A few days before we returned to court, the District Attorney’s Office provided us with the evidence they’d gathered which they felt showed that Rolex’ confession to the murder of Thomas Keal was not genuine, but orchestrated by some unknown person. In addition to providing financial records of all of Rolex’ money transactions in prison – times when people put money into his account for him, and times when he made withdrawals from his account for postage or personal purchases – prosecutors handed over 6 compact disc recordings of hundreds of phone calls made by Rolex, Eugene, and Lance. On the discs for Rolex’ calls alone there were over 500 calls, each one about 15 minutes long. They also gave us a partial transcript from one of the calls – dated July 31, 2013 – from Rolex to his “wife” saying that he just did what “they” told him, that “they” gave him the money, then he talked to “their” investigator.
With the recordings, prosecutors handed over two handwritten letters which had been intercepted by prison officials before they went out. One was written to a name no-one recognized at an unknown address, the other to Lance’s brother at an equally unknown address. In the letters, Rolex spoke of “the deal,” claiming that he was owed “$10,000″ for doing what he did. He threatened to “tell the DA” about it unless he received his money.
The volunteers and staff of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project went into overdrive. Literally around the clock, volunteers listened to every minute of the Rolex calls to find out whether there really was a deal, and if so who with. Our investigator went out to the addresses on the letters, to speak with those folks to see what they knew about Rolex and his claimed “deal.” And what we found out made one thing very clear: there was no “deal” and never had been. In fact, what we learned showed only one logical conclusion: fearing prosecution for Thomas Keal’s murder, Rolex tried to get out of his detailed confession by claiming it was the product of a deal. Here are just some of the things we learned:
- The address on the enveloped addressed to Lance’s brother was an abandoned house, uninhabited for over 35 years (in fact, our own blank enveloped sent to “Occupant” at that address came back stamped “VACANT”);
- The person at the other address had no idea who any of these people are, and had no knowledge of any of the events at issue;
- Rolex’ ‘wife’ had been a virtual stranger to him only 2 months before the transcribed call – he had to ask a friend for her name to put on his visiting log;
- Rolex had repeatedly lied to his new wife, hiding from her that he was serving a life sentence (he had told her he would be paroled soon);
- While Rolex often talked about money on the tapes of his calls, it was always to complain that he had none, and to ask that others put money on his books – there was no talk of the situation being temporary, or allusions to a future payout;
- The day before the call presented by the prosecutors, Rolex told his wife that he didn’t know what to do, that he couldn’t discuss anything on the phone or write anything to her in a letter;
- Rolex knew that his mail was being opened by prison officials before it went out;
- Under prison rules, inmates know that sending letters containing threats or extortion is prohibited and any such letters are subject to confiscation;
- While outgoing mail may or may not get read by officials, all incoming mail – even for mail that had to be returned for a bad address – would be opened before forwarding to the inmate.
In the final day of testimony, prosecutors played the one phone call for the judge and gave her the letters intercepted at the prison. Refusing to accept a stipulation to the testimony, the District Attorney called a live witness – the head of Intelligence for Rolex’ home prison. He confirmed that Rolex’ mail was being opened before going out, that of over 50 letters sent out only these 3 had been confiscated, and that if an inmate uses another inmate’s name and institutional number in the return address he can avoid having his mail read altogether. Indeed, the prison official even talked of “boomerang” letters where inmates bounce correspondence to each other using other inmate names and numbers.
Finally, we also played excerpts of Rolex’ calls for the court. The judge heard for herself Rolex admitting
- he was “trying to do the right thing”;
- that if he was in “those boys” situation, he hoped someone would do what he was doing; and
- that “the boys” didn’t have anything to do with “the situation” and that people get locked up for “stuff they didn’t even do.”
After the last call was played, prosecutors again asked for more time. The judge denied it, saying “You’re done. You’re done” and listed the case for final arguments on October 8, 2013.
As we write this, that date is one day away. Eugene is holding together well, hopeful but not making any predictions. His family – particularly his mother – speaks to him as often as possible, keeping his spirits up. And we are readying our final arguments, anxious to convince the court that a gross injustice has been done, and that she has the power to make it right.