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Old 06-18-2010, 08:18 PM   #46
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Why didn't authorities look at Ed Williams and Felton Thomas as suspects? It is quite possible they could have commited the crime and lied in court to frame Tom Ziegs.

I do believe he is sitting on death row for a crime he didn't commit.
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:32 PM   #47
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Man I was hoping to find a few more updates this morning. Darnit!

As you're further detailing the events, mozartpc27, it becomes more and more obvious to me that the right guy is in prison for this.

As troubling as the judge not being taken off the trial and that the prosecution’s story cannotbe reconciled with their own witnesses (which provides doubt in juror’s minds)…as troubling as those surrounding factors are…it’s obvious to me that Tommy Z planned and executed the murder of his wife and family. The conspiracy theories** stretch the limits of credibility to put it mildly. The known evidence has never been explained how it eliminates Tommy Z. Most importantly, Tommy’s stories don’t make sense nor do his account of his actions. I think his murderous plans went awry and I can see a possibility that EW was in on…something. However I doubt we’ll ever get the true full story.

** = Quick question: Does the author of the book contend there was a conspiracy to frame Tommy Z? Does he say that the conspiracy was cooked before or after the events of Christmas Eve?
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:48 PM   #48
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I don't think it was a conspiracy theory per se. However the fact you can be so confident 'the right man is in prison for this' in fact you sound like you are 100 percent sure when the evidence is simply no where near that solid, regardless of how you try to spin it, disturbs me. I kind of laughed when you said 'as disturbing as it is that Judge Paul did not recuse himself from the case, it doesn't really matter' which is basically what you said.

Actually it matters a great deal that Judge Paul did not recuse himself. First off, Tommy Ziegler would not have got a death sentence at all had Judge Paul not been on the case. I can bet pretty much any other judge would have followed the jury's recommendation of a life sentence. Or in this case, multiple life sentences. Judge Paul was well known for his personal dislike of the defendant Ziegler and that right there should have caused Judge Paul to recuse himself or if he would not do so voluntarily that he be forcefully removed from the case.

Judge Paul was heavily biased towards the defense. Yes he granted the change of venue from Orlando to Jacksonville. However he granted it to the least favorable location to the defense. Judge Paul other than that ruled against pretty much all of the defense's motions. He had no business being on the case and thus a new trial is warranted. Let a new judge that is impartial preside over the case and get a new jury. If the case is so solid, than I would fully expect Zeigler to be convicted again? Oh wait, we have said this many times about guys who we for sure thought were guilty and as it turns out, they were innocent!

Getting back to the whole conspiracy theory thing though. I do think it was just a coincidence that Judge Paul happened to be assigned Zeigler's case. That said though, I do think that Judge Paul did plan on sentencing Zeigler to death and looked forward to 'frying him' regardless if what the jury recommended. It was well known in conversations Judge Paul had that he basically told the prosecutor in essence 'if you can get me a first degree murder conviction on any of the four counts, I will fry the SOB'.

Zeigler was ultimately convicted of first degree murder on two counts but acquitted of first degree murder and convicted of the lesser included charges of second degree murder on the other two counts. He was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of his wife and of Charlie Mays but was convicted of second degree murder in the deaths of his in laws, Perry and Virginia Edwards.

There was jury misconduct, such as a hold out juror, who did not buy the state's case. So Judge Paul thought the woman was being uncooperative so he called the woman's doctor and told the doctor to put the woman on large doses of valium. Thus she was unable to resist and gave in to the majority and voted to convict.
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:51 PM   #49
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I will respond more fully to posts made by people in response to my extensive breakdown of this case later, but let me briefly repond to kadrmas by saying that, while I understand that 35 years ago those accusing him needed to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Zeigler committed the murders, now that he has actually been convicted, things are different. The burden of proof lies with him. At this point, those defending Zeigler need to prove one of three things:

1. (Best) That someone else indeed committed these murders.
2. That, at least, Tommy Zeigler could NOT have committed them.
3. That "reversible error" was made at his trial, or that the trial as a whole was compromised in some way.

If, kadrmas, your point is that proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" was not there to begin with, 35 years ago, your point is taken; however, and unfortunately for Zeigler, those who believe that the evidence presented against Zeigler at trial failed to establish "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt" can't cite that as a reason to give him a new trial. They don't give new trials for someone's hindsight opinion that disagrees with the jury; they only give new trials when new evidence comes to light, or proof of prosecutorial misconduct is evident. Now, some might argue that there is indeed more proof of prosecutorial misconduct than there is of Zeigler's innocene; I think I would tend to agree.

Anyway, for the purposes of this exercise at the moment, I am not using courtroom standards: I am examining each side's story, pointing out the problems and holes, and ultimately trying to assess what I think is more probable: that Zeigler killed these people, or that he did not. I may well conclude that I think he did it, but that he shouldn't have been convicted, because it's not "beyond a reasonable doubt" that he did it. I am not sure myself yet. I need to work through everything.

And, to that point, I continue my examination of Zeigler's story, looking at factors outside just its own internal logic and turning our eye toward the alternate theories about who did these murders that are often part of what Zeigler defenders discuss.

Last time, I talked at length about Zeigler's story about what happened to him, versus the severity of his wounds, versus the severity of everyone else's wounds. Now, I look at some other items that I think present problems for Zeigler's story:

Felton Thomas: If Zeigler is in fact innocent, how do we account for this guy? Thomas voluntarily turned himself in to authorities to give his statement, only hours after the murders (around 2:30AM Christmas "Day"; the murders were discovered at 9:20 PM Christmas Eve). If you believe Zeigler is innocent, then there are only a few conclusions that can be reached regarding Thomas:

1. He is a liar, top to bottom. He was never there, and told this story for reasons known only to him.

2. He was going to help the perpetrators in what was supposed to be a robbery.

3. He was going to help the perpetrators in what was never intended as anything but either a hit on Tommy Zeigler, or an attempt to frame him.

If he is a liar, top-to-bottom, he was consistent on at least one point: when he was given a ride by a friend of his back to Oakland, Florida, towards the end of the ride he mentioned he had left Charlie Mays recently, and he sensed something was wrong. How could he know this unless he had some involvement in whatever was going on that night? The rest of Thomas' story is, alas, impossible to verify; the police did find a spent .38 caliber bullet where he said Zeigler had taken them to shoot his guns, but it was only one, and was too damaged to be identified by ballistics. It suggests that what he said might be true, but it doesn't prove anything one way or the other.

So, it is possible he fabricated the whole thing, but let's remember this is an itinerant farm worker with no known previous connection to Zeigler. Hard to imagine he would, for no reason at all, make up a strange and complex story like the one he told in court. If it was invented, one suspects it must have been at the prompting of someone else, and probably in exchange for something (like money). But if this is the case, no one has ever turned up anything to prove that is what happened, and again, it happened awfully wuick; everyone found dead inside the store was dead by about 9:00PM that night, at the very latest; Thomas found a cop on his own and told this story at 2:30AM.

More likely, Felton Thomas was involved in some capacity, either in the way he said, or perhaps in another, more sinister way. Leaving aside his account, let's talk about the possibility that he was recruited to participate. Despite all the blood at the scene, there is nothing to suggest that Thomas was seen with blood on him when he asked his friend, Samuel Harrison, for a ride between 7:00-8:30 that evening. Thomas's home - and, apparently, he didn't really have a "home" as you or I would understand it - was not near the furniture store, and he had no car; yet he turned up at the mall during a period of time which requires that he had to have been at or near the furniture store shortly before. If Thomas was involved, then, why was there no blood on his clothes? If Harrison had seen blood, would he have given Thomas a ride, on Christmas Eve, with his two kids and their two friends in tow? I doubt it; so, Thomas either had no blood on him, or else he changed clothes before appearing at the mall. If he had no blood on him, how did he manage it? There was a tremendous amount of blood at the scene, and if he assisted in shooting five people, and beating three of them, how could he have possibly avoided getting blood on him? If he did have blood on him but changed clothes, it is unclear where these new clothes would have come from.

Moe than that, though, is this: if Thomas isn't just a total liar, then he must be involved too. Now we are up to as many as five people, for sure: Edward Williams, Charlie Mays, Felton Thomas, Don Ficke, and Rita Ficke. This is getting unwieldy. Also, who would recruit Felton Thomas to help in a murder, and why would he agree? He was poor, itinerant-worker level poor; this means he's not very educated, and didn't even know Zeigler, so one wouldn't think he would make a great co-conspirator for anything terribly complex targeted to kill or frame Tommy Zeigler. Certainly, I could easily see Thomas being persuaded to participate in something he thought was a robbery for a promise of a cut of the cash. But there is no indication he got any money; money, remember, was left stuffed in Charlie Mays' pants, but it doesn't appear that any other cash was shown to be missing from the store. Supposedly, there were some diamond rings of Mrs. Zeigler's that were missing from her hands; Thomas was not found with these, and of course, he would have had to fence them if he ever had them. Could be, but if he took the rings, why not also make sure to get the cash out of Mays' pocket?

And, most importantly, if this was a simple robbery gone bad that perhaps he plotted only with Charlie Mays and maybe Ed Williams as well, then why did he go to police with this whole story about Zeigler only hours later? I guess the answer would be, "To frame Tommy Zeigler," which perhaps he and Ed Williams decided to do once things went all haywire (if we assume this was a simple burglary plot that went bad). This would have to mean, however, that he and Ed Williams concoted a story, probably on the fly, that is complex and that required Thomas, an uneducated farm worker, to remember some key details to make the story work, and to tell it the same way more or less every time without getting confused. Seems like a weird guy to rely on for a conspiracy, even if it is a conspiracy among a bunch of half-wite burglars. If this is, as so many suggest, a conspiracy that comes from higher up the food chain than that, then why on earth were these clever, influential people relying on Felton Thomas, of all people, as a witness?

