The Miami Herald from Miami, Florida on April 27, 1989 · 393
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The Miami Herald from Miami, Florida · 393

Miami, Florida
Issue Date:
Thursday, April 27, 1989
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' ‘ -v’'- ' r - K ' -S '-4! ‘Ji-K - 0 i saG3sK7 u DEATHS4B o Thursday April 27 1989 The Miami Herald Section B ?l Chsilos IThitcd ?? How many more lives are wasted? How does the State of Florida give back 21 years of a man’s life taken for a crime he did not commit? Who bears responsibility for a man’s conviction of a heinous crime built on lies deception perjured testimony by key witnesses through favors and intimidation a grossly in- ept defense? James Richardson vs the powers that be After 21 years in prison four of them on Death Row the former fruit picker now 52 was freed this week by a judge in Arcadia Fla who ruled him unfairly convicted in the deaths of his seven children If ever there was a chilling example of a flawed legal system extending to the very doors of the Death House this is it All evidence now points to what Richardson defenders have been saying for years: He was the victim of small-town justice railroaded by overzealous lawmen committed more to their own belief in his guilt than to solving the crime The accused poisoned his children county prosecutors theorized after taking out a $500 insurance policy just the night before on each of their lives And this is what the jury was led to believe But in the 1968 trial neither prosecution nor defense summoned for testimony the insurance agent who — along with the accused — knew the unpaid policy wasn’t even in force The prosecution swore that Richardson confessed the crime to three different cell mates but failed to tell the jury that all three were smalltime thugs manipulated by then-Sheriff Frank Cline with promises of reduced jail terms in exchange for their testimony One man finally admitted years later that Richardson had made no such confessions The other two have died Results of a lie detector test on Richardson after his arrest were never disclosed and the test itself vanished Another examination in prison years later however persuaded polygraph operator Joe Mo-rosco: “Richardson had no involvement in the crime whatsoever” The truly prime suspect in the case next-door neighbor Betsy Reese who fed the children rice and beans laced with deadly parathion on that terrible day while Richardson and his wife worked in the fields was never called to testify at the trial One reason: Then-Sheriff Cline and then-prosecutor Frank Schaub didn’t want the jury to find out that she had served four years for killing her second husband 11 years earlier or that her first husband had mysteriously dropped dead at age 26 after eating her beef stew A juror said later such knowledge could have swayed the verdict with “reasonable doubt" While Richardson spent his time in prison a mentally afflicted Betsy Reese entered an Arcadia nursing home where for years she babbled to nursing assistants: “I did it Lord forgive me" They kept silent for fear of losing their jobs But the most shocking aspect of the case beyond the crime itself was the deliberate concealment in the office of a former assistant prosecutor in Arcadia of 900 pages of documents that could have brought Richardson’s acquittal including much of the foregoing A Richardson sympathizer got a key to the office stole the box gave it to someone else and it passed from hand to hand for years before finally coming to light The long-missing papers were source material for an investigative article “Poisoned Justice" which broke open the case in The Herald’s - Tropic magazine in December That article plus many Herald special reports was the work of Charles Flowers a free-lance writer and Peter B Gallagher a writer for the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida Even in the shadow of the electric chair the quiet-spoken Richardson never stopped protesting his innocence At one point he was subjected to a “dry run” strapped in the chair with his head shaved a practice since discarded His sentence was commuted to life when the US Supreme Court declared a moratorium on executions in 1972 The travesty weighs upon the mind How many James Richardsons haven’t been so lucky? Salvors TAMPA — (UPD — Treasure salvors Greg Stemm and John Morris hope what they have discovered in 1500 feet of water south of the Florida Keys is a 17th Century Spanish galleon loaded with treasure Stemm and Morris owners of the salvage and research vessel Sea-hawk say the wreck they located Friday in international waters is JOE R IMKUS JR Miami Herald Staff Jetliner from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International enters a smoky sky Smoldering Glades fire sends smoky haze north By MIKE WILLIAMS And AMINDA MARQUES Herald Staff Writers A muck fire smoldering in the Everglades in North Dade County combined with light and variable winds Wednesday morning to send a smoky haze north covering much of Broward as well as Northwest Dade The smoke left a lingering odor though nothing to compare to the smelly blanket that covered most of South Florida two weeks ago “We haven’t had any calls” said Tania Bannerman a clerk for the Fire Prevention Bureau in Tamarac “It’s nothing like last time I guess nobody will call because they know what it is" “There may be a slight odor here but it’s barely noticeable” said Fire Inspector Bill Klitch of Hollywood “But out west it looks a little hazy” A spokesman for the Florida Division of Forestry said the smoke was coming from a muck fire on Northwest 58th Street in Dade County The fire is a remnant from the brush fires of the past month that left the mucky soil smoldering “We just monitor it” said duty officer Peter Karayeanes “There’s nothing we can do about it except to hope the rains will come” It would take at least an inch of rain to douse the fires that started March 31 burned through 11500 acres of the Dade well fields and now smolder as dry leaves and twigs with a reading of 67 a spokesman for the Broward Environmental Quality Control Board said Wednesday’s reading was not available Smoke has plagued South Florida periodically in the past few weeks but conditions have not