More than 3,800,000 pageviews from 150 countries


Monday, January 22, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Difference Between Scholars And Intellectuals

Scholars are well educated people who usually teach at a college or university. Intellectuals are original thinkers who are usually scholars as well. But an intellectual can also be someone who works in a coal mine. Scholars are a dime a dozen. Intellectuals, regardless of what they do, are few and far between. Very few novelists are either scholars or intellectuals. Some of them, however, are talented story tellers, and that's enough.

Thornton P. Knowles

Was Kendrick Johnson Murdered?

     Kendrick Johnson attended Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. The thin, muscular 17-year-old played on the football and basketball teams. After attending his fourth period class on Thursday, January 10, 2013, Kendrick went missing. The next morning someone discovered the student's body stuffed upside-down inside a  rolled-up wrestling mat that stood on its end in the school gymnasium. He was dead.

     Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine, in charge of the death scene investigation, quickly concluded that the high school student's death had been accidental. According to Sheriff Prine, Kendrick must have gone into the mat head-first to retrieve a shoe or some other item. The sheriff theorized that Kendrick got stuck inside the mat and suffocated.

     On January 25, 2013, the head of the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory where a forensic pathologist had performed the autopsy ten days earlier, informed members of the media that Johnson's body had "showed no signs of blunt  force trauma." Sheriff Prine assured reporters there were no other signs of a struggle on Johnson's body.

     Kendrick's parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, took issue with the manner of death determination and complained that officials with the sheriff's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were not talking to them about their son's death.

     In mid-April 2013, Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson told a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times that Kendrick Johnson's body had been moved before he arrived at the gym. According to the coroner, the sheriff had waited six hours before informing him of the gruesome discovery. (Under Georgia law, the local coroner's office must be notified immediately in cases of sudden, violent, or unexplained death.) Regarding the delay in notification and the moving of the body, Coroner Watson said, "Well it compromises my investigation one-hundred percent. I don't know what the county [sheriff's office personnel] did when they got on the scene....The [death] scene, in my opinion, had been compromised."

     On May 4, 2013, the authorities finally provided the media with a copy of the autopsy report. According to the forensic pathologist who performed Kendrick's autopsy, the young man had died from "positional asphyxia." He had suffocated as a result of being trapped upside-down in the rolled-up mat. Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson, based upon this cause of death determination, had no choice but to rule that Kendrick Johnson had died as a result of a freak accident.

     Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, convinced that their son had been murdered, and that the authorities were involved in a cover-up, asked a judge to authorize an exhumation. In May 2013 the judge granted the request which led to a second autopsy. That postmortem examination was performed by Dr. William R. Anderson, a forensic pathologist with the private firm Forensic Dimensions, a company located in Heathrow, Florida. The Johnson's paid for Dr. Anderson's postmortem review.

     The dead boy's parents were also pressing for a federal investigation into the closed case. In support of this request, the Johnson couple alleged that crime scene evidence had either been destroyed or tampered with. The sheriff's office had also denied the parents the opportunity to view high school surveillance camera footage of their son during the hours before he went missing. The parents also claimed that postmortem photographs of Kendrick revealed lacerations on his face and body.

     On May 23, 2013, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson released copies of two reports that had been written by a pair of paramedics with the South Georgia Medical Center Mobile Healthcare Service. According to the paramedics, Kendrick's body showed obvious signs of a struggle. Moreover, they found the student's body in a pool of blood and vomit. One of the paramedics wrote that he considered the high school gym the scene of a criminal homicide. The sheriff, however, insisted that morning that Kendrick Johnson's death had been a tragic accident.

     The results of the second autopsy performed by Dr. William R. Anderson were released in early September 2013. In his report, Dr. Anderson concluded that Kendrick Johnson had died from "unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma to his right neck and soft tissues."

     The attorney representing the Johnson family told reporters that she was sending a copy of Dr. Anderson's autopsy report to the civil rights division of the U. S. Department of Justice. The cause and manner of Kendrick Johnson's death has not been changed. Officially, he died of a freak accident.

     On October 10, 2013, Kendrick Johnson's parents revealed that when their son's body was exhumed for a second autopsy, Dr. Anderson discovered that the boy's internal organs were missing. "I feel outraged about them stuffing my son's body with newspaper," Jaquelin Johnson said. The parents have told reporters that they believe the missing organs is further evidence of foul play and a cover-up in their son's death.

