Major Cases - John Merrit - wwwrobertcracknellcouk

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The John Merrit Case


In November 2005 Bob Cracknell received an email from Australia, from one Isabel Wilde, asking for his help in establishing a man's innocence of murder - adding that the man was currently incarcerated in prison in America. Cracknell initially agreed to look at any facts she could provide, but was at that point hesitant to become involved. On asking her for more information he was staggered to receive from Australia a package containing in excess of 800 pages of transcript.

It all began when the prisoner in question, John Merritt, wrote a letter to the 'Psychic News'; a UK newspaper which dealt with the Spiritualist scene, and seemingly an odd choice on his part. Isabel Wilde read the article and was immediately compelled to communicate with the man in prison. That decision was to occupy her life for many years to follow and also prompted her to obtain from America the full transcripts of the trial and court depositions of the witnesses and police. She then set about combing through all the material and making copious notes - where obvious contradictions and even lies were established.

Even more remarkable was the fact that Isabel (or 'Molly Marples' as she is affectionately known) is in her early 90's, but she has shown a keen razor-sharp, analytical and investigative mind for which many professional investigators would give their eyeteeth!

Cracknell's initial response was a reluctance to get too deeply involved, and he pointed out in his first communication to her - prior to receipt of the paperwork - that although John Merritt may be innocent of murder, he was guilty of criminal activities and did hold a record. This proved to be correct.

The facts are that on 1st or 2nd of March 1982 one Darrel Davis, an ambulance driver and a large, heavily built man was found lying face down on the floor of his house, his wrists tied behind his back by a leather belt. He had been shot through the back of his head. It is important to note there were no other restraints on any other part of the body and no visible signs of struggle in the cluttered room. The body was found lying next to a table covered with crockery and cutlery, and his feet were close to one of the table's legs.

Due to Davis not attending his place of work his wife had been concerned and had asked - via a telephone call to two men working close to their house if they would check to see if he was there. They entered the house and saw the body lying on the floor. One man claimed he thought he saw signs of breathing and released the belt that secured the victim's hands. Realising he was mistaken he then telephoned the police. (It is important to note that as a result of the men's actions in disturbing the body the crime scene was contaminated.) This is only a brief summation and suffice it to say, the crime went unsolved. No suspects at that time were in the frame.

In 1984/5 a prisoner awaiting trial wrote to the police stating that he could finger the murderer of Darrel Davis, but that he wanted to cut a deal - adding that he could get the State Prosecution a result and that he knew his memory would improve if he got help in his current situation. This man, along with a second prisoner being held in another jail had been arrested (as had John Merritt) on suspicion of armed burglary. None of the three prisoners was incarcerated together at the same time. A police officer, one Lt. Neal Nydam, then travelled to the prison and interviewed the man who wrote the letter. Again, the prisoner insisted upon being given a guaranteed deal as he was facing up to thirty years in prison for a burglary in which he had been involved. An obvious deal was cut between this police officer and said prisoner, together with one of the other men and John Terhune, who was the assistant attorney for Lake City, Florida. The two prisoners, along with John Merritt, had by now been charged with armed robbery. John Merritt admitted his involvement in this and subsequently stood trial. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. One of the informants of the murder received a prison sentence of 364 days and 16 years' probation. The 10 months that he actually served were spent as a trusty, working for one Lieutenant Neal Nyham (would you believe, in his office) after which Lt. Nyham obtained for him a job. The other prisoner was committed to a mental asylum for a period of time. Virtually immediately after this John Merritt was put on trial for the murder of Darrel Davis and that trial began on 3rd June 1986.

Based upon the conflicting evidence given by the two other criminals, with the State offering no forensic evidence even though John Merritt had voluntarily given his fingerprints and body hair and had denied throughout his innocence of the crime, it is interesting to note that at the murder scene a single blond hair was found and entered as potential evidence. John Merritt did not have blond hair, and as stated had voluntarily given samples of his own hair. What happened to this evidence? Why wasn't it presented? He was found guilty of first-degree murder, which in Florida carries the statutory death penalty. A subsequent appeal against this, which was held in December 1989, gave a verdict of 'life imprisonment'. John Merritt has completed his first sentence, ironically obtaining a period of time for remission. He now sits in a cell, convicted on evidence that was nothing more than a tissue of lies, the evidence both unfounded and uncorroborated. If ever there was a case of a true miscarriage of justice this is it.

Bob Cracknell has totally committed himself to obtaining Merritt's release. Throughout his forty years' involvement in chasing criminals and plausible conmen all over the world, Cracknell is no easy target and is used to the wiles and lies of criminals. He is even on record as having called a man a liar when the police and English media were convinced the man was telling the truth. Cracknell forced the man to recant, and as a result the police were able to close the case based on his directives. This case, known as 'the Southern Organs fraud', has recently been turned into a television documentary and been screened world-wide. He also states, unequivocally, "John Merritt did not murder Darrel Davis and is the victim of a corrupt and contrived trial"

You are urged to give your support. To date, Cracknell has approached the Florida Innocence Project, to obtain DNA testing, which was not conducted during the investigation. As stated, no forensic evidence was offered during the trial. They could not even identify the weapon used in the murder as belonging to Merritt and it is hoped that the Florida Innocence Project will come back with a positive response to Cracknell's application. Cracknell wishes to thank publicly his good friend, Ed Olshaker, respected American journalist and author of 'Witnesses to the Unsolved' (please refer to 'products' on this website), for his support and efforts in initially contacting the Florida Innocence Project.

This story has many twists and turns, and you are urged not to look for inaccuracies as this is but a brief summation. Any serious investigator/journalist reading the transcript of the trial and the depositions would immediately see the need for the whole matter to be brought to public scrutiny. One particularly strange twist was the fact that John Merritt chose the 'Psychic News' newspaper to ask for help, for two weeks beforehand this same newspaper had carried a front page story featuring Bob Cracknell - which prompted Mollie to write to him. Since that time Cracknell has communicated with John Merritt on several occasions, and now understands why he approached that particular publication. During the nineteen or so years he has been incarcerated for the crime he confessed to committing he spent much time in isolation and solitude - and as a result he has established and recognised his own psychic awareness. Can you imagine how that awareness must tear him apart now, as he cries out for justice?

You are all urged to write to John Merritt and give him comfort and hope. His address is as under: John Merritt 058704 63-104U Dade Correctional Institution 19000 S.W. 377th St., # 300 Florida City, Florida 33034. U.S.A.

Finally, let us not forget one gutsy lady, namely Isabel (or as I affectionally call her Miss Molly Marples) Wilde, who over the years has dug deep into her only source of income, her pension, to pay all the fees which would secure these official documents, even employing a private investigator in Florida and paying him $1,000 in advance to track down witnesses - the most important one being a sheriff who, at the time, the police claimed had interviewed Merritt (and naming the prison in which he had been interviewed). He was in fact in the jail of this particular sheriff on another minor charge, establishing yet another lie on the part of the police! Mollie had to wait in excess of eighteen months for the investigator's report, which clearly proved to be totally ineffectual and a complete waste of time. She also communicated with the assistant State Attorney, one John Terhune, and paid him to release his public papers. Even today she continues to write to John Merritt, sending him small amounts of pocket money to pay for his postage and any other expenses he may have. Such is her dedication and passion.

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