Dear Sir or Madam,
Hello, my name is Charles Douglas Raby. For over 24 years, I’ve been on Texas’ Death Row for a crime that’s been proven physically impossible for me to even a suspect of. Not only is my DNA completely absent from the scene of the crime, but I’ve been eliminated as the perpetrator in every single way in which this case is looked at. As there are very few opportunities for media coverage (unless given an execution date), I am reaching out to you by this media letter with the hope of gaining public awareness and community support. My fear is that my first date with death could be my last. Coerced confessions, forensic evidence, false/misleading testimony, incompetent lawyers, landmark Supreme Court rulings, and prosecutorial misconduct only make up a fraction of the corruption in my case. Please take a few moments to read my story.
On October 18, 1992, I was arrested for the murder of Mrs. Edna Mae Franklin. Under the pressure of the police threatening to arrest my fiancée and take her newborn son away, I signed a typed statement set before me. Despite this confession contradicting both the facts and physical DNA evidence of the murder, I was sentenced to death on June 17, 1994.
Physical evidence of my case was processed, tested, and stored at the Houston Police Department (HPD) Crime Lab. Although physical and blood evidence was readily available for proper testing at the time of my original trial, HPD Crime Lab Analyst Joseph Chu testified before the jury that the forensic results were “inconclusive”. In 2005, the federal government began an investigation on the HPD Crime Lab, which was led by Michael Bromwich. Bromwich found that the crime lab did not report the results of blood typing and DNA testing – possibly due to a “more sinister manipulation of analytical results”, as the crime lab failed to report results that did not implicate police identified suspects. Now, more than 20 years after Chu falsely testified at my trial, the state’s own Chief of Crime Lab states the testimony was “incorrect” and “unsupported”.
After years of pursuing an appeal with my trial judge, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) finally granted me the right to have conclusive DNA testing completed. In their opinion from my appeal from the denial of a motion for post-conviction DNA testing (Raby v. State, AP- 74,930; Tex.Cr.App. 2005), the TCCA stated:
“No blood or other physical evidence that connected appellant to the scene was recovered. In his statement, appellant did not say he stabbed the victim. In some aspects, appellant’s statement contradicts the testimony of police officers about the physical evidence from the crime scene. – ” Sergeant Allen testified that there was no physical evidence to connect Mr. Raby to the crime,21 and he agreed that DNA testing would be useful in this case.22 ”
In addition to the DNA on the evidence found at the crime scene being tested, the clothing I’d worn on the night of Mrs. Franklin’s murder was also subjected to testing. As a result, I was 100% excluded, as noted by the following statement from my Ch. 64 hearing below:
“… DNA material from at least two different men was present underneath the fingernails of
Edna Franklin’s left hand when the clippings were collected at her autopsy. Furthermore, these
DNA tests establish to a scientific certainty that none of the DNA from these unknown males
belong to the petitioner Charles Raby. The presence of at least two foreign male profiles
underneath Edna Franklin’s fingernails at death is more than sufficient to raise reasonable
doubt given the other evidence presented to the jury. No eyewitness placed Mr. Raby with the
deceased the day of her death. No biological or physical evidence links Mr. Raby to the scene.
No fingerprint evidence exists; No DNA evidence links Mr. Raby to the scene. Evidence that
should have linked Mr. Raby to the crime was simply never there. Nor did the state offer much of
a motive for the murder. Virtually the sole basis for the verdict was a custodial statement, but
that statement is disturbingly vague and lacks any indices or reliability such as corroborated
details towards which homicide detectives aspire. ”
The results of the November 2008, Ch. 64 hearing are only the beginning of the latest events in my case. Judge Joan Campbell, of the 248th District Court, made a ruling on whether the new DNA evidence would be considered favorable or not. As expected, Judge Campbell decided that the DNA should not be considered favorable. As a result of her ruling, my attorneys appealed Judge Campbell’s opinion to the TCCA. The TCCA considered DNA evidence to be irrelevant in proving someone’s innocence; so much so, that they stated that it wouldn’t have made ANY difference at all. Considering a jury’s purpose is to consider any and all evidence that proves whether a person is innocent or guilty, it would make sense that the jury’s decide. It’d be interesting to know what my jury would think, if they were to learn of the DNA evidence.
As you are aware, politics play a major role in the justice system (especially when it comes to capital punishment). Taxpayers complain of the high cost of associated with the appeals process in death penalty cases, yet despite knowing the DNA wasn’t mine for over 20 years, the state has continued to deny me any relief. On top of my trial judge taking almost 3.5 years to make her ruling, it took the TCCA another two years to deny me. I truly believe that the TCCA granted this DNA testing, never thinking it would come back with anything other than mine. Ironically, my bid for DNA testing (and possibly during my Ch. 64 hearing) occurred during the same time that the media focused on the misconduct at the HPD Crime Lab. During trial, I was denied due process when the judge refused to allow Joseph Chu to testify as to how he could state that his findings were inconclusive. Both my attorney and I welcomed Chu’s testimony; after all, who better to talk to than the very man who’d done the original testing? Why waste so much of the taxpayer’s money on having Chu’s work reviewed by out-of-state experts, when the man is waiting for his turn to be called to the stand to explain himself? Surely, an authority on forensics should know how to read results, so why shouldn’t he be allowed to explain his error? I find it very odd. Is it for political reasons? Perhaps the City of Houston protecting one of their own? You can read more about the misadventures of Joseph Chu and the HPD Crime Lab at the following link:
As we have started our next round of appeals, I fear a ruling could still be years away. The next step in my appeals is the filed subsequent writ, to bring up new errors. http://www.savecharlesdraby.com/response-to-brief-attorneys-filed/ Now that they have ruled the DNA as non-favorable, what’s to stop them from ruling my next issues as moot, considering they are all directly tied to the DNA?
