FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- MAY 2000.
MAN INNOCENT OF THIS CRIME IN RISK OF EXECUTION IN FLORIDA.
My name is Bennie E. Demps,
I am 49 years old, a deathrow prisoner, and am currently under deathwatch at the Florida State Prison, having had my 4th death warrant signed by Governor Bush on Monday April 24, 2000. I was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1976 of killing a fellow prisoner. Quite simply I am innocent of this crime and have spent the last 22 years accumulating the necessary evidence to prove that various Department of Correction prison officials -- in conjunction with an unscrupulous former Prosecutor named Thomas Elwell, indeed manufactured this case. The reason is that they perceived me as having "escaped" the death penalty when in June 1972, the US Supreme Court struck down the death penalty commuting my sentence to life. It is a fact that, in denying my appeals in this case, the Courts have often pointed this case as justification to execute me, blending the prior conviction with the current one to carry out what the Court stopped before. By basically telling me that the State did not get a chance to execute me then, it's "okay" for them to do it now, regardless of my innocence in this case. I would not have been sentenced to death without the prior conviction. The proof of this is in the disparity in sentencing between me and my two codefendants who both received life.
I use the word manufactured because I was not involved in this murder but when prison officials saw the opportunity, they manipulated and rewrote this case to include me. They bought and paid for everything, concealed exculpatory evidence, "lost or misplaced" critical files that I had discovered would have proved my innocence at the time of trial. They made and delivered promises and rewards to prisoners and guards who aided in this conviction. The proof of this has come in the form of many prisoners coming forward, issuing affidavits admitting their part in getting me convicted. But because this evidence was discovered so many years after my trial the Courts have consistently ruled on one issue -- the evidence is procedurally and time barred, claiming you are just too late to present proof of your innocence! We discovered reams of documents about the "so-called star inmate witness" Larry Hathaway that proves beyond all doubt that he was then and continues to be today crazy! This is not opinion -- we have the DOC medical records to prove it and how they knew he was on psycothropic medication and they used him anyway, but withheld that fact from us. In 1998 while going through a Clemency investigation my attorney, Bill Salmon, received 2000-3000 pages of documents from the State. Among them was a one-page document that had been concealed for the last 21 years and withheld from all my attorneys from the time of trial throughout the 22 years of this case. It is an official Department of Corrections memo written by the Chief Prison Inspector Cecil L. Sewell to the then Secretary of the Department of Corrections Louie Wainwright. It was written Sept. 7, 1976, the day after the murder of this prisoner and clearly states that the victim in his dying declaration named a single person and *not* Bennie Demps! The fact that this document was previously concealed and withheld from us during trial and throughout the appellate process and the fact that it does not name me as the killer became the basis for my 4th motion for post conviction relief filed in the Bradford County Circuit Court in July 1999. My attorney then filed a Supplement to the motion highlighting three affidavits by the representing attorneys involved at trial affirming that they had never seen the document and all stated they repeatedly sought exculpatory evidence and were repeatedly told nothing existed. This fact is in the trial record. In October 1999, the Judge felt there was merit to my motion and ordered the State to respond by January 15, 2000 and to explain why I was not entitled to the relief I am seeking. Their response was empty, they provided no explanation for anything, simply a rehash of old responses put forth by the State in past appeals. My attorney then filed one more Supplement on April 13, 2000, and with it his own affidavit of how and when he came by the document. We were waiting for the Judge to rule, hoping he would order an evidentiary hearing so that the truth could finally be told. The Governor of the State of Florida, in spite of this pending appeal based on factual innocence, in spite of his promises of Clemency being the catch net for innocence," in spite of the fact that the former Governor Lawton Chiles felt the this case needed more investigation, simply rushed to judgment and prematurely signed my 4th death warrant while I still had an appeal pending. I have since learned that the Bradford County Circuit Court Judge found merit in my claims and has ordered an evidentiary hearing, set for Friday May 12, 2000.
In 1981 the Florida Supreme Court said in its denial of my initial appeal that I had no proof that the State withheld any critical documents, yet suddenly here we are 22 years after the fact while going through the Clemency proceedings, my attorney unearths "proof" from the State files! This document should have been provided to my attorneys at the time of trial and the jury should have been allowed to see it. Had the jury been allowed to see the document it would surely have been a great influence to them considering that the first time they had a hung decision. The State should not be able to obtain a conviction where it can be clearly demonstrated that it was obtained by withholding exculpatory evidence and covered up deals made for testimony. The Court seems to want to excuse the State's behavior in my case by saying over and over to me that the issues are procedurally barred. It was incumbent upon the State to provide my attorneys with any and all information that was exculpatory and yet all these years they have benefited from having it procedurally barred.
There was NO physical evidence of any kind implicating me in this crime.
I have proven that the Prosecutor withheld critical exculpatory evidence at the time of trial and if presented in a Court of law today in its entirety, would result in a different verdict.
I have proven that the Prosecutor concealed the fact that deals were made by prison officials with many prisoners in exchange for their help in manipulating the facts of this case to obtain a conviction.
I have offered as evidence the affidavits depositions or both of those same prisoners who came forward to admit to their complicity and involvement with the named Department of Correction officials.
I have proven that the "dying declaration" to officer Rhoden was untrue and that the victim did NOT name me as his assailant. By their own hand and document -- this Chief Prison Inspectors Report -- they provide the proof that the Florida Supreme Court said I did not have. The fact that this newly discovered document is in our hands now for the first time in 22 years demonstrates how easily capable the State is of withholding and concealing evidence, and of manipulating the facts of this case.
The Chicago Tribune recently did an investigative series of articles on Prosecutors withholding and hiding evidence. It is not improbable nor impossible that former Prosecutor Thomas Elwell had done the same to me in this case. In fact there is more than ample evidence that the State has indeed done that. What I seek is publicity and investigation of my case and I am asking the Court to not to turn a blind eye to the allegations I raised in my appeal. I am entitled to a full and fair hearing, as I have raised strong claims and evidence of innocence. I am asking for nothing more than any man who is innocent and can prove it. Our system of justice is predicated on certain fundamental guarantees that are designed to protect us all and to prevent the abuse of legal procedures in any judicial proceeding. In a case where a person is faced with the sentence of death, these fundamental rights must be in place. I leave you with the question: if there is no statute of limitations put on charging someone with murder, why then should there be time limit put on someone seeking to prove innocence, when it can so clearly be documented?
If you want to discuss this case with me please contact the Florida State Prison 904-368-2500 for an appointment to interview me as they must provide me media access under deathwatch. Thank you for your time and please help before it's to late.
Bennie E. Demps 030970-Q2101
PO Box 181
Starke Florida 32091
For information :
Lawyer Bill Salmon, Gainesville Tel: 352-378-6076
Tracy Demps Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and TracyDemps@aol.com