If we assume Felton Thomas is lying, and there really isn't any evidence that he is, things get a whole lot more complex. He had to be invovled, but his involvement suggests a job that wasn't done by pros - why would a pro use an itinerant farm worker as the key cog of a conspiracy? If it was an amateur plot among Ed Willaims, Charlie Mays, an Felton Thomas simply to rob the store, there are other difficult questions. For one thing, there are the questions I raised before: if this is just an amateur plot and Don Ficke isn't involved at all (and there is no reason to think that he is), then why doesn't his story match Zeigler's, but instead comes much closer to matching Ed Williams' story? For another, my bext point:

How did they get in?: If Zeigler is telling the truth, it would appear that he came with Williams to the store after his wife and her parents had already been killed. So, how did the killers get into the store? The store was locked up tight for closing at around 6:15PM. Then, Mrs. Zeigler and her parents returned to the store, some time shortly after 7:00PM. I suppose the killers could have met Mrs. Zeigler and her parents as they arrived at the store, following them in, but the spread of the bodies, in that case, seems a little strange. They had them hearded together outside the store, letting the killers in, but then, once inside, allowed the three people to be that far separated before killing them? It seems strange.

If they broke in, it's not clear how. The book Fatal Flaw admits this in a backhanded sort of way. Here is what Phillip Finch theorizes about how the perpetrators entered the store, in his conclusion where he posits Zeigler's innocence:

I believe that two or more assailants waited for Tommy Zeigler to arrive at the store on Christmas Eve. Possibly one of them hid in the storeroom during business hours, having climbed the back fence, and come in through the bay door, which was open most of that day. They may also have entered using a key. They turned off the lights at the breaker box. (Finch 288)
Why assume that one of the perpetrators had hidden himself somewhere inside the store during business hours, and that one of them might have had a key? Finch assumes these rather exotic scenarios, quite simply, because he has to: there isn't enough evidence that someone actually broke a lock to get into the store that night. So if the perpetrators didn't meetMrs. Zeigler and her parents as they came in, then they must have gotten into the store beforehand - without breaking a lock. Finch needs to have an explanation for this, and this is it.

The problem, then, when looking at Zeigler's story as a whole, is that Zeigler's own story about the timing of his actions that night is not backed up by his own friend's testimony; Zeigler therefore certainly appears to have had the means and opporunity to commit the crime. To believe it was someone else, we appear forced to believe that, at the very minimum, three people conspired to rob the store that night, but decided instead to kill a number of people, and ultimately to try to frame Zeigler for the whole episode. One of these three people - Charlie Mays - was shot during this process, likely by Zeigler, and so, figuring that having Mays turn up at a hospital with two gunshot wounds would give the whole thing away, Thomas and Williams decided to kill him - in a particularly brutal manner - to cover their tracks. Then, they concocted separate stories that implicated Zeigler, and each went and reported to the police. In doing all of this, they got an assist from Mays' widow and that friend of the family who had been to the furniture store with them that morning, as each testified that Mays had made it up to pick up a television set at 7:30 at the Zeiglers' store that night; this explained Mays' presence at the store, and did not come from either of his co-perpetrators.

That is the least complicated conspiracy narrative one can build from the available evidence, and the whole thing is contradicted by Don and Rita Ficke's testimony, insofar that if it is true, and all this really did happen in this way, then Zeigler's story about leaving his car behind at his house for good when he left with Ed Williams at about 7:30-7:45 should be corroborated by Don and Rita Ficke's accounts of what they saw and when they saw it that night, because Zeigler would have no reason to lie in this case. But his story isn't backed up by their account. So, either Zeigler is lying, or they are; if they are, we have a much more sinister event here than merely a robbery gone wrong, and the conspiracies get ever more complex after that, involving ever more people at various levels of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

So, that's the bad news for Zeigler. The good news begins with his motive: though the evidence clearly shows he had means and opportunity, the motive is much less clear. Certainly $500,000 on a life insurance policy is a lot of money, especially in 1975 dollars. However, even with that acknowledged, this is clearly the weakest part of the state's case, for a few reasons.

And that I will get into my next post: the state's case, and what is wrong with it.
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:45 PM   #50
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BANG! BANG! BANG! Shooting holes all through Tommy's weak story.

You said it much clearer, much neater, more concise, and without leaving things out, than I ever could. Tommy Ziegler’s story just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Looking logically at the series of events that are given as evidence, the multitude of coincidences and conspiracies that must have gone on to make him an innocent man just couldn’t have happened. Judge who hated him or not, the jury is not made up of 12 judges with biases. The police who arrested Tommy while he was still in the hospital weren’t judges with a grudge.

There’s so much outside of what may have been previous bad blood between Tommy Z and the judge to look at and realize it just could not have happened the way he says it does.
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Old 06-21-2010, 06:17 PM   #51
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Actually Mozart that is not entirely true. New trials are given for a variety of reasons, many more than the two or three you cited. The trial judge that should have recused himself, how can you honestly say that Judge Paul being the trial judge did not contribute to a guilty verdict and certainly a death sentence? You can't say that the error of Paul not having either recused himself or being removed from the case was not harmless error beyond reasonable doubt, thus new trial.

Felton Thomas should have not been able to testify about anything. There was no evidence that Thomas had ever even met Zeigler other than Thomas claiming that he had. Since he is a prosecution witness alleging things and not a defendant defending himself, how can Thomas be allowed to allege things and claim things when there is no evidence one way or the other that the things that he is claiming either happened or did not happen? Thomas's account was at best hearsay claiming he heard things and saw things when there is no evidence to either prove or disprove anything he saw or heard actually happened. Thus his testimony should have been excluded.

Also, have you ever considered that possibly, just possibly now, I know I am going out on a huge whim here... that witnesses get things wrong? That even if they truly think that they are telling the truth (thus not a lie as they are not consciously trying to deceive) that maybe they get their times or what they saw mixed up and when they saw them? Look at all the innocent people cleared, look at how many eyewitnesses and lying cops contributed to the conviction? It happens a lot more than you seem to believe.
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Old 06-21-2010, 06:28 PM   #52
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Also Mozart, while you say the burden of proof on Zeigler to prove his innocence is on him now that he is convicted, while that part is true, you look past the harmless error analysis. In my opinion if Zeigler's conviction was reversed, a judgement of acquittal (which I am sure his attorney's put in at the close of the state's case in the 1976 trial) would not be granted although it has been granted for other death row defendants in Florida, not often but every couple years it happens where a court rules that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain a conviction. Thus, the court did not say that a defendant was truly innocent in that case, but rather that the evidence was simply too weak to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

So, getting back to the point, if the Florida Supreme Court or any other court was going to look at Zeigler's case and if they did decide to reverse his convictions, they would also in turn conduct a test to see if the evidence, presented at trial and presumably would be presented again would be strong enough to legally sustain a conviction. In this case, I think Zeigler probably would not get a judgement of acquittal but would probably get remanded for a new trial if his conviction were to be reversed.

Now in Zeigler's case certainly there was cause to consider him a suspect and to view him with suspicion. The cases that ended in a JOA for other death row inmates were the same way. However unlike convictions that got reversed and a new trial ordered but did not get the JOA, in the JOA the court ruled that while the evidence was perhaps strong enough to generate suspicion towards a suspect, it was just that suspicion and no real clear indicator of guilt as in no physical evidence and no eyewitness testimony except a shady character or two who very well might have pulled the murder themselves and then framed their co-defendant to make it look like they did it.

Heck, look at the case of Herman Lindsey out of Broward County, Florida. Sentenced to death in 2006. Last year the FSC reversed his conviction and death sentence and ruled that a JOA be entered. The court ruled unanimously, even the conservative justices went along on that one. They ruled the evidence was simply so weak that yes while it was enough to perhaps generate suspicion towards Lindsey, there was nothing else there. No physical evidence, eyewitness and hearsay testimony that was at best shaky. Basically they said the JOA should have been ordered at trial, because the state simply had not proven Lindsey's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Interestingly, Lindsey's co-defendant, pled no contest to the murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for 2nd degree murder. He testified against Lindsey at trial but the court said they did not find him credible as a witness and basically said that while he pled out, that there was more evidence against him than there was against Lindsey by far.
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:39 PM   #53
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It's been a while since my last post, but my breakdown of the Zeigler case continues. I had previously attempted to post, and lost, much of what you see here now; my frustration led me to take a few days off.

First off, kadrmas, I am about to make you happy camper, as I am now going to go through the prosecution's case, and start shooting holes in it.

Before I do, I just want to make it clear, kadrmas, that I am not a fanatically pro-prosecution, throw-the-book-at-him type. You make a lot of excellent points regarding what Zeigler and doesn't need to do to get a new trial; clearly you know a lot about this case, and you know your way around the criminal justice system. Furthermore, I agree with you that, at minimum, his death sentence should have been set aside long ago because of the judge in the case. What a weird and creepy move to overrule the jury and give him a death sentence; if that is still allowed, it shouldn't be. Indeed, the fact that this guy presided over the case may indeed be enough to throw out the entire trial - if I were presiding over any hearings on the case, I think that would be my inclination. I don't like even the appearance of conflict of interest or impropriety.

However, my purpose here, as I said before, is not to establish, for a court of law, Zeigler's guilt or innocence, but rather to try to establish what is most probably the truth behind this ugly case. I assure you, when I am finished, I won't have a "beyond reasonable doubt" case for any side; just a strong suspiscion, if I am lucky. And, at the moment, I have no horse in this race: I still haven't definitely reached any conclusions.

And now... the prosecution's case.

To begin with, as I said in my previous post, the prosecution's case has a big structural problem when it comes to the question of motive. The prosecution's theory was that Zeigler did this for $500,000 in insurance he would collect from policies purchased since September of 1975. However, as Phillip Finch, author of Fatal Flaw, points out, the police found no evidence that the Zeiglers had any financial problems (Finch 68); indeed, they were doing well. Moreover, as Finch, puts it,

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
In all of their investigation, including the extraordinary opportunity to examine Zeigler's financial records, police investigators were unable to show that his finances were anything but solid. His material well-being was assured. The furniture store was a thriving enterprise, Tommy's pet project and solid foundation of the family's wealth: yet, if the state is to be believed, this was the place that Zeigler chose to stigmatize forever with a quadruple murderóthe ultimate example of fouling one's own nest. (Finch 274 - emphasis mine)
If the motive was money, how could Zeigler not understand that murdering his wife, her parents, and another man in his store would ruin his business - a business worth more than the $500,000 he stood to gain from the life insurance policies against his wife? Perhaps, we might theorize, he wanted to be done with the furniture business, wanted to cash out, and wanted out of an unhappy marriage (there is no direct evidence this marriage was unhappy, by the way); that might mean he was willing to trade his wife's life and the $500,000 he would get from her death for the thriving store. But if this was just to get the money he would be owed from her death, why wait to kill her until a moment when he would also need to kill her parents as well? This is a point Finch raises, and rightly so (Finch 275); Zeigler gained nothing financially from their deaths, and it only complicated his plot, and put him at greater risk of being caught, insofar as every time one commits a crime, one has a chance of being caught: commit one, and your chances are x; commit three, and your chances of being caught become 3x.