Not only did the DA not object to false expert testimony by allowing Chu lie on the stand, he intentionally withheld Chu’s lab report. Not only does this constitute as prosecutorial misconduct, but to suppress such crucial evidence is a clear Brady violation. Despite being fully aware that Chu was wrong, nothing was said to correct him. By neglecting to do so, my DA ignored his professional duty and obligation to both the State and Harris County Criminal Justice System.
I feel it’s important that attention be brought to my case; if not, I may end up being a dead man for something I didn’t even do. I only wanted to protect the woman I very much loved, and her child. They had no business being there. The law entitles me to have my day in court, which is what I want. Considering both that fact that the DNA results and that none of Mrs. Franklin’s DNA was ever found on any of my clothing, I believe my innocence has been proven well beyond a reasonable doubt. I’ll admit that in my youth. I was no angel. I was a young, drunk, street kid who made many mistakes. Despite all the poor choices I may have made in my life, one thing I didn’t do was kill Mrs. Franklin. Now it is only a matter of the Texas Justice System admitting that they, too, sometimes make mistakes.
In the transcript of my motion for forensic DNA testing (also known as a Chapter 64 hearing), District Attorney Lynn Hardaway was unable to dispute ANY of the exculpatory DNA evidence that not only proves my innocence, but physically eliminates me from the crime scene entirely. Rather than admitting and owning up to the errors, as any respectable professional would, Ms. Hardaway concocted both inane and far-fetched theories as to how another individual’s DNA found its way under Mrs. Franklin’s fingernails, which was blood.
Although Hardaway has been fully aware of the foreign blood detected beneath the fingernails of Mrs. Franklin since 1992, she alleged that lab (SERI) must have contaminated the results. Upon her realizing the weakness of this argument, Hardaway then accused the EMT’s of leaving their DNA behind. Although the simple solution to this theory would seem to be just testing them, Hardaway offered no suggestion otherwise. However, you don’t become a DA by running out of theories. This leads us to Hardaway’s third theory that the DNA must have come from innocent contact. Testimony shows that Mrs. Franklin had no contact with anyone other than her grandsons, Eric Benge and Lee Rose. Hardaway proposed the DNA must have come from contact with the carpet, despite knowing that sections of the carpet had been cut out and sent to the crime lab (and later DPS). The results from the tests done by the DPS state that no male DNA had been found. The only DNA detected had been that of an unknown female, which was Mrs. Franklin. To account for the evidence found underneath her nails, Hardaway wants to the courts to believe that it is perfectly logical to believe that Mrs. Franklin’s hands just magically fell onto, and extracted, every foreign particle of DNA in the carpet.
Hardaway’s “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” tactics are not uncommon amongst post-conviction DNA cases, where evidence of prosecutorial error and the wrongful incarceration of innocents can be proven. Despite there being absolutely no physical link that ties me to the crime scene in any way, Hardaway stated that just because my DNA isn’t there, doesn’t mean that I am innocent of the crime. With that logic, this means that everyone who’s DNA was not found would be considered guilty. Surely, if a man with a third grade education has the ability to see the errors in Hardaway’s thinking, a judge should be able to. Yet, I’ve been continuously denied for my chance to have a fair day in trial. A day without any tricks; where the DNA evidence is heard from both mine and the state’s experts. A day where the jury gets to hear about the things that my original jury had been unaware of- such as the intimidating threats made towards my fiancé and her newborn son. A day where I am allowed my constitutional right to a fair trial – one that I’ve beyond proven I deserve.
In 2009, Houston Press Reporter Mike Giglio investigated my story for an article he’d written on me, entitled True Confessions? The article includes additional information on the HPD Crime Lab/Joseph Chu, as well as statements by Eric Benge and Lee Rose, the two grandsons of Mrs. Franklin. Both Mr. Benge and Mr. Rose admitted to ALL of their friends knowing about the southeast bedroom window, which is contradictory to what both had stated on the stand. This is only one of the many examples throughout my case that display inconsistent or false testimony. The articles can be viewed at the following links:
3.5 years prior to murder, I’d moved from the neighborhood to Deer Park, Texas. This is where I both lived and worked, before being sent to TDCJ for 2 1/2 years (on an unrelated charge). The only occasion I’d ever returned was to see my daughter. At the time of me leaving for Deer Park, NO ONE lived in the bedroom with the window that had been used as a point of entry on the night of the murder, and it was considered off-limits for everyone. I had no knowledge of the window, and have never gone through it in my life. That window had been a part of Mr. Franklin’s room, who’d only just recently passed away before my move in 1987.