     Michael Moore, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced on October 31, 2013 that the FBI will investigate the circumstances surrounding Kendrick Johnson's death. "We're happy," Jacquelyn Johnson said. "The only thing we ever wanted was the truth."

     In December 2013, FBI agents questioned several of Johnson's Lowndes High School classmates as well as Lowndes County coroner Bill Watson. Agents also spent time with the deceased boy's parents. The parents, in February 2014, filed a lawsuit against the funeral home that handled their son's remains. According to the plaintiffs, funeral home personnel intentionally destroyed his internal organs in an attempt to interfere with the investigation into their son's murder.

     On March 13, 2014, in Macon, Georgia, four of Johnson's classmates as well as students from nearby Valdosta High School appeared before the federal grand jury looking into the death.

     CNN reporters, on March 17, 2014, announced that they had acquired, through the Georgia Open Records Act, an anonymous email dated January 27, 2014. According to the police tipster, one of Johnson's classmates confessed to killing the young man. This person had not, however, confessed directly to the email sender. In an effort to identify the tipster, a Lowndes County assistant district attorney has ordered a communications company to hand over its internet records pertaining to this email.

     In June 2016, an official with the United States Attorney's Office announced that there was insufficient evidence of foul play in Derick Johnson's death to merit the filing of criminal charges.

     In July 2017, a federal district judge dismissed the Johnson family $100 million civil lawsuit filed six months earlier against dozens of state and local officials.

     Case closed.
   

     

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Pretentious Humor

The bartender at a writer's conference I spoke at in Morgantown, West Virginia wore a name tag that read, TRUMAN CAPOTE. In the spirit of the joke, I ordered an "In Cold Bloody Mary". The barkeep didn't even crack a smile. I guessed it wasn't a West Virginia kind of joke, then realized it was simply pretentious, professorial humor. It wasn't funny. I got fall-down drunk that night worrying that I had morphed from a writer into a cold-blooded academic.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Hemy Neuman Murder Case

     In the late 1980s, Hemy Neuman, a young American engineer living and working in Israel, met his future wife Ariela, an Israeli-born school teacher. In 2010, the 47-year-old engineer and his stay-at-home wife were separated. Hemy had moved out of their lavish home in Cobb County, Georgia in August of that year. While Neuman had a high-paying job as a project manager with GE Energy, he was in financial trouble. His expensive lifestyle--the big house, luxury cars, expensive restaurants, and elaborate vacations--had caught up with him. His three children were also attending college. Now his wife was filing for divorce.

     Ariela Neuman had kicked Hemy out of the house because she believed he was having an affair with a 36-year-old woman he had hired at GE. Neuman and Andrea Schneiderman, his suspected lover, denied the accusation. Andrea's husband, Russell "Rusty" Schneiderman, although he had a MBA from Harvard, was out of work. The couple had two young children.

     On the morning of November 18, 2010, Rusty Schneiderman dropped off his 2-year-old son at the Dunwoody Prep nursery school 15 miles north of Atlanta. As the father returned to his car, Hemy Neuman walked up behind him, and with a .40-caliber Bersa handgun, shot him several times. Schneiderman fell dead at the scene. Neuman climbed into a rented Kia minivan and drove off.

     A week before the murder, Neuman, wearing a fake beard, had crept up to Schneiderman's house with the intent of shooting him there. Hemy's plan fell apart when his intended target came out of the house to check on a gas leak and saw this bearded man lying in his yard. Neuman jumped to his feet and ran off.

     When Neuman's wife Ariela learned of Rusty Schneiderman's murder in front of the Dunwoody nursery school, she knew that Hemy had killed him over Andrea. She called the police and filled them in on her estranged husband's affair with the dead man's wife. Ariela described Hemy Neuman as a risk taking control freak obsessed with money and his career.

     Several weeks after the police arrested Neuman on January 4, 2011, he admitted that he had murdered Rusty Schneiderman. He claimed, however, that at the time of the shooting, he was so insane he didn't comprehend the nature and quality of his act. In other words, he was so crazy he didn't know right from wrong. After the killing, Hemy regained his sanity, but when he pulled the trigger in front of the nursery school, he was nuts. That was his defense, temporary legal insanity. Investigators didn't buy it, and neither did the prosecutor. If Neuman was crazy, he was crazy like a fox.