So, right off the bat, there are some serious questions about why this murder was committed, and why it needed to be committed when it was - at a moment when he needed to commit three murders, not one, on Christmas Eve no less. We might answer that, "This proves Zeigler's main motive was not insurance money, but rather hatred for his wife and her family"; the problem is, there is no evidence to support this notion.

With the problem of motive firmly in our minds, let's look at the prosecution's version of the order of events, step by step:

1. In the summer of 1975, Zeigler uses Ed Williams as an intermediary to buy two guns that he hopes will not be traceable back to him.

2. In September and October of 1975, Zeigler buys additional insurance on his wife.

3. On December 22, 1975, Zeigler makes a plan to deliver Christmas presents on Christmas Eve with Ed Williams. He confirms this plan during the day on Christmas Eve, setting the time (according to the prosecution) at 7:30 for this meeting, at his house.

4. On December 24, 1975, Zeigler offers to sell Charlie Mays a television set for the bargain price of $128; Mays agrees, and he further agrees to meet Zeigler at 7:30 at the store to pick it up.

5. In the days leading up to the murder, Zeigler evidently made it a point to invite the police chief from the next town over, Robert Thompson, to the party he and the police chief from his own town, Winter Garden, were slated to attend on Christmas Eve. Zeigler did not have direct authority to do this. Moreover, he encouraged Thompson to invite all the other officers from his town; the prosecution would later suggest that Zeigler was attempting to guarantee that as fe wpolice officers as possible would be on patrol at about 7:00PM the night of the murders, so that he would have a better chance of moving back and forth undetected.

6. During lunch on Christmas Eve, Zeigler also arranges to swap his wife's new white 1975 Oldsmobile Tornado for Curtis Dunaway's 1972 beige-over-brown Oldsmobile, the ostensible reason being that Dunaway was worried his car couldn't make the trip to his family's party, but the real reason being that Zeigler wanted a less conspicuous car that wouldn't be identified as his to move back and forth with on the night of the murders, so no one would easily be able to spot him.

7. Around 6:15, Zeigler, his mother, and his employee leave the store for the Christmas holiday. As they are closing up, Zeigler makes an unusual request of his employee, Curtis Dunaway: he asks him to turn out all the lights in the front of the store. Ordinarily, the showroom lights were always lit.

8. Zeigler follows Dunaway to the Zeigler home. They perform the car switch, and then Zeigler invites Dunaway into his home. He sees Mrs. Zeigler and her parents, and has a piece of cake. He leaves shortly before 7:00PM.

9. Some time shortly after 7:00, Zeigler and his wife get into the Oldsmobile, and drives with her to the store. Her parents are to follow them.

10. Once inside the store, Zeigler shoots his wife in the back of the head. She never even had a chance to turn around.

11. Perry Edwards and Virginia Edwards arrive at the store. Zeigler somehow traps them inside, then assaults Edwards. They struggle quite a bit, but eventually he subdues Perry, shooting him a few times in the process. Eventually, Edwards is shot through the head. Virginia Edwards is the next to die; she had apparently moved toward the front of the store during the struggle between Zeigler and Perry, either in an attempt to escape or hide. She is shot twice, the second time in the head. Interestingly, Perry and Virginia are each shot with two different guns; the headshots were delivered from the same gun eventually turned over to authorities by Ed Williams.

12. For reasons the prosecution never does explain in their theory, Zeigler leaves the store.

13. Charlie Mays and Felton Thomas arrive at the store. Zeigler isnít there.

14. Zeigler arrives at the store, telling the men the person with the keys is late in meeting them. He suggests that, while they wait, they go off and shoot some guns he has. They go and do this.

15. When they return, Zeigler suggests that they attempt to break into the store. He asks Felton Thomas to cut the power to the store, which he does. Zeigler climbs the fence to gain access to the enclosed area behind the store, and bids Mays and Thomas to do the same. Mays agrees, albeit reluctantly. Zeigler then attempts to break into the store by breaking a window. Mays objects, and so Zeigler suggests that they go back to his house, where they might find a key.

16. They go to Zeigler's house. Now, at this point, the timing gets all screwed up. Williams says he arrived at Zeigler's house at 7:28, and, after about 10-15 minutes - so, some time between 7:38 and 7:43 - Zeigler showed up with Thomas and Mays in the Oldsmobile he was driving. Thomas didn't not associate any times with his account of what happened that night, but if we assume that Thomas was correct, and the appointment to pick up the television was for about 7:30, and Zeigler wasn't there when they showed up, we might assume that Zeigler arrived somewhere between 7:30 (if we assume Mays and Thomas were early for their appointment) and 7:35 or so. They then went and shot guns, returned, tried to break in, decided not to, then got back in Zeigler's car and went to his house. It's hard to see how they could therefore have arrived at Zeigler's house the first time much before 7:50, and probably closer to 8:00. But the prosecution sort of glazed over these problems. Now, since both Williams and Thomas were quite inexact about times, this might even be forgivable, but it is worth noting. At any rate, at some time between 7:38 and 8:00, by the prosecution's story, Zeigler got back to his house with Mays and Thomas. He stayed for a few minutes, retrieving some bullets from his house. According to the prosecution's version, Zeigler then asked Williams to wait for another 10 minutes before getting back into the Oldsmobile he had been driving with Mays and Thomas. Once back in the car, he asked Mays to re-load one of the guns they had been shooting on their way back to the store.

17. They arrive back at the store, and Zeigler invites Mays and Thomas to go inside the store and help him with the television set. Mays follows, but Thomas, spooked, leaves. He eventually runs into his friend at the mall, sometime before 8:30.

18. Zeigler kills Mays.

19. Zeigler returns to his house in Oldsmobile. Again, the timeline becomes problematic. Considering Zeigler arrived at his house the first time anywhere between 7:38 and 8:00, by the prosecution's own theory, and then took 2-3 minutes inside his house before leaving again, we have a pretty wide range of times we are dealing with. Williams testified that, by his estimate, about 10-12 minutes after Zeigler left the first time, a white couple drove up, then drove away again. Putting all the testimony together, this could have been, then, anywhere from 7:50 to 8:13, the latter part of that period broadly corresponding to when the Fickes testified they first visited that night. After they drove away, about 20 minutes later, Zeigler arrived again. So, this could have been any time between 8:10 and 8:33. This time, Zeigler parked the Olds he was driving in the garage, got out of the car, got a wet rag out, wiped some of the car down, then locked up the garage, and then joined Williams in his truck, and told him to head off toward the store. So, he left his house for the last time no later than approximately 8:35, but perhaps as early as 8:12. The latter part of this time period again roughly corresponds with the Fickes' account of their third visit. Note that the second visit is unaccounted for in the prosecution's story.

20. Zeigler and Williams arrive back at the store; it might be anywhere from 8:17 to 8:45. He has Williams drop him off in front of the store, where he enters. Williams pulls up to the gate of the fence that surrounds the back of the store, and waits. Zeigler then appears in the fenced in area at the back of the store, opens the gate, and motions for Williams to pull in. He does, and Zeigler closes the gate behind him.

21. Zeigler then beckons Williams to follow him into the store. Williams stops to urinate. When he is finished, he follows Zeigler inside. Just as he is about to step into the showroom area, Zeigler turns on Williams, and attempts to shoot him three times with a gun, but all three shots fail.

22. Williams runs back out the way he came in, out to the back of the store, but with the gate locked, there is no way out. Zeigler pursues, claiming he thought Williams was somebody else. To comfort Williams, he offers him the gun. Williams takes it, and Zeigler tries to talk him back into the store. Williams says he will go back in only if Zeigler opens the gate. Zeigler agrees, but doesn't open the gate, and instead gets into Williams' truck. When he does, Williams takes off for the far corner of the fenced in aread, scales the fence, and runs, first into the parking lot of the hotel in back of the store, then across the street to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, where he asks to use the telephone to call the police. He tries, but gets a wrong number; he then runs into two women he knows, and asks them for a ride to Orlando, which they provide. All of that is completed by about 9:00, perhaps a few minutes past, in the prosecution's theory.

23. Zeigler, stunned by his failure to kill Williams, realizes he has a problem on his hands: no one is going to believe a burglary theory based on what he has. So, he re-enters the store, and makes an on-the-fly adjustment to his game plan. He shoots himself in the side, then calls the Van Deventer home, where the party is taking place, at 9:20. Notice that by the prosecution's own theory, approximately 25-30 minutes pass between Zeigler's attempt to kill Williams and his phone call to the Van Deventer home. They don't really offer any explanation for what he did during that time.

24. The police arrive a minute after the phone call, at 9:21. They find Zeigler stumbling out of the store. For what it is worth, the blood surrounding his wound appears to be dry to Robert Thompson, the police chief from the other town on the scene; he sees no active bleeding. Zeiglre is taken to the hospital, and the investigation begins.

So, that is the prosecution's story. There are lots of holes here, which I will examine in my next post.
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Old 06-26-2010, 12:03 AM   #54
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I think that the biggest problem the prosecution has is, again, a structural one: according to their narrative, Zeigler is this methodical, meticulous, ice-water-in-his-veins type who planned these murders literally months in advance: he starts the process of acquiring "untraceable" guns nearly six months before he ultimately commits the murders.