District Attorney Hardaway has been able to use sheer speculation to convince the TCCA to deny me. She’s been able to make up any cockamamie theory she can come up with, in an attempt to make something stick. The TCCA went with the theory that the DNA could have come from one of the grandson’s friends. So why not test them? What would be hard about asking them a few simple questions, such as:
- When was the last time you were in Mrs. Franklin’s home?
- Did you ever help Mrs. Franklin around the house and in help her walk to and from the bathroom or kitchen or help her walk anywhere?
- Have you ever had any physical contact with Mrs. Franklin that you can recall where she may have accidentally scratched you?
- Did you ever bleed in the house at any point in time?
- What is your blood type?
- Would you be willing to submit to a DNA test?
There were six other people I hung out with while I was still in the neighborhood (3.5 to 4 years prior to Mrs. Franklin’s murder). They were:
- Kenneth Gaddis
- James Parks
- James Jorden
- Blaine Earl Wright, Jr.
- Shawn Wright
- John Phillips
Most of these men have been to prison, and therefore their DNA may already be on file. I know for a fact that John Phillips was ordered to submit his DNA in his most current legal case out of Wisconsin; Texas’ law requires that some felons provide a DNA sample to the state.
But in the police report, when the investigating detectives asked Lee Rose and Eric Benge to give a list of names of the people who were recently in the house, they listed some names I never heard of, or if I did meet them, it was only in passing.
- John Phillips (I know him)
- Anthony Charles (Might know him)
- Gary Smith (Never heard of him)
- Mondo (I never have known anyone named Mondo in my life)
- Jeff Hattenback (I might know him)
- Warren Flannery (Never heard of him)
- Curtis (No last name given; never heard of him)
The person to ask about this second list of names would either be Lee Rose, or his mother, Linda McClain. Eric Benge has since passed away; however, if Lee gave the names, he would then surely have more information like last known address and last name of Mondo and Curtis. I find it interesting they didn’t list all the old friends we hang out with.
One other this I want to point out that everyone in the courts overlooks and something the DA’s harp on, they say I was in Mrs. Franklin’s neighborhood. This is true, but what they don’t seem to grasp is that was the neighborhood I lived in, as well! I stayed 4-5 blocks away from Mrs. Franklin. So when Blaine Earl Wright Jr. testified he saw me walking down Irvington Blvd. towards Mrs. Franklin’s street, Westford, he was absolutely correct. But what he and many do not know is I had to walk down Irvington to get to the house I lived in, on Reid St. The very house I was arrested at, 706 Reid St., which is 0.9 mile from Mrs. Franklin’s house. But the DA’s make it seem as if I was in HER neighborhood and have no business being there. I lived a few streets away, and had every right to be there.
Another important detail everyone seems to have overlooked was that the neighbor across the street, Donna Espada, told investigating officers who questioned her, that upon her arrival home, at 6 p.m. she noticed a white male at the southeast bedroom window who looked to be taking off the screen (Please note, I was at least 3.4 miles away at this time at James Parks’ mother’s home, whom hadn’t seen me in almost four years, therefore this could not have been me Mrs. Espada saw at the southeast bedroom window, removing that screen). I was 3.4 miles away, and didn’t leave Shirley Gunn’s home until 6 p.m. Despite Mrs. Espada’s statements, she was never called to testify.
If the DA can speculate that the DNA “could have” come from one of the grandson’s friends, shouldn’t they, at the very least, have to prove this? After all, speculation technically isn’t allowed in a court of law. So, why is it good enough for the TCCA? Before rushing off to kill me, shouldn’t they at the very least make damn sure this blood is actualy one of the friends?
What gets me is, if the roles were reversed and one of the many judges on the TCCA or my trial judge or my DA Lynn Hardaway were here in my place, or I was one of their loved ones, they would be screaming at the top of the their lungs that they deserve a new trial that would allow all the evidence to be heard by a new jury.
But me? To them, I am nobody. They don’t want to give me that fair shake they would feel they are entitled to. But wouldn’t you, if you were in my place, feel you deserve a new and fair trial without all the mind games and tricks that were pulled in my first trial? Of course you would, any reasonable thinking person would.
For the TCCA say this new… yet old evidence isn’t favorable to me is insane.
I truly hope that you will take to time to help me, I am begging to the media to step in. And even if my attorneys do not want media coverage, that should not stop you, for it is I who am reaching out to you, it is I who face death and I have final say in this. It is, after all, my life on the line. I have wonderful attorneys, but if they feel media is not wanted, then they don’t have to get involved. I feel it is greatly needed. Therefore, I am open to any and all media acces.
So with that folks, I will end off. I hope to hear from you, I will answer any questions and do any media interviews. I will be an open book, and welcome any help that you can give.
I thank you for your time in this matter.
Charles Douglas Raby TDCJ #: 999109