     In February 2012, charged with malice murder (other states call it first-degree murder or capital murder) and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Hemy Neuman went on trial in a De Kalb County court in Decatur, Georgia.

     The prosecutor played, for the jury of 9 man and 3 women, a video-taped jailhouse interview of the defendant by psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Crawford. During the interview, Neuman told Dr. Crawford that he had initially considered stabbing Rusty Schneiderman to death. But he changed his mind because it would be too messy. The defendant thought about poisoning his victim, but rejected that idea as too complicated and unreliable. Staging a fatal accident had also crossed Neuman's mind, but in the end he settled on shooting the man to death at close range. He preferred this method because it was simple and sure-fire.

     Following the video, Dr. Crawford testified that a truly delusional, psychotic person would not have gone through the above thought process. A really crazy person would have acted impulsively, without all of that thinking and planning. The defendant, in her expert opinion, wasn't crazy. The entire insanity defense was a sham.

     For the defense, Dr. Andriana Flores, a forensic psychologist, testified that Neuman suffered from an undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder accompanied by psychosis. (In other words, he had no history of mental illness.) According to the psychologist, Neuman suffered from delusions and a condition called erotomania. As an erotomania sufferer, the defendant only thought he was having an affair with the wife of the man he shot to death. (Too bad he had only thought he had murdered Scneiderman.) And it got better: Before the killing, Hemy Neuman, according to Dr. Flores, had been visited by an angel with Oliva Newton-John's voice who informed him that Schneiderman's children were actually his. This revelation was reinforced by a message from a second angel who sounded like Barry White!

     On March 14, after two days of deliberation, the jury, presented with three possible verdicts--guilty; not guilty by virtue of insanity; or guilty but mentally ill--found Hemy Neuman guilty but mentally ill. That meant that while he would receive mental health treatment, he'd get it while serving his time in prison. The next day, the judge, in Clint Eastwood's voice (just kidding) sentenced Neuman to life behind bars with no chance of parole.

     On Thursday, August 2, 2012, Andrea Sneiderman, the wife of the man Hemy Neuman murdered, was charged with malice murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, racketeering, two counts of perjury, and two counts of insurance fraud. According the Andrea Schneiderman's indictment, she and the convicted killer were having an affair. The couple conspired to kill Rusty Schneiderman with the intent of "acquiring property, money, and life insurance proceeds." The murdered man's wife had received a $2 million life insurance payment as well as $960,000 in various bank accounts.

     In July 2013, following a two-hour hearing, Judge Gregory Adams dropped the murder, racketeering and insurance fraud charges against Schneiderman. The prosecutor had lost confidence in the reliability of a key prosecution witness. Sneiderman still faced thirteen other criminal charges related to the murder of her husband.

     Andrea Schneiderman, a month later, was convicted of nine felonies in connection with the Neuman case. She did not testify on her own behalf. The jury found her guilty of four counts of perjury, three counts of giving false statements, one count of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, and a count of concealing material facts.

     On August 20, 2013 at the sentencing hearing, Schneiderman's friends and family testified on her behalf. When it came her turn to speak to the court, Schneiderman said, "Please let me go home to my kids. Please don't let them live without their mother." The De Kalb County District Attorney asked the judge to send Sneiderman away for twenty years. Judge Adams didn't send this woman home, and he didn't put her behind bars for twenty years. He sentenced her to five years in prison.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Writing In The Correct Person And Point-Of-View

One of my students opened a story with: "Three months before my sudden death in my girlfriend's car, I went fishing on the Ohio River." Intrigued by this opening line, I asked the student if he intended using the wrong person and point-of-view in an experimental piece of fiction. Or perhaps he was taking a stab at humor. When the kid told me he wasn't experimenting, or trying to be funny, the sentence lost its charm. The kid simply didn't know how to write. Even worse, he didn't know how to BS himself into a better grade.

