« Reveal

Fire and Justice

2017-12-23 | 🔗

In 1988, two powerful explosions shook Kansas City, Missouri, killing six firefighters. Nine years later, five people were convicted of arson and sent to prison for life – but were they innocent?

Reveal investigates problems in the case and whether federal agents pressured witnesses to lie. We also follow the life of one of the defendants and his bid for freedom.

Head over to revealnews.org for more of our reporting.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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From the centre for investigative reporting in p r ex? This is reveal a mallet, and it was one of the biggest highway projects. The Kansas City Missouri had seen in years a ten mile six laying court or running out from the heart of the city to wine. The existing road, the construction company brought in huge earth movers, thousands of pounds of explosives the blast through the limestone hillsides, then early in the morning on November, twenty nine nineteen. Eighty eight. A car comes into no one, one What am I to security guards working at the construction site the light day Would you like you
the name when one operate quickly notifies the fire department and they rush accrue to the scene, pump truck forty one barrier, the firefighters spot, a pickup truck the flames and the second cycle? We too are added that apply to us forty one EAST Carson on your car with information or maybe explosives. It's in an area, construction area to pick up the explosives are packed into two construction trailers. Another fire truck arrives number thirty, as both crews begin to battle the flames, the battalion chief reports of powerful we already that everyone? I went. Eighty seven currently a large explosion,
one hundred thirty answer: bumper forty one, a bumper dirty, there's no answer from either crew dirty authorities cordon off the area. Forty minutes past, then a second explosion rocks the silent breaking gas lines in shattering building foundations, miles away, emergency crews, investigators and news reporters arrive. As the morning sun reveals a charred landscape. The only being worked out over to fire drugs on the scene is the front end of one pamper. Everything else was gone and about twelve thirty. This afternoon, A contingent of firefighters rolled in their job was the hardest one today to bring out the remains of six of their friends. Everything was pretty much levelled within probably a hundred yard radius. Victors in is a retired, Kansas City, homicide detective. He was at the scene that day, in addition to the bomb squad
they also had cadaver dogs. Looking for individuals that may have been blown apart, six firefighters died in the explosions. The youngest was thirty one, the oldest fifty seven. It was the worst tragedy in the history of the Kansas City, fire department. This was a huge huge crime that took place and there's gonna be a lot of time and effort put into finding the right people that did it. Nine years later, five people convicted not for murder. For aiding and abetting arson that led to the deaths of the fire fighters judge sends them to life in prison without the possibility of Berulle. But from the beginning the case was troubled. First, there was no physical, evidence linking the suspects to the crime scene and there was conflicting testimony a lot of it from convicted felons in jail house informants to this day, the food
surviving defendants maintain their innocence, and then I alone, in my opinion, the wrong. People are in jail for this particular crime. The youngest Brian Shepherd Brian was just seventeen at the time of the explosions, and it turns out his age was really important. Few you go. The Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory life since without the possibility of parole, was unkind additional for minor and that's just five percent and spray received. So after nearly three decades behind bars, he suddenly had a shot at freedom, reveals Jenna Welsh spent a year digging into Brien's case together with our partner, Kansas City, public television, and a lot has happened since we first reported the story. Jenna begins with a phone call receiving a call
from bright shepherd, an inmate at sea, a Leavenworth detention centre whenever brain reaches out from federal prison are calls, are monitored and were only able to talk for fifteen minutes at a time. So, if you want to get to the bottom of his story, it takes a lot of phone calls. This call was just over a year ago. I realize today was the twenty ninth of November, and rain tells me on this day. He thinks about the fire fighters and their families as hard to believe that it spent twenty years today that crime happened at all here today, your life changed for every Saturday, hard Archer air for all the european market by twenty twenty years. So anybody who takes his escape
