As Promised, the trial and aftermath
After almost two weeks of thinking about
what the good Judge Kittrell did about the phony “Interference with Custody”
charges brought against me in 2013 and which I’ve fought since then, I’m going
to try and put a little something in print.
Let’s start out identifying the players
Braxton Kittrell, presiding judge;
Billingslea, lead prosecutor;
Gwathney, assistant prosecutor;
Chris King, defense attorney
Johnson, EPD Sgt.
Ellis, Former Chief Investigator City of Evergreen
Rogers, Retired DHR worker
Thorton-Jones, School Bus Driver
STATE OF ALABAMA VS. JAMES LEON WINDHAM.
Read that again. Just think, the whole
State of Alabama is coming after me.
Pretty scary if you take time out to think about it. Just one of me to fend off the entire state.
In 2013 I was charged with Interference
with custody when I took two children that had been dropped off at the Conecuh
County Animal Shelter to their mother.
The father of these children, Terry Thomas Gray, was an employee of the
county and worked at the animal shelter as did my wife, Tess. In January of 2013 Gray had been counseled by
the commission chairman, David Cook that he must find some other place for his
children to be in the afternoons, the animal shelter could not be used as a
baby sitting facility. As you can
probably figure out Chairman Cook, with his typical leadership inability failed
to follow up on the Gray children situation and things actually escaladed to
the point Gray set up a special bus route whereby they were dropped off at the
On 8 April 2013, 94 days after Gray was told to find a new place for his children to
be in the afternoons, the school bus dropped them off at the shelter with Gray
nowhere to be found. My wife and I
called the county administrator, the immediate overseer for the shelter and
told her of the problem. She stated she
would try to locate Gray. My wife loaded
up some personal items she had taken to the shelter to make life easier on the
animals and I called the administrator back.
There was no answer from her so I called the receptionist and asked for
Ms. Covan. I was informed she was on the
phone. I told the receptionist we were
taking the children to their mother at Burger King on Liberty Hill Drive, a
distance of two miles. I then called the
Commission Chairman, Do-nothing David Cook, and told him the same.
I did indeed take the children to their
mother and on Friday 12 April 2013 I was arrested for Interference with Custody
for my efforts of not leaving two minor children alone in this dismal world. Now here we are 4 years and 7 months later
and I’ve finally been exonerated. This
comes only after I’ve spent many thousands of dollars for something that should
have never made it into a courtroom but because a couple of commissioners
wanted to flex their power and an appointed District Attorney wanted to have
his “own” term in office I got railroaded into this mess.
Judge Braxton Kittrell, a retired circuit
judge from Mobile worked with us to convene a jury and the re-trial began at
I say re-trial because that’s exactly what
it was. The results of the initial trial
in which I was found guilty was overturned when I proved there were illegal
jurors in my jury. I tell folks that the
prosecution, which was the Attorney General of the State of Alabama, the
infamous Luther Strange, was in such a hurry to hang me they actually stacked
the jury with non-qualified ringers. Mr.
Strange sent an assistant attorney general by the name of Stephanie Billingslea
to conduct the persecution of me.
I’ll be writing more on this whole
episode later so don’t worry; I’ll bring you up to speed then.
As I said, Judge Kittrell got the trial
underway at 1:30 PM with the prosecution calling their first witness; the
former father-of-the-year and now awaiting trial for Rape in the 2
Degree, better known as Statutory Rape, Terry Thomas Gray.
Gray took the stand and did what he is so
well known for and that is telling lies.
His testimony during the first trial was nothing but lies bought into,
in my opinion, by the all black jury simply because the black prosecutor seemed
to be representing him. His testimony
this time was no different. How does the
old saying go, how can you tell if he’s lying, it’s easy, his lips are moving.
The prosecution was first to go and Billingslea
and Gray laid it on thick, however, the defense’ gets a turn to play. Mr. King started to question Gray and, just
as I’d told him, Gray has a complex whereby he must show how much smarter he is
than any lawyer that might be asking him questions.
I sat back and watched the judge and jury
as Gray attempted all his smart aleck maneuvers toward answering the
questions. Gray got so confused I don’t
think he ever realized just how many different stories he was telling as he was
questioned. I could actually see the
disbelief in the judge’s eyes and the juror’s weren’t looking too impressed
either. One thing Gray testified to under
oath was that on the day of the incident DHR had contacted him and directed
that he take a drug test. (This will be
just one of the lies he told during his testimony.)
had asked a couple of people to observe the reaction of the judge, jury and
others during the questioning of the witnesses, just to give a feed back to work
around where we were and where we needed to be.
The people I had doing this told me later that Terry Gray looked exactly
like the fool he is with his smart aleck attitude and actions.
Next witness for the prosecution was his
son, Corey Gray. Corey was 9 years and 4
days old when the incident happened and is a true protégé of his father. Whatever comes out of his mouth is what his
father put in his head. Again the prosecution
questioned him about how scared he was and how abusive I’d been, etc.
