Dennis Gelbaum's 'Beyond reasonable Doubt'
This is the story Jason Warren hired me to tell - its got more twists and turns that a double helix!
To get his hands on his family fortune, Jason Warren has to prove DNA evidence convicting his stepfather of his mother's murder was wrong. With the help of research scientist and DNA expert, Dr. Jennifer Neal and a team
of doctors and graduate students from the USCOM North American Research
Center at UC Berkeley, he sets out to challenge the International scientific
community and the American judicial system. Think about all those we have
found guilty solely on DNA evidence - think about all those we have set free
solely on DNA evidence? Think about it.
I brought in two experts - a retired FBI agent and a psychiatrist - to help
me through the process. They both warned me about Jason. We often disagreed about what the truth was. I could not tell this story without them.
To get his hands on his family fortune, Jason Warren has to prove DNA evidence convicting his stepfather of his mother's murder was wrong. With the help of research scientist and DNA expert, Dr. Jennifer Neal and a team of doctors and graduate students from the USCOM North American Research Center at UC Berkeley, he sets out to challenge the International scientific community and the American judicial system.
Hal Warren was convicted of killing his wife, Ruth, solely on DNA extracted from hair samples and bodily fluids found at the crime scene. The prosecution convinced the jury that the DNA Profile matched and identified Hal Warren as the killer. There were no fingerprints found at the crime scene. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime. In fact, Hal Warren had an airtight alibi. He was someplace else when the crime was committed. But he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. This illustrates just how strong DNA evidence can be. But what if the DNA results were wrong? What if the DNA samples actually belonged to someone else? What if Hal Warren did not commit the crime he was convicted of?
Jason asks us to think about this - without the presence of collaborative evidence, how can we trust DNA - especially if he can prove DNA is not only not as accurate as we have been led to believe, but that DNA in fact, might just be the fabrication of scientists and is based more on theory than fact? DNA Profiling has become big business. Think about all those we have found guilty solely on DNA evidence - think about all those we have set free solely on DNA evidence? Think about it.
But what is Jason Warren really up to? What has he done? What is he about to do? What's his motive in all this? Is he as innocent as he wants us to believe or is he manipulating everyone and everything around him? Is he that smart, that clever, that ruthless? Will Senator Thayer and USCOM be able to control the damage as Jason jeopardizes his run for the Presidency of the United States? Is this the story of a really bad person who wins it all at the end?
Jason hired me to tell his side of the story. But I had one condition to accepting the assignment, I wanted to tell the entire story, the true story and I wanted complete access to all of the players. Jason promised me there would be no restrictions on where I could go, whom I could speak to and what I could write. Jason would arrange for all the introductions. I brought in two experts - a retired FBI agent and a psychiatrist - to help me through the process. They both warned me about Jason. We often disagreed about what the truth was. I could not tell this story without them.
I walk in on Stuart, apparently unexpected. It's been some time since we last spoke. As I enter his office, I pick up an envelope off the floor. It is from the Lawyer's Club of San Francisco. I place it on Stuart's desk. Boxes were everywhere. I knew Stuart was moving to his new office in the Civic Center Courthouse on McAllister Street. He was headed to Department 622 that had been vacant prior to his appointment. Stuart motioned to me to sit down in one of the two chairs opposite him. I picked the one closest to the door. I removed the boxes and loose papers from the chair and sat.
Stuart hands me a sealed, white envelope. I knew what was inside. It was the results of the fingerprint analysis on Jennifer Neal. I don't bother to open the envelope. I looked at Stuart. He looked at me. I looked at my watch. I knew that this was probably the last time I would ever see Stuart. Stuart's cell phone rings. I got up to leave. He asks me to wait for a few minutes while he answered the call. I knew it was time to go. I had a plane to catch.
Dennis Gelbaum adds - "Jason's story raises so many questions about the accuracy of DNA, the American judicial system, the international scientific community and the big business of DNA Profiling. At times, I found parts of the story difficult to write about, even more difficult to believe. I often wonder, was it always about the money? Was that it?"
Dennis Gelbaum is also the author of 'Something About Going Home', a book of poetry with illustrations by Christina Qualiana. Dennis is presently writing 'Dolphin Boy', a children's book with 3D illustrations and original music.
I was sitting at my desk, relaxing, daydreaming, and looking out the window. Our neighbor's always annoying, white and brown cat had just passed by, not a care in the world. She acted like she owned the place. Three squirrels were looking for food. The fat one came up to the window and stared at me. I stared back, growled and barked like a dog. He ran off, laughing at me. I remembered his brother, who not long ago had caused a power failure on our street. The squirrel had obviously climbed onto a transformer looking for food and touched a high voltage conductor and a grounded portion of the transformer at the same time, electrocuting him. It was funny at the time. Not so funny now.
