Weapons had been missing for a year

The following is a portion of a March 1986 prosecutor's brief written in response to a Federal District Court decision to set aside Carter's conviction. It outlines evidence of Carter's attempts to locate his missing guns -- including a .12 gauge shotgun -- on the night of June 16, 1966, just after his friend's stepdad had been murdered and just hours before the Lafayette Grill triple murder.


Very significant evidence was presented to the jury regarding " a search for guns." There is no dispute in the evidence that at the time of the murders, defendant Carter had owned certain guns, including a 12-gauge shotgun. These guns had been missing for about a year. While these guns had been missing all that time, the evidence showed that the defendant Carter was searching for his guns, for the first time, in the space of a few hours from the time that Mr. Carter met Edward Rawls and learned of his father's murder and the time of the Lafayette Grill murders. The prosecution argued that this information presented the jury with very relevant and highly probative evidence as to the guilt of the defendant Carter. Certainly the defendant Carter's efforts to locate long-missing guns at this particular time would seem to constitute very incriminating evidence, particularly when considered together with all other evidence in the case.

The jury at the second trial was read the testimony of defendant Rubin Carter given before a Grand Jury preliminarily looking into the matter on June 29, l966, less than two weeks after the event. This Grand Jury was simply recording information. No complaint had been filed against anyone. There was no target for the Grand Jury(36aA 8339-74).

In that testimony, defendant Carter indicated that the weapons, including two or three .22 caliber rifles and a 12-gauge pump shotgun, had been stolen from his training camp many months before. Carter had for a considerable time intended to confront Neil Morrison concerning information he had from a witness, Annabelle Chandler, who had seen Mr. Morrison with the guns. Carter testified he had intended to take Morrison to see that witness. On the evening of June 16, l966, Carter met Neil Morrison at the Nite Spot and confronted him with this information(36aA 8339-42)

At the time, Carter was with Neil Morrison, Merritt Wimberly and Jerry Reeves, in a car outside the Nite Spot. At about 11.00 p.m., they saw Eddie Rawls and heard about his father being shot. Rawls had just returned from the hospital, and Carter and the others gave him their condolences according to Carter's testimony(326aA 8343-45).

Rawls (then went into the bar, while Carter and the other three men drove to the Christopher Columbus Housing Project to the home of Annabelle Chandler in an effort to track down his missing guns(36aA 8345-49).

The district court states (1aD 24) that, "the search (for Carter's guns) may have occurred before petitioners knew of the shooting of James Oliver(36T 140-145)." (Emphasis added). This statement by the district court apparently contains a typographical error. The court must have intended to say that the search may have occurred even before the petitioners learned of the death of Leroy Holloway who was Eddie Rawl's stepfather. James Oliver was the bartender at the Lafayette Grill. However, this statement by the court with the citation (36T 140-145) given by the court makes no sense because that citation refers to the testimony which the appellants have outlined in the four paragraphs preceding this one. The citation given by the district court refers to Rubin Carter's testimony before the Grand Jury which was read at the trial (36aA 8339-74). In that testimony, the defendant Carter said that after he spoke with Eddie Rawls at the Nite Spot about the death of his father and after he offered Eddie Rawls his condolences, then he (Carter) became involved in the search for his guns (36aA 8343-49). The reference to the record cited by the district court does not support what the court says is shown there. In fact, the record shows just the opposite. The record shows that the defendant Carter said he became involved in the search for his guns after he learned of Mr. Holloway's death.

This area of the record was specifically brought to the attention of the district court. The district court's reference citation to the record to support its statements that the search for guns may have occurred before the petitioners knew of Mr. Holloway's death is stated by the court as (36T 140-145). Page 140 of volume 36 of the trial transcripts is missing from the appellants set of trial transcripts. However, at that place (page 140) in the transcript, the prosecution was in the process of reading to the trial jury, the Grand Jury testimony of Rubin Carter. By comparing the transcript of Mr. Carter's Grand Jury testimony with the trial transcript, it readily can be determined what testimony was read to the trial jury on page 140. By examining where the reading of the Grand Jury testimony ended on the bottom of page 139 and where it began on the top of page 141, it can be determined what testimony was read on page 140.