Thornton P. Knowles  

The Johnson Family Mortuary: The Funeral Home From Hell

      On July 15, 2014, James Labenz, the owner of the building in east Fort Worth, Texas that housed the Johnson Family Mortuary, went to the funeral home to evict the tenants. Dondre Johnson, 39, and his 35-year-old wife Rachel Hardy-Johnson, owed the landlord $15,000 in back rent. The place looked vacant so Mr. Labenz entered the building. What he saw and smelled caused him to quickly exit the premises and call 911.

     In his report, the police officer who responded to the 911 call noted that he detected the odor of decaying flesh from the funeral home's parking lot. Inside, he found the unrefrigerated remains of several corpses in various states of decomposition. The officer called the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office.

     Police detectives accompanied by a medical examiner's office crime scene technician encountered a scene right out of a horror movie. But unlike its fictional counterpart, the funeral home tableau featured insects, maggots, leaking body fluids, and the overpowering stench of death.

     That day, the medical examiner's office took possession of the remains of two stillborn children and five adults. The partially mummified corpse of an adult lay in a casket inhabited by swarms of flies and other bugs. In a small container, the crime scene technician discovered a tiny skeleton. The funeral home's flooring was wet with draining bodily fluids.

     A Tarrant County prosecutor charged the mortuary owners with seven counts of abuse of a corpse. If convicted and sentenced on each count, the couple faced up to seven years behind bars. On July 18, 2014, police officers arrested Rachel Hardy-Johnson at the couple's home in Arlington, Texas. The next day, Dondre turned himself in at police headquarters in Fort Worth. After putting up their $10,500 bonds, the suspects were released from custody.

     The day after he walked out of the Tarrant County Jail, Dondre Johnson said this to a reporter: "This is a funeral home, you can expect to find bodies." True, but one would expect not to find corpses that were decomposing and being consumed by insects.

     Rachel Hardy-Johnson told reporters that she had been absent from the funeral home due to the birth of her child. Dondre, who wasn't very good at keeping up with the paperwork associated with either burying or cremating bodies, had been in charge. (Forget the paperwork, how about actually burying and burning the corpses?) She said that Dondre was all about the pomp and circumstance and show associated with the funeral service.

     Dondre Johnson's lack of administrative skills landed the couple in jail and cost his landlord $8,000 in cleanup fees. Moreover, the macabre publicity associated with the building had significantly lowered its real estate value.

     Following the gruesome discovery of the results of Dondre Johnson's gross mismanagement and callous disregard for the postmortem dignity of the deceased in his care, the Texas Funeral Service Commission revoked the Johnson family funeral license. Angered by the revocation, the couple petitioned the state to get their license returned.

     Dondre and Rachel Hardy-Johnson, already in trouble with the law, were indicted on four counts of fraud by a federal grand jury in September 2014. The couple stood accused of obtaining food stamps, a housing subsidy, federal education funding, and Medicare benefits without revealing their income and other personal assets. The alleged government fraud took place between April 2010 and July 2012. If convicted on each count, the former funeral home owners faced up to 20 years in prison.

     Federal fraud investigators determined that Hardy-Johnson had in 2011 received government benefits while claiming to be an unemployed single mother living alone with her children. During that period she purchased a 2006 Hummer H2 for $26,000 and a 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL S500 for $41,700. The next year, while still representing herself as an unemployed single mother, she bought an expensive Land Rover.

     On January 20, 2015, a Tarrant County grand jury indicted Dondre Johnson and his wife for stealing up to $20,000 from families who had paid for and did not receive funeral services in 2014. If convicted, they faced maximum sentences of 20 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

     Rachel Hardy-Johnson, on January 27, 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of food stamp benefit fraud involving $6,000 in payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp program and its successor, SNAP. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

     In February 2015, reporters with the CBS television affiliate in Fort Worth discovered that Dondre Johnson and his twin brother Derrick were conducting funerals in Sherman, Texas. Travis Mitchell, the owner of Serenity Chapel Funeral Services, told the reporters that he handled the business aspects of the operation while Donde and Derrick performed the funerals. According to Mitchell, Dondre Johnson's attorney had advised his client to avoid the media until the theft and abuse of corpse cases in Fort Worth were resolved.