The trees were bare. Winter had set in. There was a light dusting of fresh snow on the lawn, covering the ice that had been there for weeks. The sky was blue, the sort of blue you get on a cold, crisp winter day in the Northeast. A photographer's dream shot. It's the kind of day you just want to spend in bed with a bowl of fancy, whole cashews, a good book, the newspaper, your IPOD, your most favorite person or dog. You know the kind of day I am describing. We all look forward to just this kind of day with great anticipation. And when it does come along, something always comes up and we never get to enjoy it. I woke up thinking today was going to be that kind of day. I was totally prepared to do nothing. But, something came up, as it always does. And my plans changed. So much for doing nothing today.
I was in Key West the last time I enjoyed a day with absolutely nothing to do. I was sitting in an outdoor cafť on Mallory Square, watching the sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico. I had just finished a pound of peel and eat shrimp, twenty large sweet and succulent Key West Pinks that were served with an incredible, homemade, spicy cocktail sauce. My companion was enjoying Conch Fritters with her Key Lime Pie Martini; Absolute Citron, Liquor 43, Lime Juice and fresh cream with Graham Cracker Crust. We snuggled and people watched for what seemed like hours. The street performers and their interaction with the tourists made for great entertainment.
I love Key West. It is such a unique place and I could really appreciate why Ernest Hemingway felt so at home in his house on Whitehead Street. Hemingway would say, "Itís the best place Iíve ever been anytime, anywhere, flowers, tamarind trees, guava trees, coconut palms..."
When I'm not sunset watching, you could usually find me at the Dennis Pharmacy Luncheonette. It's said that Jimmy Buffet wrote "Cheeseburger in Paradise" at the Dennis Pharmacy. They were best known for their wonderful conch chowder, peccadillo and Cuban sandwiches. Along with the great food you could rub elbows and chat with visiting celebrities and with the locals. Not to long ago, the original Dennis closed and relocated in Bahama Village, at Henrietta's Art of Baking, on Petronia Street. The location has changed but the food is still great. Trust me, even though we donít know each other that well, trust me. When in Key West, visit the Dennis.
Although I tend to enjoy full service resorts when I can and when they are available, staying at a local Bed and Breakfast just makes sense when visiting Key West. My favorite, The Blue Parrot Inn, is an authentically historic Key West House, located on Elizabeth Street. Each day starts with a simple, complimentary poolside breakfast. Coffee, tea and juice are available every morning along with English muffins, bagels with all the fixings and fresh pastries brought in each morning from a local bakery. The gardens are exotic. The pool is heated. And two cats, Mel and Truffles, protect the property and the guests. The Blue Parrot Inn is truly a slice of heaven.
I read the letter from Jason over and over again. The letter was very compelling and I was flattered that he had reached out to me and asked for my help. He wanted me to help tell his story. He felt he had a lot left to say and it was time to say it. He also knew that this was his time and that people would still be interested because there were so many people still fascinated by everything that had happened.
He had been offered tons of money to tell his story, on a variety of talk shows, to magazines, newspapers, and even major motion picture studios had come a knocking on his door, but he had refused. Now for some reason, he had decided it was time to tell his side of the story. I thought most of it had already been told. Not much time had passed since the trial had ended and Jason got all his money from his mother's estate and the insurance policies. I couldnít understand what Jason thought he might accomplish by telling his story.
I was there in person for a lot of it and for what I missed, believe me when I tell you, there was no shortage of information available on the internet, nightly broadcasts, just about every where you looked. I wasn't sure there was much more to tell or if there was anything left worth telling. I also wasn't sure if anyone really cared about Jason and his story. I really didnít care that much about it. But I knew if I could find an interesting angle, twist, turn, reveal something cool, maybe it might excite me and I could get you excited about it.
For Jason, it wasn't about the money anymore. He had plenty of money. More than plenty. He didn't want to be exploited, nor did he want anyone else to benefit from the telling of his story. He wanted to make sure that he told his story before someone wrote an unauthorized biography or tried to tell the story without his cooperation. He just wanted an opportunity to set the record straight. At least that's what he said. I wasn't really sure of his true intentions. I also wondered why he didnít just go away. It would have been better for everyone if he just disappeared. I mean really, arenít you sick and tired of seeing OJ's face in the news? C'mon, go and hide away in a cave somewhere. That was my best advice for Jason. But he didnít take any advice from me. In the end, or maybe right from the start, as I said, I was flattered, sort of, to be asked to participate. I never anticipated how deeply involved I was going to get. I never anticipated how this project was going to change my life.
After reading my most recent book, "Something About Going Home", he said he was touched in many ways, loved the poetry and the original illustrations by Christina Qualiana. He especially liked the poem about my father and this one in particular:
I remember the day, clearly.