The appellants specifically submitted to the district court the pages of Rubin Carter's Grand Jury testimony which correspond to the testimony read to the jury on page 140. This transcript was enclosed with a letter to the district court from First Assistant Prosecutor John P. Goceljak dated October 1, 1985. That letter and the relevant transcript has been included in the appendix as (1aD 335-345). The contents on page 140 of volume 36 of the trial transcript appear on page 150 of the Grand Jury transcript as indicated there.

On page 140, Rubin Carter momentarily says he and Mr. Morrison drove off from the Nite Spot without getting out of the car. However, he immediately takes this back and says that he (Carter) got out of the car, spoke to Eddie Rawls about his father's death and then drove off to search for his guns. The pages of the testimony which follow do not support the district court's statement that "the search for guns may have occurred before the petitioners learner of Mr. Holloway's death." This testimony cannot be made to read that way short of distorting what is clearly stated there.

According to Carter's Grand Jury testimony, he took Mr. Morrison to Miss Chandler's apartment "for her to tell him that she seen my guns because she had described my guns to me." However, Carter alleged that the woman at the time was ill with cancer and reluctant to confront Mr. Morrison with the information she had, so he (Carter) dropped the matter. They then returned to the Nite Spot, arriving there after midnight (36aA 8349-51).

This trip to Annabelle Chandler's apartment for the purpose of ascertaining whether Morrison had knowledge of the whereabouts of Carter's long-missing guns, was verified by the testimony of George Andrews, a neighbor and a friend of Annabelle Chandler at the time. George Andrews testified that he had seen Carter, Morrison and Wimberly leaving the apartment that night. His recollection was that this had been between 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. (39aA 8968-71).

Merritt Wimberly, who like George Andrews was a defense witness at the retrial, testified that his recollection was that after a conversation had begun between Rubin Carter and Neil Morrison about whether the latter fhad stolen guns from Carter, Rubin Carter, Morrison, Reeves and himself had gone to see Annabelle Chandler about 11:30 p.m. that night in Morrison's car. They returned to the Nite Spot about 12:30 a.m. (39aA 8904-09).

In his Grand Jury testimony, as read to the jury in the retrial, defendant Carter testified that after he returned to the Nite Spot there were conversations there concerning the murder of Leroy Holloway, and "It was all around that there was going to be some shaking going on." At the time Eddie Rawls was at the Nite Spot with his brother (36aA 8352-57).

Carter further testified that he met Eddie Rawls again at Richie's Hideway at about 1:20 a.m. (36aA 8370-72).

Was this evidence regarding the defendant Carter's search for his guns "frayed"? The district court doesn't say that it was and it doesn't say that it wasn't. It avoids any such evaluation. The district court states that the search for guns does not constitute evidence of motive (1aD 23-24) and then when the court goes on to itemize and present each area of the State's evidence which the court says is weak ("frayed"), it simply does not include any mention of the area of the evidence that deals with the defendant Carter's search for his guns.

The only response to this evidence from the district court is contained in its discussion of the relevance of the search for the guns to the question of motive. The court states:

...links of this evidentiary chain are corroded.
There was no evidence that Carter found the
weapons (1aD 23).

The fact that there was no definitive evidence to show that Carter found his lost guns or located other weapons, does not in the slightest detract from the value of the evidence that he was searching for long-missing guns under all these surrounding circumstances. It is not reasonable to expect there there will ever be a criminal case in which the prosecution can account for every step, every act, every thought undertaken by the defendant during the time leading up to the commission of the crime. This is particularly true in murder cases. The factor that in every criminal case, the prosecution cannot present a universal accounting of the defendant's thoughts and acts just prior to the crime, does not of itself constitute a valid basis to assail that information about the defendant's activity which has been discovered and can be submitted in evidence.

In the long space of time that the defendant Carter's guns were missing and in the long period of time that Carter knew about Neil Morrison's connection with those guns, there was no evidence before the jury that Carter made any effort toward reclaiming the guns until after he learned of Mr. Holloway's murder and before the Lafayette Grill murders. The record regarding this evidence cannot be fairly and reasonably construed in any way other than that the jury had to have considered this compelling and probative evidence of guilt.

Main Page