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Until Justice is
Just outside of Philadelphia lies a very small place that has just one sign on the highway to advertise its existence: Tullytown, Pennsylvania. Drive too fast on Route 13 and you'll miss this place for it is made up of just a few small streets, several traffic lights and it hardly seems like the kind of place where crimes like murder would ever be committed.
But if you stay in Tullytown long enough, someone will mention the story of Anthony Milano, Rick Laird, and Frank Chester. It began almost nine years ago on December 14, 1987. And as of today, the story is far from over. On that night, one man was murdered, one man became a murderer, and another man is sitting on Death Row for a crime he did not commit. Until justice is served, this story will never be over.
"How did I get here when all I did was try to help the police?" is a question Frank asks himself every day.
In 1987, he and a friend, Rick Laird, were out at a local bar when they met Anthony Milano. Anthony and Frank found they had a lot in common. They were both Italian, both raised Catholic, and both were on the verge of getting their lives together and facing their futures as adults. But all that was to end when Rick, Frank, and Anthony left the bar.
While on the way to a friend's house, Rick, so drunk and strung out on drugs at the time, lost his temper when Anthony wanted to go home. In a fit of rage, Rick Laird dragged Anthony to a nearby wooded area and knifed Anthony in the throat. In a matter of moments, Anthony was dead.. Frank Chester saw the murder as it was happening and ran through the woods to a friend's house, shaken by what he had just seen.
After the murder, Frank cooperated with the police. He produced the clothes he was wearing at the time (which had not one drop of Anthony's blood on them), gave the police the names of all his friends and the patrons in the bar. He even submitted to a lie detector test which he passed with flying colors. He also agreed to be wire-tapped in a phone conversation with Rick Laird in order to help the police implicate Rick Laird for the murder.
But a District Attorney with an election year ahead of him used all the work that Frank did against him and now Frank finds himself on Death Row facing his final appeal shortly before his execution.
Anthony Milano was a gay man who was learning to accept his identity. When the DA learned this fact, he used Anthony's homosexuality as the cause for his horrible death. Frank and Rick were depicted as hate mongers. That's when the media circus began.
The case received much publicity. The press portrayed both Frank and Rick as evil-gay bashers and the trial quickly bolted into national headlines. Both Frank and Rick were offered up as sacrificial lambs, while Frank remained steadfast in his innocence. Sometimes when we try to cooperate with justice, it still does not prevail and Frank is living proof of that.
When you look at the evidence, the police reports, and the subsequent transcripts, the evidence clearly indicates that only one man, Rick Laird could have committed this crime. Blood was found in his apartment, a pack of cigarettes that Rick smoked was found under the body, and Rick had a previous arrest history for violent behavior. All of these were signs that Rick Laird was an accident waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, the DA in this case used every ounce of evidence Frank supplied against him, even the wire-tapped phone conversation was used as a way to convince the jury Frank had done the crime. Dates were forged on reports and witnesses were coerced by the DA in order to put both Frank and Rick behind bars and on Death Row. Recently Rick Laird has tried to have his sentenced reduced,indicating that because he was so strung out on drugs and alcohol, that he had no way of knowing what he was doing that fateful night. Because of this, Rick has somewhat exonerated Frank but Frank still is on Death Row.
However, time is running out and something must be done now! Frank is also the victim of Celiac Disease, a degenerative condition which slowly erodes the body within. If prison does not kill him, his disease certainly will unless he is provided with the needed treatment to help save his life. This will happen only if Frank has a lawyer who will truly work in his best interests to bring all of the facts regarding the crime to light.
In 1987, Frank lost his family, his fiancé, his beloved car collection, and most importantly, his entire life. In the years he has been in prison, Frank has studied law and has used his abilities to help others in need. He has become, to the guards, a model prisoner, having never committed a violent act or done drugs in prison. He prays every day that his legal acumen will help to release him from the bonds of prison so he can go back to his life and be with his family. He is a living example that justice does not always prevail.
Frank Chester still
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Copyright © 1996-97 by Jim Jenkins.