been as severe as April 12 That day smoke from brush fires in the Everglades was so thick that it limited vision to several hundred feet and promoted hope galleon carries treasure within 50 miles of where treasure hunter Mel Fisher found the gold-and-silver-laden Nuestra Senora de Atocha in 54 feet of water The Atocha which eventually yielded millions to Fisher and his investors was among several vessels in the fleet that were destroyed during what historians believe was a hurricane in September 1622 Stemm said Tuesday the wreck is health warnings for people with lung ailments burn Karayeanes said National Weather Service specialist Noel Risnychok said a pattern of light and variable winds was contributing to the problem No rain is on Motorcyclist killed Steven Richard Schmidt 19 of 17m NT whop T er -ft ’ the first found in one piece He said the wood appears to be well-pre-serveddozens of huge jars are intact and show no sign of barnacles Stemm said a remote-control camera operated from the Seahawk picked up a clear picture of the ship’s bell which had a pattern similar to a silver bell raised from the Atocha that was appraised at about $20000 the horizon ana the light winds will continue “The smoke will linger" he said “The forecast for tomorrow is the same Winds light and variable" Broward County air quality conditions were moderate on Tuesday '''-I ff 1 He said the camera showed what appeared to be a ring and another item that could be a bracelet Stemm said he considers it unlikely such a ship found in that area would not contain gold because it was found along the route used by a constant stream of galleons taking gold silver and other treasurers from the New World back to Spain Channel 6 set for broadcasts on Channel 27 By JUAN CARLOS COTO Herald Entertainment Writer The snow over Dan Rather and Bob Newhart may soon be clearing Miami-based television station WCIX-Channel 6 owned and operated by CBS announced a major initiative Tuesday to alleviate signal problems that have previously left Dade and Broward viewers with spotty reception The plan includes: Airing Channel 6 programming on UHF Channel 27 a 1000-watt station based in Pompano Beach that strongly penetrates most of central and south Broward The signal may also reach as far west as Coral Springs and as far north as Boca Raton Channel 27 went on the air Tuesday A deal with five Sears department stores in Dade and South Broward in which the retail chain will sell and install a special rooftop antenna attachment The antenna costs $6499 plus $70 for installation But the price drops to $101 with a 20 percent Sears discount and $5 off if the customer mentions Channel 6 The price applies to viewers with an existing outdoor antenna pole Some Sears stores already have them but antennas offi- dally go on sale May 1 For details call Sears service centers at 685-8412 in Dade and 537-4013 in Broward A troubleshooting hot line at (800) 666-2766 to answer reception questions from viewers or apartment complex managers The number operates from 9 am to 9 pm daily Channel 27 was licensed by the Federal Communications Commission last year to Hollywood-based Skinner broadcasting ‘ Rodger Skinner the station owner had intended an independent station WFUN aimed at a Broward audience The station would have debuted in the spring But Skinner said the Jan 1 affiliation shake-up in South Florida forced him to “reassess the market” Skinner and CBS began negotiating an extended lease agreement around the first of the year “In the best analysis we’ve made the smartest decision” said Skinner who would not reveal the length or cost of the CBS lease Channel 6’s signal problems stem from the location of its tower in Homestead nearly 40 miles south of other station towers on the Dade-Broward county line Jim Sinclair a marine archaeologist with the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society in Key West said there were a number of Spanish ships that didn’t carry treasure He said that as far as he knows only the Atocha and the Santa Margarita carried treasure in the fleet devastated by the storm with much of the treasure from the Santa Margarita recovered following the hurricane "We don’t expect a ratings change tomorrow” said Allen Shak-lan WCIX vice president and general manager The Arbitron ratings service is in the process of adjusting meters to account for the new Channel 27 audience but “we’re going to have to convince people to watch Channel 27" WCIX is implementing a $5 million promotional onslaught including print advertising billboards and a three-stage direct-mail awareness campaign aimed at more than 270000 homes in Broward The first mailer titled “We fixed your TV” will detail signal changes and will go out Friday It includes a prepaid reply card for at least three free UHF loop antennas which is standard equipment on most new television sets A second mailer will remind viewers of changes and a third will promote a “Watch WCIX and Win” contest Other tactics aimed at improving ratings include: A second low-power transmit- ter on Channel 55 slated for the fall which will reinforce Channel 27 in central and west Broward and north to Deerfield Beach WCIX applied for the Channel 55 FCC license in February and expects approval in the coming months In about three weeks a fulltime employee will be assigned to iron out reception problems with cable companies and viewers Capital improvements to the station costing $6 million mostly equipment and staff There is also an undisclosed amount of further investment from CBS which Shaklan called “major” and “substantial” ' Fish tests expanded to Everglades Park EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK — (AP) — Fish sampling has extended into the park as investigators hunt for the source of mercury contamination in the vast marshy lands of South Florida Federal biologists began collecting fish at the park Tuesday more will be taken from the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge State health officials have advised against eating fish caught in Everglades Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3 and limiting consumption of fish from the refuge HAYWOOD GALBREATH Miami Herald Staff 1

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