Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review

Drawn to Injustice: The Wrongful Conviction of Timothy Masters
Timothy Masters with Steve Lehto
Berkley Books, New York, 2012

Review written by Robert A. Waters 

The problem with the conviction of Tim Masters is it could be anybody.  There wasn’t any evidence, not one iota, yet with the help of a shrink-for-hire, prosecutors fabricated a case that resulted in a life sentence.  Ten years later, when DNA exonerated Masters, none of those who convicted him has had the decency to apologize.

In Drawn to Injustice: The Wrongful Conviction of Timothy Masters, the characters are straight out of Hollywood. 

There’s beady-eyed Fort Collins Police Department detective James Broderick who, within minutes of beginning the investigation, concluded that Masters was guilty of killing Peggy Hettrick.  Broderick hounded his suspect for a decade before finally making the arrest.

Then there's Reid Meloy, an odious dabbler in pseudo-science.  Having been paid more than $50,000, he testified that a series of violent teenage drawings proved Masters had murdered Hettrick.  Meloy never interviewed Masters, but on the stand he spun an intricate web “demonstrating” that the writings and sketches of a lonely teenager told a tale of murder. (In reality, Masters was a wannabe writer and artist influenced by horror novels and gothic comic books.)

Enter prosecutors Jolene Blair and Terry Gilmore.  Slick, confident, and corrupt, and with absolutely no evidence, they sent a young man to prison for life.  They did so by illegally withholding evidence from the defense, and by using Meloy’s weird theories.  Since juries almost always convict, Blair and Gilmore had little trouble railroading Masters.

Drawn to Injustice tells the tale of this fiasco.

And it describes the horrors endured by Tim Masters.  On February 11, 1987, the day of the killing,  Masters was a thin-as-a-rail fifteen-year-old.  He lived with his father in a trailer adjacent to the field where Hettrick was found dead.  In fact, he walked by her body on his way to school.  Thinking the corpse was a mannequin, he didn’t report it.  For hours and hours, interrogators cajoled the inexperienced teen, trying to get him to confess.  They screamed at him, illegally taped him and his father having a conversation, and gave him a phony lie detector test.  Through it all, the teenager never confessed.

After graduating from high school, Masters spent eight years in the Navy, and, at the time of his arrest, was working for a defense contractor.

Peggy Hettrick, 38, worked at a fashion store and had a love of writing and native American art.  On the night she died, she may have been walking home after spending much of the night at several bars.  Somewhere along the way, she was likely kidnapped, murdered, and dumped in the field near Tim Masters’ home.  Death had been caused by a single stab wound to the back.  Her left nipple had been cut off, and the skin removed from her clitoris with a scalpel-like instrument.  (The coroner said that only a trained physician could have performed such a surgical procedure.)

It just so happened that a perverted physician lived in a house behind the field where Hettrick's body was found.  Dr. Richard Hammond had set up video cameras behind vents in several rooms, including the guest bathroom.  Three years after the Hettrick murder, police were called to the house and discovered hundreds of lewd videos.  Hammond had been taping women as they used the toilet.  He seemed to have an obsession with vaginas.  Thousands of pornographic tapes were found in a storage unit he owned.  After his secret was discovered, Hammond committed suicide.

The doctor would certainly have had the skill to perform a female circumcision, but he was never investigated for the Hettrick murder.  In fact, Broderick and the Fort Collins Police Department quickly destroyed all the evidence. 

Masters spent ten years in prison.  Finally, DNA tests proved his innocence.  He was released, and eventually received 10 million dollars in compensation.

Blair and Gilmore were censured by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Broderick was indicted for withholding evidence, but the charges were recently dropped.

Reid Meloy never received any punishment for his role in railroading an innocent man.

None of these people have ever admitted any guilt in the framing of Tim Masters. 

If you wish to read a truly frightening book, read Drawn to Justice.


1 comment:

Janie said...

There have been too many cases where DNA has proved the person innocent. The doctor was one sick person.