And yet, at the same time, everything he does is rife with mistakes, and so much is left to chance. The author of Fatal Flaw, Phillip Finch, makes this point, broadly speaking; specifically, he calls into question the way Charlie Mays, in particular, was brought into this otherwise complex and carefully planned murder plot:

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
Zeigler must have settled on his course of action no later than Monday, December 22. According to Edward Williams, that was when Zeigler first made the Christmas Eve appointment. Then, for the next two days, Zeigler apparently did nothing to further his complicated plans. He must have known that if his plot was to succeed, he would need at least one more credible "robber," yet there is no evidence that he approached anyone else until he saw Charlie Mays at the store, less than ten hours before the murders.

Apparently Zeigler decided on the spur of the moment that Mays would be a
victim that night. In spite of extensive publicity, no other people ever came
forward and claimed that Zeigler tried to involve them at the store on Christmas Eve; nor is there any indication that Zeigler spoke to Charlie Mays about it until the 24th.

Why did Zeigler let these preparations go until the last few hours? What
would he have done if Mays hadn't walked into the store on Christmas Eve? This is decidedly slipshod behavior for someone who is otherwise cunning and
These are fair points, and I would add questions about points 1, 3 and 4 taken in concert, 6, 12, 15, and 24 that follow this line of thinking (these numbers refer to points of the prosecution's story as numbered in my previous post - see above).

Let me pose these in order:

On point 1 (Zeigler's acquisition of the "untraceable" weapons): Phillip Finch correctly points out in Fatal Flaw that this appears to be the sloppiest part of Zeigler's plot, if he is indeed responsible. On the one hand, he is trying to acquire "untraceable" guns. On the other hand, in so doing, he tells at least three people - Williams, Frank Smith (the guy who bought them), and Mary Ellen Stewart (the mother-in-law of Frank Smith - she was a regular customer of Zeigler's store, and claimed Zeigler had asked her about getting the guns and she had directed him to her son-in-law). The point of buying untraceable guns, of course, is that they be untraceable. However, since Zeigler failed to kill Williams, and Williams had gotten the pistols from Smith, and both Smith and Mary Ellen Stewart had claimed Zeigler talked to them about buying illegal guns, it took the police less than a month to trace the two supposedly "untraceable" guns back to Zeigler. If you are going to buy untraceable guns, and you are smart enough to plan this big clever murder, wouldn't it also be reasonable to suppose that you are also smart enough to get the illegal guns through people you don't know personally, rather than through people you do know personally? Apparently, Zeigler wasn't, at least by the prosectution's theory.

On points 3 and 4 (the timing of Zeigler's plans): By the prosecution's theory, Zeigler apparently told Charlie Mays he would meet him at the store at 7:30, and told Ed Williams he would meet him at his home at 7:30. Obviously, he couldn't be in both places at once, so he had to choose which one he would at least try to be on time for. Apparently, in the event, he was actually late for the one he DID pick - the 7:30 meeting with Mays - albeit by only 5 minutes or so. Isn't this a dumb thing to do, if only because it runs the risk of at least one of the two people he is supposedly trying to fram for this crime just deciding to forget the whole thing? It was Christmas Eve after all; how long did Zeigler think he could expect Williams to wait for him? It seems unlikely that, by the prosection's theory, he met Williams for the first time much before 7:50, a full 20 minutes later than he said he would be. And, when he did meet him, he asked him to wait 10 more minutes - which ended up becoming half an hour! So, the prosecution's witness in this case essentially testified that he had no problem waiting around for Tommy Zeigler - on Christmas Eve - for a full hour later than Zeigler said he would be. I don't know; if you ask me, that's some favor. I don't think I would be willing to wait around for a guy who was more my boss than a friend or family, on Christmas Eve, after he said he would be ready at 7:30, but wasn't ready when 8:20 rolled around. I would have left. Why didn't Williams? And even if we don't question Williams, we have to question the prosecution's version of Zeigler here - here is a guy who sets up a murder months in advance, but then just hopes Ed Williams will be willing to wait around for him to get his **** together on Christmas Eve? Is Zeigler a meticulous mastermind, or one of the Marx brothers?

On point 6 (Zeigler swaps his car with Curtis Dunaway): The prosecution suggested at trial that part of Zeigler's brilliant plan was to get himself a car that no one would recognize as his. Zeigler himself drove a pickup, which everyone around town knew as being associated with the store, and his wife had a big, new, flashy white Oldsmobile. The theory goes that if anyone in a town as small as Winter Garden saw either of those two cars out on the road on Christmas Eve, they would have known it was Tommy or his wife driving it. So Zeigler cleverly arranges to have a car that belongs, not to him, but to his employee.

The problem is that the evidence suggests that the swap was initiated by car problems Dunaway thought he was having. Yes, Zeigler suggested they swap the cars; but, for one thing, this was after Dunaway was having problems and asked Zeigler to take a look, and for another, this was AFTER Zeigler had supposedly made his appointment with Mays. Minimally, this means that Zeigler left it to utter chance that he would be able to get Dunaway's car for the evening, after he had already made the critical plan with Mays. More likely, it suggests that Zeigler never necessarily intended to have access to this car that night, that instead it was just a fortuitious "bounce of the ball" in his direction that night. But what a fortuitous bounce! A better explanation yet might be that there was no plot at all, that Zeigler offered to switch cars with Dunaway (something they had evidently done before) because he was just a good guy, and that it is only in hindsight that this looks like it is part of some devious plot.

On point 12 (Zeigler leaves the store for reasons that are unexplained after committing the first three murders): Every time Zeigler leaves the store that night, no matter whose car he is driving, he increases the chances that someone will see him. So why does he leave, in the prosecution's theory? The reason the prosecution says Zeigler leaves at this point has much to do with the reason why Finch proposes a couple of elaborate theories concerning how the perpetrators gained access to the store that night: there is evidence - their own evidence - that suggests that he pulled off the road and into the parking lot of the store in his car and met Mays and Thomas outside that night. Thus, their story has to include this weird little interlude; otherwise, they have to discount Felton Thomas's story. Leaving and returning in that short period of time between when Zeigler finished the first three murders and when he met Mays and Thomas seems to gain Zeigler nothing, but it adds a whole lot of risk. So why did this meticulous, methodical guy do this? The only possible answer is that it leant plausibility to the claim he made to them both that the "guy with the keys" wasn't there yet, and that story, of course, was the cover he used to get them to go with him and shoot the guns. But then, as the defense right asks, having taken the risk of going out an extra time to help lend verisimilitude to the story he told Mays and Thomas, and then having taken the further risk of asking them to shoot guns on Christmas Eve and hoping they wouldn't find that fatally strange, why did he then WIPE THE FINGERPRINTS off of all but one of the guns? These aren't the actions of a methodical planner; this is the sloppy work of a guy who isn't really in control the way he thinks he is.

On point 15 (the attempted break-in, and then the trip back to the house to get the "key"): Here is another item that, by the prosecution's theory, Zeigler appears to have left entirely to chance, or at the very least not had any firm plan for: when they return from shooting the guns, Zeigler sugests they try breaking into the store. The way the prosecution tells it, after starting that process, Mays objects; this leads to Zeigler, Mays, and Thomas all heading back to Zeigler's house. At this point, Zeigler sees Ed Williams outside his house - who has now been waiting there for anywhere from 10 minutes to (much more likely) half an hour for Zeigler to show up. Zeigler then asks him to wait some more. On Christmas Eve.

My question is this: what if Mays and Thomas hadn't objected? Certainly, that seems to be what Zeigler was hoping, by the prosecution's own theory. Presumably, if they hadn't objected, Zeigler would have coaxed the two men inside after breaking in, and then shot them both. Considering how much trouble he had with his father-in-law, and how much trouble he ultimately had with Mays (apparently), how long would this have taken? Maybe an extra 20 minutes? Remember, Zeigler didn't know, according to the prosecution, that Felton Thomas was coming. He was going to try to frame up a scenario, according to them, in which two people - Mays and Williams - tried to burglarize his store that night. In other words, Zeigler had always been planning, according to the prosecution, to implicate Williams as well as Mays in this murder. And yet, apparently, Zeigler's plan, after returning with these men from the orange grove where they had been shooting, was then to break into his store, and kill Mays, and now Thomas too. In that case, Zeigler would have been banking that Williams - on Christmas Eve - would be willing to wait outside his home, on the strength of a promise to meet at 7:30 and a note saying "I will be back in 10 minutes," for something like 50 minutes that night. If that was his "plan," it wasn't much of a plan. How could he possibly have counted on that?

On point 24 (the dried blood at Zeigler's wound): The lead investigator on the case actually believed that Zeigler shot himself while on the telephone, calling for help. Zeigler had called the Van Deventer party, spoken to Judge Van Deventer, and, said to him that he needed to talk to Don Ficke, it was an emergency, etc. He did not mentione being shot, and sounded "calm," according to the judge. When Ficke got on the phone, Zeigler sounded panicked, and said he'd been shot. The police theorized that he shot himself during the brief period when no one was listening on the other end of the line. This was at 9:20. By 9:25, he was being taken off to the hospital, and Robert Thompson, one of the arriving officers, had noted Zeigler's wound, but found that there was no active bleeding. Quite simply, how could this be true if he had shot himself only moments earlier? The answer, of course, is that they cannot both be true; so, for the prosecution's story to work, Zeigler presumably would have had to have shot himself earlier than what the police originally thought. But if THAT is true, didn't Zeigler take a crazy chance? He might have bled to death waiting for police to arrive - could he really have shot himself, then waited for the wound to start to scab over before he called for help? This is a serious question for the prosecution's case.

Finally, as a post-script, according to the prosecution's own theory, if Zeigler had been able to kill Williams, as he had planned, his plan was then to clean up and proceed to the Van Deventer party that night - the party that he ultimately called after shooting himself, according to the prosecution. According to the prosecution, Zeigler was going to arrive and pretend as if he had no idea where his wife was. It was only because he failed to kill Williams that Zeigler decided to shoot himself, to lend credence to the break-in theory.

This is truly absurd. How could a smart man like Zeigler even begin to hope that the police would happen upon a scene where five people (his wife, her parents, Mays, and Williams) lay dead, on a night where he would have two whole hours that he would not be able to account for (from 7-9), and think that no one would be suspiscious that this was not a burglary gone wrong?