It was not that long ago.
They said I had done it,
but I knew it was a lie.
They were searching for an easy way out.
And I was an easy way out.
They accused me of murder
killing my mother and father
my own parents who I loved very much.
How could they even think I did it?
Sure I was an easy way out
but this was absurd.
The evidence was less than circumstantial
but they were confident of a conviction.
How could they even think I did it?
They found no weapons
they found no bodies.
How could they even think I did it?
The police needed a conviction
the officer needed a promotion
the politician needed to win re-election.
Me, I needed a good lawyer.
How could they even think I did it?
The last time I saw my parents
was just before the time of the crime.
I was sure to give myself an alibi
or at least enough time to get one.
They will never find the weapons.
They will never find the bodies.
Me, I always liked the smell of gas, actually,
Iím a good conductor of electricity.
One could say it runs in the family.
How could they even think I did it?
Jason wanted to know more about where I was, emotionally, when I wrote this poem. What was my motivation? What was my inspiration? What was I thinking? What was I feeling? What provoked me to write what I did? When I was younger, I would read a book, a short story or a poem and wonder how did the writer, the author, think that stuff up? And I often wished I could have had the opportunity to chat with the writer and learn more about their process. When an actor acts, you can see it in their face, in the way their body moves in relationship to others. Their performance goes way beyond the words. But a writer works alone, sitting in front of a typewriter, a computer screen and keyboard or a blank piece of paper. I get excited just participating in the thought process.
In my book of poetry, I provided insight into my inner thoughts that surrounded my writing. I thought this was a very unique approach and a feature that provided the reader with insight into me, the author, which they would otherwise never be exposed to. I knew it made me vulnerable, but I was willing to expose myself for the sake of selling a few more books. Although I thought it was a good and original approach, it didnít help sell any books. That was a big disappointment for me. I was told it was difficult to sell poetry books. I was told that the price of my book was too high. I wasn't willing to change anything. The poetry was brilliant and the illustrations were fantastic. Really incredible! I convinced myself that the most important thing I could do was to get it published. And I did. I thought I knew better than everybody else. Obviously, I didn't. I donít.
Here is what accompanied this poem: "There was a time I was going crazy. Self destructive, and I didn't care who I hurt along the way. No self esteem. I felt like dirt. I felt like I wasn't worthy of living. I felt alone. I felt tricked. I felt cheated. I felt like I could hurt myself. I felt like I could hurt someone. But no matter how bad it was, I went on and I'm not sure why!"
Jason said he often felt the same way. He was reaching out to me and trying to connect on many levels. I am not that complicated of a person and I was receptive to the idea of us working together. I was looking for another project, so his timing could not have been more perfect.
Not that this defines me or qualifies me as a writer, but I do know how to put a sentence or two together, maybe a few paragraphs too. But being an advertising copywriter and a published author of poetry, I still didn't think I was really qualified to write this story. I had taken a few journalism and introductory writing courses while attending American University in Washington, D.C., but nothing had really prepared me for this kind of exercise and journey. I didnít think I really had the right experience or skill set to do this properly or do it justice, no pun intended. But I thought, why not give it a try. I figured if I could get Jason to sit down in front of an audio recorder, he might 'write' the entire book. The story is more than fascinating and it really tells itself. But you can be the judge and the jury and the pun is intended.
I came along with no preconceived notions as to where we would go and how the story would unfold. I was also open to the idea of reaching out to another writer, with more, applicable experience, to help me put the story together in a form that would make sense to everyone. Yes, I also thought it would be important to do that to make the book as commercial as possible. The idea of course was to sell the most books. I even toyed with the idea of contacting James Patterson, who I had worked with (actually, worked for) briefly when I was a very junior copywriter at J. Walter Thompson, a New York advertising agency. But I knew he wouldn't remember me and between his book writing, TV series and movie deals, he was probably way to busy. And to be honest, I have never read any of his books.
I had been good friends with Rickey, Jason's father. Rickey and I took Hebrew lessons at a synagogue on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and had our Bar Mitzvah on the same day. I never told my mother that one day, when visiting Yankee Stadium, I had run into my Rabbi and he was eating a non-kosher hot dog! With that information, my Grandmother would have certainly questioned the validity of his rabbinical credentials.
Rickey and I frequently sneaked into the Paradise Theater, one of the greatest movie theaters ever, to watch the newest movies. I remember the cast iron seats covered in red velour, goldfish ponds in the lobby, the night sky with twinkling stars and slow moving clouds gliding by in the balcony, the intricate carvings on the ceiling, the Baroque Italian garden, the sweeping staircase and the elegant rest rooms on the upper floor. And the Paradise Theater, located in the Bronx, wasn't just for films, stars like Bob Hope, Milton Berle, George Burns and many others, performed on its stage and many Bronx high school and college students received their diplomas there. I didnít attend my high school graduation. I graduated in January, not June, and rushed to start college. Looking back, that was a mistake. They just keep coming.
