A BUILDING BLOCK OF FRUSTRATION - Chapter 1 - POLICE REFUSING EVIDENCE -
Part of my current frustration with the enforcement system started long before the twinkle of becoming an attorney brightened my eye.
I am currently involved with a scam artist who managed to lever a lot of money, at least a lot to me, from my coffers. The grossly underfunded Linn County Sheriff's office through the investigating officer Trenary has dropped the metaphoric ball. I believe Trenary is at his core a good person and a competent officer of the law. Even so, nothing about my belief in that officer makes a dent in my frustration for the failures I see. But this is NOT about this scam. It is about treatment of evidence.
On a Friday, November 5, 1971 officer Curtis VanDerson, 31, while responding to a bank robbery in Creswell, Oregon was gunned down from behind. He left behind his wife Atha and two young children. Not all irony is by its nature good. Built into the story of officer VanDerson's murder is the fact that Atha radioed her husband to let him know of the robbery after a dispatcher from the Lane County Sheriff's Office called the VanDerson home to notify Officer VanDerson a silent alarm at the bank had been tripped.
Murderer Rodney Charles Maberry served 14 years of his life + 25 years sentence to federal prison for this crime. The other three defendants in the Creswell case, Ronald Casebeer, Vance Naillon and Dicl Lee Maberry pled guilty to state and federal charges initially ending in life sentences to be served in prison. In 2008 accomplice Casebeer was convicted of attempted murder for a plot to murder a Lane County deputy district attorney.
"... The rifle wasn't found at that time [the arrest]. And Jacobs testified that he found a weapon on Jan. 11 near where a getaway car had been abandoned - and two miles from where Maberry had indicated he threw the rifle away." (From a follow up report in the Eugene Register Guard on April 20, 1972.) In my internet search I found nothing that indicated that rifle is the one that killed Officer VanDerson.
Someone my father knew who had used our 100 yard range gave Dad a new Model 300 Savage .308 with a Bushnel (sic) Banner 3X9 V. Scope. In the early spring of 1972 Dad told me he believed it was the gun used to kill Officer Curtis VanDerson a few months earlier. That person said he had been to the police and they wouldn't even talk to him.
My father sent me the picture with his comments you see here. When I moved back to Oregon in the summer of 1972 he took the gun off the rack and I fondled it a little. I started to work the lever and he stopped me. "There are bullets in there. They may have finger prints on them."
"But you said the police weren't interested in the gun. You said they didn't want new evidence, that they had the guy and they didn't want... ."
Dad stopped me right there holding his hand up, palm out in my face. "These are bad guys to get on the wrong side of."
I didn't comprehend what he was saying so started to ask, "but aren't they all captured, in jail?"
The scowl on that face of concern is one I had not encountered before, ever. Even though he lived out in the county on 33 acres with no visible neighbors, Dad actually looked over his shoulder dropping his voice down before looking back. "I mean the police. They got their man and they intend to keep him."
About a month later on another visit to the shop to work out the details of how I was going to buy Dad's rain gutter installation business I noticed the rifle was not on the rack. I pointed. "Where is the gun?" He pointed to the scrap bin. The barrel, action and scope had been oxyacetylene cut to little pieces. I know he would not have tried to burn the ammunition and did not ask about it. He said, "I talked to the neighbor's brother (a county deputy sheriff) who suggested it (the .308) disappear. He was convincing."
For the system to work, it has to be allowed to work. Because the police think they have their man and in this case shape the evidence to prove it only tears down the system they have sworn to uphold.
There is a lot of room for beliefs about our criminal justice system. It works, it does not work, sometimes it is sort of broken, and so on. As a former practicing attorney, I believe in all of those views and even have other beliefs based on my experiences in and out of court.