     On September 24, 2015, a jury in Fort Worth found Dondre Johnson guilty of two counts of felony theft. The judge sentenced Johnson to two years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Johnson still faced possible prosecution on seven misdemeanor counts of abuse of corpse. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Receiving a Bad Review

A writer for Kirkus, in reviewing one of my crime novels, said the book featured a cast of vile hillbillies in a trashy setting who said and did things to each other that would turn the stomach of a murder scene investigator. She wrote that good taste demanded that she put the book down after page 20, but was ashamed to admit that out of the kind of morbid curiosity that makes passing motorists gawk at a bloody traffic accident, she finished my "trashy and brutal" novel. It was a terrible review, really bad. I framed that one.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Carla Hague Poisoning Case

     In 2013, Judge Charles Hague lived with his wife of 45 years outside of Jefferson, Ohio in the northeastern part of the state. Since 1993, he had been an Ashtabula County common pleas juvenile/probate judge. Carla, his 70-year-old wife, had retired years earlier as a nurse. The judge and Carla, parents of grown children, enjoyed a reputation in the community as outstanding citizens.

     As is so often the case, outward signs of domestic tranquility are misleading. This unfortunate reality applied to Mr. and Mrs. Hague. The problem within that marriage exploded to the surface on September 15, 2013 when Carla telephoned one of her sons. She said the judge had become ill after consuming a glass of wine. Upon arrival at the house, the son took one look at his father and dialed 911.

     Paramedics rushed the stricken judge to a local hospital from where medical personnel flew him to the Cleveland Clinic for emergency care. Following several days of treatment in Cleveland, the judge returned home to recuperate.

     Judge Hague's relatives, on September 19, 3013, notified the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office of foul play suspected in the judge's sudden illness four days earlier. More specifically, the relatives accused Mrs. Hague of spiking her husband's wine with antifreeze. (A toxicological analysis of the judge's blood confirmed the presence of ethylene glycol, a toxic ingredient in antifreeze.)

     Sheriff's deputies arrested Carla Hague on December 2, 2013 on suspicion of attempted murder. Officers booked her into the Ashtabula County Jail. Eighteen days later, an Ashtabula County grand jury indicted the suspect of contaminating a substance for human consumption. She also stood accused of attempted murder.

     Carla Hague did not deny putting the antifreeze into her husband's wine. Her intent, she said, was not to kill the judge but to make him slightly ill. He suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a serious respiratory condition. In Carla's opinion, her husband had been adding to his health problem by drinking too much. She hoped that if the wine made him ill he would cut back on his use of alcohol.

     At her arraignment, Carla pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempted murder. She posted her $100,000 surety bond on December 24, 2013.

     On June 16, 2014, the local prosecutor, with Judge Hague's consent, allowed the defendant to plead guilty to felonious assault. In speaking to a reporter, judge Hague said, "I have no anger or animosity. I am beyond that. I'm gad to have this huge black spot behind us. I have moved on with my life. Carla can get on with hers." (Presumably they will be getting on with their lives without each other.)

     Following the guilty plea, the judge sentenced Carla Hague to two years in prison with eligibility for release in six months.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Elements Of Literary Style

A writer's literary style consists mainly of the words he uses and the order he puts them in. That's called, respectively, diction and syntax. In terms of word selection, a pompous or insecure writer will use "multiple" instead of "many"; "impacted by" instead of "affected"; and "individual" instead of "person." Such a writer also uses many more words than necessary. Regarding syntax, an academic author might write: "A good time was had by all." A so-called "literary" novelist might say it this way: "By all, a good time was had." An author with readers will write: "We had a blast."

Thornton P. Knowles

Murdering Jocelyn Earnest: A Circumstantial Case

     On December 19, 2007, a friend discovered the body of 38-year-old Jocelyn Earnest just inside the front door of her house in Pine Bluff, Virginia. The victim had been shot in the back of the head. Next to her body lay a .357 magnum revolver and a typewriten suicide note that in part read:

     To Mom
          I'm sorry for what I've done. Please forgive me. Wes [the victim's estranged husband] has put us in such a financial bind--can't recover. My new love will not leave the family.
     Love,
     Jocelyn

     The heat inside Earnest's house had been jacked up to 90 degrees and there were no signs of forced entry. The dead woman's dog, a black Labador, was locked in a crate without food or water in a back bedroom.