We played softball at Harris Field, named after Father John Joseph Harris. Father Harris, a native of Yonkers, NY, had dedicated much of his life to working with youth. On June 8th, 1937, while on a field trip with a group of children at Bear Mountain State Park, he died from a heart attack. Though Harrisís sojourn in the borough was brief, he left such a strong impression in the Bronx that in 1940 the City Council named this park in his honor. Harris Park, part of the Jerome Park complex, was previously owned by Leonard Walter Jerome, the maternal grandfather of Winston Churchill. He operated the Jerome Park Racetrack there from 1866 to 1889.
There were four baseball diamonds, two softball diamonds, fields for football and other sports, and a sitting area. In 1961 the field house, with its lockers, bathrooms, and showers, was opened. The parkís neighbors include Lehman College to the south (originally built as Hunter College), the Bronx High School of Science to the north and the subway yards of the Lexington Avenue Line of the Interborough Rapid Transit.
I was a great third baseman and could hit the long ball. I practiced with my friend Allan for hours at a time. Alan would hit me sharp, hard grounders and line drives and I would field them all cleanly. I also pitched, but I really enjoyed playing in the field. I pitched a no-hitter in junior high, one of the first no-hitters on record and my coach, the school's choir teacher, didnít even realize what I had accomplished. The other team confirmed I had pitched the no-hitter and the teams' coach said he would notify the Athletic Commission. I thought I would get an award or something, but that never happened. I didnít even keep the ball. Two days later, in another game, I gave up eleven runs on nine hits to one of the weakest teams in the league. That was embarrassing. I figured I only used up five minutes of my fifteen minutes of fame.
Ricky was fast, one of the fastest kids I ever saw. He played centerfield and a ball never got by him. He was a finesse player, hitting the ball where the other team wasn't. He was always good for a single or double and often just kept running towards third base. Never stopping to look where the ball was coming from. He just ran and ran. He was fun to watch. Ricky was one of those kids that all the parents liked. But that's because they didnít know him, like the other kids did. Ricky was a troublemaker and a real smart ass. He could sit on an ice cream and tell you if it was chocolate or vanilla. But Ricky never got caught doing anything wrong. Ricky was a good looking kid, and he knew it. People would always say that with Ricky's good looks and charm, he could get away with murder.
After a softball game, no matter who won or lost, Ricky and I would lead the group to Jahn's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor (off of East Kingsbridge Road) and share The Kitchen Sink, a dessert that had a little bit (more like a lot) of everything including twenty flavors of ice cream and eleven toppings. The Kitchen Sink serves eight, but to be honest, no matter how hard we tried, and we tried, no matter how many there was of us and there were many, we were never able to finish The Kitchen Sink.
I had my first ice cream soda at Jahn's. I had my first chocolate egg cream at The Village Green on the Grand Concourse. And before I go any further, I have to tell you about the chocolate egg cream. Despite its name, an egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream. The basic ingredients are milk, seltzer, and chocolate syrup. It is traditionally made in a small Coke-style glass. And true New Yorkers insist that it is not a classic egg cream without Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup.
I recently ordered a chocolate egg cream at the famous Carnegie Deli in NY and noticed they were not making my chocolate egg cream with Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup. When I pointed that out to my server, he looked at me like I was crazy. I was sure he spit in my chocolate egg cream when I wasn't looking. But I would never know. He would never admit it, that's for sure. I didn't tip him very well. And I was very disappointed in the chocolate egg cream.
In the early 1900s, Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup was created. And according to the cookbook called 'The Brooklyn Cookbook', by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy Jr., "You absolutely cannot make an egg cream without Fox's U-Bet." The cookbook refers to Fox's grandson, David, for the story of the syrup's name: "The name 'U-Bet' dates from the late-'20s, when Fox's grandfather got wildcatting fever and headed to Texas to drill for oil. 'You bet' was a friendly term the oilmen used. His oil venture a failure, he returned to the old firm, changing Fox's Chocolate Syrup to Fox's U-Bet. He said, 'I came back broke but with a good name for the syrup,' his grandson relates."
It is perfectly proper to gulp down an egg cream. In fact, an egg cream will lose its white, foamy head (that's probably where the egg in the egg cream legend originates from) and become flat if it is not enjoyed immediately. If you put a scoop or two of ice cream in a chocolate egg cream, add some whipped cream and place a cherry on top, you got yourself an ice cream soda. There was nothing I enjoyed more. Of course, I had other favorites. When I was growing up in the Bronx, lunch at the Village Green would include a cherry coke in a tall glass with ice and a cheeseburger deluxe which came with crispy, French fries, Cole slaw and a sour pickle.
