Ten grammar essentials

October 25, 2013

Ten Grammar essentials

by Crane-Station

note: I am not a grammar expert, nor do I have a doctorate degree. I enjoy the topic. This is a repost of something I had on my old site a long time ago.

1. alright is not a word. All right is two words.

2. alot is not a word. A lot is two words.

3. To split an infinitive is wrong in the formal sense, but sometimes it is okay to occasionally split an infinitive because it sounds better to do so. Six infinitives that express time relationships are listed here.

4. Avoid the word “which” in favor of “that’,” if possible. Chicago Manual of Style debate on which versus that. (I always favor that if possible)

5. Do not end a sentence in a preposition, unless you are asking a question (what horse did you bet on?)

6.Do not start an essay with a dummy subject such as There or It.

7.Unless you wish to kill the essay outright, use the active voice. Proofread and eliminate passive voice.

8. Unless you are quoting dialogue, contractions are too informal for quality writing.

9. “Lay” is a verb.
lay – definition of lay by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and …
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/laylay 1 (l ). v. laid (l d), lay·ing, lays. v.tr. 1. To cause to lie down: lay a child in its crib. 2. a. To place in or bring to a particular position: lay the cloth over the painting.

10.Lay is the the past of lie.
Laid must have an object: He laid the fork down.

He laid down is a grammatical mistake.

11. Get a copy of Struck and White: Elements of Style.

Remember the Stephen King quote, “The road to Hell is paved with adverbs.”

Has this been helpful?

BTW: Four places that you likely will not find grammatical errors in are: The Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic, Harper’s and The National Geographic.

Here is a recent Christian Science Monitor article on grammar.


The mother, her baby and the man

October 25, 2013

When Parrots Go Bad

by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration in Kentucky, in jails and in prison, during 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Inmate names are changed, except for nick names that do not reveal identity.

The mother, her baby and the man

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, sometime in February, 2008.

Before my trial, my husband, a retired criminal defense attorney with thirty years of experience, actually tried to help my court-appointed local attorney, who was about as useless as a cat with side pockets.

My husband advised the following:

1. Never ask a question that you do not know the answer to. Each and every question has a reference-at-the-ready in the transcript, wherein the deputy previously testified under oath. He did not quite go so far as to suggest my attorney to say something like, “So. Were you lying then? Or are you lying now?” But it was pretty close.

2. Never allow the witness any wiggle room. Only ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”

Had my lawyer been even marginally competent, and had he any integrity whatsoever, I may not have been given the opportunity to sit in this cell and write this. My husband describes Chris McNeill’s performance as “abysmal.” I believe this is too kind. I believe the man was actually working with and for the prosecution, and at least one Frankfort attorney that I know of does not deny this possibility.

For some reason, I now wear a towel on my head at all times. I have spent hours planning my hat for the Kentucky Derby, still months away, but I will wear jail-issue underpants on my head for the event. Wrapped just right, they look like a white do-rag, and they go quite nicely with the cornrows I am also planning.

I also have a solid plan to obtain an extra pair of socks, and I tell Christie, “Check this out. My sock has a big hole in it, right? So, I ask the guard for new socks, but I wrap the ones with holes into the rest of my laundry. She brings me new socks. I take the elastic threads from the old pair and make them into hair ties. Come to Mama!”

“It won’t work,” says Christie.

“What do you mean it won’t work? This is the rock-solidest plan I’ve ever had. I got this.”

“She’ll take them. She’ll take them home, sew the hole, and bring back the old pair.”

“Who the hell does that shit?”

Sure enough, this is exactly what the guard does. She brings the old, now-sewn socks back. She has a male Class D inmate in tow to do some work in the cell, and they begin a conversation about drug court.

The guard says, “All I know is that drug court is really hard.”

“Drug court sucks,” says the Class D.”I got kicked out. Two of us got five years on one check. I was clean. I am a contractor on the outside. I was called for a UA when I was working in Murray. I told them I’d go to the hospital or the jail in Murray, and give them a urine, and pay for it myself. They refused. they sent me to rehab. The day I was discharged I missed an appointment they never told me about, so they violated me. I’ve got eight years on the shelf.”

“Huh,” I say, adjusting the towel on my head. “Funny. I asked for drug court and they denied me, and just gave me eight years without all the bother. Drug court is a scam though, I agree. They probably did me a favor, denying me drug court. Come to think of it, I should have just killed someone. I’d be doing way less time.”

“So, you took it to trial then,” says the Class D.

