing a weapon or spraying Mace. He did not face prosecution. Instead, District Attorney Douglas A. Valeska granted him pretrial diversion, an alternative to court that is usually reserved for nonviolent offenses. After Mr. Burch paid $2,396 in fees and stayed out of trouble for two years, the case was dismissed in 2011.

The same year, Mr. Valeska gave the Henry County Sheriff’s Office $2,300 from his pretrial diversion fund to pay for scuba gear. The department’s dive team was led by Lt. Troy Silva, the arresting officer in the Burch case. Lieutenant Silva said in an interview that the money was not related to the case and that Mr. Valeska routinely allocated diversion funds for police equipment.

Diversion was created nationwide to spare first-time or low-risk defendants the harsh consequences of a criminal record and to give prosecutors more time to go after dangerous offenders. But things have played out differently in places like southeast Alabama’s Wiregrass Country, where an investigation by The New York Times found that diversion resembles a dismissal-for-sale scheme, available only to those with money and, in some cases, favor.

Mr. Valeska has proved exceedingly adept at using diversion, generating more than $1 million for his office in the last five years.

The money has helped him consolidate his singular power over the justice system in Houston and Henry Counties, where he has presided as the chief prosecutor for three decades.

Dothan, the seat of Houston County and, with 70,000 residents, the regional hub, can feel like it is caught in a Southern time warp, immune to change and defined by racial division. Dothan, where one in three residents is black, has never had a black mayor, police chief, circuit judge or school superintendent. Meetings of the city commission are held in a room adorned with 28 portraits of city leaders, all of them white men. An old photograph shows police officers, including the current chief, posing beside a Confederate flag.

The Prosecutor’s Deal, the Defendant’s Dilemma

A process called pretrial diversion is intended to relieve overburdened courts and help low-risk offenders get on with their lives. You decide if it’s really that simple.

Many black residents say they are at a significant disadvantage in the criminal justice system, complaining of nearly all-white juries and harsher sentences. Last year, two-thirds of those arrested in Dothan were black.

In the 1990s, Mr. Valeska had a string of convictions overturned for illegally striking blacks from the jury pool — a practice critics say continues to this day. He referred to one black defendant as “the yard boy.” He has never hired a black prosecutor.

“If you take Doug Valeska personally, I don’t think he’s racist — I don’t agree with that,” said the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, a black ex-convict and longtime advocate for criminal justice reform. “But he represents and endorses and enforces and upholds a racist system.”

Mr. Valeska declined repeated requests for an interview.

Though he is a prodigious user of diversion, he has shown little inclination toward its goals of mercy and rehabilitation. At 65, with a thatch of tungsten-colored hair and an impatient forward lean, Mr. Valeska takes an Old Testament approach to justice, asking juries to exact “an eye for an eye.”

Houston County ranks in the top 10 counties nationwide for death row prisoners per capita.

In one case dating from 1996, Mr. Valeska continues to pursue a death sentence that has been overturned four times by higher courts. In 2014, Mr. Valeska successfully moved to bar testimony from a victim’s relative who wanted to request mercy for the defendant. Last month, a jury considered the sentence yet again but deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.

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Wife of jail commander arrested on felony theft charge

Denise Reed, wife of Houston County Jail Commander Keith Reed was arrested Monday on felony theft charges
Denise Reed, wife of Houston County Jail Commander Keith Reed was arrested Monday on felony theft charges

Arrested by the Dothan Police Department, Denise Reed, wife of Houston County Jail Commander Keith Reed was arrested Monday on felony theft charges. Reed, according to investigators, is accused of stealing jewelry valued at almost $4000.00 dollars from a Dothan jewelry store.

It is alleged that Keith Reed has been running the jail with an iron fist, violating inmates civil and constitutional rights by incorrectly assuming that every inmate is guilty assigning himself as judge and jury without due process and denying them exercise, religious materials, maintaining a freezing cold living environment and failing to protect inmates under PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) laws, creating an environment hazardous to mental and physical health.

Why else would you prevent the toilets from flushing more than twice an hour even though they are used by up to 30 people in the same pod and are constantly full of blood, urine and faeces?

It would appear that Denise Reed was processed far quicker than most and released before being issued her orange jumpsuit, so she probably wasn’t subjected to those same degradations that the other inmates in the pods face, whilst awaiting trial, likewise she probably, and rightly so enjoyed the presumption of innocence that is seemingly absent for the rest of the people detained there. Reed posted a $5,000 bond and was released from the jail.

Why you should care about ensuring defendants get a fair trial

By Kira Fonteneau, Jefferson County Public Defender

On March 18, 1963, in “Gideon v. Wainwright,” the United States Supreme Court recognized that people who are charged with crimes are entitled to legal counsel even if they cannot afford to pay for it themselves. By upholding the constitutional right to an attorney, the Court empowered the justice system as a whole.

Kira Fonteneau, Jefferson County Public Defender c/o Kira Fonteneau
Kira Fonteneau, Jefferson County Public Defender c/o Kira Fonteneau

“Our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law,” declared Justice Hugo Black, an Alabama native, in the court’s opinion. “This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.”

Since Gideon, a generation of lawyers and other professionals have worked tirelessly to defend clients who would otherwise be crushed under the weight of the criminal justice system.

