J and D's Corner

From the Letters Archive

We had a murder locally in which a young woman was shot at close range in her car late one evening as she was about to leave a park-and-ride lot after being dropped off there by a friend.  Perhaps significantly, the woman was related to a locally prominent family.  An unarmed rent-a-cop named Jennings was on guard duty in the lot at the time and called in the shooting on his radio, saying he had heard shots. He told the arriving police he had first ducked for cover, and saw no one in or leaving the area. 

Initially there were no suspects, no weapon could be found, no apparent motive, etc.  After some months of non-productive investigation and continued publicity leading to escalating cries from the public for an arrest, it was decided by the police that Jennings probably did the deed. Their case was built on the fact that during repeated sessions of questioning over time, inconsistencies had begun to appear in various details of Jennings' story.  Perhaps even more damaging, he tended to voluntarily engage in speculation about the way the crime was committed, causing the police to feel he knew too much.  Plus of course they had absolutely no one else to arrest.

For motive, they offered their own speculation that Jennings had approached the woman as a prostitute and, when he found she was not, decided to shoot her. One problem with this is that he was on duty as an "unarmed guard" and there was no evidence offered that he did possess or carry a gun, although after my letter was published it was reported someone testified that at some point in the past while living in his native North Carolina he had a gun in his car (which also was reported to be legal there at the time).

In any case, a year or so after the crime Jennings was charged, incarcerated and eventually put on trial in Los Angeles, resulting in a hung jury.  He was then tried again, another hung jury.  He was then subjected to an almost unheard-of third trial with the venue moved to the presumably better (for the prosecution) local area. All three used essentially the same "evidence", which although tweaked & refined over the years really boiled down to "he definitely could have done it although we really have no direct evidence he did". 

I absolutely agreed with them that Jennings could indeed be guilty but that the case was much too thin to reach the "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement and certainly did not justify three trials.  I was doubtless in the minority on this, but did get a couple of expressions of support.

When this was written the third trial was about to go to the jury.   <Addendum:  He was convicted of 2nd degree murder by the third jury and sentenced to 40-to-life.  Doubt that it will be appealed, as there isn't any lawyer-money involved.  So I guess it's over with, leaving many of us with the hope he actually did it.>

Addendum #2:   From the Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2016:  " in an astounding reversal last week, Los Angeles County prosecutors asked for Jennings’ immediate release from custody, saying they’d discovered new evidence that not only cast doubt on his guilt, but seemed to implicate another person. It marked the first big case handled by the district attorney’s office’s new unit dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions.
After a hearing Thursday when a judge ordered Jennings’ release, his attorney, Jeffrey Ehrlich praised the development, but condemned the “cascade of errors” in the investigation that initially led to his client’s arrest and conviction."

 So the Jennings saga reaches what I suppose can be called an intermediate conclusion, and my misgivings regarding the case were proved justified. Unlike the uproar of local publicity that accompanied the trials, the exoneration of Jennings has been a very low key item, and for sure you will never see any admission of error from anyone involved.

To:  AV Press

Date: 11/2009

Re:  Jennings III

Prominent placing by the AV Press of reports on the progress of Jennings Trial III indicates I am not the only one fascinated by the saga.

I scan every story for something new, such as: 

Physical evidence of any kind that points to Jennings. 

Evidence or testimony that Jennings ever possessed a handgun. 

Evidence or testimony that Jennings ever carried a handgun, on duty or otherwise. 

Evidence or testimony that Jennings’ past behavior shows he is the kind of person who, upon discovering that a woman he thought to be a prostitute was not, would spontaneously pull out a gun he supposedly carried and shoot her dead.  Or, for that matter, is the kind of person to come upon a woman he had never before met and spontaneously shoot her for some other reason. 

In fact, I scan for anything whatsoever that will give structure to what remains a vague, confusing ramble of speculation.