I am not necessarily saying that these questions I am raising provide any evidence that tends to exonerate Zeigler, but they do present serious problems for the prosecution's theory of the crime, and, more importantly, their narrative about who Zeigler is and was, and how he "planned" these murders. Their silly idea about what Zeigler's final move was supposed to be only underscores the inconsistencies in their own narrative. Combine these serious questions with the questions about Zeigler's motive, and their case has serious flaws.

Next: looking at two key witnesses, and how they tend to move the case in opposite directions.

Last edited by mozartpc27; 06-27-2010 at 06:37 PM.
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Old 06-27-2010, 06:00 PM   #55
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I am nearing the end of my exhaustive (and exhausting) review of this case: this post, and one more, and that's it.

For this one, I'd like to turn to some of the conclusions of Phillip Finch's Fatal Flaw, particularly the information he presents regarding Ed Williams' story from that night. Finch is particularly interested in some eyewitness testimony that appears to make a liar out of Ed Williams, specifically regarding about exactly when he arrived at that KFC restaurant that night. If Williams is lying, of course, it raises the question, "Why?", and certainly suggests that he might, at least, know more than he is telling.

As I've extensively discussed, the timeline here is open to some degree of question, but all versions of the prosecution's story end at 9:21, when the police arrived at the Zeigler store, following his 9:20 phone call to the police. According to the prosecution's theory, at shortly before 9:00, Ed Williams had entered the Kentucky Fried Chicken to make his first attempt to call the police, following Zeigler's unsuccessful attempt to kill him. This had to be before 9 if Williams had entered the store without anyone having to let him in, because the store closed at 9:00PM that night. There is little doubt Williams was there that night, and tried to make a phone call: not only is this what he claimed, but his story was verified by two different employees who had been working that night, as well as some customers.

The question is on the time. Williams said he ran from Zeigler furniture, to the hotel parking lot behind it, and ultimately across the street to the Kentucky Fried Chicken. If he did all of this in a reasonably direct manner, this should have taken him no more than 5 minutes (indeed, Finch claims this should take less than one minute). Recall from my previous posts that both Ed Williams and Tommy Zeigler agree that they left from Zeigler's house together, in Williams' truck. The times are where they disagree. It could have been anywhere from as early as 7:30 or thereabouts (if you believe Zeigler's story), to 8:12 or so (if we believe Williams' estimates about how long everything took that night, begining from 7:28, when he said he first arrived at the Zeigler home), to 8:35 or so (if we believe the prosecution timeline, which has Williams waiting close to an hour before finally beginning what he thought were the evening's errands with Tommy Zeigler, and keeping in mind that, by no later than 8:45, if we believe the testimony of the Fickes', the Oldsmobile Zeigler had been driving was locked up where it remained for the remainder of the night).

The available stories, then, put Zeigler and Williams at the furniture store together no earlier than about 7:35, but no later than 8:50. Let's take it from there, looking at the two sides of this story.

If Zeigler is innocent: If we believe Zeigler, then we probably need to believe his story too, which means he and Williams arrive at his store at approximately 7:35-7:45. Apparently, there ensues a struggle, in which Zeigler is shot, and then the killers hang around for some time, presumably working on their frame-up job. As part of this process, they kill Mays. Williams is a key participant here. Zeigler isn't sure how long it is after he is shot that the killers leave, but he is sure they had been gone for some amount of time before he finally called authorities, a call that came at the undisputed time of 9:20. So, let's say, generously, that the killers took 10 minutes to incapacitate Zeigler, and then hung around for an additional 30 minutes while they prepped the scene and murdered Charlie Mays. 40 minutes is an awfully long time to hang around a crime scene, but, giving the Zeigler story the benefit of the doubt, that gets us up to 8:15-8:25, but let's call it 8:30. Williams is next seen at the KFC, at a disputed time, which I will get to in a few minutes.

If Zeigler is Guilty, and we disbelieve his story: If Zeigler is lying, then we can use the prosecution time line. The question becomes, "Which one?" As I've discussed in a previous post, Williams estimates that, after he arrived at Zeigler's house at 7:28, he was there for another 45 minutes or so before he left for the store with Zeigler (Williams thinks it was about 10-15 minutes before Zeigler arrived the first time, that Zeigler stayed at the house about 3 minutes, and left again; then after 10-12 minutes, the Fickes drove by, and then about 20 minutes after that, Zeigler arrived again, alone, and that after about 2 minutes or so, Zeigler was ready to leave). That would mean that Williams and Zeigler left for the store at about 8:15, which would put them at the store at 8:20-8:25. However, recall that Zeigler was, according to Charlie Mays' wife, supposed to meet Mays at the store at 7:30, and, according to Felton Thomas, Zeigler wasn't at the store when he and Mays drove up. This would suggest that Zeigler arrived somewhere between 7:30 (if Mays was early for their appointment) and perhaps 7:35 (if Zeigler was late), which pushes back the time when Zeigler could have met Williams at his house for the second and last time to as late as 8:35 or perhaps even a few minutes later, but no later, probably, than 8:40 (based on the account of the Fickes). If they left for the store together at 8:35, Zeigler and Williams would have arrived at the store between 8:40 and 8:45. Zeigler then makes his murder attempt, it fails, the two men talk out back of the store for a few minutes, and then Williams takes off. This whole encounter shouldn't have taken more than about 10 miutes, since there was no physical struggle according to Williams. Finally, we might guess that it took Williams about 5 minutes to wind up at the KFC. This means he should have gotten there any time between 8:35 (if we believe Williams' estimates about how long things took that night) and just about at 9:00PM (if we believe the timeline suggested by Felton Thomas' account, which is what the prosecution used as the basis for their presentation).

Recall that if we believe Zeigler's story, we might guess that the murderers left the store at 8:30. If we believe Williams then proceeded directly to the KFC, because it was his job to contact authorities and frame Zeigler, we would see Williams arriving at the KFC at about 8:35, or just within the early part of the window set up by the prosecution's witnesses. So, no matter who we believe, Williams could have arrived at the KFC any time between 8:35-9:00.

So what time did Ed Williams arrive at that KFC? Well, this, apparently, has been a matter of some dispute. One employee, whose shift ended at 9:00, says she never saw him. This would suggest Williams must have come in at the back end of our time range, actually even a few minutes past our estimate. The employee who showed him the phone did not specify what time he thought that occurred, but, importantly, he also did not say that he had to let Ed Williams into a locked store to make the call; if this had happened, you might think it a detail he would remember and relate. He simply said Williams asked to use the phone, and he allowed Williams to do so. Another witness, a customer, said she believed Williams had actually arrived to use the phone between 9:15 and 9:20, but again made no mention that he had to be let in specially to use it. Importantly, this account also establishes that the restaurant was perhaps supposed to close at 9:00, but allowed people to place orders that would keep them cooking past that time. Indeed, this woman said that she came and placed her order at about 8:55; less than ten minutes later, another group of men were allowed into the store (it apparently had to be unlocked) and allowed to place an order as well. Next came Ed Williams to use the telephone (she did not indicate he needed to be let in), and then, a few minutes after he had left, she heard someone say that there were police across the way (Finch 141-142).

Finally, there was another customer, named Ed Nolan, a "regular" of this KFC, who ate there that night, as he did every night, and was met by his brother and his brother's wife. The three of them agreed that they saw the police at the Zeigler store -across the street from the KFC. Nolan's brother and Nolan's brother's wife said they saw Zeigler being helped into a police car by Robert Thompson (in other words, right before Zeigler was taken to the hospital). Then, according to J.D. Nolan (brother of Ed), he saw Ed Williams at the KFC, asking to use the telephone. Obviously, if all of this is true, is quite problematic for the prosecution's case, and casts a lot of doubt on Ed Williams: he apparently appeared at the restaurant AFTER the police arrived at the Zeigler store. This, indeed, is the "big reveal" of Finch's book; he wants this testimony to mean an awful lot. Here is Finch on the importance of this story, if it is accurate:

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
In another sense, though, it is actually quite simple. The case is a choice between Tommy Zeigler and Edward Williams. Their accounts of Christmas Eve begin at a common point—Williams and Zeigler driving to the store in Williams's truck—and then diverge so drastically that they cannot both be telling the truth. If Williams's story is true, then he is an innocent near-victim, and Zeigler is certainly a murderer. If Zeigler's story is true, then he himself is the innocent victim.

With that in mind, I looked for evidence that clearly, unambiguously reflects on the truth or falsity of their stories. In that respect... [t]he primary evidence against Williams is the testimony of the eyewitnesses who placed him at the Kentucky Fried Chicken after 9:00 P.M. Williams himself didn't specify what time he went to the restaurant, only that he went there immediately after Zeigler tried to kill him. But according to the observations of Don and Rita Ficke, Williams had left the driveway before 8:45; Don Frye told the grand jury that Zeigler picked up Williams between 8:20 and 8:30; if so, the attempt on Williams life would have taken place between 8:35 and 8:50. Williams testimony was that he jumped the fence of the rear compound, ran into the Winter Garden, and then walked across the street to the restaurant. This would have required less than a minute.

If Williams's account is essentially accurate, he should have walked into the restaurant before closing time at 9:00. Yet nearly everyone in the restaurant who testified or gave a statement said that he showed up after the door was locked, and had to be let in. Only the clerk, John Grimes, failed to specify whether Williams showed up before or after closing.

The trial testimony of J.D. Nolan and Madelyn Nolan is especially compelling. Both of them swore that they watched Robert Thompson drive off with Zeigler to the hospital. The Nolans continued to watch the store, then crossed the street to speak with J.D.'s brother, whom they saw in the door of the restaurant. At this time, according to J.D. Nolan, the black man who resembled Edward Williams walked up and said that he wanted to use the telephone. By now Zeigler must have been on the gurney at the hospital, probably lying in the emergency room.