Darts read about it in investigating the they come to the same conclusion. Something about right was case if we can maintain our innocence for all these years, instead of the flight and no never waiver, somebody's gotta be wrong. Brain is always told me and anyone else who would listen. Eddie was home asleep on the night of the explosions he was living with his parents and a place called Barbara, a working class neighbourhood just a mile from the construction site. The other defendants were also from Marlborough. His uncles, Frank and Skip skips girlfriend Darlene, Edwards and Brien's friend, Richard Brown. Ryan's teenagers were wild lots of drugs, drinking fights and brushes with the law. During the
The police were investigating. The explosions. Ryan was locked up for stealing a bicycle and violating probation Ryan shepherdess in jail already that's. When local media started reporting, he was a suspect in the firefighters case. It was scheduled to be released next week, but investigators and prosecutors will reportedly charge him with arson and murder before he walks. The evidence against Brian came from two men. He had met in jail. They told police he'd bragged about starting the fires based on their testimony, the stated Zuri indicted Brian on six counts of murder, but within a couple of months the case fell apart, like one of the info hence a man named John Driver said on television. He lied to the police Ninety eight, but made up a good driver, said the police, wanted the conviction badly and promised to reduce his jail sent. My brother police offer? What I want to buy
arrogant, a lot of pressure down again vague yard, Brian shepherded, been in jail that long when the prosecutors and dropped the charges. Tom Jackman covers crime and courts for the Washington Post back then he was a young reporter. With the Kansas City times they dismissed, six murder charges against the guy they had thought had killed the firefighters. This was a gigantic let down for the entire city. Suddenly they had nothing, but nobody. There active square zero. So in December of nineteen, eighty nine brain shepherd was a free man, but he was still in the media. Spotlight shepherd in imagination. Television interview may drive, you ve, not capable of the crime body says in his name, has been associated with. The explosion of life has been scar, I am referring to my lips guy, like me, They are longer sport by providing it with a couple firefighters jumping.
Map is a body. Was me Brian talks a lot about this moment in his life as if it was twilight just before the lights went out on one hand, his attorney told him. His troubles were over. He told us not gonna have to go to church would thing anymore. We proven their work. This is reliant. Soldiers will forward your life. The police had dropped the charges. The brain was still under suspicion to people, change the way they looked at me and I can see it in your eyes. I can see it in the way they act around me You remember seeing investigators combing Marlborough for evidence. Walking around with a sign on my Chester Bowl, dire summit An array of law enforcement was trying to crack the firefighters case, local police, the FBI and the
euro of alcohol, tobacco and firearms, the eighty ass they were poor arson taskforce and fire Captain Joe go. Lady was the chair. The men who died were his friends. His brothers, Joe, firmly believed Brian Shepard and the others said the fires that triggered the explosions all the time we knew what family of persons did. The crime, We needed was a little love evidence just a little evidence but remember any physical evidence was blown to smithereens and no eye witnesses had turned up, but Joe figure someone out. There must know something so his teams that up hotline for tips and plastered reward posters across Kansas City, and we made signs thirty foot long, twelve foot high
and we put him on all the bridges, and I made it big enough tat. If you could drive by fifty five miles an hour, you can read it Joe worked with an atm patiently David Trimble about the case to the attention of the tv show unsolved mysteries. This was six years after branch, its first case was dismissed today. The case room cancer cities most notorious Unsolved cried the show area, February: nineteen. Ninety five, there is currently a fifty thousand dollar reward being offered in this case. If you have any information, please contact the Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco and fire Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, recall our total freedom. Remember you need not give your name token. Laddie says as soon as the programme ended the telephone started ring. We had over three hundred leads that night and things started
leads were coming in from ordinary citizens. They were coming in from jails imprisons altogether. For three days resume criminals. Coin Alan battered is from marble and he grew up with Brian Shepherd. I spoke with him, Missouri State prison where he serving time on drug charges. Islands been in and out of prison over the years for dealing drugs and robbery. In fact, he was here and ninety ninety five and remembers prison staff. Putting up reward posters and encouraging inmates to call into the Tipp Hotline never was rushing Conor pill. Being requested from inside Borman corrections. They ve never done anything like that. Alan says he didn't calling investigators came to him with an offer, testified the grand jury hearing will let you out of prison, justify it.