“Here it comes,” I say.

“Never take anything to trial in McCracken County,” says the Class D. “Everybody knows that.”

“She didn’t know. Not from here,” Christie offers.

Lea says, “Drug Court’s a buuuunch of bullshit. I got kicked out and now I’m doing a nine-month flop in this hole.”

Down the hall, Harry shouts from his isolation cell, “HELP! Let me OUT! HelpmehelpmehelpmeHELP!”

Sirkka, the 4’8″ 105 lb self-described crack whore is, at times, oddly stuck in infancy, and she asks Lea to rub her legs and burp her like a baby. Lea snaps, “You ain’t no damn baby. You are a grown woman!”

The guard says, to Lea, “Well, I guess McCracken is better than Hickman.”

Lea says, “Fulton’s worse. Ricky’s World.”

“Hickman’s worse,” says the Class D.

“Yeah, Hickman,” says the guard. “It’s a dungeon. My sister was there and they feed you, like hog guts, what’s that called?”

“Chitlins?” I offer.

“Tripe?” says Tina.

“Tripe. That’s it.”

“Is that a gland?” I ask.

“Rub my legs,” says Sirkka to me.

“You need to quit. I’m not a pedophile. Really.”

Lea says, “I never shoulda done drug court.”

Later in the day, I find comfort in writing because I find my friend Tina’s case so upsetting that I do not know what else to do.

As near as I can tell, Tina met a man and moved in with him three weeks later, with her two-year-old son. Over time, the child showed various bruises, but she was unconcerned because “of course he had bruises. he was an active little boy.” At some point, there was a bizarre story about the man doing the Heimlich maneuver on the boy. This resulted in a spleen injury, but it seemed to Tina anyway to be the result of a good-faith effort to prevent the boy from choking.

The man was the boy’s caretaker while Tina was at work. One morning in August she went to work at 6AM and received a call at 10 AM, that the man had called 911. He initially reported that he was wrestling with the baby and there was an accident.

The baby was flown to Vanderbilt (the nearest Level One trauma center), where he was later declared brain dead, with “global” brain injury, a broken neck, a bruised intestine and a damaged spleen. He was removed from life support and became an organ donor.

The man later admitted to the murder, and claimed that he himself was a “sociopath.”

Tina, who was at work that day, is charged with complicity to commit murder.

I become close friends with Tina, here and later in prison. I know her as an artist, a deeply religious and spiritual woman with a sense of humor and capacity for love and caring. She was not only crushed by the violent death of her son, but now she is forever marked as a violent criminal. Exhausted and grief-stricken, she often resorts to balling herself up in the corner of the shower, to moan and cry. For court appearances, the jail staff chains her onto the same chain gang as her son’s confessed murderer, and when she returns to the cell in tears, we console her.

Tina’s public defender, who is useless, allows the Commonwealth to threaten her with 60 years if she does not take a plea. Tina tells me one day, “I can’t fight them. I am done. I am out done.” She takes a plea for seven years on lesser charges, and she will serve 85% of that.


Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida needs to STFU

October 25, 2013

Friday, October 31, 2013

Good morning:

I write today to criticize Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida. In case you do not recall his name, he is the vocal sheriff of the county where 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from a tower in an abandoned cement plant after she could no longer endure internet bullying by two girls, 12 and 14 years old. He arrested and charged the girls with stalking. I wrote about this tragic case here.

CBS Crimesider is reporting today:

Judd told CBS News’ Crimesider that he charged the girls with stalking because what they did to Sedwick went beyong bullying into harassment and intimidation, but he also said that Sedwick had problems at home that may have contributed to her state of mind on the day of her death. According to Judd, Sedwick slept not on a bed at home, but in a recliner. Her sister, said Judd, slept on the couch, and the girls’ clothes were kept in “grocery sacks” in the living room.

Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman, has been in trouble with the law since at least 1995, when she was charged with multiple counts of writing bad checks, according to Polk County records. In 2005, she was again charged with writing bad checks, as well as fraud and probation violation. The records reveal that Norman apparently has several aliases, including Tricia Craig, Tricia Howard and Tricia Jones.

These comments are extremely offensive and unacceptable. The so-called “problems at home” to which Sheriff Judd refers do not refer to absence of love or neglect. They describe poverty.

22 million children in this country live in poverty, according to the most recent census.

The prior record to which CBS Crimesider refers consists of writing bad checks 8 and 18 years ago.

Sheriff Judd should know that poverty and unemployment are rampant in this country. Millions of people are out of work through no fault of their own. Living in poverty does not mean that a parent loves their child less than any other parent.

