The Fag Card

Gay convict claims judge's homophobia put him on Death Row

Amaral and Dickens were on an innocent outing to Dome Valley when his truck overheated, Dickens told the court. He had to pull into the rest area where Amaral, agitated after a lover's spat, stalked across the freeway toward the doomed travelers.

Dickens had trouble explaining why he hadn't taken one of three marked exits for Dome Valley before the rest area. An auto mechanic on the jury doubted the story about overheating, and, indeed, Dickens later drove the truck to San Diego without getting it serviced.

Aside from his contemptible predilection for abusing teenage boys, Dickens was, by way of comparison, a gentle soul. He seduced; he didn't attack. He had no history of violence.

Joe Forkan

Amaral did. He had committed thefts and robberies. He was volatile. He told tall tales. In fact, Dickens met Amaral when the boy was only 14, and Dickens was working as a counselor at a camp for youths with "temper" problems.

One troubling aspect of Amaral's testimony is his claim that he carried a walkie-talkie with him when he shot the Bernsteins. Amaral told the court that Dickens instructed him over the radio to leave "no witnesses," and he followed those directions.

When Amaral was detained as a runaway a day later at a bus terminal in Yuma, he had the gun, but no walkie-talkie.

The state has conceded that this aspect of Amaral's testimony is not credible. An assistant attorney general advised the Supreme Court that it "shouldn't believe the walkie-talkie testimony."

Yet in its ruling affirming the convictions, the Supreme Court cites the "no witnesses" statement.

There were others the jury didn't believe, specifically cellmates of Amaral who testified that the teen had bragged that he was the mastermind behind the murders. A juror who had worked in youth corrections advised his fellow panelists that inmates are notoriously unreliable witnesses.

The Supreme Court held that the influence exerted by the mechanic and the corrections worker on their fellow jurors did not improperly taint deliberations.

Dickens has been exceedingly unlucky. Every red flag that seemed to signal his salvation has turned out to be a red herring.

Gregory S. Dickens is a wretched character who deserves to be punished. He is a criminal who preys on boys. A jury of his peers determined that he is a murderer as well.

Did he get a fair trial before Judge Tom C. Cole? Is Cole a homophobe, and if so, was justice derailed during Dickens' trial?

A Pima County Superior Court judge who read pleadings addressing Cole's alleged bias said there was nothing to them. He called the evidence implicating Cole "hearsay" that provided no "colorable claim" that Dickens had been wronged.

Under rules of evidence, statements about Judge Cole's behavior are apparently not worth the paper they're printed on.

They leap off the page nonetheless, as abhorrent as tobacco spittle.

The fact remains that Gregory Dickens did not shoot the Bernsteins. The fact remains that Travis Amaral is not a pillar of probity. The fact remains that the jury acquitted Dickens of conspiracy.

Constituency is everything. I wonder how many cases a judge would hear if he were accused of using a racial epithet, as opposed to impugning a sexual class.

Remember Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Stanley Goodfarb, a respected champion of civil rights who was drummed off the bench in 1994 for using the "n" word during a heated conference in his chambers?

If "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the standard used in criminal court, it ought to be applied to those who rule criminal court as well.

Miserable though it may be, a life is at stake.

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My Voice Nation Help

I don't know if Judge Cole is a homophobe, but I do know he loved his son; and gar or straight, these two losers who shot and killed an innocent couple in cold blood both deserve the death penalty.

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