Brown help get a conviction and a luxury that fifty thousand now war will put you in which direction programme will send you? any worry, not stage you wanna, go Alan funds. Investigators wanted him to confirm his story. One of balance, friends had told the police that he and Alan together had seen Brian Shepard and others speeding away from the construction site just after the explosions, but Alan says he was at home that night and told investigators. The story wasn't true. He says that's when they. Came after him. They personally came at me, threatened put me in jail for withholding evidence, threatened taking my girlfriends dollar forbidden. Mother and set my bonnet
they now or set my trial? They bag for three years, even though they know they didn't have anything. All me. She's, geysers threatened. Take your life away from our still refuse to cooperate at the time he was facing, charges for stealing a car, a car that he driven across the state line, the federal prosecutor in the fire fighters. Case had the charges upgraded. Suddenly Allen was facing a long sentence in federal prison unless he cooperated our good witness against Brian, with me being so close to him and me being such a good friend with him. At that point, the judge in the case intervened. He scolded the government for pressuring Alan to testify reporter MIKE Mcgraw spent years investigating the firefighters case for Kansas City, public television and the Kansas City. Star he's interviewed Alan many times during the hearing in which Alan bettered stolen car case was taken from state court to federal court, the judge turned a bastard and he said
Look, I'm sure the federal Sentencing Commission would never know, ever in their wildest dreams anticipated the government would pull something like this. Then the judge turned to the federal prosecutor and said you're just prosecuting this guy because I won't tell you the story that you want him to tell even called the prosecutor out again and said: do you think Maybe that Alan is telling the truth and you're witness could be the one this line instead of prison time. The judge, gave Alan probation prosecutors are giving up their still on the flint for people who testify against then Shepherd programmer straight out of jail, that Bulgaria grants and we'd look at our door. This person. After testify. Against me a note of caution here: that's nice on reveal centre for investigative reporting. Mp are ex from this
Four investigative reporting, a p r ex this is reveal a mallet why firefighters are involved at seventy one highway. Eighty, seven, the explosions that killed six Kansas City, firefighters in nineteen. Eighty eight happened at the site of a major road expansion project investigators, suspected Brian Shepherd and four others snuck onto the site and started fires that triggered the blast. But there was no physical evidence and investigators couldn't nail their case. The investigation stretch for years and in the middle of it was a highly decorated. Atf special agent named David, true weaknesses, interview by troop, said he could be persistent and polite, but also threatening and manipulative.
He's reveals Jenna, welsh testing jesting one to be three testing won t be seen as a small interview ran at a Kansas city, jail further record, its February nineteenth. Ninety ninety five, it's approximately nine thirty, five p m, the special agent David, our true European to back one firearms sitting opposite David, true and another federal agent is Darlene Edwards she's, the girlfriend of Brian Shepherds Uncle Frank and was living with him at the time of the explosions already knocked an interview with Darlene Edward regarding her knowledge,
The firefighters incident which occurred in November nineteen eighty eight. This is one of the most important interviews of the entire investigation. It's Sunday evening, the end of a tense weekend for Darlene once again early tell us what you know about what happened that night after I come home like that, I'd have how he was job. What I Why would I have provided he passed out Darlene his waved her right to an attorney. She tells the agents story hours before the explosion. She was home with Frank. She says Brain Shepard and his friend richer brown walk to her house to ask for
I too convenient store. They told her. They were for willing, with their truck near the construction site and ran out of gas. Darlene says she drove Brian Richard to the store and they filled the gas can check undoubted picture I had then she tells the agents they went to the construction site, but when they got there there was no truck and I so. What do you need gas for their right? You know Khazars site Elsie no card. What would he be gas for? What's goin on these? Well, we'll start a fire dizzy and over here will start a fire we hear so other over there we can be over here. And that's not cool, because you don't know where these dont you know explosive, because there s a vague, some actually there's explosives and you don't know where there and I'm not hang around again, my ass blog. So you? U gasoline, to search bar fruit and in order to avert a diversion, darling, explains to the agents. Brian and Richard wanted to divert the attention of the security guards, so they could steal some equipment. That was me in twenty two years ago.
