Crockett’s Gambit: The Epic Last Stand Begins
Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 @ 8:39PM
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, Cameron Crockett filed his federal habeas corpus petition (view petition here) at the Walter E. Hoffman federal district courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia. This filing follows a November 3, 2017 decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia, which denied Mr. Crockett’s state habeas petition but conceded that his trial lawyer performed incompetently in failing to investigate crucial aspects of the case.
As we covered in our previous update (view previous update here), the Supreme Court of Virginia’s decision, while it did not lead to Cameron’s release, was nonetheless very beneficial to him in his quest for relief moving forward. In sum, the state Supreme Court’s acknowledgment of Andrew Sacks’ failures at trial makes it easier for Cameron to prove at the federal level that those errors were sufficiently grave to have deprived him of a fair trial.
In addition to the above-mentioned claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the petition also states claims that: (1) Cameron is actually innocent; (2) Cameron’s statements to police were taken in violation of Miranda; (3) his statements to police were involuntary because the questioning was coercive and he was amnesic at the time due to a traumatic brain injury suffered during the accident combined with high levels of alcohol intoxication; (4) the prosecution suppressed multiple items of exculpatory evidence; and (5) the prosecution violated Batson by employing racial discrimination during jury selection. The petition also discusses a great many other significant subjects that, while relevant, are not themselves substantive claims for relief, such as how the prosecution knowingly lied to the jury during closing arguments regarding its knowledge of Jacob Palmer’s involvement in the accident and how it also took calculated, deliberate measures to hide certain exculpatory witness statements that had been specifically requested by the defense. The petition makes a fiery push for answers on what happened to the driver’s side airbag in this case as well. This evidence in all likelihood has the driver’s DNA on it, but the prosecution has refused for nearly a decade to disclose what scientific tests it performed on it and what the specific results of those tests were.
Truly, this is Crockett’s final charge. Federal district court is often the first and last place that pro se habeas petitioners receive an in-depth, meaningful review of their grievances surrounding their conviction. For our protagonist, he has been aware of this fact since his conviction and has spent tens of thousands of hours preparing for this very battle, this very moment. He has left nothing to be desired in this, his most gripping work to date. The petition is so comprehensive and so compelling that one Virginia attorney familiar with it, who did not wish to be named for the purposes of this article, has called it a “destroyer of worlds” and “so piercing and precise in its logic and analysis that it has left the reasoning supporting the Supreme Court of Virginia’s opinion in utter ruin.”
The chances of success are palpable. After so many years of struggle, the ultimate stage of the post-conviction relief process is finally upon us, and victory is within reach. Cameron has really saddled up for this one and struck a fearless blow at the chains that unjustly keep him prisoner. A certain sense of fate, or inevitability, has settled into the minds of Cameron and those closest to him. We spoke both to Cameron and his mother in preparing this article.
Cameron was even more fired up than usual. When we asked how he felt about things coming to a head after so many unsuccessful bouts with the system, he quoted Chogyam Trungpa: “The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” He continued in his own words: “I refuse to give up on the thought that justice can prevail here, that a few tightly knit individuals can take on all the stifling resources of the state and win. I refuse to give up on myself and my confidence in what is right. And I refuse to give up on Jack, for quitting now or confronting the oppressor with anything less than my most ferocious and focused effort would be to disappoint all that he stood for in this life.”
Cameron also addressed the criticism he has faced lately for continuing to prolong this fight even though he is just a year away from his release: “So I should lay down my arms now that this is almost over? To hell with that. Cowards quit. Cowards say ‘what’s the point?’ Crocketts fight to the end. Or have we forgotten the Alamo? Only for this Crockett’s last stand, we break the siege and conquer our foe, the paper tiger.”
Cameron’s mother, Gail, had less to say but was very poignant in what she did have to offer: “It’s time for the federal courts to teach the Commonwealth and Mr. Sacks a lesson– you cannot continually violate the rights of criminal defendants and ignore evidence of innocence without repercussions. We have faith that the time for vindication has come.”
Cameron closed in his letter to us with strong words: “Do or die, now or never, all or nothing; let’s go. I’m ready. I’ve poured my heart, soul, and mind into this habeas. Justice will be done, because it must be done.”
Knock on wood, should the petition be denied in the district court, Cameron could still appeal to the Fourth Circuit federal court of appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court beyond that, both of which are long shots for any pro se petitioner. We expect the district court’s final decision to come within approximately 6-9 months.
We will keep you all updated as developments arise. Keep the faith; this is it! And thank you as always for your support and attention. We strongly encourage our audience to read the petition, to which a link is posted at the top of this article. You won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up!