p. 15

“Might I do what Richard and Ralph and Langston’n them did?”
African-American writers Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and Langston

p. 16

Gary’s parents, ​Morris “Morrie,” ​74, and ​Ruth,​ 70, were killed April 8,
1993. Their bodies were found on April 10.
The Gauger family farm and their shop Gauger’s Motorcycles were
located in McHenry County, Illinois, a few miles east of Richmond in
the northeast corner of the state.
Sugar Grove:​ a township and village in nearby Kane County.

p. 17

“ that racetrack, this white girl...”
Pamela Albertson​, 32, was Robert’s fellow horse groom at the ​Pompano
Harness Track​ in Pompano Beach, Florida. She was murdered
February 20, 1990.

p. 18

Robert’s first trial was October 29, 1991. He was arrested over a year
earlier one month after Albertson’s death.
“Do you really think O.J. committed that crime?”
NFL player ​O.J. Simpson, ​who was acquitted in 1995 for double murder
in the most publicized criminal trial in American history. See ​The

v. O.J. Simpson.
“And then fast forwarding...”
In the summer of 1977, Kerry was staying with James Taylor (not ​that
James Taylor), a truck driver who lived in the Embarcadero
apartments in Tyler, Texas. Taylor was a gay man interested in a
sexual relationship with Kerry, who had had relationships with both
men and women.

p. 19

“this beautiful, gorgeous girl”
Linda Jo Edwards, ​21, was also staying at the Embarcadero. See p. 20,
Lt. Doug Collins​ (Collard, non-fictionally) is just one in a series of
expert witnesses the prosecution used to condemn Kerry, and his
testimony, along with that of a psychiatrist who offered testimony in
other murder trials, are integral to Kerry’s allegations of
prosecutorial misconduct that eventually freed him from death row.

p. 20

“And this next part has been hidden for twenty years.”

Whitfield​’s real life counterpart, James Mayfield, was a librarian at
Texas Eastern University​, now called UT Tyler. ​Linda ​was a secretary
in the English department. After the very dramatic exposure of their
affair at the end of the spring semester that resulted in Linda
attempting suicide, Mayfield asked one of his employees, Paula
Rudolph, called ​Darla ​in the text, to move her into her apartment at
the Embarcadero for her safety.
Rudolph’s faulty testimony formed the backbone of Kerry’s appeals in
later years, as Kerry had dark, shoulder-length hair in 1977.
“At the time they pulled me in, I was in high school.”
January 1971: ​David was a high school senior in Quincy, Florida about to
turn 19.
p. 21

“the events that took place at Luke’s Grocery on September 18th, 1970”
Carroll’s account is more or less accurate, namely where there were only
three perpetrators.
Luke’s Grocery was a store in Tallahassee that was robbed by three black
men from Jacksonville, resulting in the murder of off-duty Leon
County Deputy Sheriff Khomas Revels. Rather uncreatively, they’re
called the Jacksonville Three, not to be confused with the Jackson

p. 22

“all I do is put some names to the spots and then we can all be free”
David’s false confession implicated four others, and they became known
as the Quincy Five, also not to be confused with the Jackson Five.
They were each indicted, tried and sentenced separately.
“We weren’t officially married.”
Sunny and Jesse Tafero had a common law marriage. They never signed
any papers, but had cohabitated and lived as spouses long enough to
be considered married in the eyes of the law.

p. 23

“It was like driving through the ten plagues [...] the first being the oil
leaking all over the road, and the final one… you know those love
bugs that smash yourselves on your window?”
The​ Plagues of Egypt​ from Exodus in the Hebrew Torah and the
Christian Bible. Ten calamities sent by God to intimidate the
Pharaoh into freeing the enslaved Israelites.
“Come on man, nothing ever happens in Broward.”
Broward County​, Florida. This statement is a classic case of tempting
fate and ironic in context because Robert was also convicted in
Broward County.

“I went to seminary for a year and a half...”
Chicago Theological Seminary, ​est. 1855, historically affiliated with the
United Church of Christ and academically reciprocal with the
University of Chicago.
p. 24 - 25

“I happened to be in Florida when some crazy stuff happened. A guy
was killed, a young woman was raped, and I happened to be in
On Feb. 3, 1974, ​Terry Milroy ​and ​Cynthia Nadeau ​were hitchhiking
from Marathon to St. Petersburg in ​southern Florida. They were
picked up outside ​Ft. Myers​ by someone Nadeau described as a black
man with a green pickup truck. The driver murdered Milroy and then
raped Nadeau.
Important detail, other than Nadeau’s wildly un-Delbert description:
Delbert was also hitchhiking and had no vehicle to speak of.
“I was on the highway in Florida, so I was stopped and questioned.”
Delbert was stopped by highway patrolmen three different times: in
Leesburg on Feb. 6, Ocala on Feb. 7, both in ​northern Florida, and
finally in Clarksdale, Mississippi on March 13, when he was arrested.

p. 25

“And they arrested me in Mississippi.”
As above, in ​Clarksdale​, birthplace of Ike Turner, childhood home of
Tennessee Williams.