     Investigators immediately suspected that Jocelyn Earnest had been murdered, and the scene staged to look like a suicide. Detectives knew that people who kill themselves and leave notes rarely type them. In searching Jocelyn's two home computers, investigators did not find drafts of this document. And the word choice and syntax of the note was inconsistent with the writing style found in the victim's handwritten journals. The police suspected that the furnace had been turned up to alter the body's decomposition rate to throw off the biological time of death determination. Apparently the killer had wanted the police to believe Jocelyn had been killed earlier in the day, perhaps to support an alibi.

     Suspicion immediately fell on the victim's estranged husband, Wesley Earnest who had moved out of the house a year earlier. As an assistant high school principal, he lived and worked 200 miles away in Chesapeake, Virginia. Jocelyn had been employed as a financial services manager in Lynchburgh, Virginia. Although together they had been earning $200,000 a year, they were deeply in debt. Wesley, over Jocelyn's objection, had built a three million dollar, seven thousand square foot mansion on nearby lake property. The $6,000 a month mortgage on this second home they couldn't sell because it was financially under water, had put them $1 million in debt. On top of this, Wesley found himself faced with the disasterous financial consequences of divorce.

     Wesley Earnest claimed he hadn't been to the Pine Bluff house for at least a year. After he had moved out, Jocelyn had changed the locks. Investigators, however, could connect him to the crime scene in two ways: he had purchased the .357 magnum, and two of his latent fingerprints were on the typewritten note next to the body. Two days before his estranged wife's death, the suspect had borrowed a pickup truck from a friend. When he returned the vehicle two weeks later, it had new tires. Detectives believed Wesley had changed out the tires to avoid a crime scene tire track match-up.

     Investigators also read the victim's journal, handwritten in seventeen notebooks. Several of the entries, however, written from Jocelyn's point of view, were in Wesley Earnest's hand. These forged additions portrayed the suspect in a favorable light. However, in one of the notebooks the victim had written: "If I die, Wesley killed me and he probably shot me."

     Wesley admitted to detectives that he had girlfriends, but claimed that  his wife had known about these affairs and approved of them. At his place of employment in Chesapeake, however, he told co-workers he was single.

     In May 2009, the $3 million house on the lake burned to the ground. Cause and origin fire investigators ruled the cause "undetermined." Because the place was heavily insured, the fire accrued to Wesley's financial benefit.

     Wesley Earnest went on trial in March 2010 for the murder of his wife. His attorney, in an effort to uncouple the defendant from the typewritten crime scene note, contested the forensic reliability of latent fingerprint identification. (Perhaps the defendant would have better served by offering an innocent explanation for the presence of his prints.) The defense attorney also put his client on the stand to testify on his own behalf. The defendant told the jurors that he had purchased the .357 revolver as a gift for his wife so she could protect herself. He portrayed Jocelyn as having been distraught over their financial problems. He also said she was having trouble with the woman who was her new lover.

     The jury, a few days after listening to the defendant, after deliberating less than four hours, found him guilty of murdering his wife.

     A month following the conviction, before Earnest was sentenced, a posting on a newspaper web site revealed that the jurors had read Jocelyn's journal. The trial judge had not wanted the jury to see this evidence. The notebooks had been inadvertantly put into a box that found its way into the jury room. In July 2010, the judge declared a mistrial.

     In November 2010, in Amherst, Virginia, Earnest went on trial again for the murder of his wife. His attorney, once again, put him on the stand to claim his innocence. On cross-examination, the prosecutor got Earnest to admit that in 2006 he had forged entries into his wife's journal. When asked how he had gotten into the Pine Bluff house he had been locked out of, Earnest said he had climbed through an unlocked window. In so doing, the defendant revealed to the jury how he may have entered the house to murder his wife. The second jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

     In December 2012, a three-judge panel of the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction and life sentence for Wesley Earnest.

     No one saw Wesley Earnest enter the Pine Bluff house and shoot his wife. No one claimed he had confided to them he had commited the crime. And he never confessed to the police. All the prosecutor had was what looked like a staged suicide, a motive, and a pair of latent prints on a suspect suicide note. But, with these two juries, the prosecution had enough evidence to convict. By comparison, the circumstantial cases against Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson were much stronger than the case against Wesley Earnest. But Anthony and Simpson got off, and Earnest didn't. While I believe the two juries in the Earnest case returned the correct verdicts, uniformity of results is not a characteristic of the American system of justice.