City Reporter 

City Reporter

Workman Update

Prosecutors say defense is just rehashing old evidence.

By Mary Cashiola

A dying man -- whether he's dying of lung cancer or a gunshot or the repercussions of his own past -- fights death. He takes in as many breaths as he can, hoping for a reprieve with each one.

For more than 15 years, Philip Workman has been such a man. And at the last day of an evidentiary hearing last Monday, prosecutors argued that Workman's attorneys were simply rehashing earlier evidence in an attempt to save their client's life.

Convicted of killing police officer Ronnie Oliver during a Wendy's robbery in 1981 and handed the death penalty, Workman was granted a stay of execution by the Sixth Circuit Court in March, less than an hour before he was to die of lethal injection. Monday's evidentiary hearing was to determine if Workman has sufficient new evidence to warrant a new trial.

The evidence centers on an autopsy X-ray of Oliver's body that was recently discovered and the recanted testimony of the state's eyewitness. In discussing the X-ray, defense attorneys called Dr. Cyril Wecht, one of the nation's premier forensic experts, to the stand during a part of the hearing last month; Wecht testified to a degree of medical certainty that certain characteristics of Oliver's fatal wound were not consistent with the type of ammunition in Workman's gun.

But on Monday, the defense called Wardy Parks, one of the jurors of the original trial.

"As a juror, we were charged to base our decision on the evidence. When you have an eyewitness who said he saw something ... that had a heavy burden on our decision," said Parks.

Judge John P. Colton did not allow Parks to speak as a witness of new evidence but allowed him to be called to the stand for the purpose of the appellate process.

"Would this newly established evidence have resulted in a different verdict had it been presented in trial?" defense attorney Robert Hutton asked the court. "What better evidence of that than Wardy Parks, one of the original jurors that voted to put Mr. Workman to death?"

When asked if the new evidence would have made a difference, Parks answered, "Of course! These are facts! Before, these facts were not there."

The retired FedEx employee said that he did not hear any ballistics evidence during the original trial and believed the testimony of eyewitness Harold Davis. Davis is now thought to have perjured himself during his earlier testimony.

But after months of piecemeal testimony from the defense, the prosecution did not call a single witness. Prosecutor Jerry Kitchen argued that nothing new had been presented.

"They wanted to come here and prove once and for all that this defendant is not responsible for killing Lt. Oliver," Kitchen said. "They suggested they have recently discovered evidence ... they've presented theory after theory after theory."

Most of the defense's witnesses called also testified at Workman's clemency hearing in January. After 12 hours of testimony, the six members of the Tennessee Board of Parole voted against clemency.

Colton will issue a written ruling on Workman's petition for a new hearing within the next 30 days.


A New Chapter

The new main library opens this weekend.

By Lesha Hurliman

While the design of the NBA arena may not include a lot of glass due to safety concerns, the new $70 million central library has nearly five floors of it. From the outside, the library, all glass and polished metal, looks as though it is going to feel more like a technical manual than a cozy novel, but library representative Bobby King says that was never the intention of the architects. "It is designed to be self-orienting, with lots of primary colors and comfortable spaces," he says. And though it has a modern feel, the building is stocked with soft chairs, private study rooms, and many other conveniences.

The new library boasts the largest fiction collection in the Mid-South, a teen center, a genealogical center, a children's section that looks like the inside of a Dr. Seuss book, new travel and health sections, and nine privately funded works of public art from local and regional artists.

The library comes loaded with sleek black IBM computers with flat-screen monitors on every floor and tables with ports for laptop users. The Memphis and Shelby County Room comes complete with climate-controlled archives and reproductions of windows and refurbished tables from the original Cossitt library building downtown.

The new library is designed so that the noisiest activities which require the shortest visits -- check in/out, periodical shelves, children's section, and the Friends of the Library used bookstore -- are all located on the main floor.

"As you go up, the length of the stay increases," says King, "so that people who are doing genealogy research or searching the archives in the Memphis and Shelby County Room will have less traffic and noise to contend with."

Though crews continue to scrape and sand and buff and haul, and the staff is probably losing sleep and developing ulcers, the grand opening is this Saturday, November 10th, at 9:15 a.m., beginning with a truck parade from the old central library at 1850 Peabody to the new one (less than two miles away) at 3030 Poplar. At 10 a.m. there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony before library officials open the building to the public for the first time.


The Curse Of King Tut?

Attendance was down for Wonders' latest Egyptian show.

By Janel Davis

Next show: treasures from Russia.
Wonders, The Memphis International Cultural Series, closed its "Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art From the British Museum" exhibit October 21st with low attendance records.