Richard J. Coley is the Executive Director of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education. Three days ago in What The Poverty Rate Tells Us, he wrote:

The “official” poverty rate, first adopted in 1969, is based on a list of income thresholds for families of different sizes; the thresholds are updated annually to recognize inflation. For example, in 2011 the threshold for a family of four is $23,021. The definition used in this measure uses money income before taxes and tax credits and excludes capital gains and noncash benefits such as food stamps and housing assistance. Some details about who is in poverty using the “official” Census Bureau measure are provided below.

Of the 46.2 million Americans in poverty in 2011 the largest number are White (31 million). 13 million Hispanics, 11 million Blacks, and 2 million Asians are in poverty. The official poverty rate is 15 percent. Of course that’s an average and averages often hide as much as they reveal. So here are some differences in the poverty rate for different groups of people. Among racial/ethnic groups, 28 percent of Blacks, 25 percent of Hispanics (any race), 13 percent of Whites, and 12 percent of Asians are poor. The poverty rate for our nation’s children is 22 percent. While 6 percent of married-couple families were poor, the rate for families with a single female householder with no husband present is 31 percent. The poverty rate for those with a disability is 29 percent. For those working full-time the rate is 3 percent; the rate for those who have not worked at all during the year is 33 percent. It’s only when you start to look at poverty across these segments of the population that the bigger picture becomes meaningful. Then, instead of just faceless averages and generalizations, you can start to visualize the people affected–the how and why. Looking at the poverty numbers this way gives us clues to strategies that can help us combat it.

Sheriff Judd has no business expressing his personal opinions about anyone. Period. For any reason.

To add to a mother’s grief for the loss of her child by making comments like this is disgusting.

CBS Crimesider has no business trashing a grieving mother for problems she had with the law 8 and 18 years ago.


Peace, peace

October 24, 2013

Boiling Frog

"Boiling Frog" by Donkey Hotey on flickr

Peace, peace

by Crane-Station
Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily life during incarceration in Kentucky, in 2008 and 2009, first in jails and then in prison, and is reconstructed from my notes.

This post is from prison.

Names have been changed, except for the teacher’s name and the name Columbus Dorsey in this post. My nickname in prison was Bird Lady.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

PeWee (pronounced Pee Wee) Valley Women’s Penitentiary near Louisville, KY, 5-4-09

Last night, officers woke three Ridgeview inmates at 2 AM, ordered them to pack their belongings, and then shipped them to Otter Creek, the privately owned prison in Appalachia, Pike County, eastern Kentucky. Inmates are loaded and transported like slaughter cows in the middle of the night. This way, families have no advance notice.

Two of the women were enrolled in college courses on scholarship, and were one exam shy of course completion.

Rhonda was my classmate in Horticulture. I had tutored Ashley, who had never completed the tenth grade, through perfect squares and complex polynomials in Algebra.

Fearful that I may be in the next Otter Creek shipment, I decide to walk to school in the morning to see if I am still enrolled.

As I leave the dorm, Rochelle says, “Bird Lady. Your birds is waitin’ on you.”

“I know. Thank you,” I say.

Twenty-five pairs of black liquid eyes watch my every move. They recognize my face, hat or no hat, pony tail or not., and they follow me and only me. Fussing and chirping, they dive-fly in front of me, reading my kindness for the weakness that it always is.

I toss them some bread when the officer is not looking. Read the rest of this entry »


Monsanto Spends Millions to Kill GMO Labeling Initiative I-522 in WA State

October 24, 2013

Monsanto Spends Millions to Kill GMO Labeling Initiative I-522 in WA State
by Crane-Station

Voters are already mailing in ballots for food labeling initiative I-522 in Washington State, where large food corporations have set a state record, contributing 17.1 million dollars, to defeat the truth-in-labeling initiative. A ‘Yes’ vote supports labeling of foods to reflect that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in food where genetic enginnering was utitized. The ballot summary states:

This measure would require foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale in Washington, beginning in July 2015. The labeling requirement would apply generally to raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stock, with some exceptions, but would not require that specific genetically-engineered ingredients be identified. The measure would authorize state enforcement and civil penalties, and allow private enforcement actions.

The ballot is significant in Washington State because, as it explains: “Agriculture is Washington’s number one employer and wheat is Washington’s number two export crop, second only to goods and services produced by the Boeing company, and ahead of Microsoft, which ranks third. Preserving the identity, quality, and reliability of Washington’s agricultural products is of prime importance to our state’s fiscal health.”

