Tallahassee, FL—With no physical evidence or a sworn incriminating statement from a single witness, on January 28, 2011, seventeen-year-old, DeShon Thomas, a Black male, was detained at the Leon County Sheriff’s Office by a man who identified himself as Detective Odham. DeShon Thomas and his mother had gone to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office within less than 24 hours of DeShon informing his mother about the deaths of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her younger brother. Also, DeShon was being harassed by Leon County Sheriff’s Detectives. DeShon told his mother that detectives had questioned him about the murders during a traffic stop while he was out riding with friends (DeShon was a backseat passenger). DeShon also told his mother that he had no involvement or knowledge of the murders. While DeShon and his mother were upset about the murders, DeShon’s mother had an underlying fear of why detectives chose to harass DeShon versus contacting him or her directly. Although DeShon was a freshman at Tallahassee Community College pursuing Associates in Arts Degree in Paralegal, as well as working at a fast-food restaurant, DeShon was still a minor child. For DeShon’s convenience, he had temporarily moved in with a 21-year-old co-worker named Trentin Ross, but that did not make DeShon an adult. As far as DeShon’s mother is concerned, Mr. Ross was harboring a minor. At the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Odham denied DeShon’s mother the right to be present while DeShon gave a statement and then denied DeShon access to an attorney. DeShon’s mother knew that there was something terribly wrong with Detective Odham’s actions. Not only was Detective Odham blunt with his racist statements to both DeShon and his mother, but Detective Odham seemed comfortable with violating their Civil Rights. Although Detective Odham was not in uniform attire, he appeared to be in charge over other members of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, both in and out of uniform. At the end of it all–DeShon was not charged or arrested for having anything to do with the murders, but that would all change in the following days.
On Monday, February 7, 2011, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 17-year-old, DeShon Thomas, for the murders of 20-year-old, Laqecia Herring, and her 17-year-old brother, Sterling Conner Jr. The star detective noted to have gotten an incriminating statement from Trentin Ross, signed the Complaint and drafted the Summary of Offense for Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder and Probable Cause was Detective Odham. DeShon plead NOT GUILTY to all charges.
Approximately a week after DeShon’s arrest on the murder charges, DeShon’s mother received a phone call from the Public Defender’s Office informing her that they will no longer be representing DeShon due to a conflict of interest. In addition, the Public Defender’s Office stated that the Regional Counsel’s Office would be representing DeShon. When DeShon’s mother asked for the name of DeShon’s new attorney, the Public Defender’s Office did not have any knowledge as to the name of the attorney assigned his case, but they were able to provide DeShon’s mother with phone numbers to the Regional Counsel’s Office and the Leon County Clerk of Courts, stating that they would have the name of his attorney in DeShon’s court record. For about a month, DeShon sat in the Leon County Jail without knowing the name or ever speaking to his court appointed attorney. DeShon solely relied on his mother for any and all information. In an attempt to get the name of the court appointed attorney assigned to represent DeShon, DeShon’s mother constantly called the Leon County Clerk of Courts and the Regional Counsel’s Office—both offices stated that they had no information. DeShon’s mother felt like maybe if she went in-person to the Leon County Clerk of Courts, and spoke with a clerk face to face, then maybe she would be given the name of DeShon’s court appointed attorney—to no avail. Neither the Leon County Clerk of Court nor the Regional Counsel’s Office had any information. DeShon’s mother began consulting with local private attorneys about representing DeShon. North Florida defense attorney, Greg Cummings, was one of several attorneys DeShon’s mother had met.
On March 10, 2011, the State Attorney’s Office charged DeShon with Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent. While the charges were stacking up against DeShon—DeShon, the Regional Counsel’s Office nor the Leon County Clerk of Courts had any knowledge of the name of DeShon’s court appointed attorney. The same day DeShon was charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent, DeShon’s mother received a phone call from Greg Cummings. Mr. Cummings had repeatedly called DeShon’s mother seeming desperate to be hired. Mr. Cummings took it upon himself to state that he believed that DeShon was being truthful about not having committed the murders and then he made derogatory statements about Circuit Judge Hankinson (Judge Hankinson, a former United States Chief Assistant Attorney with Department of Justice representing the 1st District of Florida, was the presiding judge over DeShon’s case). On March 12, 2011, before DeShon and his mother signed a contract with Mr. Cummings, DeShon’s mother discussed various pieces of evidence that she believed needed to be disclosed that could prove DeShon’s innocence–DeShon’s AT&T cell phone records, the victims’ autopsy reports and a sworn statement from Trentin Ross. Mr. Cummings promised to disclose the evidence. In addition, since there was never a Gun Shot Residue Test taken on DeShon, Mr. Cummings promised to have DeShon polygraphed. DeShon and his mother put their trust in Mr. Cummings. DeShon’s mother, who at that time was a 37-year-old single mother of four, wanted to believe that the adults who had been so privileged to exercise laws would uphold the laws. Not just for DeShon’s sake, but for the sake of DeShon’s older brother—who at the time of DeShon being charged with the murders—was just months away from graduating from Florida State University with a Bachelors Degree in Criminology—a major that DeShon’s mother suggested his brother take with the hopes that his brother would pursue a career in Criminal Justice—a field in which so many people in the African-American community label as a “Racist System”. Taking into consideration that DeShon’s judicial process was already going sideways—the racist vulgar from Detective Odham, violation of DeShon’s Miranda Rights, and no attorney on record—once again, DeShon’s mother had to give her sons a lesson in Black history. DeShon’s family didn’t expect any special favors from anyone—the laws on the books are clear—all DeShon’s mother asked of Mr. Cummings was to do his job.
