When I first saw the Ashley Baker statement I didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that it was fabricated evidence, even though I knew that Sephora was not “the driver”, and even though I knew that there had been a lot of perjury to the effect that she was.
I knew, in other words, that the supposed declaration by Theriault that “Sephora was the driver” was false, but that did not make the statement in which that declaration was contained – the Ashley Baker statement itself – a fabrication. Maybe Theriault did say it. Maybe Ashley Baker did overhear it. That’s what the statement says on its face, after all.
Unless and until you become open to the possibility that you are swimming in a sea of falsehoods, the facial declarations of a written document retain a power over your mind that they shouldn’t have in that situation. The mind recoils at the idea that what it perceives through the written word is not intended to inform or reveal to it, but rather to deceive it.
Thus my first reaction to seeing the Ashley Baker statement was not that it had been fabricated, but I was vaguely troubled by it, beyond just the falsehood of the declaration that “Sephora was the driver”. It was a gut feeling. But by the time I saw it for the first time, in the fall of 2006, I was more used to being lied to and it wasn’t as paralyzing. It was more…interesting.
Still, it gives you pause. I remember carrying a copy around with me for a few days and looking at it periodically, parsing everything about it to see if I could get a more tangible sense of why it bothered me.
Still, the recovery time was quicker by now. The systematic thing to do was determine who Ashley Baker was and go from there, and that’s what I did. And it wasn’t until after I had gone down that road and completed that line of investigation that it occurred to me I should look for a statement from Todd Gaddy, which of course I found. And it wasn’t until after that that I made the connection between the peculiar handwriting on the Baker statement and its match with the handwriting on Mechal Fuoco’s statement (located here).
Only then did I know for sure that the Baker statement had been a fabrication by Carson.
The lesson here for practitioners is, pay attention to your gut. Don’t jump to conclusions based on it, but pay attention to it.
That’s one lesson anyway.
Let me illustrate the same idea with another statement, the statement of William Annis, which can be found in this post.
As I mentioned near the beginning, this statement had always bothered me on some gut level, even before I had interviewed Adrian Paige. Something or things about it just didn’t add up. But prior to interviewing Paige I just pretty much ignored the gut feeling I had about it, put it back in the file and considered it another damaging account I was going to have to deal with later.
And this is where I might have left it forever, unless I had talked to Paige.
But now with Paige’s account, I knew Sephora had not been driving the car when Harder was dropped off in Leicester, and it was time to put some flesh on the bones about how this statement, the statement of William Annis, was also a fabrication by police. And to begin that process you think hard about what the statement actually says.
The first specific thing I noticed was this part:
I was just walking outside because I was waiting for him [Harder]. I saw Eric getting out of a black sports car it could have been a 2 dr mustang.
The statement was taken January 23, 2004 and Annis’ date of birth is listed as September 18, 1981, making him 22 years old on the day the statement was taken.
How many 22 year old males living in rural western New York State would not know a Ford Mustang on sight, even as they noticed it had two doors? Not impossible, of course. But very, very odd.
There is a back story that makes this aspect of the statement even stranger. The Livingston County cops were all atwitter that Sephora’s parents had bought her this mustang, because it had formerly belonged to a cop whose name escapes me at the moment. I know this seems ridiculously petty and stupid, but that’s Livingston County cop culture in a nutshell. There were many, many references to Sephora’s mustang in Harder’s statement (located in this post). The police were fatuously obsessed with Sephora’s mustang.
That aside, although he is uncertain about an observable fact almost any 22 year old male would notice instantly, Annis is very certain that it was a “two door” and very certain that a “white female” was driving.
Again, it is not impossible. But it is unlikely. And it is anomalous that he would be uncertain of an obvious but immaterial fact about the most famous type of automobile in history, but very certain of two facts that were highly useful in incriminating Sephora Davis: first, the obvious one that she was driving; and second a more subtle one, that the car was a two door, to counter any idea that people could have been getting in and our of her car without seeing very specifically whether they were carrying a shotgun.
And being frankly and openly uncertain of something makes a witness more believable on the things he says he is certain of. Cops may or may not know this; but trial attorneys certainly do.
Oh, and did I mention that when Tom Moran called William Annis as a witness before the grand jury, he referred to him as “Billy”? I haven’t uploaded that transcript yet, but it’s there, I promise.
Then there’s this:
Before Eric left work he kept getting phone calls…I also know in that time period between midnight and 4 AM Eric called some girl’s cell phone.
How does Annis learn that Eric “called some girl’s cell phone”? What, does Eric tell him, “I just called some girl’s cell phone”? Why does anyone say they called a “cell phone”? It doesn’t happen. Harder never said that.
By January 23, 2004 when this statement was taken the police and prosecutors had all the phone records. Annis wasn’t telling them about phone calls; they were telling him.