Mr. King started questioning this now 13
year old and things turned surly and defiant almost immediately. I couldn’t help but remember Terry Gray’s
remarks about how he’d brought his children up to respect their elders during
the last round. It wasn’t long after my
attorney started questioning him that everyone in the courtroom had the
opportunity to see that respect for elders flare up. During the midst of questioning Corey responded
“What business is that of yours?” to one of the questions. I was looking at the judge when that happened
and a look of disbelief came over his face, his eyes rolled back and quite
quickly Corey was told the do’s and don’ts of answering questions in
court. Yep, a sign of the great teaching
job you’ve done Terry, lots of respect there.
Sergeant Lloyd Johnson of the Evergreen
Police Department was next. Sgt. Johnson
was the officer who responded to the first call Terry Gray made on the morning
of 8 April 2013 when I was supposed to have pulled a gun on him. Sgt. Johnson admitted he had responded to the
animal shelter twice that day on calls from Terry Gray, once to take down his
story and once upon the return of my wife and I from lunch. Personally I don’t know how he responded to a
call from Gray about our return considering he was sitting in the parking lot
when Tess and I returned from lunch. He
readily admitted I granted him permission to search both myself and my car for
a gun where no gun was found. Sgt.
Johnson also stated he had told Terry to leave the area and try to avoid
contact with me.
Again the good guys come out for their
turn at questioning this officer. Sgt.
Johnson appeared confused and dazed even though he was allowed to check his
notes and refer to them though out the questioning by both parties. My attorney questioned Sgt. Johnson about him
telling Terry to leave and a few other issues.
Sgt. Johnson told my attorney that “Terry only went down to the health
department to wait for the school bus and to get his children.” My lawyer’s next question dealt with how Sgt.
Johnson knew this, did he go with him, did he observe him there, and just how
did Sgt. Johnson know this? Finally Sgt.
Johnson admitted the only way he knew this was because Terry had told him so. When Sgt. Johnson left the stand I think he
was so confused he couldn’t tell if he was wearing trousers, a skirt or a kilt.
Sgt. Michael Ellis, the former Chief Detective for the
City of Evergreen, was next. I was
informed after this trial that Chief Detective Ellis had lost his position as
Chief Detective due to incompetence. Say something nice about Mike Ellis, OK, I
will. He had a good daddy, end of story.
Mike Ellis, in my opinion, has about as
much business being a chief detective as an elephant has with a pilots
licenses. I guess that’ll let people
know where he stacks up on my Christmas mailing list.
Just like the previous trial, the
prosecution introduced into evidence a statement I’d made on 11 April
2013. They brought out paperwork showing
I’d waived my Miranda Rights and had volunteered to give the statement. No sense denying the truth, I did that. The prosecutor asked Ellis a bunch of
questions about the statement I’d given and the answers were contained within
the statement. Now one thing about this
statement, it was hand written by Ellis and he is not a literary giant nor does
he comprehend spell check.
On cross examination by my attorney who
continued to ask Ellis about my statement, Ellis spoke up and stated “he had a video
recording of my statement.” My lawyer
then asked if it was videoed why are we working from his handwritten, hard to comprehend
and read notes taken by Ellis.
My attorney then asked the judge to order
Ellis to bring the video to court the next morning. The judge did order Ellis to produce the
video for the next day.
Time to break for the day and go
home. We (the defense) certainly had
something to look forward to the next morning.
A video tape made over 4 ½ years ago and had never been put in evidence.
Tuesday morning and we resume. The prosecution called for Ms. Renee Rogers,
former DHR employee to take the stand.
Mr. King stated that we had unfinished
business from the previous day and reminded Judge Kittrell he had ordered Ellis
to bring the video. The judge asked for
the video, and guess what? We got the
old story about the dog ate my homework.
In other words, there was no video to be had. Ellis went on to try and explain that the
computer it had been on for almost 5 years had gotten a virus and it had
destroyed the evidence. He went on to
say in a lower tone, the virus was introduced to the computer by “someone”
having gone to a porno site on the internet.
I later found out that the computer was housed in what was then “Chief
Detective” Ellis’s office. An office
that no one else had a key to therefore the question arose in my mind, just who
was watching the porn on the computer and why had no copy of it been made to
help preserve this valuable evidence?
People, who knows what bearing that video
might have had on the outcome of the first trial had it been known that it
existed and if it had been made available.
Ellis certainly wasn’t helpful in the first trial considering he failed
to safeguard a tape from Burger King that I specifically requested he retrieve
and protect. Not only that but he failed
to get the recording from the school bus the children rode that day.
evidence is what the tape would be called and I should have known about it from
the time discovery had been requested in October 2013. The fact it had been in Ellis’s care and now
no longer existed or was not available the legal term of spoliation comes into
Exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that
exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. The spoliation of evidence is the intentional, reckless, or
negligent withholding, hiding, altering, fabricating, or destroying of evidence
relevant to a legal proceeding. Talk about Ellis’s incompetency in one breath
and prove it in the next.
you starting to get the picture that what I said about this being a political,
set-up, trumped up deal might be true?
next prosecution witness was Renee Rogers, retired DHR worker that Tess and I
spoke to on the day we transported the children to their mother.