Talk to Darlene recently and here's what she has to say now that called stupid, a story I could think of come on. Darlene says this Where is she told? Investigators was made up and didn't even makes sense. The construction site with only two blocks from the store. So why would brain and Richard back more than a mile to darlings house only to have or take them back to the store to get gas? I've got big, but he's gotta believe that stupid story of waste is a better, but they were like. Ok, that's good! If you put up there now what we all like. Ok, they said they want to start a fire by the blood. So I dislike look. I lie three. Eighty darling says to understand why she lied to the eighty. If you need to go back a couple of days before her interview at the jail, eighty of agents had asked her to come to their office. To answer questions about the case, they were to be questions about the fire fighters originated,
irritated though? Well we take you now. We ve heard words that you know what I said, but I don't know I can't help. It was something like dost, thou, Darlene does the agents told her that Brian Shepard and richer Brown were responsible for the arson and that she Do about it. Darling insisted that she was home in bed that night and didn't know anything. So then investigators put the squeeze on her It revealed that undercover agents had secretly recorded her selling eleven grams of crack cocaine to a friend darling, was arrested and put in jail. They were candidature, wonder about thirty. Your facing forty years in prison are unique. Put their bedroom window of opportunity. Hang it gulf do they want. It ignores the whole new appeared after weaken behind
ass darlings than she had another meeting with the HIV agents, the when captured in the recording. That's when she told the story about driving Brian and Richard to the construction site, I didn't want to be a gale. I never been locked up like that before. Doubtless very they kept me it's all. Its harry is double myself as they would have. Let me make a phone call itself after I spoke. Does it up I lied. I wanted to go home, Darlene eventually recanted or statement, but it was too late. Prosecutors used the recording to help indict brain shepherd. His friend richer brown, his uncles, skip and Frank Shepard and Darlene herself. Five people I've been indicted in the nineteen eighty eight firefighters explosion there, an age preferment, could be subject to a maximum sentence of life in prison without role, and I too, fifty thousand dollar fine, the trial and in January ninety ninety seven
There were no eye witnesses. The prosecutors relied on statements from people who said they heard the suspects admitting their involvement in the crime. Brian shepherd remember: some of the witnesses were brought to the court room directly from jail probably happened. We didn't, even though they were coming straight out of jail, that a bizarre, your dances, and we look at our tourism like this person at the testifying. As we know, the person is not. There met that person before, but the prosecutors most important. We need was Darlene Edwards own daughter Becky. She was only eleven years old at the time of the explosions. Becky told the court that a week before the blast Brian Darlene and the other defendants were together in the kitchen getting high and making plans to steal equipment from the construction site reporter Tom Jackman was in the courtroom covering the trial for the Kansas City Times. Becky Edward was very turn. Speak.
She was obviously terrified she's. Now, a teenager nineteen years old, innocent eight years later, and she was just terrified that she was incriminating, her mother, her mothers, boyfriend mothers. Friends brother, and these are the two fellows that she knew well. She was on the stand in federal court, testifying against her family. That was definitely linchpin moment in the trial in which here is a witness that puts all I've people in one room, After two days, the jurors handed down in unanimous verdict guilty later the judge sensed each of the defendants to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Including Darlene she's an inmate of federal prison in Texas. We're shall likely be
for the rest of her life. The verdict was a relief for relatives of the fire fighters killed in the explosions. Debbie Mcclarnon was married to Robert Mccartney when he died, he'd been a Kansas City fire fighter. For twenty years. It was a long time coming. I really never thought it was going to happen. Debbie spoke at the sentencing hearing I looked at each one of us. Perpetrators in the eyes, if, as I was on the stand and spoke of all six men and other family taken, leave good lives to begin with, like all of these men were in their communities and the good things and help people all the time. These people were not at that time
people As for the relatives of defendants, all these years later, there's still a powerful mix of anger, frustration and fear, Becky Edwards, whose testimony helped convict or mother wouldn t. To us. In fact, she hasn't talked about the case with anyone in years, not reporters that even her own mothers lawyer. So we went to see Doris Clark, she's, Becky's, grandmother, darlings mother,
doors lived in Osceola about two hours, South Kansas City we made outside of thrift, store where she volunteers is. My friend and I was on the phone with without Becky how's. She doing she didn't. Doors takes us inside to back room should never been on witness stand. I mean she should never been called as far as I'm concerned, so she yeah she had death. She had a rough doors, says federal agents, including David, true of the eighty F, manipulated or family, and then betrayed them. We felt that we had support for my tia by kept telling us a darling was innocent. She says the agents treated her like a queen during the trial, even paying for rooms at a local hotel. She, has been were also invited to the eighty of office during breaks for doughnuts and coffee. It would just like you go into a friends house,
entertain and then we'll go to court according to Doris federal agents, were also paying. Her phone calls to Darlene in jail and they give her questions to ask her daughter. This was a set up from my but get go. It was it was somebody won't get a feather in their cap and they shut. I had dinner, but so, if you had a chance to sit across the table from gave true- and let him know what you were thinking and feeling about all this, what would you say tell him the kiss my ass? He had Eustace that's the way I feel into them. In five Becky Edwards recanted, she signed an affidavit thing. The HF pressured her to give false testimony the eighty of wooden talk to me about the case, but I was able to talk to agent deep, a true whose now retired I met him at the
fire fighters Union Hall in Kansas City. He wouldn't let me accord him, but I can tell you what he said. He said he never told Tourist Clark tat her daughter, Darlene was innocent doors was operating in the investigation, because she believed darling was involved. What's more true, told me, doors and crew her own family members, to provide evidence supporting darling skill. Four darlings daughter, Becky the prosecution, STAR witness true such gave multiple statements implicating her mother and the other defendants. He said he never pressured anyone to lie In addition, the Becky Edwards seven other witnesses who testified to the grand jury or a trial recanted. Of course, that leaves many other witnesses who haven't recanted, but when you go through their testimony, it's full of contradictions.