Ricky and I had our first sexual experience with Evelyn, the daughter of my apartment building's superintendent. We used to have sex with her in my apartment before my mother got home from work. There was usually four or five of us taking turns having sex with Evelyn and watching for my mother to come up the street. When she was spotted, we knew we had to finish up and get out of the apartment. We would run down the stairs as she was in the elevator heading up towards to the fifth floor. This lasted about three months, until my mother caught on and one day and sent the elevator up empty, as she waited for us in the lobby. When we burst out of the staircase door and into the lobby, she stood there, motionless. She didn't have to say a word, we knew she got us and she got us good. That was the last I ever saw of Evelyn. I wrote my first short story about Evelyn, 'In The Lion's Den', the 'Den' referred to me and I thought that was very clever. I shared a copy of it with the guys and even got a copy to Evelyn. I heard she liked it.
Ricky and I liked Hope, but had a crush on her friend, Suzanne. I donít think either one of us ever got to her. I know I didn't and I'm pretty sure Ricky didnít either. I havenít spoken to Ricky in decades. The last I heard he had moved to South Florida and was a General Contractor, building million dollar homes on the inter-coastal. He had always wanted to be a professional golfer, but I donít think he was ever good enough to make it on the tour. I had heard he was on his fifth marriage. I have no idea what happened to Suzanne.
Jason's grandparents and my parents were best of friends. His grandmother and my mother attended Evander Childs High School together in the Bronx. (Located at East Gun Hill Road.) His grandfather and my father were in the service together. When I moved out of the old neighborhood (181st Street and Creston Avenue) and into the Riverdale section of the Bronx, (Johnson Avenue, just a few blocks south of the Monument), we all sort of grew apart. And when my father died and Ricky didn't show for the funeral, I sort of wrote him off. I needed my friends around and he was too busy. He never even called. That hurt me for years and I have never forgotten or forgiven many of those who did not attend. (Especially Robert and Michael.) I never cared that much about Ira not showing up, but I always wondered what ever happened to Rhonda?
I had followed the Ruth Warren/Hal Warren case, as most of us had. Everywhere you looked, the story was front and center news. "Husband Brutally Kills Wife." It was the lead-in story on every newscast. XM Radio covered the trial live - exclusively. All the elements of a major feature film script were here, a horrific crime complete with a range of strange, engaging characters and twisting storylines. I was thinking Ridley Scott or Martin Scorsese would be perfect candidates to direct the movie based on my book. Sure it's Jason's story. But it's my book.
As for characters, except for me, there arenít many likeable characters in this story. (And that could be a problem for Hollywood.) I never intended to be a major character. I'm just the storyteller. The conduit. The tour guide. The messenger. And as far as the storyline goes, you can follow much of it without a problem, but there are lots of holes, and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to fill 'em. And that's one of the biggest problems, challenges and opportunities I faced. How do I tell this story in a way that answers all of the questions? Maybe I can? Maybe I can't? Maybe no one will ever be able to figure it all out? Maybe we're not supposed to figure it all out? And if we don't figure it all out, I might have enough material left over for a sequel. Just so you know, if you are reading this, I am already working on the sequel. It's very cool. I have complete access to Senator Thayer and his staff. All I can reveal to you at this point is that this man will not be denied what he believes is his, no matter what the cost.
Everyone wanted to know how a "sane" man, Hal Warren, could do this to a woman, his wife, Ruth Warren, a woman he was supposed to be in love with? The sensational, media covered trial or should I say media circus event became the focus of our daily discussion opportunities; around the dinner table, the water cooler, on the bus, the train, the plane, in the car and in bed. People who knew me, would approach me, wanting to know the real dirt. They thought because I knew Jason and the family, that I was connected. But I was just like everybody else, I was mostly curious. Because of personal relationships, I had the ability to get inside and see what was going on for myself. That proved to be a tremendous advantage and probably got me invited to a few parties that I would not have ordinarily been invited to. There were times when I was almost a celebrity just because of my connection to Jason. I used people's perception of me to my advantage, opening up doors along the way. And why not?
Photographs from the crime scene were everywhere, leaving nothing to the imagination. Hundreds of video and audio clips were put on the Internet every day. You can imagine the impact the Internet had in spreading the stories surrounding this trial. It was truly amazing how the public could not get enough. This was the hottest of stories. And like the OJ trial, everyone involved became a celebrity. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop from being caught up in the whirlwind that was created by the trial. When I saw my picture in People Magazine I was blown away.