Shameless and arrogant agribusiness behemoth Monsanto leads the way in donations to defeat the initiative (ie. election buying), not even bothering, in an oddly honest way, to hide its 4.8 million dollar donation to an effort that would in essence allow dishonesty in food labeling.

Other large companies in the Big Food Lobby like General Mills, Inc. ($598,819), PepsiCo, Inc.($1,620,899), Kellogg Company ($221,852), Nestlé USA, Inc. ($1,052,743) and ConAgra Foods ($285,281), aka Big Junk Foods, slithered around in secret meetings, laundering money and hiding donor disclosure until Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against ‘junk food lobby’ Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), forcing them to disclose their identities and donation amounts. The disclosure was published on October 18.

Final ballots will be cast in Washington on November 5. Ballot initiative I-522 is similar to California’s Proposition 37, which was narrowly rejected by voters last year. Given the fierce battle that is unfolding in Washington and the amount of money that large companies are pumping into what amounts to a propaganda campaign that one might associate with a different era, some Washington voters fear that the truth-in-labeling initiative in Washington will fail as well.

The bottom line is, Monsanto and its supporters who supply our food do not want to be honest with the consumer, nor do they want the consumer to make informed decisions, for fear that informed decisions will decrease profit. Without even getting into discussions about why, for example, Monsanto’s scientists failed to foresee that weeds would become resistant to their best-selling miracle weed-killer RoundUp, we can surely agree that from a philosophical view, we have a basic right to know whether or not the food we put into our mouths has been produced through a process of genetic modification.

The ballot initiative does not ask, “Do you think Monsanto has done a pretty good job of convincing you that it is not Pure Evil this time around, or do you still want to shower and check for your wallet every time you see their name?”

The initiative states, in pertinent part:

Read the rest of this entry »


Colleen Ritzer stabbed to death in faculty bathroom and transported to woods in recycling bin UPDATE 1 BELOW, UPDATE 2 BELOW

October 24, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good morning:

ABC News is reporting this morning on Good morning America that police say Chism stabbed Colleen Ritzer to death in the faculty bathroom at Danvers High School around 3:30 pm on Tuesday. Based on a review of videotape and Chism’s confession, police have determined that he transported her body in what appeared to be a recycling bin into the woods behind the school.

After dumping her body in the woods, Chism went to a movie theater and watched Woody Allen’s new film, Blue Jasmine. I have no idea why he selected this film or if he knew what it was about when he chose it. Seems an extremely odd choice for a 14-year-old boy who just stabbed his teacher to death.

His family reported him missing at 5:30 pm. Ritzer was reported missing a few hours later.

Police went to the school to check on her late Tuesday evening and found the bloody crime scene in the faculty bathroom.

Police subsequently responded to a report of a pedestrian walking northbound in the southbound lane of Route 1 around 12:30 am Wednesday morning. The pedestrian turned out to be Chism. He was placed under arrest and transported to the Danvers Police Station where he confessed to the murder.

Chism’s uncle, who resides in Clarksville, Tennessee, describes Chism as a nice kid from a perfect family.

Danvers is located approximately 20 miles north of Boston.

Contrary to reports yesterday, Chism was not arraigned. He had an initial appearance at which the judge found probable cause to support the charge based on a review of the charge and supporting documents. He also denied bail. The next court appearance will be a preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for November 22nd.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing will be to determine whether probable cause exists to support the murder charge based on live witness testimony, as opposed to the more limited document review yesterday. The defense will be accorded an opportunity to cross examine witnesses called by the prosecution.

Given the confession, there is no reason to suppose that the court might not find probable cause.

Chism probably provided police with an explanation regarding why he killed Colleen Ritzer. If he did, they are not disclosing what he said. That is pretty much standard operating procedure at this point. For example, they likely would want to wait until the autopsy and forensic testing have been completed to determine whether the evidence supports or conflicts with his statement.

I suspect they are waiting to see if sperm is detected on any of the oral, vaginal and anal swabs obtained during the autopsy. If so, the next question will be whether the lab can detect a DNA profile for the male contributor and, if so, whether it matches Philip Chism.

UPDATE 1: Reuters is reporting that Philip Chism used a box cutter to stab and cut Colleen Ritter to death.

UPDATE 2: NBC News is reporting new details of the crime today:

A law enforcement source told NBC News on Friday that Ritzer’s throat was slit from the back with a box-cutter in a second-floor bathroom at the school. Her body was wheeled out of the school in a recycling bin, dumped in the woods and covered with leaves, the source said.

