City Reporter 

City Reporter

Workman Asks for Commuted Sentence

Attorneys hope new evidence will sway decision.

By Mary Cashiola

Based on new evidence, Philip Workman's defense team asked the governor to commute the death-row inmate's sentence.

Workman is scheduled to be executed September 24th for the 1981 murder of Memphis Police Lt. Ronald Oliver at a local Wendy's. But defense attorneys say that key eyewitness Harold Davis recently passed a lie detector test proving he did not see Workman shoot Oliver.

Davis originally testified to seeing the fatal shooting but recanted that testimony at a hearing in 2001.

Defense attorney Jefferson Dorsey said that this memory lapse has caused something of a misconception. "What the courts and the reporters have focused on is that he didn't remember what happened that night," Dorsey said, "but he was certain he didn't see the shooting."

Even before questioning Davis, Dorsey says he was convinced from evidence and affidavits that Davis wasn't at the shooting. The defense team interviewed the other non-police witnesses and none of them had seen Davis. He wasn't on the police witness list nor did he attend a lineup that evening. His car wasn't represented on the crime scene diagram.

"The first time Davis shows up," said Dorsey, "is the next day when he calls the police. I was struck by his trial testimony, because he didn't seem to know where the shooting took place."

After the 2001 hearing, criminal court judge John Colton Jr. denied Workman a new trial, ruling that Davis' new testimony was unlikely to sway a jury. The defense also brought in forensics expert Dr. Cyril Wecht, but Wecht could not say conclusively that the shot that killed Oliver did not come from Workman. In May, the Tennessee Supreme Court also denied Workman's request for a new trial.

"I was disappointed in the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision," said Dorsey. "Suddenly we were looking at another execution date, and I wanted to clear this up once and for all." He tracked Davis down in a California jail and got him to agree to submit to a polygraph test.

"Taking all the forensic evidence, all the witnesses' testimony, and the polygraph, there's absolutely no doubt that [Davis] was not there," said Dorsey. "The way he described it [in the original trial] was in a very cold-blooded and deliberate manner. If you take that away from the jury, to me, it puts the whole trial in doubt. We've never shied away from the fact that Philip committed armed robbery that night. We just don't think he killed that night."

Van Gone!

Art schemer hits area galleries.

By Janel Davis

AN art thief is on the loose in Memphis and has already managed to make off with one painting valued at $1,500.

The theft occurred last Monday at DCI Gallery on Brookhaven Circle in East Memphis. A man, described by gallery employees as a white male about 45 years old, with graying hair and a slightly protruding stomach, came into the gallery just before closing and inquired about oil paintings.

"He told us he was a doctor and had just built a house on Johnson [on the eastern edge of Germantown]," said gallery employee Sherri Finger.

In addition to being a physician, the man, using the name Greg Michels, purported to be a member of the DeBeers family of diamond merchants. He told the employee that he was interested in 12 to 15 paintings, worth almost $30,000.

"Michels" said that his secretary was en route with the cash and asked to take one of the smaller paintings with him. Galleries often lend paintings to customers to see how a piece looks in a home or business. "He understood the approval method that galleries have. We have never been scammed before," said Finger. "He gave us a bogus address and phone number. He was, unfortunately, a good con artist." Michels walked out of the gallery and into a black jeep with a painting by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, artist Mike Slung.

Gallery employees waited until the following day to contact authorities. After filing a police report, they contacted other galleries to warn them of the scam.

The thief struck again the next day at Fountain Gallery on Sanderlin, arriving only minutes after the gallery had received the warning.

His story had changed. This time, the thief said he'd been sent by his decorator to look at paintings. He inquired about the price and delivery options for three paintings worth $1,600. Told that the gallery did not offer delivery, the buyer asked if he could take one of the pieces and send his decorator to pick up the remaining two pieces with the payment.

"I told him no," said gallery employee Peggy Schrimper. "He started yelling about trust and saying that not everyone is a thief." Schrimper reported the incident to the police.

The man also visited Rivertown Gallery downtown. Debbie Richmond, who was working in the gallery, said she saw the man pacing in front of the gallery. "The only reason I saw him was because he was dressed in all black and I thought he was [gallery owner] Jay Etkin."

He never entered the gallery and Richmond did not alert police to the sighting. Police spokesperson LaTanya Able said the investigation is ongoing and police have no new leads.

Political T-Ball

The city and the county come together -- on the baseball field.

By Mary Cashiola

The legendary rivalry between the city and the county, usually involving taxes, schools, and government services, is now centered on a diamond. One in the middle of AutoZone Park, to be exact.

Thursday, the Memphis City Council will take on the Shelby County Commission to, as City Council chairman Brent Taylor says, determine which legislative body is better.

"They're clearly better at raising taxes," said Taylor. "This will settle once and for all which legislative body is the better team."

Or will it?

The last time the two groups played, in 1998, the County Commission won. Or at least that's how most people remember it. "Maybe we tied," said Taylor. "That was back when Buck Wellford was on the County Commission and some more athletic people."

The game starts at 5 p.m. Thursday, before the Redbirds take on the Las Vegas 51's. The home team isn't doing any promotion for the game, but ticket- holders will be allowed in to watch.

It's not clear yet who's on first, but the position of pitcher has been nixed. They're playing T-ball.

Garry Condrey, the Redbirds' point man for the project, said the event is something that Redbirds founder Dean Jernigan likes to do. "It's just a chance for them to get together," he said. "It's a challenge."

Challenge, indeed. Taylor said the commission is going to have to do a "Sammy Sosa and cork their bats to get a run," while commission chair Walter Bailey said, "We've beat them before, we'll beat them again."

With Vegas in town, there may be more than honor and a few friendly dinners at stake. Taylor said this sort of thing can influence political careers as well.

"Last time we did this, we had an injury. [Former city councilman] John Bobango broke his foot or something," said Taylor. "We told him if you can't play in this game, you shouldn't run for office. So he got off the City Council."

Jackson Baker contributed to this report.

"Tennstud" to give Deposition in Means Case

Will Roy Adams' deposition support Ronnie Cottrell's case against the NCAA?

By John Branston

Roy Adams, known on the Internet as "Tennstud," will give a deposition this week in a lawsuit related to the notorious Albert Means case.

Adams, a University of Tennessee fan and arch-nemesis of Alabama fan Logan Young, has been a colorful if not a central figure in the Means recruiting scandal since the story broke nearly three years ago because of his frequent Internet postings.

"I'm amused at how they're wasting their time and money on this," he said. "I'm just a gossiper."

Adams will be deposed by attorney Philip Shanks III on Wednesday. Shanks represents former Alabama assistant football coach Ronnie Cottrell in a lawsuit against the NCAA and various individuals. Cottrell says he was unjustly accused of wrongdoing in connection with the recruiting of Means, the former Trezevant High School star now playing for the University of Memphis.

"My only information came from Milton Kirk," Adams said. "Logan Young made me a scapegoat in this thing."

According to former Memphis high school football coaches Kirk and Lynn Lang and The Commercial Appeal, Young gave Lang either $200,000 or $150,000 to get Means to go to Alabama. Young denies it. He remains unindicted.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Memphis postponed Lang's sentencing until December, which will be three years from the time the story broke in the book Bragging Rights by Richard Ernsberger. Lang pleaded guilty last year but apparently has not been able to satisfy prosecutors that he can deliver Young or anyone else.

Shanks said he is confident Adams will appear for his deposition and that there will soon be news supporting Cottrell's case against the NCAA.

Means, meanwhile, has been cleared by the NCAA to play football for the University of Memphis.

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