Although he was often misquoted, Andy Warhol said it best; "in the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes." Well, almost every participant who wanted it, got his or her fifteen minutes (or more) of fame. From being a guest on nationally syndicated talk shows to hosting their own, albeit short-lived talk shows, I hadn't seen anything like this since the OJ trial. You do remember the OJ trial, don't you? If you read OJ's new book, "If I Did It, Here's How It Happened", I would prefer you not continue reading this book. Put it down. Give it away. Throw it away. Just donít read this book. You are not worthy.
Did Simpson kill his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman? I was not there so I donít know for sure. And I never saw video from a security camera, heard testimony from an eyewitness or that OJ's fingerprints or DNA had been found at the scene of the crime. Thereís certainly a good chance Simpson may well be the perpetrator of that ghastly double homicide. And I believe he did it. But the glove didnít fit so the jury didn't convict. I hate that line but I felt compelled to repeat it here.
Like the OJ trial, the outcome of the Warren trial enraged many, pleased others and left no one with any sense of real comfort or the feeling that justice had been served. Similar to the emotions we all displayed and kept inside after the OJ verdict was read, many of us felt as if something was wrong, went wrong and we were powerless to do anything about it. There were those who believed that the jury was right and regardless of any new "evidence", the right man, Hal Warren, was convicted for killing his wife. The right man was going to spend the rest of his life in prison. He got what he deserved.
Did OJ get what he deserved? Probably not. Most likely not. Did Hal Warren deserve to go to jail for the murder of his wife? Probably not. Most likely not. I think most definitely not. I'm going to be asking many obvious questions, not surprisingly, not being asked by the media who covered this trial relentlessly. I'm going to try to determine, once and for all, who did what and to whom and why.
Was Hal Warren framed for the murder of his wife? Up to this point, nothing I have seen, heard or read comes close to supporting that theory. All though, I have heard others talk about the possibility. And when they do, they always mention Jason as the mastermind behind the framework. It's almost as if they want Jason to be the mastermind. I'm not sure. Not yet anyway. Nothing I know about Jason makes me think he is that smart, or that angry or that capable. I just donít see it. Maybe I am being naÔve? It would make for a much better story if it turns out that he did arrange for the murder of his mother to get his hands on the family fortune. But it creeps me out to think that it's true.
I want to be clear about this, unlike my thoughts about OJ; I believe Hal Warren did not commit the crime he was accused of committing. OJ got away with murder, a double murder. Hal Warren did not get away with anything. Hal Warren wasn't guilty of anything. He was married to Ruth Warren. He was not the biological father of Ruth's son. Ricky was. I throw this out, only to ask the question, what did Ricky have to gain if his ex-wife, Ruth Warren died? Did he have a motive to commit this crime or help Jason commit the crime? Did he have access to the money? Could they have done this together? Could someone I grew up with have committed such a horrible act? Shit, now I am freaking myself out. I have got to find Ricky.
In most criminal prosecutions where DNA evidence is utilized, the DNA evidence serves to corroborate, in a powerful manner, other circumstances pointing to the guilt of the accused. But in Hal Warren's case, there was no other corroborating evidence. No fingerprints were found at the crime scene. And that was very strange. No one questioned this at anytime before or during the trial. He lived in the house of the victim. He slept in the same bedroom as the victim. He used the same bathroom as the victim. Is it possible that Hal Warren never missed the toilet bowl? How come his fingerprints were not found anywhere near the victim? No eyewitnesses saw Hal Warren commit the murder. No eyewitness saw Hal Warren anywhere, for that matter, when the murder was taking place. This all becomes even more important as this story unfolds. You might want to take notes. There will be quizzes throughout the reading of this story.
I believed then, as I do now, that DNA evidence, without corroborating evidence, (fingerprints and/or an eyewitness) is not sufficient evidence to convict and that DNA evidence should not be used without other supporting evidence. I believe that DNA evidence in itself is not proof of one's guilt or innocence. USCOM, the world's leading authority on DNA would have us believe otherwise. What do you think? What do you believe? I will help provide you with the information you need to make your mind up. That's part of my responsibility, to you, throughout this process.
In the end, Jason got what he wanted. He inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from his mother's family estate. But at what cost? How many souls did he destroy along the way? And was it worth it? I promised to keep an open mind, although I had my doubts. But I did want to find out the truth. And I was prepared to do as much research as I needed to do, to help provide me with a rock solid foundation of truth and fact. I wasn't looking to write a non-fiction review of the case, but I wanted to be clear on the facts and what part they played in the telling of this story.
The truth always intrigued me. It was far more fascinating then a stack of lies. I hope you will keep an open mind as we journey through and try to make sense of this mess. I have read all the documents you will read throughout this book. Some of them are boring and go on and on and on and you'll ask yourself why did I include them all. I included them because Jason wanted me to read them and I thought you should read them too. I thought if I had to read them, I would make you read them. Jason believed they could help connect me to the story. I was never able to connect all the dots. The stories were somewhat interesting but often repetitive in content. I just thought they would make the book longer. I was so thrilled when I hit two hundred and eighty pages. I was glad you would be getting your money's worth.