Philip Chism, a freshman, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and has been ordered held without bail. A surveillance camera caught the suspect following Ritzer into the bathroom and then leaving, covered in blood, the source said.

The suspect changed his clothes at some point and went to the movies and to Wendy’s, the law enforcement source said. Investigators found both the suspect’s and Ritzer’s phones smashed, the source told NBC News.

Students said that Ritzer had asked Chism to meet with her after class on the day of the murder. The second-floor bathroom, where blood was found, was to remain closed Friday.

Apparently, Chism sat through the movie, so my theory in the comments that he may have purchased a ticket to the show intending to use the stub as an alibi may be wrong.

He only had 40-45 minutes after the murder to transport her body to the woods, change clothes, and make it to the theater.

I don’t know where he lived and am assuming that he did not go home to change clothes.

The box cutter and a change of clothes nearby suggest that he went to school intending to kill her. Whether or not he did, he apparently had no specific idea about what to do after the movie and his dinner at Wendy’s.


George Zimmerman will not be charged with a crime despite stealing property

October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good evening:

George Zimmerman continues to live a charmed life. The Orlando Sentinel reported late today that Lake Mary Police Department is not going to charge him with “stealing a king-sized bed, antique chair and several other pieces of furniture from his mother-in-law’s rental house where he lived for several months.”

They chickened out and dismissed the theft as a landlord tenant dispute.

You just gotta love it when you see immense courage displayed by police department.

Any lingering doubts about the extent of the corruption in Seminole County should now be resolved.


13-year-old shot and killed by Santa Rosa sheriff’s deputies

October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good afternoon again:

More bad news, this time from the Bay Area.

Yesterday, Santa Rosa Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was walking down the street carrying a plastic replica of an assault weapon.

He is the third person to have been shot by police in the Bay Area during the past 24 hours.

The boy’s name is Andy Lopez.

File under “situation crazy, getting crazier.”

(H/T to Ace Mayo for posting the link to the story.)


14-year-old Philip Chism is charged with beating his high school math teacher to death EDIT: ABC News is reporting that she was stabbed to death

October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good afternoon:

I have more bad news. Another high school teacher was killed yesterday. Her name is Colleen Ritzer. She was a well-liked and respected math teacher at Danvers High School in Danvers, Massachusetts. She was only 24-years-old.

Unlike Michael Landsberry, a math teacher at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada who was shot to death two days ago by a student who had arrived at the school a few minutes earlier armed with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun intent on killing other students and anyone who got in his way, Ms. Ritzer appears to have been specifically targeted by 14-year-old Phillip Chism. She was beaten to death after school.

According to CBS News,

Law enforcement officials recovered the remains of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer early Wednesday, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. The teen, Philip Chism, was arraigned Wednesday in Salem on a murder charge and ordered held without bail.

Ritzer was reported missing late Tuesday night after she didn’t come home from work or answer her cellphone. Investigators found blood in a second-floor school bathroom and soon located her body [in the nearby woods], Blodgett said. He did not say how Ritzer died.

“She was a very, very respected, loved teacher,” Blodgett said, calling the killing a “terrible tragedy.”

The boy also was reported missing Tuesday after not coming home from school. He was spotted walking along a road in neighboring Topsfield at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Investigators said in court documents that the arrest was made based on statements by the suspect and corroborating evidence at multiple scenes. They said they also recovered video surveillance.

Chism was charged with murder and had his initial appearance in adult court this afternoon (see video below). Bail was denied.

According to CBS Crimesider, students do not know much about Philip Chism. He recently moved to Danvers from Tennessee and kept to himself, rarely speaking to anyone unless spoken to. He was a good soccer player who played on the junior varsity soccer team.

Boston.com reports:

According to teammates, Chism is the leading scorer for the school’s junior varsity team as a striker. The teammates said that on Tuesday, Chism failed to make the team practice at 4 p.m. and also missed a regular team dinner that is usually held at 6 p.m. at a teammate’s home.

Four members of the team said in an interview that Chism was amiable, hard-working, pleasant, and had managed to collect some friends around him in his first months in a new school. They described him as about 6 feet tall, with a love of soccer.

Ritzer, a math teacher, was a young woman with a smile who had always wanted to lead a classroom, a long-time neighbor said this morning.

“She was gentle, with a big smile,” said Mary Duffy, who has lived next door to Colleen Ritzer’s family in Andover for more than two decades. “It makes no sense.”