Over sixteen months, Mr. Cummings had not kept any of his promises. There was no sign of Mr. Cummings attempting to build a defense for DeShon. DeShon’s Pre-trial court dates were repeatedly being rescheduled due to Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell filing a Motion for Continuance—possibly five different times. Not once did Mr. Cummings object to the continuances—they were all granted by Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson. One particular filing of a Motion to Continue by Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell—possibly his fourth filing for a continuance—was due to Don Odham (Detective Odham) having scheduled an upcoming vacation. In this filing for a continuance, Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell in part states the inability to proceed to trial without Mr. Odham’s testimony. (Click here to read the motion for continuance and an email from Don Odham Motion for Continuance )
In late July 2012, DeShon’s mother went to the Leon County Courthouse to view DeShon’s file. Not only had she been absolutely right about Mr. Cummings not building a defense for DeShon, but there was nothing to show an attempt to prove or disprove statements made by Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell’s star detective, Don Odham. DeShon’s judicial process was raising more and more questions about the ethics of judicial officials—more than DeShon’s mother could’ve ever imagined. Simply because not long after DeShon was charged with the murders, DeShon’s mother had been told that “Detective Odham” was not a detective. In fact, DeShon’s mother had been told that “Detective Odham” was not an employee with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. DeShon’s mother was told that Don Odham was a wealthy friend of Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell—and Sheriff Campbell’s son—Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell. (As it has been reported across the nation—the case out in Tulsa, Oklahoma where friendship and money likely played a key role with Robert Bates having access to a badge and gun in order to “Play Cop”.)
Mr. Cummings collected nearly $30,000 from DeShon’s mother and never disclosed to DeShon or his mother that Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell and his son, Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell, had committed fraud in order to have DeShon charged with the murders of his friends. In August 2012, when DeShon’s mother advised DeShon to fire Mr. Cummings—it was more about Mr. Cummings lack of communication, ethics and morals—than the money that she’d paid.
Within hours of Mr. Cummings filing a Motion to Withdraw from DeShon’s case, DeShon was charged with Solicitation to Commit 1st Degree Murder–the target being Trentin Ross. DeShon’s cases defaulted back to the courts to assign an attorney. Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson had been presiding over DeShon’s case for nearly two years and had assigned the Public Defender’s office to DeShon’s case—they immediately filed a Motion to Withdraw. DeShon’s case was sent to the Regional Counsel’s Office where an attorney was assigned. This time DeShon had the name of the attorney, Samuel Olmstead. Mr. Olmstead sat on the case for nearly six months before resigning from the Regional Counsel’s office. In March 2013, an attorney named Daren Shippy with the Regional Counsel’s office was assigned to DeShon’s case (this was attorney #5). Mr. Shippy immediately filed a Motion to Withdraw. None of the attorneys attempted to build a defense for DeShon before filing their motion to withdraw. Circuit Judge Hankinson denied Mr. Shippy’s Motion to Withdraw.
In May 2013, DeShon’s mother contacted Florida Governor Rick Scott for the fourth time—informing Governor Scott that she believed Judge Hankinson was violating DeShon’s Constitutional Rights. At DeShon’s next court appearance (June 2013), Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford spontaneously began presiding over DeShon’s case.
In October 2013, Regional Counsel Daren Shippy, Assistant State Attorney/Prosecutor Jack Campbell and Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford allowed Don Odham to be presented to the jurors as a Leon County Sheriff’s Detective—Mr. Don Odham was never a detective with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to allowing Mr. Odham to impersonate a Leon County Sheriff’s Detective in front of the jury, a few other deputies and the medical examiner, Dr. Anthony Clark, committed perjury. There was no physical evidence connecting DeShon to the murders. DeShon, who was now 20-years-old, was convicted and sentenced to Two Life Sentences plus 30 years.
Today, as DeShon’s court appointed attorney dances with DeShon’s appeal—not wanting to show the immoral and criminal acts of fraud, perjury and other crimes that were committed by those in authority—in order to have a child wrongly convicted. The “Writing is on the wall”—“No man can serve two masters.” It was/is foolish for State Attorney Willie Meggs to assign Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell as prosecutor on cases in that his dad, Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell held jurisdiction over the criminal investigation. In cases of such biases—convictions are inevitable. Current data shows that judges are seeing more and more cases involving prosecutorial misconduct. In 2014, a record number of prison inmates were exonerated mainly in part of prosecutorial misconduct.
Recently, it was announced that Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford is being investigated by the Judicial Qualificiations Commission on three counts of misconduct. While none of the counts of misconduct have anything to do with DeShon’s case, documents show that she was having ethical problems before she ‘spontaneously’ began presiding over DeShon’s case. (One corrupt circuit judge replacing another corrupt circuit judge.)
Instead of Mr. Cummings representing DeShon—a child—who at 17-years-old was thrust into an adult judicial system—Mr. Cummings chose to rob DeShon of money, while at the same time robbing the victims and their family of true justice. And as for Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford—acting as a co-conspirator—robbed the entire Criminal Justice System—possibly widening the gap of trust even further between law enforcement officers and the communities that they put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve. What a DISGRACE!