The exhibit, which opened June 28th at The Pyramid, ranks sixth in attendance averages for Wonders' 10 exhibits so far. But Glen Campbell, Wonders' chief operating officer, doesn't see these numbers as a failure.

"We exceeded our expectations of 250,000 by nearly 40,000 people," says Campbell. "That's remarkable considering the state of the economy, the climate of our country, and the length of the exhibition."

The 116-day exhibit saw 288,841 visitors and averaged 2,469 each day but still fell short of the other Egyptian-based exhibit, "Ramesses the Great," which opened the Wonders series in 1987 and had a total attendance of 674,395 over its 138-day run.

The events of September 11th hurt attendance figures for several days. Visitors who did attend were allowed to sign a banner and sympathy card for the victims and donate money to the American Red Cross.

The exhibit, which showcased 144 items from the British Museum's collection of Egyptian antiquities, was designed to trace the development of Egyptian art over 35 centuries, from shortly before the First Dynasty in 3100 B.C., to the Roman occupation of the fourth century A.D.

The next Wonders exhibit is "Czars: 400 Years of Imperial Grandeur," presented in conjunction with the International Cultural Series and the Moscow Kremlin State Museum Preserve of History and Culture, in association with Cultural Exhibitions & Events. The exhibit will include more than 250 items from the Kremlin State Museum spanning the Romanov dynasty, including jewels and gold, crowns, a golden carriage, weapons, ceremonial dress, paintings, and textiles.

"Czars" will mark the first exhibit to be held under the organization's new not-for-profit status, which will allow Wonders to arrange long-term programming and become economically self-sufficient.

Wonders has selected Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects and Design 500 as the designers for the Czars exhibit.

The Wonders series was established to continue the success of the Ramesses the Great exhibition. Since then, Wonders has produced eight exhibitions focusing on a wide range of cultures and events, including "Imperial Tombs of China," "Ancestors of the Incas," "Titanic," and "World War II Through Russian Eyes." The "Czars" exhibit will run April 15th through September 15th of next year.


Taking a Bow

Playwrights' Forum earns regional honors.

By Chris Davis

Dorothy Blackwood and Laurie Cook McIntosh
After more than a decade of being overlooked by local theater judges, Memphis' Playwrights' Forum has finally gotten some well-deserved recognition. Its production of Marriage to an Older Woman, which opened P.F.'s 2000 season, won first place in the community division of the Tennessee Theatre Association's annual competition. In addition, Laurie Cook McIntosh, whose last local appearance was in Circuit Playhouse's The Laramie Project, took home the competition's award for excellence in acting.

McIntosh is currently serving as president of Playwrights' Forum's board of directors and also appeared in the Theatre Memphis production of Beauty Queen of Leenane, which won last year's T.T.A. competition.

Playwrights' Forum is an independent producing body that operates out of Theatre Works on Monroe, just behind Overton Square. The group's mission is to produce original scripts by unknown playwrights in order to let the writers see how their work translates to the stage. Marriage to an Older Woman was written by New Jersey playwright John Fritz and focused on a 73-year-old woman's marriage to a 60-year-old-man and the family controversies that arise as a result of the union.

The award-winning show also featured the talents of Dorothy Blackwood, Sam Weakley, and Ron Gordon.

To give its mission more of a local bent, Playwrights' Forum is only accepting submissions from local playwrights for its 2002-2003 season. The deadline for entry is March 1, 2002. More information is available at www.playwrightsforum.org.


Turning Up the Heat

Firemen cry foul on promotions test.

By John Branston

Ten lieutenants in the Memphis Fire Department, including state Rep. Ulysses Jones Jr., are threatening to sue the city and fire department over the results of promotional exams.

The firemen have hired civil rights attorney Richard Fields, who last week outlined the grievances in a letter to Director Chester Anderson, Mayor Willie Herenton, and City Attorney Robert Spence.

"Before we commence litigation we would like to give the City of Memphis an opportunity to remedy this gross injustice to its employees and hire an outside investigator to review testing procedure," Fields wrote.

Spence said he is preparing a response but the test will not be given over again.

Anderson declined comment.

The firemen want the test results thrown out and all promotions that were based on it rescinded.

They say the study material was incomplete, that some people who scored well got extra help, that some scores were incorrectly transcribed, and that there was at least one instance of cheating where a fireman was allegedly given test materials in advance by a commander.

Fields also attached materials claiming that black firemen did not get a fair shake. On the first scoring, over half of the top 130 scores were made by blacks, but on a rescoring only 32 of the top 130 were black.

Charges of test fraud have previously been made against both the Memphis fire and police departments. In the most recent scandal, copies of a police sergeant's exam were leaked to some candidates.

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