This is devastating testimony. There is no innocent explanation for Williams's arrival at the restaurant at this late moment.... To put it another way; the Nolans’ testimony implies that Tommy Zeigler must already have been shot when Williams left the furniture store. Not only was Zeigler already shot, but Robert Thompson and the emergency room nurse both found that the blood had dried around his wound. If the Nolans saw what they claimed to see, Williams's story is fatally flawed, and so is the state's hypothesis of guilt. If the Nolans saw what they claimed to see—what they swore they saw—then really nothing else matters. Tommy Zeigler could have had $10 million in insurance on his wife; it doesn't matter anymore, as far as Zeigler's guilt or innocence is concerned. Zeigler could have made fifty footprints in blood; it doesn't matter.... If Edward Williams was at the restaurant when the Nolans said he was there, then Tommy Zeigler is not a guilty man....

I cannot find another piece of important evidence in this case which is as clear, as unequivocal, as indisputable as the Nolans' testimony. It is not colored by personal interest, nor is it subject to debate. Its implications are so great, and its' significance is so obvious, that is goes straight to the heart of the argument about what happened on Christmas Eve.

It cannot be dismissed. It cannot be ignored. It may have been unrecognized at trial, but that does not diminish its ultimate value. This is what it means: If the Nolans saw what they swore to have seen, then Tommy Zeigler was wrongfully convicted. Anyone who believes that Tommy Zeigler deserves to spend another day in prison—much less be killed—has the ethical obligation to demonstrate that J.D. and Madelyn Nolan lied. Because if they did not lie, then Tommy Zeigler is an innocent man. (Finch 284-285; 286; 288)
In the interest of space, I have cut some out of what Finch had to say here: to summarize the excised parts, Finch claims that if Williams did as he said, and went right from the store to the KFC, it could have only taken one minute at most. Meanwhile, if that minute was at 9:19, instead of earlier in the evening, Zeigler would have had to do an awful lot, including shoot himself, before calling the police. In other words: if Williams isn't lying about having gone directly to the KFC, then the prosecution's case doesn't make any sense, because Williams was seen so late at the KFC that Zeigler would have had to shoot himself, etc., all in the minute it would have taken Williams to get to the KFC. Since that isn't possible, Williams must be lying, ergo, the prosectuion's theory is false. This is why "the Nolans’ testimony implies that Tommy Zeigler must already have been shot when Williams left the furniture store."

The other piece I cut was Finch's discussion of the Nolans. The only other way to accept the prosecution's case, of course, is to suggest one of three things:

(1) That the Nolans were mistaken about what they saw
(2) That the Nolans were lying about what they saw


(3) That the Nolans saw what they saw, but were mistaken about identifications.

At trial, the prosecution opted for the third possibility, saying the Nolans indeed had seen a black man ask to use the telephone at the restaurant the night of the murders, but that it was a different black man, that Ed Williams had been there earlier. Finch retorts that no witness reported two black men asking to use the telephone, including Edward Nolan, who was in the restaurant all night. He also tries to show that they couldn't have been wrong about the timing of what they saw, because of J.D. Nolan and his wife pulled off the road to watch everything transpire after they had almost been hit by a car - the car that almost hit them was a police vehicle, responding to the call for help at the Zeigler store. So that only leaves that they were lying about what they saw, only no one has ever offered any proof of that, and why would they, independent, disinterested third parties, lie?

Let's try to answer that last question. First of all, Finch gleefully ignores at this point that one of the other witnesses present, who was equally sure of her times, told the story in inverse order from the Nolans: FIRST the black man came in to use the telephone, and then left, and THEN AND ONLY THEN did police arrive at the store. So there is disagreement among the eyewitnesses about the order of these events.

More than that, Finch himself admits, elsewhere in his text, that Edward Nolan, the first person to tell the story that ultimately his brother J.D. and his wife Madelyne would testify to, seemed "confused" about the timeline; that is the polite word, by the way, for "he changes his story mid-stream." This account of Nolan's story comes from earlier in the book. I have bolded relevant portions for emphasis:

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
Ed Nolan said that a clerk locked the front door of the restaurant at 8:55, and shortly afterward the cook started a last batch of chicken. Nolan knew that a tray of chicken needed twenty-two minutes to cook. His testimony about time was somewhat unclear. He said that around eight or ten minutes after the store closed he [the clerk? - unclear] unlocked the front door to let out two customers. He opened the door and found a black man outside, asking to use the telephone to call the police. Nolan [sic?] let him in. By Nolan's estimate, this would be about 9:05. But what he next said placed the time nearly twenty minutes later:

"[The black man] asked me what the police number was. I said, are you local, sir. He said, I am. I said, dial 3636. It wasn't no use telling him a half-dozen numbers. Then he turned his back to me. I got the profile of how he was dressed there. Just slipped my mind. Wasn't interested in the call. When I turned back around, my brother [J.D. Nolan] was knocking on the door. He wanted me outside because he had done seen this commotion going on across the street. He had just liked to have run into—the statement I made here, somebody driving pretty fast around the corner, a police car." (Finch 142-143 - emphasis mine)
Edward Nolan, the first of he, his brother, and his brother's wife to come forward with this story, appears to change the timeline mid-stream: at first, he seems to indicate Williams comes in around 9:05 or so, much before the police come and close enough to Edward Williams' account. Then, in the middle of telling this story for the first time, he changes it up to suggest that Williams came later, at about the time his brother arrived, which no one seems to dispute was closer to 9:25 (this is because his brother and his brother's wife were both almost hit by a cop car that was responding to the call for officers to come to the store). However, note that even in this account, Nolan seems to suggest that first he saw Williams come into the store, then he noticed his brother at the window of the restaurant. By the time this went to trial, Ed Nolan had died (he was terminal with cancer at the time of the murders). However, his brother and his brother's wife testified, and they gave Edward Nolan's account - with revisions. Here is how Finch relates all of this:

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
[Ed] Nolan told... a startling story, which he repeated at a deposition in May. He said that after 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve, a black man came to the restaurant asking to use the telephone. Nolan got the impression that there had been an accident. The man was wearing a light brown sweater. He asked the telephone number of the police, and Nolan told him. Then Nolan turned around and saw his brother, J.D., outside....

J.D. Nolan and his [wife] confirmed Ed Nolan's story. They told defense investigators... that J.D. crossed Dillard Street, and the two brothers spoke. Then a middle-aged black man came up and asked to use the telephone inside the restaurant. Madelyn Nolan corroborated the two brothers' account. She remembered seeing Thompson help Zeigler out of the store and into his patrol car. Minutes after that, she saw Williams at the restaurant. (Finch 106-107; emphasis mine)
The problem, as you can see, is that Ed Nolan's account clearly and definitively contradicts the account given by his brother and his brother's wife. Ed says, in every version of his story, that FIRST he saw the black man, and THEN he saw his brother. His brother says that FIRST they spoke, and THEN saw the black man ask to use the telephone.

So, not only is Ed Nolan's statement not consistent with the statement given by another customer, it is not even consistent with the one given by his own brother.

So were Ed and J.D. Nolan lying, or was one of them just confused? To offer an answer to that question, let me repeat a quote of Ed Nolan's I bolded above, but have yet to touch on:

Originally Posted by Ed Nolan
It wasn't no use telling him a half-dozen numbers.
This is what Nolan said about why he only gave the last four digits of the police telephone number to Ed Williams. In those days, if the town was small enough, and everyone had the same exchange, you apparently only needed to dial four numbers to call from one exchange to another (so 555-1212 calling 555-1414 could just dial "1414"). But what I am interested in here is the attitude: "it wasn't no use telling him a half-dozen numbers." Why? Maybe it was because Williams was black, and Nolan was a racist, and figured a black man would be too dumb to remember more than 4 numbers? If that sounds far-fetched, here is an important detail I have withheld: Ed Nolan's testimony was never read into evidence at trial. This was not because he contradicted his brother, but because, in it, he used referred to Ed Williams as a n*****, and the defense was afraid of alienating the jury, which had six black people and six white people. This is hardly surprising, coming, as it did, from a 70-some-year old white man in the 1970s South. But if anyone is looking for a reason as to why three old white people might have made up a story about a black man to make him look like a liar, I don't think we need to have much of an imagination.

So, hopefully, I have cast major doubt on Finch's major assertion, that the Nolans' statements were accurate, and by implication, his major conclusion: that since their statements are accurate, then Ed Williams must be lying, and since Ed Williams is lying, Tommy Zeigler must be innocent.

But what if the Nolans aren't lying? I submit that it still isn't half as significant as the piece of testimony that Finch wants to totally disregard, namely that Zeigler was seen in a car with his wife at 7:10 or so night. If Williams didn't go directly from the store to the KFC, as he said he did, it is suggestive, but certainly falls short of proving anything; however, if Zeigler really was in his car that night with his wife, his whole story comes undone.

That will be the subject of my next post.

Last edited by mozartpc27; 06-27-2010 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:12 PM   #56
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So, the other bit of important eyewitness testimony is Thomas Hale's, the man who said he saw Zeigler and his wife together in Curtis Dunaway's Oldsmobile on the night of December 24th, 1975, at about "shortly after 7:00PM" (this time is also referred to as "about 7:15"), very close to the store, and headed in that direction.

Obviously, if this story is true, Zeigler is totally sunk; he has maintained, since 1975, that his wife left with her parents that night to go to the store, in their car, and that he did not arrive at the store until much later, well after 7:00 (probably more like 7:40 or so) with Ed Williams, at which time, one must guess, his wife and her parents were already dead. There is no way for him to square this story with the one he tells.

So, here is how the defense handled it, according to Finch. First, they sent their investigator to speak with the witness. Here is Finch's account of their encounter:

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
Gene Annan interviewed Thomas Hale, the young man who claimed to have seen Tommy and Eunice driving together near the furniture store around 7:10 on Christmas Eve.

As Annan described it later, he stood beside Hale at a counter where Hale
worked, at the McCoy Jetport on the south side of Orlando. Annan carried a
notebook with the photograph of an automobile clipped inside the front cover.
They chatted for a few minutes, and Annan opened the notebook. This gave Hale a glimpse of the photograph. Hale remarked at the photo: that was it, he said, that was the car Eunice and Tommy had been driving on Christmas Eve.