Billingslea questioned Ms. Rogers about the report we gave that
afternoon. Billingslea stated that I had
made remarks about the children being abandoned during my report. Ms. Rogers quickly set her straight saying we
had never used the word abandon, that we reported the school bus had dropped
the children off and Gray was not there.
The crowning touch was when Billingslea asked what type of investigation
was conducted based on our report and Ms. Rogers told her she had spoken to her
supervisor asking what she wanted to do.
Ms. Rogers went on to say that her supervisor informed her there would
be no investigation, the primary item of interest here was the safety of the
children and we had delivered them to a “safe haven,” their mother. Again I saw Judge Kittrell get a look of
disbelief on his face.
King, my attorney, had but a few questions for Ms. Rogers. He asked her if DHR had talked to Gray that
day and if so, had they directed him to get a drug test. Ms. Rogers stated that they had not talked to
Gray at all and he had not been ordered to get a drug test on that day. When she was advised that Gray had testified
DHR had told him to get a drug test Ms. Rogers stated that Gray may well have
been told by DHR to take a drug test but it was not on that day. Note that once again Gray is caught in a lie.
witness for the prosecution was Lydia Thorton-Jones, the school bus driver.
Thorton-Jones’ testimony really had no bearing on the case other than to note
that Terry Gray again had falsely testified about when he first contacted her
to inquire about where his children were.
He testified that he had tried to flag her down as she came by the
Health Department. She testified the
first time she had seen him was when he pulled up beside her bus in front of
Cherries Blossoms and Blooms on Front Street.
was that and the prosecution rested their case.
Judge Kittrell directed the defense to call their first witness
whereupon Mr. King advised the judge he had some motions to be heard before
calling any witnesses. The judge
directed the jury be removed from the courtroom so the defense motions could be
King submitted a motion that the charges be dismissed and, along with that
motion he submitted case law showing that no crime had been committed.
prosecution, both Ms. Billingslea and Ms. Gwathney, argued strongly against
dismissing the charges. Judge Kittrell
asked them a hypothetical question consisting of, “If I am driving home and see
my neighbor’s two children walking and I stop and pick them up, will I be
arrested?” Billingslea and Gwathney both
responded with an immediate “no.” The
judge then asked them why not, had he not done the same thing I had done? The prosecution, falling all over themselves
responded by telling him “Oh no, it’s completely different than the Windham
situation.” The judge responded that it
was the same as my situation, there was no difference other than he was not me.
judge then asked them if he dismissed the case could they file an appeal. The prosecution responded with an immediate
oh yes. Judge Kittrell then said, “This
case is dismissed.”
Billingslea and Gwathney looked as if all the wind in their sails had just been
knocked out. They redoubled their
efforts trying to get the judge to reverse his decision. Finally Ms. Billingslea asked if they could
have a few minutes to call their appellate division, stating they were not
appellate lawyers, they were prosecutors.
I couldn’t help but notice Ms. Gwathney was in tears but I’d seen her
cry before in Andalusia when Judge McKathan reversed my first trial due to
improper and illegal jurors being seated.
I don’t think she takes defeat easily and based on what I’ve seen,
perhaps she should seek a different profession.
Judge Kittrell responded to her question about calling the appellate
division with “Call anybody you want, this case is dismissed.”
Finally, what a relief. Someone
actually saw through the lies Terry Gray told and the rest of it just fell into
place. Almost 5 years of hell behind me
with just a few words.
think I would be remiss if I didn’t put in a few notes about how things have
changed in people’s lives since that first day:
Cook, one of the commissioners who wanted to get me out of the picture, was a
one term wonder as commissioner. He lost
his district to Michael Riley who is obviously twice the man Cook could ever
hope to be
Andrews, the second commissioner that wanted to get at me is still in office
but faces 6 counts of distributing drugs which could earn him a total of 60
years in prison. I have reason to
believe the only reason he hasn’t gone to prison yet is because the Alabama
Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are working him
to give up some other crooked fish in the pond.
Gray is awaiting trial for Rape in the 2 Degree. Amazing how hardly anyone knows this
considering my face was all over the Evergreen Courant when my arrest came
up. By the way, Rape in the 2
is better known as statutory rape. Gray
was having relations with a 14 year old girl, a girl that he can’t say he
didn’t know her age considering she went to school with his son.
us touch base on one other person, the person that called my lawyer telling him
she would sink my boat if we caused her to have to go to court. The person who cursed the officer who
delivered her subpoena as if he was nothing more than a low life scum sucker
instead of an officer of the court doing his duty. The same person who is no
longer employed at Southern Pine because of some disappearing money.
you look at the group of people that aligned themselves to try and take me down
please notice which one of us still has a little integrity.
There will be more to come. I intend to write a complete narrative of
what has transpired at a later date.