Sgt Ray Jennings – a Shameful Prosecution

Faye Higbee
ray jennings

Clint Ehrlich is a lawyer/researcher whose Dad is also a lawyer. He posted a thread on Twitter that is worth a read by everyone. It also carries a warning: NEVER talk to police or prosecutors without an attorney present. And make sure you have a good attorney. Sgt Ray Jennings was wrongfully convicted of murder because of corrupt politicians.

Story continues below:

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I have a story the world needs to hear. It’s about how an American hero, Sgt. Ray Jennings, was railroaded for murder by corrupt politicians and the FBI. And how God used me as an instrument to free him from prison and clear his name. 1/N

Clint Ehrlich

From this point on, we will post Clint Ehrlich’s thread as is regarding Sgt Ray Jennings on Twitter. It’s the shameful prosecution of Sgt Ray Jennings.

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Ray xxx would never call himself a hero, but he is by any objective definition. He deployed to Iraq in 2005, where his humvee was hit by an IED. He survived the blast… but lost his freedom as soon as he returned home to America.

While on leave to visit his five children, Ray was pulled over by the police and dragged out of his car at gunpoint. As he lay face down on the pavement, they told him he was under arrest — for the murder of a girl he’d never met.

Her name was Michelle O’Keefe. She was an 18-year-old college student and aspiring actress. Five years earlier, she’d been shot to death inside the new Ford Mustang her parents had given her as a graduation gift.

Ray had been in the parking lot that night. While studying to be a U.S. Marshal, he was moonlighting as an unarmed security guard. It was his second day on the job. He heard gunshots, took cover, and radioed for help.

When police arrived, they didn’t treat Ray as a suspect. If they had simply checked him for a firearm, he could have immediately been excluded as the killer. Instead, their incompetence would ruin his life.

Weeks after the shooting, detectives asked Ray to come in for an interview. He wanted to help them solve the murder, so he told them all his theories about how it happened. They decided he “knew too much,” so he must be the killer.

In the blink of an eye, Ray had gone from innocent observer to prime suspect. There was no witness, no physical evidence, and no motive. But it became the police’s mission — their obsession — to put Ray behind bars for life.

For five years, the lack of ANY evidence pointing to Ray stopped the DA from filing charges. But a powerful local politician managed to change that. His name was Rex Parris, and he was the mayor of Lancaster, the town next to where the murder occurred.

Parris wasn’t just the mayor. He was also a trial lawyer. He signed up the O’Keefe family as his clients, then sued Ray and his employer for wrongful death. As he later bragged, his plan was to use a civil lawsuit to set up a criminal prosecution.

Parris forced Ray to attend two depositions, where he had to answer more questions about the night of the murder. Because this was supposedly a “civil” proceeding, Ray had no right to a public defender. He testified without a lawyer — all recorded on video.

Parris edited Ray’s answers to make them look incriminating, then played the edited video to prosecutors. The Deputy DA in charge of the case, Robert Foltz, said he “couldn’t put [his] finger” on any new evidence. But after meeting with Parris, he filed charges.

Why did Parris have so much influence over Foltz? Foltz was his client! He’d been arrested for DUI, and it was Parris who represented him and saved his career as a prosecutor. Now he was asking Foltz for something. And Foltz gave it to him.

To help build a case against Ray, Foltz sought help from the FBI. The Bureau sent one of its top criminal profilers — Mark Safarik. He had literally co-authored the “Bible” of criminal profiling.

In movies like Silence of the Lambs, they make profiling look like a legitimate science. Unfortunately, in real life, it’s mostly bullsh**. Safarik made up a “profile of the killer” that conveniently matched every detail about Ray.

He started with what he knew the DA wanted to hear — that Ray was the murderer. Then he worked backwards to invent a theory that could produce that result. It was like if the prosecution relied on a psychic, but one who had the prestige of the FBI name.

For example, Safarik attached great importance to the fact that Michelle’s window was rolled down a couple inches. He claimed this meant she had rolled it down “for someone in a position of authority” before being killed. Someone “like a security guard.”

With Safarik’s testimony, the prosecution was ready to present their case to a jury. After the first trial in downtown Los Angeles, three jurors refused to convict. So they tried again. At the second trial, the jury hung 11-1. One brave juror wouldn’t vote in favor of guilt.

The judge announced that he would permit a third, final trial — the State’s last chance to convict Ray. He agreed to move the proceedings from downtown LA to the small desert community where the murder happened. A place where Ray was already famous as the alleged killer…

At the third trial, the prosecutor told jurors that Ray could be PRESUMED GUILTY because he was in the parking lot when Michelle died. That’s the opposite of the law in America, where we have a presumption of INNOCENCE. But the judge sat there, listened, and did nothing.

The trick worked. The third jury voted unanimously to convict Ray of murder. At his sentencing hearing, Ray turned to the victim’s family, and said the following. They are some of the most powerful words you will ever read in the English language. They still bring me tears.

Because Ray expressed no remorse for the murder he didn’t commit, the Court showed him no mercy. He was sentenced to life in prison. He would not be eligible for parole until he was over 70 years old. His life was over. His children would grow up without a father.

That should have been the end of Ray’s story. But he was a man of faith. When he was in prison, he always believed justice would be done. Even after all his appeals were exhausted, he believed God would find a way to set him free.

That’s where I come into the story. It was 2015, and Ray had already been behind bars for a decade. Late one night, while browsing the internet, some MYSTERIOUS FORCE compelled me to watch an old episode of @DatelineNBC about the case. Dateline Episode Trailer: The Man Who Knew Too Much | Dateline NBC – YouTube

I cannot emphasize enough how strange this experience was. I had not previously heard about the murder. I do not watch television, and I’d never seen a true-crime TV show before. It was inexplicable why I suddenly felt an urge to watch that SPECIFIC EPISODE of Dateline.

When I heard Ray speak about Christ at his sentencing, it felt like I’d been struck by a bolt of lightning. I was an atheist, but I’d never heard anyone speak with such sincerity and dignity in a hopeless situation. I HAD to know: Was he really innocent? Could it be true?

I pulled up the Court of Appeal opinion affirming his conviction. I was hoping it would convince me that Ray was guilty, so I could forget about him and go on with my life as a law student. It did the opposite. The more I read, the more horrified I became.

I stayed up all night researching the case, and I became convinced that Ray was innocent. The next day, I approached my father, a civil appellate lawyer and asked him: “Dad, if there were an innocent man in prison, would you help me free him?”

It was a crazy idea. Our firm had never handled a criminal matter before. But my father is a deeply honorable man. When I told him what I’d discovered about Ray’s case, he was outraged. He was ready to do ANYTHING to save this innocent man from dying in prison.

Ray agreed to let us represent him, and we started to prepare a habeas petition. It was a longshot, and the process would take years. But we had no better options. Then something else miraculous happened…

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office created a new unit. It was called the Conviction Review Unit. Its mission was to find and help innocent people in prison.

All screenshots and remarks about Ray Jennings are from Clint Ehrlich on Twitter.

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Ray Jennings was ultimately exonerated in November 2016 after yet another trial, according to the Kiwireport. Though authorities had the name of another witness, Victoria Richardson, they didn’t bother to interview her deeply about that night in the parking lot. She was not only close enough to say that Jennings wasn’t the killer, she was able to name the make and model of the real perpetrator’s getaway car. Ray Jennings was the victim of improper detective work and corrupt officials, Now the actual killer has a very long headstart. The case remains unsolved.

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Featured screenshot via ABC7/kiwireport

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