Annan asked him if he was sure. Hale said yes, he recognized the car from
the style of the rear-wheel fender skirts. Annan suggested that Hale sign and date the back of the photograph, and Hale complied. Hale was an acquaintance of the Zeiglers. The photo he signed was of the 1968 Oldsmobile that the Zeiglers had sold three months before the murders. (Finch 107)
So, first, the defense appears to have established that Hale misidentified the car, pointing to one that no longer existed at the time of the murders. This, of course, would not hold up in court: as a "photo lineup," it is prejudicial and inadequate. The car Curtis Dunaway loaned the Zeigler was a 1972 Oldsmobile, with a beige top over a darker brown body. The Zeigler's old car was also an Oldsmobile, also featured brown (with gold as the second color), and of course Hale did not have a chance to see the two pictures side by side and pick which one he thought the Zeigler's were driving that night. He saw a picture that looked generally like the car he had seen them in that night - in the dark - and figured that was the car they were driving, and identified it as such. To me, this makes Hale overly enthusiastic - but not necessarily a bad witness. He saw a car with a similar body, with similar colors, and saw no other pictures of any cars, and just associated the picture he saw with the thing he was being asked about at the moment he was asked.

The defense also brought on witnesses to impeach Hale's credibility, as Finch tells us:

Originally Posted by Phillip Finch
Rhonda Hull, the ex-wife of defense witness Thomas Hale, testified that Hale was a frequent liar who often exaggerated to make himself important. Hadley got the same from Sonja Barker, who said that she had known Hale for eight years. (Finch 196)
I'm not sure how much credence i am willing to lend someone's ex-spouse in these sorts of proceedings; ex-spouses have a way of assuming the very worst about their former spouses. We are not told who Sonja Barker is in relation to Hale, but Finch does quote from her testimony, in which she agrees that Hale has "a reputation for lying" (Finch 197).

So, is that enough to discount Thomas Hale?

Well, perhaps, though his story does not openly contradict the stories of any impartial, third-party eyewitnesses, the way that Ed Nolan's does. Nor, of course, is Hale's story confirmed by any third-party, impartial eyewitnesses. On balance, this makes it better than Nolan's story, in my book; but does that fact make it convincing?

I'm not sure I have an answer to that, but, at the least, what I want to point out here is that Finch is content to let the defense's not-terribly-convincing attempts to debunk Hale speak for themselves, giving Hale's account no further weight. However, at the same time, Finch does:

1. Erroneously contend that Ed Nolan's, J.D. Nolan's, and Madelyne Nolan's stories all coroborate one another (as I explain above, they do not).

2. Give the "unified" version of the Nolans' story ALL the weight, and none to the story told by at least one other third-party eyewitness. This person -Amy Crawford - has as little reason to lie as Finch claims the Nolans have, as she was not shown to have any acquaintance with any of the parties, and her story contradicts even the erroneously "unified" version of the Nolans' story. Yet Finch, after relating it, basically ignores it, since it interferes with his own theory.

3. Assign an undue amount of importance to the "unified" version of the Nolans' story.

Let's take this last point and look at it. Even if we take the "unified" version of the Nolans story - that first the cops arrived at the Zeigler store, then the brothers noticed each other, then they saw Ed Williams asking to use the phone - as gospel, what does it mean? It means that Ed Williams showed up at 9:30 or so, not 9:00. That's all it proves for certain. This, in turn, means one of two things:

1. Ed Williams lied about going directly from the store to the KFC, that he did something else first.


2. Ed Williams told the truth about going directly from the store to the KFC, but that he left the store much later than the prosecution says, which suggests, in turn... well, what exactly?

If Williams left the store but took his sweet time getting to the KFC, there are some legitimate questions for him, starting with: where did he go? And why didn't he mention that he went wherever he went before going to the KFC to try to call the cops? It suggests, surely, that Ed Williams is hiding something, but it doesn't really tell us what. Maybe Ed Williams wasn't as scared as he said he was, got away, then ran into a hooker at the hotel behind the store, and decided to get laid before going to find a cop. Maybe he WAS as scared as he said he was, so scared that he decided to do something illegal - like drugs, maybe - first to calm down, and didn't want to share that detail with police. Or maybe he was inside the store very late, trying to set everything up to make it look like Tommy did it. Any of these could be true, but the fact that he might have lied about going right from the store to the KFC doesn't tell us exactly what he did or didn't do. If Williams was lying about that point, in other words, it certainly does not mean, as Finch claims it does, that "Tommy Zeigler was wrongfully convicted" (Finch 288). It might mean that, but, then again... it might not.

If Williams was telling the truth about leaving the store immediately, but did so later than the prosecution says, what exactly does that prove? For Finch, it simply couldn't have happened that way: if Williams was as innocent as the prosecution says, then Zeigler would have had to:

1. Move Williams' truck & wipe it clean of prints
2. Bent the gate to make it appear there had been a break-in attempt
3. Shoot himself in the side
4. Called the cops

All in under a minute or two at the most. This is a better point than the first one, and involves some items I haven't discussed yet. First, the idea that Williams' truck was moved, which comes from the Williams' story: he said he left it one place in the fenced-in area behind the store, but it was found in another (in the same fenced-in area), and yet no finger prints indicating anyone else had driven it were found. This implies, then, that Zeigler moved the truck. To me, this is a little bit specious: Williams simply could have been mistaken about where he left the truck, in all the confusion. The second point, that the gate was found bent, is certainly true; the question is, when was it bent? It apparently was not bent before that night; no one seems to remember it being bent. So, the theory goes, Zeigler must have done it some time that night, only when? The prosecution figured he did that after Williams fled the scene, because Williams said he could not escape by the gate; Finch, following that theory, supposes now that Zeigler must have bent the gate in the same minute that he was also moving Williams' truck, calling the police, and shooting himself, IF we believe that Williams really did head right from the store to the KFC, and that he did this starting at about 9:18 or so. The problem for me is that no one can say for sure the gate wasn't bent at some earlier point, they only suppose this is true because Williams said he tried to get out by that gate, but couldn't do it. But I don't find that especially conclusive. In his panic, he might not have tried it that hard or that well, deciding to try to climb out once the gate didn't respond immediately to his attempts to open it.

So, to me, we really only need to account for the last two points. Could Zeigler have shot himself and called the police in under a minute? Undoubtedly. So there's no problem, right? Willaims could have gotten to the KFC as late as 9:30, and Ziegler could still be guilty. But there is a problem: why was the wound dry, if Zeigler shot himself at 9:19, and the cops arrived at 9:21? Couldn't have been.

So Finch has a point here. EITHER the Nolans were wrong or lying - and I've already shown that there is a good probability that they were - OR Ed Williams was at the store later than the prosectuion let on, which implies, minimally, that he must know more than he is telling, because Zeigler couldn't have been shot much after 9:00PM.

Meanwhile, the testimony Finch discounts is equally damning. Either Thomas Hale is lying - and there were people ready to testify he was a liar - or he's telling the truth, and if he is, then Zeigler is somehow involved.

Importantly, however, if Hale is lying, it doesn't necessarily mean Zeigler wasn't involved, just that it would be harder to prove; if the Nolans are wrong or lying, on the other hand, Williams' story then reverts back to fitting the timeline reasonably well. In other words, for theories of Zeigler's guilt, the fact that Hale is lying - if he is - isn't fatal; for theories of Zeigler's innocence, the fact that the Nolans are lying - if they are - isn't fatal necessarily either, but it's much closer to being so.

Where does this leave us?

My next post will be my last in this series: Conclusions.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:44 PM   #57
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Hey Mozart, good points, I will get more into them a bit later. Also for the record in Florida, as well as Alabama and Delaware, judges are allowed to overrule life recommendations for death. These same three states are also the only ones where a jury recommendation does not have to be unanimous. In Florida if a vote is split 6 to 6 than it is officially a life recommendation. If 7 or more are for life or for death than it would be a recommendation for either life or death. In Florida, judges rarely overturn a life recommendation in favor of a death sentence.

Out of the 394 people currently on Florida's death row, Zeigler is one of 9 or 10 whose judge overrode a life recommendation for death. Judges overturn death recommendations much more often in Florida, usually if it is a 7 to 5 recommendation but sometimes even 8 to 4 recommendation as the death sentences tend not to hold up under court scrutiny anyway when it is that close.

In Alabama, judges override life recommendations way more. However the difference is, in Alabama judges are not appointed, they are elected. Thus they need to stand out as being tough on crime and the like so they override jury recommendations in favor of life for death much more than judges in Florida do. Out of all the people on Alabama's death row, around 40 percent of them had their jury recommend a life sentence but the trial judge overrode it for death.
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Old 06-28-2010, 12:03 AM   #58
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So, finally, let's try to wrap up by looking back over everything, and drawing a few conclusions.

To begin, I think we need to note that Phillip Finch pushes hard for Zeigler's innocence, and relies heavily on the testimony of the Nolans to do so, which puts Ed Williams at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at a pretty late time - 9:30 to be exact.

These two things don't really go together.

If we, and presumably Finch, believe Zeigler is innocent of all wrongdoing, then we must take him at his word about his story. As I've discussed before, this means he made an appointment to meet Ed Williams at 7, not 7:30, and that he waited for Williams for 10-15 minutes before going out to buy some liquor, then changing his mind, turning back, and finding Williams at his house on his return. This means, by Zeigler's own story, that Zeigler and Williams could not have left his house any later than about 7:45, at the absolute outside, but much closer to 7:30, in all probability. Forgetting all the other problems with his account, now consider that Williams doesn't show up at the Kentucky Fried Chicken, in Finch's account, until 9:30 or so. It only takes 5-10 minutes to drive from the Zeiglers' home to their store; this means he and Williams arrived absolutely no later than 8:00, but probably somewhat earlier than that (maybe as early as 7:35). That leaves an one-and-a-half to two hours between when Zeigler and Williams arrive at his store, to when Williams goes to the KFC. But even if Williams was part of a vast plot, and the killers took their sweet time, we must remember that 3 of the 4 people killed that night were already dead when Zeigler arrived with Williams, if we believe Zeigler's account. Murderers don't generally want to hang around the scene longer than they have to - so why does it take these killers an hour and a half to two hours, from the time they arrive at the store with Zeigler, to get everything squared away?

