As we chronicled here on Tuesday, Roger Dale Chapman, who testified during William Dillon’s 1981 trial that Dillon made a jailhouse confession, attended Dillon’s compensation hearing on Monday to set the record straight. The news reports don’t really do this riveting moment justice. So I wanted to recount what occurred from my perspective at counsel’s table:
- While Dillon was on the stand, he was asked about his time in the county jail. He noted that while he in jail after arrest, he was in a large cell with upwards of 20 inmates and a story about the Dvorak murder came on the TV. Many people asked him about it and Bill stated that he told them “I had nothing to do with that there.”
- Dillon also stated that he did not know Roger Dale Chapman, and therefore didn’t know if he had ever spoken with him at the jail. The first time he found out about Chapman was when Chapman was on the stand testifying to the jailhouse confession at trial.
- Then Dillon was dismissed and counsel called Roger Dale Chapman to the astonishment of the hearing officers and just about everyone in the room.
- Chapman stated that he was in the county jail after being falsely accused of rape. A Sheriff’s Office Agent, Thom Fair, came to him in the jail and made him an agent of the State for the purposes of soliciting damaging admissions from Dillon. Fair threatened Chapman with jail time if he didn’t comply.
- Chapman then stated that he went into the “bullpen” where Dillon was being held with many other inmates and, when the story of the murder came on the TV with a picture of Dillon, he asked Dillon whether he did it and Dillon protested his innocence vehemently.
- Several days later, Fair came back to the jail to meet Chapman. At this point Fair already knew that medical testing came back which demonstrated that Chapman could not have committed rape. Yet, when Chapman stated that Dillon didn’t give him anything and maintained his innocence, Fair held out his hand and stated “I have your life in the palm of my hand and if you don’t give me something on Dillon, I can make that rape charge come back.”
- Fair also told Chapman that they had Dillon as their “fall guy.”
- Chapman then stated that he didn’t have anything to say so Fair decided to record a statement by Chapman which would implicate Dillon, only when Fair asked the questions about the specifics of the crime, another investigator held up the answers so Chapman could parrot them back for the recording and the eventual transcribed statement.
- Dillon’s counsel also entered into evidence secret handwritten notes from Dean Moxley, the Chief Assistant State Attorney, indicating that Chapman may have been made an agent of the State and that they already gave him a bond reduction and they should probably enter into a deal with him.
- Chapman then testified at trial that Dillon confessed to him in jail with detail about the crime. Chapman’s rape charge was dropped in exchange.
- After this testimony, Chapman apologized to Dillon for contributing to his wrongful conviction.
Obviously, none of this was turned over to the defense before trial and at trial, the State insisted that there was no deal.
This is the most pernicious kind of misconduct. Law enforcement had their mind made up and then just needed to fabricate the evidence to fit that preconceived notion. We call this tunnel vision.
This misconduct seems to have been the norm in Brevard County in the 1980s and the John Preston+snitch formula worked for the State in Dedge and Dillon, and we’ll find out whether it worked in the case of Gary Bennett.
Either way, this is the beginning of the pulling back of the curtain of the muck that regularly served to cause wrongful convictions in Brevard. I suspect it won’t be the last we hear.