Hey, wait a minute. You don't reckon all of those dudes were telling the truth, do you?
Over the past 17 years, I've received scores of letters and telephone calls from prison inmates proclaiming their innocence and seeking help.
"C'mon, man," I've said and written to some. "Somebody's got to be guilty. Everybody can't be innocent, the victims of lying prosecutors, can they?"
After reading the first part of our exposé Sunday on the State Bureau of Investigation, it may be time to rethink that conclusion. If you read the beginning of our weeklong series on retired SBI agent Dwight Ransome and Medicaid fraud supervisor Mark Isley - and if you didn't, please do at newsobserver.com/agents_secrets/ - you realize that those two were barely acquainted with the truth, if not total strangers to it.
The absolute best thing one can say about the pair is that they were incompetent.
The worst thing - and the far-most-likely-to-be-true thing - you can say is that Isley is a flawed human being whose actions in one noted case call into question his behavior in many other cases - and thus the convictions obtained therein.
You want to bet that defense attorneys in every case Ransome and Isley ever touched are readying appeals or requests for dismissals? Consider Floyd Brown of Wadesboro.
Poor Floyd didn't have much of a life to begin with, but Agent Mark Isley and an overzealous prosecutor took the one he had from him. Brown was, by most accounts, the town character. Every small Southern municipality has one - as ubiquitous as the Confederate soldier statue on the town square and usually as harmless. Courthouse workers looked out for Brown, sent him on errands so he could earn some spare change, trusted him to go to the bank and cash their checks. The cops would even let Brown sleep off a drunk in the city jail.
My Gawd, I thought after reading that. Isley railroaded Otis Campbell. After that, who can automatically doubt the innocence claims of anybody? But unlike Otis, Mayberry's fictional and lovable inebriate, Brown wasn't free to come and go after Isley produced what many thought at the time - and now everyone knows - was an inconceivably lucid confession and attributed it to Brown.
Even after Brown was deemed unfit to stand trial and locked away at Dorothea Dix for years, Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker spitefully refused Dix workers' request to take him to the State Fair. Brown would have loved that.
Ever since reading the troubling story of Floyd "Bwn" - that's how the mentally challenged Brown spelled his name, bless his heart - I have prayed for Brown and for the soul of Stacey Pollard, the man whose death will likely go unpunished because of retired-with-full-benefits Agent Ransome's neglect.
There is no way of knowing how many other people were gored on the horns of Isley's Machiavellian ambition.
I'll bet you a defiled badge, though, that poor Floyd Brown wasn't the only one.
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