As Jason left the courthouse, with his millions intact, the headlines referred to his victory as "the dance of death". The lead story that night on NBC News, "As we think about the impact on the new evidence that has come to light questioning the reliability of DNA testing and the DNA evidence produced at the trial, we are reminded that death lurks everywhere, everyday, just like in Holbein's 'dance of death'. We have embraced the double helix and now find ourselves looking into the crystal clear eyes of reasonable doubt. The controversy surrounding DNA is just beginning."
The millions of dollars came to Jason with an even bigger price tag. Somewhere along the way, the brutal murder of his mother, his father found guilty - commits suicide - then declared innocent of committing the murder, all became secondary issues. If you can believe it, the murder and suicide actually became non-issues. Everyone was so infatuated with who Jason was, what Jason was up to, what Jason might have done or did do or didn't do they lost focus on what was really important. Two people had died. One was murdered. The other one committed suicide while being in prison. Someone was responsible for all this. Was it Jason Warren? Who else could it be?
Jason Warren was a really good-looking young man. He was often described as a real man's man and a ladies man at the same time. He wore his blond hair, often sun streaked, long. He was always naturally tan. He had a great smile, perfect skin and wore his six foot two frame well. And no matter what time it was, he always wore a five o'clock shadow. He was neat casual in his style and his uniform consisted of a pair of Wrangler Jeans, a black corduroy shirt, purple POLO socks, a pair of Bass loafers and Ray-Ban Aviator Metal II Sunglasses. Jason wore gas permeable hard contact lenses to support his optical condition, Keriticonis, that if not treated, could one day cause Jason to go blind. His right eye was worse than his left eye. Jason never wore jewelry. He was a tennis player, once being internationally ranked at number one hundred and forty four in the world. He also played racquetball religiously and enjoyed white water rafting trips with friends. He especially likes rafting down the Arkansas River in Colorado that provides Class IV+ whitewater and travels through three unique canyons, Bighorn Canyon, Brown's Canyon and the Royal Gorge. When you met Jason, you liked Jason. He disarmed you with his charm.
What became important to those who played this human chess game, was how one could play, no that is too simple of a word - lets try manipulate, twist, turn, stretch, pulverize, pull and distort the system - that's a better description. Jason had challenged the government in a huge way; the high priced experts, FBI profilers, DNA researchers, analysts and labs, the judicial system, the political system and he had won. None of us knew exactly what had happened, because at some point during the process, near the end, all of a sudden, the news stopped coming. Nothing. Not a word. It was as if someone pulled the plug, literally. Someone had shut the door tight. Air tight. One second we were all talking about the case and the next second, it was gone. A deal was struck. Silence was the payoff. Jason disappeared. I was left to tidy everything up, wrap it and tie a nice bow around it. I had still had so many questions. But when it was time for this to end. It ended. Just like that. It ended. New chapter.
The only thing we did know for sure was that Senator Thayer was going to be the next President of the United States and that USCOM was the biggest contributor to his campaign. For just about everyone, it would be business as usual.
And for those of us who found ourselves connected throughout the trial and the process, we were cut off. We were all like junkies in search of our next fix. I had this feeling before, it was like when I needed to go to Harold's Deli in Edison, NJ and order a brisket sandwich on rye, a potato knish and a really thick chocolate shake. And I can't forget about their pickle bar, the world's largest pickle bar. Incredible. Just incredible. Look, we all have those feelings; there is no reason to make fun of mine. I would never make fun of yours. And I could. But I won't. I don't know you well enough to make fun of you. Not yet.
Jason was no different than any of us. Wait a minute. That's really not true, although he tried to make it seem that way. He was different than most of us, thank god for that. Apparently, Jason wasn't quite finished. He hadn't had enough. He was now on a new mission and had invited me along. I invited you along. That's why were here together.
When Jason reached out to me, I thought, through my connections and networking capabilities, maybe I could get a book deal out of it, a screenplay, an article in the local newspaper? If nothing else, maybe I could find out the truth? What really happened? That would be a fascinating story to tell and that's what really interested me from the beginning. Now that would be cool. My friend Don had written a book, and I figured if he could do it, I could do it. So, why not? Then I thought, maybe I should be making a documentary of me writing this book? Maybe not!
I told my mother I was writing a book with and about Jason and about the murder of his mother. She was really pissed off. "I hope he is paying you a lot of money" she remarked. I assured her, he was being very generous. She still wasn't happy about my new assignment. "Be careful", she said. I thought that was odd. She asked me if I had heard from Ricky and I told her I hadn't. I hung up the phone and smiled. Although she was proud of my first book, she was never thrilled about the content. It was a bit risquť for her. She liked the illustrations though. I didn't know if she would feel any different about this book, so I decided to thank her in the dedication page. Call it a little guilt trip, an insurance policy. Sometimes you just have to do that for your mother, and for yourself.