The answer might simply be that they finished at 9:00, or 8:45, or even earlier, and it's just that Williams didn't bother going to the KFC directly after leaving the Zeiglers' store. Certainly this is possible, but regardless, there is a gap of time here that goes unexplained in "Zeigler is innocent" theories.

Of course, another possibility is that Finch is wrong, and the Nolans are lying or were mistaken, Williams was there at that KFC earlier than 9:30, but that Zeigler was still not involved. Certainly, this is possible; you don't need the Nolans to prove Zeigler is innocent. However, any of these scenarios still leave the open questions I have asked earlier concerning the account of the Fickes: if Don and Rita Ficke are right, and the Oldsmobile Zeigler was driving wasn't at the house that night between 8:10-8:30, where was it, and why can't Zeigler account for it? If we think the Fickes just got their times wrong, and they left an hour earlier than they said, then how is it that Williams said he saw them drive up? The only way he could have known they had come by that night is if he had seen them. So, maybe it is Zeigler who is wrong; maybe his appointment with Williams was for 7:30, and he waited until a little after 8 before he went out and came back. Now, the Fickes testimony makes sense, but of course we're left to wonder why Zeigler would have gotten this crucial detail wrong, and why he would make an appointment to meet Ed Williams to pick up a chair that his in-laws were going to pick out at a time when his in-laws were supposed to be at Church: how was he going to know which chair to grab?

All of this suggests, strongly, that Zeigler is being deceptive about something. His story just doesn't add up, no matter which way you look at it.

But of course, the prosecution has a problem with its timing too, having everything to do with Zeigler's wound. There was some suggestion that Zeigler, as part of his army training, would have the medical knowledge required to shoot himself in a non-vital spot, though this was never really verified. Even so, he apparently risked shooting himself, by their theory; if that is so, even though the prosecution suggested otherwise, he really would have had to wait no less than 15 minutes before calling for help in order for his wound to be basically dry. Zeigler also, according to the prosecution, shot himself with a .38 caliber gun, when a .22 was available, and at very close range. Neither of those decisions would be particularly good, as both would have tended to exacerbate the size and severity of the wound. Shooting himself with a .38 created a much bigger wound, one that it's hard to imagine he could have been sure would not cause him to bleed out before help arrived. Why take this chance, when he had a .22 he could have used? Also, the bullet did graze his liver: it's not as if there were no risk to his health in the action he took, if we believe the prosecution's case.

It is telling that, at the end of Finch's book Fatal Flaw, Finch suggests a narrative for what happened that night that is confused and at times seemingly impossible. Here, I paraphrase what Finch suggests happened, with my comments interjected as necessary:

1. One or two men gain access to the store, without resorting to any obvious break-in attempt. At least one of these men is Charlie Mays. There he or they wait for Zeigler, who he/they believe is coming around 7:30 with Ed Williams, as had been pre-arranged. So far, this means there are 2-3 people involved in this plot: Williams, Mays, and perhaps a third party.

Here already we see Finch hedging; if he believes Zeigler, Zeigler says he was set to meet Williams at 7, not 7:30, which would probably put he and Williams at the store at 7:10-7:15, not 7:30. Of course, Williams said the meeting was for 7:30, which should have put them at the store, if they left directly, at 7:35-7:40. Finch appears to have split the difference between the two accounts.

2. Much to their surprise, around 7:10-7:15, Mrs. Zeigler and her parents arrive. This was unexpected, but had to be dealt with. So they struggle with all of these people, killing Mrs. Zeigler, and wounding (but not killing, not yet) Mr. and Mrs. Edwards. At this time, they are using the guns they presumably brought, which are the crappy .38s found at the scene not registered to Zeigler.

Again, Finch is very unclear in his narrative. He suggests that Mr. Edwards is shot after a struggle, but before Zeigler ever arrives (289). But he also acknowledges that Edwards and his wife were shot with the .38 ordinarily kept in Zeigler's truck. If that is true, how did these killers get it? Ed Williams supposedly had access to Zeigler's truck, but he wasn't there at the store at this point, even in Finch's account. It's possible Ed Williams stole the gun from Zeigler's truck at some earlier point in time, and then gave it to his co-conspirators to use on this day, but all of that suggests a plot to frame Zeigler from the get-go: Finch's whole concluding narrative is just the opposite, that this began as a plot to kill Zeigler that only turned into a frame-up when the killers were surprised by Mrs. Zeigler and her parents. So which is it?

3. The original plot, according to Finch, is all fouled up. They had come there intending to kill Zeigler, according to Finch, but his wife and her parents showed up instead. So they killed the wife, and have darn near killed her parents. They realize things are not going well, but they also realize that Zeigler is still coming. Quickly, our conspirators decide to change course, and rather than do harm to Tommy, take this marvellous opportunity to frame him for the murders instead.

4. Williams arrives with Zeigler; immediately, they beset Zeigler. First, they try simply to beat him into submission. However, when this doesn't work fast enough, and he is getting off gun shots (as he testified) they are forced to shoot him. Zeigler is also shot with one of the guns brought to the scene by the burglars.

What Finch doesn't say here is that, at this time, for the rest of the story to make any sense, Mays has to be shot by Zeigler. If he is not shot now, then he is not shot ever. And yet, as you will see in the next step, Mays must somehow also have been able to leave the scene at this point, because...

5. The conspirators now decide that they want to make it look like Zeigler arrived here on his own, and shot the various people he found. To make that claim credible, they will need a car he was driving at the scene, and a gun of his to finish off the not-dead parents, so it will look like Zeigler did it. So, apparently, they get Zeigler's keys from him, which must include the keys to Dunaway's Oldsmobile, and then Williams, Mays, and anyone else who is participating, evidently leave the store, go back to Zeigler's house, and retrieve that Oldsmobile. Finch doesn't say this, but this also marks the only point in time during which the killers can grab the gun from Zeigler's truck if this plot is truly an ad hoc response to a situation gone bad.

Finch seems to forget that Zeigler had a number of weapons on-site, including one he fired himself according to his own story. Why did they think they needed to go back to his house and find one he had in his car? Of course, Finch seems to think they already had this gun and were using it before Zeigler ever arrived, an assumption which is problematic for all the reasons I gave before. At any rate, it is apparently necessary to Finch's account that Mays also went for this ride, because he had cat hairs on his shoes, and the Zeiglers had cats. Finch asks, through one of Zeigler's lawyers, how come Mays had cat hairs on his shoes, unless he had been somewhere, like the Zeigler's garage, where cats were? The is is the only time in the whole book these cat hairs are mentioned, by the way, and one wonders, in an age before DNA testing, how anyone could know for sure that the cat hairs on Mays' shoes were definitely from the same cat the Zeiglers' had, but I digress...

6. The killers now return to the store with Dunaway's Oldsmobile and the .38 from Zeigler's truck. They use this .38 to shoot Mr. and Mrs. Edwards once each in the head. This gun is then given to Ed Williams, and is the one he turns in.

7. Somewhere along in here, though, as I've pointed out, it's not at all clear when, Mays somehow gets shot, twice, and it is decided he needs to be killed too. He is visciously beaten, despite all the guns around, by people who, in theory, should have been working with him, not against him.

Of course, here is the problem with this idea: if Mays did go to the Zeigler home, he clearly hadn't been shot yet. But, by that point, everyone else who had gotten shot had been shot. So who shot Mays NOW, and why? It doesn't make sense.

8. The killers wipe down all guns but one, then go to leave. Unfortunately, their plan is to leave in Ed Williams' truck, which Zeigler has locked in the back. This presents two problems: first, they have no key, and second, his truck had been having trouble starting, because of a bad carburetor. One way or another, they couldn't get it out. So now, they have to use Zeigler's Oldsmobile to complete their getaway, only how are they going to explain why Williams' truck is there, but not the car Zeigler was driving? It is left to implication that someone drives the Oldsmobile back to Zeigler's house (one of Zeigler's attorneys seems to think this was done by Williams), and at the same time Williams starts concocting the whole story about how he came to have the gun, etc. He then first goes to the nearby KFC, to try to call the police about it, before ultimately contacting authorities in Orlando later that night.

This whole narrative has problems of impossibility, as I have shown, but here we have one more: so, in Finch's vague scenario, Williams is supposed to have driven Zeigler's automobile back to Zeigler's house, locked it up in the garage, and then walked all the way back to the KFC, where he first attempted to contact authorities? He had to get Zeigler's car back into that garage by no later than 8:45PM, according to the Fickes, but then been back at the KFC by no later than 9:30, but probably earlier.

Possible, but unlikely.

So now, finally, where are we left (I know I asked this question before)? On the one hand, theories of Zeigler's innocence lack, on close examination, consistency and, often, plausibility. However, Zeigler does appear to have been shot long before he makes the phone call for help - that's an awful risk to take. Did he really take it?

After all this, I was thinking I would suggest that the problem is that there are so many half-truths, but no whole truths, and that the reason for that might just be that Zeigler and Williams are each telling half-truths, because the whole truth implicates both of them.

But even that doesn't really work.

If Williams was in on it, what was he doing at Zeigler's house at 8:15 or so that night, when the Fickes saw his truck there, but not the car Zeigler was driving? There is no good explanation for that, except that he wasn't involved.

It's a bit anti-climactic, but my conclusion at the moment is this: Zeigler did it, but there isn't enough evidence to actually convict him.

I welcome your comments!
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:18 PM   #59
Corky Kneivel
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Not quite done with the whole thing yet but I just wanted to thank you for doing this as well as commend you on such a thorough job.

Ill add my comments shortly. I'm still convinced Tommy Z is where he should be and a reason I'm so glad you did this is it allows us the chance to grab specific portions and either dispute or expand upon.

Again, well done.
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Old 07-02-2010, 09:35 AM   #60
Alvin Karpis
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Originally Posted by mozartpc27
However, Zeigler does appear to have been shot long before he makes the phone call for help - that's an awful risk to take. Did he really take it?
This is a huge point in the direction of Zeigler being innocent

Why would he take this huge risk of lying there bleeding to death?
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