I went with reporter make Mcgraw to his newsroom a Kansas city. Public television MIKE, has a spreadsheet ten feet. Long double sided ATLAS, fifty eight witnesses who testified for the prosecution. My spreadsheet shows that forty seven women- This change their stories in the nine years between the crime and the trial. In other words, in many cases they might have sold the local police right after the explosion. I know nothing about this case. And when the feds take the case over eight or nine years later, they all of a sudden have these epiphanes about what they do. Remember and, of course, when the feds the case over from the local authorities there was another incentive, and that was more than fifty thousand dollars and reward money advertised in most of the jails in prisons in both Kansas and misery. On a white boy,
this the names of the defendants in one column alongside we write the locations where witnesses reported seeing them. So the information that we just pulled and put up your puts Brian at four different stopped for different places, clearly at four different places at the time, at approximately the same time, it's almost as though no two witnesses told the same story about let's look at darling we ve got her at home after the first explosion. We ve got her at the sight we ve got her buying gas, we got her at the quick trip and back at home at starting to be even more confusing rights. The trial transcript itself is over four thousand pages, long,
The trial lasted for weeks and when you put it all together, doesn't make any sense, and even the prosecutor and in the U S attorney at the time, have acknowledged that, even after this lengthy trial. We still don't know what happened up there. That night I wanted to talk to the prosecutors, but they declined, but when MIKE was working for the Kansas City STAR back in two thousand six, he recorded this interview with this. U S attorney Paul Backer Becker. Was the governments led trial attorney in the fire fighters case? Mike pointed out all the contradictions when you fellows testimony Frank- was eight places at once, skiff was for darling- was for crime, So now I know the jury heard The added value of the universe discover that is that no, I
now by no means a my perversions. You probably knew that at the time. All. I knew that the DE all these witness statements didn't match up the absolutely the defendants Have me ask you: how can I be in two places at once? How did your witnesses be right now, just relying upon their states nights? Ultimately, that's what it comes down to is the defendants admitted the crime we didn't have any eye witnesses. So what else do you have beggars It didn't matter that some of the details from the witnesses didn't match up. What mattered he said was that the defendants had admitted to witnesses that they had taken part in the crime and Becker defended the tactics the government use to get the testimony. We make deals with people. To let them out of jail right. We deal whose main is your freedom and that's the norm in in federal criminal cases and legs
cases do I guess I mean you cooperate and you're gonna get less time. What can be or of an inducement than that had been written about the rule. Is that it's hard and fast is? Is you disclosing what insult them, though? I refer to the jury can wait that long, When you look at the number of witnesses who were either in trouble or already in jail, are facing charges, state or federal and the power that the federal government had to make all that go away. It's just stunning. But then I wondered you know: what's the duty of a prosecutor without much power to make sure that the induced
Testimony is in fact the truth. In response to like Mcgraw reporting, the Justice Department reviewed the government's handling of the case. There two thousand eleven report concluded that there was no credible evidence that federal agents improperly coerced witnesses, but there was another finding the report identified new suspects in the case. Their names, though, were rejected. So actually that what where we're standing now is some feet below where the construction site was going on at the time. Michael show me a marker on the side of the highway at the sight of the explosions You can see there's lines in the limestone here and that's where they drill through to place the explosives to blow the rock away
is an american flag. Flapping in the wind and six limestone crosses covered with pennies gifts to fallen heroes and a plaque in memory of our fire fighters who gave their lives in the line of duty at the sight November. Twenty ninth nineteen, eighty eight- dear me remember this. This occurred and eighty eight, the families of the fire fighters, the whole city was mourning for eight years. There has been no explanation for this. No one had been held accountable for eight years so when they gathered up these kids from our some somewhat more kids, there was a march for retribution. There was a lot of pressure to give the families closure and they deserve to have it truth be told. I've been here by myself more than once kind of communing with fellows wondering there is any way they could somehow give me
