James Mullins, the Kentucky career criminal who falsely confessed in 2005 to shooting a young Tempe woman to death -- a murder that police have pinned on accused 'Baseline Killer' Mark Goudeau -- testified yesterday at Goudeau's trial.
Speaking with a distinct Southern drawl, Mullins told jurors in Judge Warren Granville's courtroom that he conjured up the idea of confessing to the September 2005 murder of Georgia Thompson while watching an episode of The Maury Povich Show in a jailhouse day room.
The episode, which aired in December 2005 and which prosecutors played yesterday for jurors and spectators, briefly described (not so accurately) the 19-year-old woman's murder --basically that Ms. Thompson was shot in the head from close range in a parking lot.
Mullins said he devised a tall tale in which he had grabbed a gun from the young woman during a scuffle outside a Tempe bar and shot her once in the face -- a manslaughter rather than a premeditated killing.
Mullins said he was hoping that he would face less prison time in Arizona for the murder than the 10- to 55-year sentence he was then looking at in Kentucky.
Trouble was, Mullins never had set foot in Arizona in September 2005 or at any other time in his life. Deputy County Attorney Suzanne Cohen asked Mullins what in the world he could have been thinking at the time.
"Honestly, I really don't know how to answer that question," Mullins replied.
He described how a Tempe police detective, Susan Schoville, flew to Kentucky to interview him after he phoned a "Crimestoppers" line in late 2005 to lay the bait for his fake confession.
"She basically fed me information," Mullins said of the detective.
He testified that "basically everything I said [initially in his 'confession'] was wrong," including the actual location of the murder (it was the parking lot of Ms. Thompson's apartment complex, not in the lot of a Tempe night spot), where Thompson had been shot (in the back of the head, not in the face as the Maury show suggested), and other critical mistakes.
Despite the gaping holes in his account, a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Mullins on a murder charge after his "confession," and he was extradited to Arizona to face trial.
But Phoenix police, in the summer of 2006, revealed an investigative link -- telltale bullet shell casings -- in what had been dubbed the 'Baseline Killer' and the Thompson murder. The Phoenix cops also said they had no evidence to connect Mullins to any of the Baseline cases.
In September 2006, police arrested Mark Goudeau on charges of killing nine people (and many other crimes). He already has been convicted of sexually assaulting two Phoenix sisters and is serving a 438-year sentence.
Mullins said he was stunned when he learned from authorities that the Thompson murder was being linked to a serial killer.
"There's a big difference between one murder and a bunch of murders," he said. "It was a lot bigger than I anticipated."
Prosecutor Cohen asked him how he now feels about his antics.
"Probably about as stupid as any person can feel," Mullins said
In later testimony, Tempe officer Schoville tearfully admitted to jurors that she had bungled the investigation. The emotional breakdown on the witness stand surprised veteran courthouse watchers, one of whom told us, "There's no crying in police work."
More on this trial next week.