He Could Read My Mind; Wanted to Know The Tractors My Family Used

Consider this a follow-up to the post on how stupid our judicial system can be, at times…perhaps most of the time.

Frederick Freeman was convicted of murdering Scott Mecklam (via Radley Balko). His conection to Mecklam? He dated a girlfriend of Mecklam’s who got back together with Mecklam once Freeman was out of the picture (i.e. moved to the upper peninsula in Michigan). What is amazing about this case is how much the case has fallen apart since Freeman’s conviction. The title is actually from Mecklam’s girlfriend’s, Crystal Merrill’s, testimony,

The star witness was Crystal Merrill, who’d dated Freeman briefly before getting back together with Macklem. Merrill spent the first two days of trial on the stand, testifying that Freeman raped her on their first date but that she continued to see him for several weeks, never telling anyone about the alleged assault. She described his cache of ninja weaponry and a way he said he could make door keys from clay. She said Freeman was a “higher up” at a secret organization that fought prostitution and drugs where he could “call contracts out on anybody.” She said he had listening devices and could hear conversations across parking lots and camped out in cornfields around her family farm to learn what kind of tractors they owned. “He told me he could read my mind,” she said. Most of her testimony would go unsubstantiated by other witnesses.

I’ve been to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and I highly doubt that is where you are going to find ninja assassins for the Yakuza, let alone people who have a cache of listening devices and can make keys out of clay. This isn’t the only nonsense in the case. The jail house snitch has since recanted and claimed he offered testimony only to get a lighter sentence of his own. The theory of how Freeman could kill Mecklam and be in the upper peninsula at various times before and after the murder was that Freeman chartered a plane. Of course no corroborating evidence was presented for this theory. If you follow the link there is basically a litany of amazing revelations that make one wonder how Freeman could have ever gone to jail, and wonder why he is still there.

Just another example of our fine police, court system, and district attorneys showing what a bunch of highly professional and decent human beings they are. And why is that when ever somebody is supposedly a martial arts experts the cops wet their pants? I mean seriously, is this reasonable,

They handcuffed and searched Freeman, saying, “We got a report that you’ve got a lot of weaponry.” Police found nothing. The police report from the time notes, “Officers were advised to use extreme caution as suspect is a martial arts expert and may be armed with poison darts.” Merrill had told Port Huron police Freeman was a ninja who carried poison darts in the tongue of his shoes.

Poison darts….for crying out loud.

Update: More here on the single eye witness. The witness was in the vicinity of the murder and noted a red car driving away. But what makes me rather suspicious is the use of hypnosis to enhance the witnesses memory. My understanding is that such practices are highly unreliable.

“I don’t know, something told me to get a look at it and I did,” he said at trial. He figures he got roughly a 20-second look at the car and spent about five seconds on the driver’s face.

Gobeyn would later pick Freeman out of a photo lineup and then be the only one of three people to pick him out of a physical lineup.

“I saw him. It wasn’t somebody that resembled him,” Gobeyn said of Freeman at the trial. “It was him.”

But was it?

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or an expert to know this is an outrageous identification case,” says Ezekiel Edwards, a staff attorney and Mayer Brown Eyewitness Fellow at the Innocence Project in New York.

If the hundreds of exonerations to date using irrefutable DNA evidence have shown anything, it’s that witnesses get it wrong. A lot.

In other words, DNA testing puts the lie to many eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the person committing the crime. As such jurors should put much less weight on the testimony of eyewitnesses, IMO.

According to the Innocence Project, mistaken identifications are the leading factor in wrongful convictions.

Several studies also have shown a significant reduction in accuracy if the perpetrator was wearing a hat. Gobeyn described the driver as wearing a ski mask pushed up on his head.

The Center on Wrongful Convictions in Illinois released a report this year that found 52 defendants who were eventually exonerated were convicted as a result of erroneous eyewitness identification.

In 2003, nearly 80 percent of the first 130 DNA exonerations in the United States involved mistaken eyewitness identification, according to the Innocence Project.

More on witness misidentification here.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Policing, , , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Kenny says:

    We’ve failed to mention the other culpable party here, if what we’re reading here is accurate then whomever was representing the defendant just did a bang up job on debunking the prosecution. The guy ought to appeal on his attorney’s competence.