sign. Is that what they think really happened that night? I'm not sure they really do, but I'm pretty sure the government doesn't know. After nearly two decades behind bars and new hope for brain ship. But there's a catch, Knocker crime right, you're, not command I'll tell everybody all the things that I've done wrong in my entire life, but I did not commit that's next. From the for investigating, reporting and p. From the centre for investigative reporting in p r eggs, this is reveal a mallet
we ve been talking to our about a tragedy that happened almost thirty years ago in Kansas City, six firefighters were killed in two massive explosion. Caused by arson. Five people were convicted and sent to prison for life. Brain shepherd was seventeen at the time of the explosions now into doesn't twelve the? U S Supreme Court ruled that the type of since he received life without the possibility of parole was, because for minor that gave the shot. Frida reveals Jenna Welsh, picks up the story. Kafka!
I've been talking with brain about his case for more than a year. I Brian seller. How old are you don't? Remember he's always studies innocent, but he says that for a long time he stopped thinking about getting out of prison because his chances seem so remote, but the Supreme Court decision change that all of the sudden brain was eligible for re sentencing. Hearing of a judge could shorten his life sentence or maybe set him free its overwhelming for something like that to happen. After all these years it all it was a dream on like this is not really happening, but there's a hitch. Recent and sing looks at whether the original sentence was too harsh based on the defendants role in the crime, not whether their innocent
This is tricky for Brian because he insists he had no role in the explosions. I'm not gonna confessional crime that I did not commit I'll, tell everybody all the things that I've done wrong in my time life, but I did not commit this car. If that makes the judge decide to send me back to prison for forty more years and that's what's gonna happen. He reads me part of a letter he's planning to give to the judge. It's about a plea deal. The prosecutors offered him back in ninety ninety five. Many years ago I was given the chance of freedom. If I would get on that with a stand at point you're, my uncle's in my best friend intelligence, You bet they were guilty. If I'd like to myself, I would have instead corrupted my soul brain since he feels like using the same predicament now tell her lying of free or tell the truth and stay in prison. I could have been free many many years ago, if I'd taken the deal, I hope the families of the honourable member that died at her when I can understand why I must again
I think Birdie told me brian- were too as Brian's. We sentencing approaches. I take a drive with reporter MIKE Mcgraw we're going to see virgin Shepherd Brien's mother. She still lives in marble. That's the neighborhood Those to the site of the explosions, the homes alot of need, painting, many of whom have rider an grading on the outside, but, as you can see, by looking around there's nary a sidewalk anywhere you you, we go inside virtues house. She sitting in a big arm, chair chain smoking with an oxygen tank. Next to her, there are pictures of Brian all over the world. I think it would be. A mermaid what a watch every compromise,
society and diligence men Dern poor, then you ve widow, walked on the whole situation. I can't say that matter. Many in the world, where I grew up in what I have seen so far I believe a true virtues always said she was home with Brian on the night of the explosions. At forty five, he spent almost half his life. Behind bars, rent forty one years, just daughter labelling Irene. I mean it's a shame, verges on the phone with I am almost every day talking about what to expect when his re sentencing comes up. How I'd love to thank dime, surge, they didn't do wrong. I dare say we not guilty. I don't have a clue as to what they're to do. I'm shocked that they let it go. This farm
the Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for brains. We sentencing found that juveniles cannot be punished by the same standards as adults for crimes that carry life sentences. Certain factors must be considered like age life at home and the level of participation Crime juveniles can be sentenced to life without pearl, but only in rare cases where the crime reflects what the court cause irreparable. Corruption, Brian's legally Atta focuses on his traumatic childhood. How he was raised by alcoholics and physically abused by his father and how he turned his life around in prison. Cindy short is his attorney
