This candle stands for Chedell Williams who died
in the age of 17!
1.) October 22nd - October 25th 1991
On October 22nd 1991 two unknown men attacked Chedell Williams and her friend Zahra Howard when they wanted to buy transit fares at Fern Rock Station in Philadelphia. The girls tried to escape by running. One of the assailants caught Chedell however. After a brief fight a single shot was fired. Both assailants ran away. Chedell - a 17-year-old girl died half an hour later in hospital a senseless death.
At that time James Dennis was sitting in a bus in a totally different area of Philadelphia. Many witnesses have never been interviewed. Telephone records, which would have proven Jimmy's innocence, have never been investigated. Anyway: If Jimmy Dennis would have managed to run that fast to the scene of crime he should consider taking part in the Olympics 2000 - because in that case he would definitely be the fastest human being on earth.
On the same day the local police interviewed Zahra Howard. In her testimony she said that the shooter was between 5'9" and 5'10" tall. She stood opposite the perpetrator! Jimmy Dennis is 5'4" tall. Friends even call him "Shorty". Three days later on October 25th 1991 police officers showed her a picture of Jimmy asking her:
"Can you be sure if that is in fact the guy that shot Chedell?"
2.) What happened then?
People were shocked about the crime and about the fact that such a young girl had to die only because of a pair of earrings. It made them angry. Especially as this hadn't been the first time somebody got killed because of jewelry or clothes. Philadelphia police got under massive pressure to present the killer soon. They questioned anyone who lived in the area where Jimmy lived and grew up. High unemployment, poverty and social injustice are well known there. A ghetto where poor people are living - that means: No hope and no future. It's a quality of mankind to spread rumors when they are bored. And exactly this is what happened! Someone who had excessive police records - in contrast to Jimmy - mentioned his name to the police in relation to the crime…A lie with disastrous consequences!
3.) Charles Thompson's first testimony
Charles Thompson was one of the most important witnesses in this case. He has known Jimmy his whole live. On November 8th 1991 he got nabbed for an unrelated crime but they also interviewed him about the Chedell Williams case. They handcuffed him to a chair which was fastened to the floor and threatened him to charged him for the murder. This procedure lasted 5 hours! When Charles Thompson realized that they are going to put the blame on him he testified against Jimmy only to rescue himself. Pending charges were dropped after he testified against Jimmy (In 1996 however his bad conscious overwhelmed him. On January 24th he went to an attorney to recant his testimony against Jimmy -but read about that later)
4.) The Arrest and the Trial
When Jimmy heard that his name was mentioned he went together with his father and brothers to the Homicide Division. He wanted to get the rumors by side and offered his help. After waiting almost an hour the police send him back home saying they got no questions. One month later the drama started. Jimmy got arrested for the murder of Chedell Williams. The media had convicted him long before he entered the courtroom the very first time. They gave him a public attorney called Mr. Lee Mandell. Jimmy saw him exactly 2 times. The day before the trial at first and at trial the second time. He worked on more death penalty cases than anyone did. Neither he had the money nor the staff to work properly on all this cases.
During trial the persecution showed a button from the victim's clothes. It was ripped off in the struggle with the perpetrator. Jimmy asked his lawyer whether it had been probed if there are any fingerprints on the button. Mandell's answer was that they know that his fingerprints were not on the button - but who cares? Jimmy replied that he cares, as these are the prints of the killer. Mandell didn't even mention this during the whole trial!
During some points at the trial the jury foreman was sleeping and nobody had a problem with that!
It is not surprising that Jimmy got convicted of murder of first degree. He got sentenced to death. Sentenced to death although he is obviously innocent! Today he is on death row in the notorious SCI Greene jail in Pennsylvania.
5.) Charles Thompson's second testimony
Like mentioned above Charles Thompson recanted his statement from 1991 in 1996. He sought legal representation and made a new testimony. In this testimony he reports about the circumstances when he made his first statement.
"My question to you first of all, did you ever see Jimmy with a gun of any kind?"
"They would beat the hell out of me while I was handcuffed!"
6.) Other witnesses
Eyewitness David LeRoy -owner of a hot dog stall at the crime scene- later said that police had coerced him to identify Jimmy Dennis as the shooter. He added:
"I will not take away anyone's life with a lie."
He also said that Chedell stood up straight when the shot was triggered. This proves Jimmy's innocence, as Chedell was 5'10" tall. If Jimmy had shot, the bullet would have taken a totally different direction into her body. Remember Jimmy's height is 5'4"!
Thomas Bertha, another eyewitness of the shooting, said that he was eye to eye with the perpetrator. His height is 5'10". How is it possible that a man grows within a few minutes 6" only to shrink later the same amount again?
Jimmy's father testified during the trial that he had seen with his own eyes how Jimmy got on the bus. But the persecution didn't accept this alibi because they assumed that his own father would lie for his son.
7.) 1998 - seven years later
In July 1998 Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted in the closest vote in years (4-3) unfortunately against Jimmy. Three Supreme Court judges thought that Jimmy Dennis should get a new trial due to misconduct by the persecution.
On September 27th 1998 German narrator Petra E. Richter discovered the case and started to develop an unprecedented support campaign for Jimmy Dennis.
On November 13th 1998 Governor Tom Ridge signed the execution warrant! The date was set for January 7th 1999. Fortunately it was halted later. The halt is still active but can be lifted daily!
Also in November 1998 I discovered the case purely coincidentally while I was surfing in the net- I discovered Petra's Homepage. Immediately I realized that I am dealing here with an injustice.
8.) 1999- eight years later
I told many friends about the case but actually I had to find out that talking is not enough. In May I contacted Petra personally and told her that I want to donate. Two weeks later I launched the first Singaporean Homepage for Jimmy Dennis - an innocent man on death row!
This candle stands for Jimmy Dennis who is
on death row!