Plenty of Questions for Conspiracy Theorists
Six months earlier, Zeigler had gone to bat for a black friend, Andrew James, who owned a liquor store. Zeigler was trying to stop the loan sharking that worked as follows: A migrant labor crew boss would pay his crew members daily in cash that was provided to him by owners of local stores. When the migrants got their checks at the end of the week, they would go to the stores to cash them. The store owner would deduct the amount owed from the checks plus 10% interest. The crew boss got a percentage of the interest. Zeigler believed Andrew James had been framed because the persons behind the loan sharking wanted his lucrative business.
Zeigler helped the lawyer defending James and testified as a character witness for him at trial. The beverage agent testifying against James had his own character witness - Judge Maurice Paul. INMU Andrew James kept his liquor license.
Chief Robert Thompson was hired by the city of Oakland (population in 2000 under 1000 people) in 1973 after several years with the Florida Highway Patrol, the US Border Patrol, and as head of security for Florida Gov. Claude Kirk. At 8:30PM he met Patrolman Jimmie Yawn at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant across from the furniture store. He left the restaurant at 8:50PM and then drove to the party where he was when Zeigler called for help. It was learned by the defense later that Thompson was the apparent source of the rumors that were spread about Zeigler being a closet homosexual. Thompson resigned from the Oakland Police during Zeigler's trial. INMU.
In his book, The Appearance of Justice, former Orange County Chief Deputy Leigh McEachern says he contacted the Zeigler defense in 1981 to reveal information about a conference he had attended in the office of state attorney Bob Eagan prior to the trial. The conference included Judge Paul, but no member of the defense team. At the conclusion of the conference according to McEachern (page 6), "Judge Paul stated, 'Bob, if you get at least one first degree verdict, I will fry the son-of-a-bitch.'" McEachern passed a polygraph on this matter. He said he had reported the conference to his boss, Sheriff Mel Colman who told him not to say anything about the highly unethical meeting.
In 1987, a freedom of information act demand resulted in Zeigler's appellate attorney finding a record of an interview conducted by the state attorney's office prior to the trial of a Christmas eve guest at the Winter Garden Inn behind the furniture store. The interview had never been turned over to the defense. The hotel guest stated that he had seen a uniformed policeman leaning over the hood of his car with his gun drawn and pointing toward the back of the furniture store. He said this was around 9PM. After he saw the policeman, he heard shots being fired. The state attorney's office thanked the informant, but told him his information was not helpful! INMU.
Some obvious questions arise. What did officers Yawn and Thompson discuss at their meeting at the Kentucky Fried? Why was officer Yawn at the Winter Garden Inn when he got the call from Thompson? What did Edward Williams do from the time he jumped the fense in back of the furniture store until he arrived at the Kentucky Fried to make a phone call? Why did't he see the police cars in front of the store when he came out of the restaurant and report to them then? Why didn't the state attorney think the testimony concerning a police officer in back of the furniture store before hearing shots fired would be helpful?
Could the conspiracy be continuing even to this day. Is it merely judicial arrogance that has caused them to deny or restrict thirty years of appeals. The latest appeal based on DNA evidence that was unavailable at the time of the trial was rejected even though it indisputably refuted a prosecution claim that a large patch of blood on the underarm of Zeigler's shirt belonged to Zeigler's father in law. DNA showed that the blood was not from Zeigler's father in law, but was from Charlie Mays which supports the defense claim that Zeigler and Mays struggled after Mays was shot. Nonetheless, the court rejected the motion for a new trial based on this evidence saying that the father in law's blood could have been on a section of the shirt that was not tested. INMU
A final note for the conpiracy theorists. Former sheriff Mel Colman who lost an election to the current state attorney of Orange Co., Lawson Lamar (Lamar was an assistant state attorney in the prosecutor's office at the time of the trial, and was elected state attorney after Eagan retired)was found dead in his own pool in 2005. No one else was home at the time. He was the only person who might have been willing to confirm Leigh McEachern's claim that Judge Maurice Paul participated in an ex parte conference to discuss the trial and death penalty of a man presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. INMU