The man that sets before me every day when I go to see here is a redeemed individual. He is a person who is rehabilitated Cindy told the judge, handling Brian's case how he kicked his drug and alcohol addictions got his high school diploma and worked hard to stay close to his daughter and two grandkids, all while locked up in federal prison. There is no evidence that this was someone that you throw away, but you would be afraid of that could never live in society that that has no relationship to who Brian Shepherd was at seventeen, and if we are able to prove that, and a mandatory sentence of life in prison is unconstitutional, cannot apply to him. Cindy also presented evidence questioning his original conviction, like all the conflicting testimony She included interviews we broadcast on reveal in the run up to Brian's re sentencing,
but opposing brains, team, the same federal prosecutor from his original trial, Paul Becker wooden talk to us, but in court He argued that brain must remain imprisoned unless he accepted responsibility for his role in the crime fuckers. That was the only way Ryan could prove he'd been rehabilitated, in other words do the one thing Brien's refused to do for the past three decades. The judge, wouldn't let Brian address questions about his guilt or innocence, but that's what everyone's thinking about, especially James Calverton. He was in the army when his father was killed in the explosions. His wife is Tracy Calverton. Thank you, gonna get in I didn't think they had the right people. I couldn't believe that they actually had a jury prosecute these p,
None of the evidence added at all James says he was so troubled by Brien's conviction that he asked a friend who has a private investigator to look into the case and his friend concluded the government failed to Brian or the others at the crime scene. I shall do my mom, for she was not of the opinion of me. She thought they had the right people and, I said, a rift between us, a rift that lasted till the end of his mother's life. Jameson Tracy combatant are hoping the judge orders Brian's release, the three other surviving defendants are also in prison for life, but, unlike Brian, they have little hope of getting out Darlene at This isn't a federal medical facility in Texas, her health is declining and she's petition for clemency without success will use
we entirely agree Edwards. Eighty Debbie way are the inner you darling recorded with the feds and ninety ninety five hopped convict all the defendants, including herself. The last time I spoke with her. We talked about Brian and what she'd say to him now if she could buy it. I love you. I am so sorry I get this. I know you didn't, do it and I pray that you get to go home with your boss granite, I wanna go help to, but I don't want the told a lie at our sitting. I wanted to know what brain thought, so I played darlings tape for him. I'm grateful that she said those words for the early now after all these years. Those me something to me, I believe, even though she did what she did and said what she said. She still deserves to be shouldn't writer with me and go back for me
hearing on the day of brains, we sentencing dozens of people pack into a court room at the federal building in downtown Kansas City. No recording is allowed, so let me set the scene Brian. Shuffles into the court room in shackles. He smiles at his family and borders who sit on one side of the room. On the other side, relatives of the fire fighters who want brains, life sentence to stand Judge Fernando Guy, can reach a decision he describes moving testimony from the families of the fire fighters and the devastating impact the tragedy had on them, but he also points to the Supreme Court's decision. On juvenile lifers, Ryan's rehabilitation and all the conflict.
Testimony from the original case, when Judge Guy Ten gets to his conclusion, the audience gasps he throws out Brian's life sentence and changes it to twenty years, I'm, served he's not exonerating Brian, but he's setting him free. I know this is really allows outside the court our rapporteur, surround kinds, mom, clergy and his daughter Ashley. I am so pleased where's the judges vision. I know we all are is from, but I could see that my father's release would not only bring happiness enjoy to our family, but it at all. Oh bring further suffering to the families of the fallen firefighters Amy. And for that I am truly sorry. I try to interview families of the fire fighters most or to upset to talk, but one of them, Cassie Mcclarnon, has something to say her. Father robber died and the experts
since we are very very disappointed in this judgment today. I think that This individual was seventeen almost eighteen. I was nearly the same age at the time of this crime and I knew right from wrong. I don't think you'll ever take responsibility for that, because going to claim his innocence, and my philosophy, As this is not a conspiracy, he was convicted. There's evidence. If someone retracts, statement there, either liar then or other a liar. Now the convention has mixed emotions he's happy for Brian. I didn't think you should have spent twenty one years in jail in the first place, so I was happy for him. It's not like. I call him or friend, or nothing, no, but for him, but James is also sad. He thinks the government never solved the case. It's possible the real culprits, the people responsible for his father's death or go out there. Still no one actually went on. He was up there.