Here's my favorite poem from my book:
As I sit here alone
I remember us sitting together
the wind blowing through our hair
the grains of sand
slipping through our fingertips
splashes of purple and blue
and the reddish hue from the setting sun
the cool breeze off the timid water
the absence of a crowd.
We were comfortable in each other's presence
sitting closely holding hands
enjoying subtle glances.
I wanted to kiss you
but I didnít want to spoil anything
so I didnít.
And I could have. And I should have.
But I didnít want to spoil anything
so I didnít!
And I could have. And I should have
But I didnít want to spoil anything
so I didnít!
And the accompanying story behind the poem: "Arthur introduced me to Brenda. She was beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent and sensitive. I fell in love instantly. I felt a connection with her soul the moment I looked into her eyes! We went to the Santa Monica Pier to play games, walk on the beach, eat soft serve ice cream and freshly sliced and fried potato chips. The connection was so strong it was almost unbearable. Brenda made the first move and after watching the sunset over the pacific, we went back to her house. The closeness we felt, the feelings we experienced, the exploration of our bodies and our thoughts..."
I knew one thing, I wasn't going to let Jason manipulate me into doing or saying anything I did not want to do or say. I was willing to go on this wild adventure, but I had set up some conditions that were non-negotiable. The biggest one, whatever came out of this exchange, I could and would tell it like it is, like it was. The story I was going to tell was going to be the truth as I saw it. No spins on the truth, just the truth, as I was about to uncover and reveal. The story told exactly as it happened. I was going to examine every detail, do exhausting and extensive research, evaluate every twist and turn, conduct interviews with the players involved, travel the world and in the end, lose lots of sleep, eat some great food, gain some weight and probably start to drink and smoke. Yeah, I was really looking forward to this project - note the sarcasm.
There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered, for sure. There are lots of details to review, all to be used to help clarify any misconceptions and close any loose ends. And Jason had promised he would be available to answer any of my questions, truthfully. We decided we would communicate on a regular basis through emails, instant messaging, through our SKYPE accounts and if necessary, the occasional cell phone call. We hadnít set up a time or a schedule to meet in person. That would come later.
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Jason and I would probably not meet up in person, until the story was complete and the manuscript was ready to be presented to publishers. I promised to send Jason fifteen to twenty pages at a time, not for his approval, but to make sure I had not omitted any important facts. Jason, it appeared to me, was as concerned and as committed as I was, about telling the truth. But I wasn't sure that his truth was going to be the same as my truth. We did agree that whatever we did come up with was going to put an end to the story, a period at the end of a sentence. I felt this was a good plan and I was looking forward to setting the record straight. If I got a movie deal out of it, so much the better. A friend asked me just the other day, who would be playing me in the movie. Of course my first reaction was that I would play myself. But then I realized that would never fly. Who then? Phillip Seymour Hoffman of course. I would make sure to get a walk on part, just because.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman doesnít look anything like me. But he is such a fantastic actor and I would be crazy not to attach him to the project. If I really had my way and could turn back the clock, I think Brian Dennehy in Blake Edwards' '10'. Brian played Donald, the bartender. He doesn't look like me either, but I loved him in that role. I see a lot of myself in him, and that character.
What I really hoped, was that I wasn't being played by an expert. I really wanted to believe him. As I stated earlier, it was agreed that I had the final say about content. And that was very important to me. If telling this story was going to have any real impact, I had to have credibility and I felt I could only have that if I had the final say. I didn't want anyone to challenge me in regards to what was the truth and what wasn't the truth.
As I saw it, my biggest problem, was that I had to determine very early on who Jason really was. If he was anything like the media had made him out to be, he was a ruthless son of a bitch who probably didnít deserve to live. At the least, he should have been in jail for the rest of his life. Yeah, Senator Thayer made him a deal which kept Jason out of jail, allowed Jason to keep his money and paved the way for the Senator's race to the White House, but that didnít change the facts.
And if just a little bit of what Jason, Jennifer Neal and Dennis and his team were going to expose about DNA and USCOM was true, donít you think we should all know about it? I would like to know about it. And I'm sure every defense attorney and prosecutor would like to know about it too. The difference is that I donít have anything to gain by telling you the truth or not telling you the truth. I have no motive other than to write a great book about a story that will make a great movie. That's it. I donít care about anything else. If I believe Jason did it, I will state that and prove it to you, if I can. If I believe Senator Thayer is guilty of crimes that should prevent him from being the next president of the United States, I will get in front of the media and say so. That's my plan.