As lawyers who represent the poor in Alabama, we know that many people have mixed feelings about the role criminal defense lawyers play in society.  It can be hard for the public to separate an individual from the grievous crimes he is accused of by the government. All too often, that societal distrust of alleged criminals is extended toward the people who defend them. As a result, there is a natural tendency to downplay the importance of providing a quality defense to those who are accused.

Justice is only possible when it is extended to all parties in the criminal system.

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A mothers cry for help

Kharon Davis has been held in the Houston County Jail for 9 years with no trial and no bond. The conditions within the jail are archaic, hateful, psychologically damaging and unconstitutional. Kharon is held in 23 hour lockdown for 4 years, in a constantly cold cell that is unhygienic, denied access to the law library, exercise yard and even the main inmate population.

Kharon Davis Initiative Flyer
Kharon Davis Initiative Flyer

Why has Kharon been denied his constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial? Please come and show your support for Kharon and the other inmates, many of whom have not even been to court yet, let alone been convicted of a crime, and to demand that Jail Commander Keith Reed drastically improve the conditions inline with the Department of Justices, National Institute Of Corrections, jails standards.

Houston County Jail recently posted an updated booking photo of Tramaine Bradley

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office Website, recently posted an updated booking photo of Tramaine Bradley which is drastically different from the way he looked at the time of his arrest on February 10, 2016 along with Ernest Whitehurst.

Tramaine Bradley, now and at the time of his arrest February 11, 2016
Tramaine Bradley, now and at the time of his arrest February 10, 2016

Houston County Sheriff’s deputies seized nearly 5 pounds of synthetic marijuana, known as spice, which had an estimated street value of around $6,500 and arrested the two men on drug trafficking charges as part of a four month long drug distribution investigation.

Both Bradley and Whitehurst were taken to the Houston County Jail and each held on $1.5 million bail.In addition to the manufacture and distribution charges Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza stated that Bradley was also charged with resisting arrest.

Interestingly whilst held in the jail no one has been allowed to visit Bradley, its hard to say whether its been due to the visitation policy or whether the HCSO have been trying to conceal Bradley’s injuries from the public at the time of arrest, and as he was due to appear in court 03/07/2016, given the heightened racial tension since the release of documents by the Henry County Report revealing racism within the Dothan Police Department and the planting of drugs and guns on young black men. The Department Of Justice have requested those affected to contact them directly on 202 307 6999, the NAACP have announced that they have formally opened an investigation too.

Inmate restrained in a chair and beaten unconscious, they broke his fingers too…

James Bailey in Houston County Jail
James Bailey in Houston County Jail

Jon B. Carroll from The Henry Report has obtained and released details of a horrific case of purposeful persecution and prosecution of a totally innocent man. James Bailey, in addition to being set up on drug charges, underwent a horrific and sustained beating, to the point of unconsciousness, he was taken to hospital and the following day, back at the jail, the beating continued including being handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 8-12 hours in a restraint chair, beaten with a metal pipe, maced, beaten around his head, punched and kicked all over his body, which resulted in brain and permanent nerve damage. They broke his fingers too, he also required stitches for some of his many injuries.  

 

C.J. Hatfield (age 22)
C.J. Hatfield (age 22)

Bailey was drugged at one point while he was in jail, given twice the allowable dosage and in the drug induced state (Prozac and Vistaril) gave what is interpreted by the Sheriff’s Dept as a confession to the murder of C.J. Hatfield. A murder, that he didn’t commit as he was in a different state at the time, which the Police, investigators and DA’s Office knew, but seemingly chose to prosecute him for it anyway. Click here to read the full story

When Carroll asked one of the former defence lawyers why was this not revealed, he said that Judge, Larry Anderson, would not do several things, he kept Bailey in chains and shackles in front of the jurors, we were given no money to hire a private investigator to simply verify the multiple alibis, nothing. We were scared, they wanted this guy guilty and we have to live here. The jury convicted Bailey after 15 minutes of deliberation, the exculpatory evidence was never shared. Bailey was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

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I have volunteered at the Houston County Animal Control & those animals are treated better than the humans in that jail.

  • 13 things wrong with how the Houston County Jail is run and how they treat citizens held inside there.
    13 things wrong with how the Houston County Jail is run and how they treat citizens held inside there.

    Have to wipe & show officer to prove you are on monthly, will only give you 1, 12ct bag of pads & no underwear, will sometimes take hours to bring you pads after you prove you are on monthly.

  • If you are indigent you will get 1 roll of toilet paper to last you approx 3 weeks until you are eligible for the 3 rolls every 2 weeks.
  • Toilets will only flush 2x every hour. Officers can press button to flush at other times but will not, so in communal (1 toilet) in dayroom you have approx 40+ women using toilet you can imagine the faeces, urine & blood that accumulates.
  • Do not receive sheet to put on mattress & mattresses are not disinfected between uses.
  • Will not give you proper cleaning supplies to clean cells. I was there for a 2 week period & we were on 23 hour lock down. Fed in our cells & we were not given cleaning supplies once.
  • Once when we told the Health Department, during an inspection about the conditions, we were put on our beds for 3 days.
  • There are Rats that come in the cells.

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