Almost thirty years later I still have closure I'd like to know. Tracy Calverton decides to reach. To brighten, so she writes in the card and sends it to the federal prison where he's packing its bags. Some of the family. Incredibly angry, and I just wanted him No, that not everyone was angry, that you know someone Shelly agreed with the judge. On the day of Brian's release, I had to a federal prison, Leavenworth Kansas and, with his attorney Cindy and his daughter, Ashley were writing and actually minivan instead of releasing Brian at the prison gates were news. Crews are waiting guards, put him in a big white van and drive him to a Kmart store about a mile away. I got that way. We can There are just as the van is pulling away.
I can not believing as left him an air of so many standing alone in the Kmart parking lot. As Brian he's dressed in the thermal undershirt slow. Internal shoes and he's holding a garbage back with all his stuff excited over society is telling mostly can't wait to get over Spencer barely, No there's, no wonder today without taking Brian and Ashley Embrace, there's a twin worries the sharp wind whips their faces. We hop into Ashley's minivan structure.
Are you drive and Brian says the guards were excited, we're almost one or two They are all shaken. My has gradually means, and I got a card from one of the family members wives, James Kelvin, Junior, his wife sent me a card range. Has there been no Tracy, kill them and sent to him just ass? He was leaving reader. I tried I read a couple times. I can't really again. Makes any read it: make her cry Ryan hands the card to Cindy right. There are so many things I want to tell you that letters, can convey. I asked my husband the other day if he thought about his dad every single day. He said no, not every day we all have to let go. That's part of life We all have to move on, not all the family,
Feels the same way as you see on the news, my husband has move past the hurt and anger. I thought you should know, there's more more I'd like to say that can't be written, maybe someday we can talk. I hope you are just one when you get out and make the most of everyday Tracy Cow, Aunt and wife of James Cow, Bent and son of Captain James Covington wow, What do you mean by that? You got that I'm a way out of the joint I can't believe I'm out of jail. I can't believe it here in my car you're, my man didn't have benefited the one we had off to a hotel where the Shepherd family is gathering Brian bars. Actually, sulphur, so he can face time with his two grandkids face timing with anyone much less his grandkids Brian says. That's all
First you're on your way up here, to see you're on your way out here to see me I'm out of jail it's been about nine months since by simple was released from federal prison he's living in. It's a city working construction jobs in spending lots of time with his family. Recently Brian join forces with Tracy and James event. If your visions are supporting Brian in a lawsuit file. Just last week, I guess Justice Department. They want to force the department to release more details from its twenty eleven review of the fire fighters including the names of new suspects, cited in the review suspects, who never charged
Deb George edited our Show Montgomery was Lee producer special thanks to our partner, Casey, pity, Kansas City, public television and reporter MIKE Mcgraw. We also help from the Kansas City STAR you're gonna, Welsh, directed the play based on Brian shepherds case is more about it. Reveal news, dot, Org, Slash Casey. When they had also a production. Major sound outsiders, Jim Briggs, who wrote the music for this week, show he had help from Captain Raimondo Ketchup lit, while buyer Duncan played the drums Christus sharpened, because I can see you Amy Pasok, editor in in rivers are executive, editor and our executive produce. There's Kevin solving a theme music. A comrade of lightning support, reveals. Provided by the Raven David Logan Foundation, the John Dene CAP N T Macarthur Foundation. The JANET Logan, family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the hiding Simons Foundation and the ethics and excellence in girls Foundation reveal
coal production centre for invest, give reporting and p r ex analogy and remember, there's always more to the story. These are last few shows of the year and let me tell you in twenty twenty we are bringing the fire launching some of our most ambitious projects we ve ever done. I can wait for you to hear them reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads telling stories that matter and this kind of investigative journalism. Well, it takes time and it costs money. These are the final weeks for end of the year membership campaign. We depend on listeners like you to help make this work possible to support us just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven state of data rates apply and you can take stop or cancel at any time again just texted
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Transcript generated on 2019-12-20.