Here’s a youtube clip of his initial appearance.

After he was informed of the charge against him (an assistant district attorney read the charge out loud), the judge appointed counsel to represent him. Realizing the inevitable, his lawyer agreed to the entry of an order denying bail without prejudice, which means she could revisit the issue of bail at a later time. The judge responded predictably. He denied bail with prejudice. There is no way this kid is going to be released on bail.

I’m just sitting here shaking my head, literally speechless at the violent events Monday and Tuesday.

Who would have ever guessed that being a high school math teacher could be a deadly profession.


Zanesville jury rejects death penalty and recommends LWOP in gruesome slaying

October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good morning:

A jury rejected the death penalty and recommended life without parole for LaFonse Dixon, one of three defendants charged with the gruesome murder of 29-year-old Celeste Fronsman. She was found alongside a highway in Muskingum County, Ohio by a passing motorist. She had been beaten, burned and had a strap around her neck. She died two days later in a hospital.

Dixon’s two female codefendants, Katrina Culberson and Monica Washington, pled guilty and agreed to testify against him to avoid the death penalty. Defense counsel argued that the two women committed the murder and Dixon was innocent.

Hannah Sparling of the Zanesville Times covered Katrina Culberson’s testimony at the trial.

In the days leading up to the murder, Culberson said she and Dixon were angry at Fronsman for a couple of reasons. One, Fronsman owed her some money, Culberson said. Two, there had been a drug raid a couple of weeks before at one of Dixon’s drug houses, and they thought it was Fronsman who told police, Culberson said.

“Celeste was telling on a couple people. She was scared,” she said, adding that she and Dixon “kind of both talked about killing her and bringing her down to Zanesville.”

Fronsman laid low for a while, but eventually, Culberson and Washington tracked her down. They chased her to a Walmart parking lot, then Culberson sweet-talked Fronsman, she said, telling her it would be OK and she wasn’t going to hurt her.

She convinced her to get in the car with them, then they went to pick up Dixon.

Up until that point, there really wasn’t a plan, Culberson said, but when Dixon got into the vehicle, the two shared a look, Culberson said.

“We kind of looked at each other like, ‘It’s on. It’s about to happen,’” she said.

Then, Culberson started driving, and Dixon started punching Fronsman in the face, she said.

“She kind of screamed the first punch, but after that she didn’t really do anything,” she said.

They drove around Canton for 15 or 20 minutes before Culberson merged onto Interstate 77 south, she said. Throughout, Dixon and Washington were beating Fronsman, Culberson said. They used a belt and tape to bind her hands, then Dixon stuffed napkins in Fronsman’s mouth and Washington tied a shirt around her face, Culberson said.

At one point, Culberson climbed into the backseat and hit Fronsman several times with the handle of a screwdriver, she said. Then, she pushed her feet into Fronsman’s neck, and blood started gushing out her eye.

At another point, Dixon got a strap out of the back of the vehicle and wrapped it around Fronsman’s neck, strangling her, Culberson said.

Fronsman was slapping the seat and trying to get away, but “really, she couldn’t do much. Her face was turning blue,” Culberson said.

Once they reached the Tri-Valley recreation area, Dixon and Washington carried Fronsman to a patch of tall grass and laid her down, Culberson said. Then, Culberson got a gas tank out of the car and poured gasoline on Fronsman’s body. Dixon gave her a lighter, she said, and she lit the flame.

The three of them cleaned up what they could, then they drove away, Culberson said, leaving Fronsman behind.

The defense called two witnesses, an EMT who attended to Fronsman during the ride to the hospital and a DNA expert.

The EMT testified that Fronsman only mentioned Culberson.

The DNA expert disagreed with the prosecution expert who had testified that Dixon’s DNA profile matched a DNA profile that was obtained from masking tape used to bind the victim. She said the sample obtained from the masking tape was a mixed sample with multiple contributors and Dixon could not be excluded as a source of the mixed sample.

The defendant did not testify.

I suspect that, although the jury convicted Dixon of the murder, it was unable to agree on the death penalty due to lingering doubt. A lingering doubt is not a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, it is a sufficient doubt to cause many jurors in death penalty cases to reject the death penalty in favor of a life without parole sentence.

As many death penalty lawyers have long suspected, including myself, most jurors require certainty to sentence a defendant to death. I think the LWOP verdict in Dixon’s case is another example of that principle.

The result in this case may be shocking to some, but it is consistent with the national trend in loss of support for the death penalty.


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