Good Kids Bad City
Kyle Swenson
Contributed by Greta Venegas

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Chapter 8
Summary

In this chapter, Swenson describes his efforts in investigating Kwame’s case. Initially, he admits to being interested in the case only because he needed a capturing headline. But after reviewing the courtroom transcripts Kwame gave him, as well as Cleveland’s police records concerning the case, Swenson explains that he discovered considerable inconsistencies. However, due to their scattered nature, he notes how it was possible for these to have escaped the jury’s attention during the proceedings. He also mentions the possibility that the defendants’ attorneys may not have been given access to some of the police records.

The largest inconsistencies, according to Swenson, were in Ed Vernon’s witness account. There were wild discrepancies between Ed’s written police statement and his testimony, as well as huge differences between Karen Smith’s and Ed Vernon’s eyewitness accounts. For instance, during Ronnie’s trial, Ed had initially testified that he had left school after his ninth-period class — but later told the court that he had left during eighth-period. Ed had also told the court that he had never seen the green-colored drop-top Wiley was driving before the crime, but later claimed that he had seen it “in front of their house”. Furthermore, Ed had also told police officers that Rickey had been wearing the flowered shirt Anna Robinson had described as having been worn by the shooter. However, during Wiley’s trial, he instead states that it was Wiley who was wearing the shirt.

Swenson explains that he discovered, from police records, the owner of Maxwell Cut-Rate, where Frank had collected the $429.12 in cash before heading to the Robinsons’ store, had three daughters who were rumored to have consorted with some rather shady characters. Another witness, who had emerged later, claimed that he had seen the green car that was used in the robbery and even gave its license plate number — which, upon investigation, was found to belong to Ishmael Hixson. According to police records, Hixson’s criminal record included arrests for robbery and arson. Swenson also learned that a woman had contacted the police and informed them that the actual killers “are still in the area and are operating a pea green convertible”. Furthermore, an FBI field agent had sent a message to Cleveland police informing them that “several of his informants” believed that Mr. Frank was murdered by a robbery crew, headed by Willie Joe and Arthur Lee.

In spite of all these leads, the police decided to pin the murder on Ronnie, Rickey, and Wiley. On top of that, Swenson learned that none of these suspects were mentioned in court —which, as he states, “made him wonder whether the defense teams actually knew if they existed” (Swenson, 2019, p. 139).

Analysis

Swenson exposes a myriad of inconsistencies in Ed Vernon’s testimony. Though one may wonder how those inconsistencies escaped the attention of both the judge and the jury, Swenson is quick to defend them by arguing that the very manner in which the inconsistencies were scattered could explain why they escaped their attention. Swenson lists a number of inconsistencies that he, himself, discovered after scrutinizing the court transcripts — inconsistencies that point to the idea of false testimony having been used. By laying out his analysis of the police records, Swenson tries to give a list of alternative suspects police should have pursued. After analyzing the various criminal records, it is clear that these other men should have been the prime suspects. This realization begs the question of why the other suspects were never considered, and choosing to pin the murder on Rickey, Ronnie, and Wiley instead. It is also damning to learn that these key pieces of information were not given to the defense attorneys. Undoubtedly, all this information would have redirected the course of the trials.

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