p. 26

“’s a lot better, especially in ​Mississippi​”
Robert moved back home to​ Canton, Mississippi ​after his exoneration.
“I’d be sittin’ here saying, ‘yes ma’am, Miss Daisy.’”
Driving Miss Daisy, 1987 Alfred Uhry play adapted into the 1989 movie
with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. It details the 25-year
relationship between chauffeur Hoke Colburn (Freeman) and the
titular Miss Daisy (Tandy) a very old, rich, white Jewish lady in
Atlanta, spanning the ‘40s to the ‘70s.
“Rhodes is on parole — and possession of a gun is a parole violation.”
parole: ​a conditional release of a prisoner who has served part of a
sentence and who remains under the control of and in the legal
custody of a parole authority

p. 27

“Rhodes had just killed two policemen, had a gun and was telling us to
get in the police car.”
Feb. 20, 1976: The policemen were ​Florida State Trooper Philip Black
and off-duty​ Canadian Constable Donald Irwin ​who was visiting

“I’m trying to explain that we were kidnapped, but they just wouldn’t
At first, the cops only arrested Jesse and Rhodes and assumed Sunny was
a kidnapping victim, but she implicated herself by kissing Jesse.
polygraph test:​ a.k.a. the lie detector; a machine that is meant to detect
lies during questioning by monitoring physiological changes in blood
pressure, respiration, pulse, etc.
p. 28

A general note: 15 cups of coffee is too many.
vision statement: ​Definitely fake. Literally not a thing. Those cops
completely made it up. It doesn’t exist in any penal code I’ve been
able to find.

p. 29

“They used that vision statement for a ​confession [...] nothing was
written down, nothing was recorded.”
An actual, legally viable confession is 1) recorded for posterity and 2) in
some way signed by the person making the confession.
“Who shot the highway patrolman and the other officer?”
Florida State Trooper Philip Black and Canadian Constable Donald Irwin.

p. 30

“​We had to read you​ your rights...”
Miranda warning, or rights, ​a scripted advisory warning American law
enforcement officers read to defendants in their custody; the result of
the 1966 Supreme Court decision ​Miranda v. Arizona. (“You have the
right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent,
anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney. If you desire an attorney and
cannot afford one, an attorney will be obtained for you before police

p. 31

“Rhodes [...] was negotiating a deal.”
A shady version of a ​plea bargain. ​Rhodes pled guilty to being an
accessory to the crime in exchange for three life sentences over
“I decided I would waive extradition.” ​See p. 32, below.
“ he quotes Darth Vader, when there’s a ‘disturbance in the force.’”
Iconic ​Star Wars quote. The Force is the natural energy that flows
through the universe and all living things in it, sensed and wielded
by Jedi Knights and Sith Lords. Various characters refer to a

“disturbance” or “disruption” in the Force.
p. 32

“I waived extradition to Florida, meaning I voluntarily went back.”
extradition: ​between states; legal process by which a suspected criminal
is forcibly transferred from one state to to another, usually the state
where the alleged crime was committed. Delbert does a great job
explaining voluntary extradition, so.
“...this is 1974, black people had only had the right to vote since 1965.”
The​ Voting Rights Act of 1965​ prohibits racial discrimination in voting,
in theory. Racist voting rights violations happen everywhere.

p. 32 - 33

Everything from ​“Gentlemen, you have the right to remain silent”​ to
“Appoint the public defender to represent him.”
This is the part of the pre-trial period called the ​initial appearance​. The
judge reads the charge and penalties to a defendant. See the legal
dictionary later in this packet.
indigent: ​legalese for “too poor to afford a private lawyer”
public defender: ​See p. 34, below.
A note from your local lesbian dramaturge: “​homosexual” ​is a clinical
term generally regarded as a slur these days. It’s leftover from the
days when “sexual inversion” was a mental illness.
Blank and Jensen chose to create a composite prosecution in place of a
series of expert witnesses who variously exaggerated the bounds of
forensic science (Lt. Collins, p. 19) and exploited Texan homophobia
in order to cast Kerry as the sort of sexually deviant sociopath seen in
The Silence of the Lambs.

p. 34

“Now, I don’t think three life sentences is a bargain.”
Three life sentences ​is the sort of sentence courts did before life without
the possibility of parole was a thing, along the lines of a 300-year
sentence. Rhodes was going to die in prison. Fun fact: he made it out.
“There was prosecutorial misconduct, there was hiding of evidence that
would have proven I didn’t do it.”
Pretty much the thesis statement of the play and in a depressingly high
number of wrongful convictions.
“We were told we could try and get you a better lawyer, but you ​have a
lawyer, they’ve ​appointed you one, so it’s okay.”
Like Robert, Sunny was appointed a public defender, but unlike Robert’s,
hers was terrible. A ​public defender​ is a defense attorney paid by the

court to defend those who can’t afford lawyers, but unfortunately,
the court is also poor and can’t afford to fund a defense. Capital cases
are exceptionally expensive for everyone involved. A defense needs
funding not just for the lawyers’ time, but for resources for
investigation (everything from gas money to photocopying legal
records) and paying expert witnesses. Think Jimmy McGill/Saul
Goodman in ​Better Call Saul/pre-​Breaking Bad.
p. 35

“his co-defendant:” Johnny Frederick​. David was tried jointly with
Frederick because they were, according to the prosecution, the two
directly responsible for both Revels’ death and the attempted murder
of H.M. Carroll. Frederick received life imprisonment at the same
sentencing hearing where David was sentenced to die by electric
“They tell you exactly how they’re going to do it…”
David, Delbert and Sunny ​were all sentenced to death by electric chair.
Kerry, Robert and Gary would have died by lethal injection.

p. 36

University of Chicago: ​Delbert enrolled in and dropped out of a number
of colleges, including the Chicago Theological Seminary.
REM: ​rapid eye movement, used to assess sleep.
“one of the Nazi doctors:” ​The Nazis were notorious for deadly human
experimentation in concentration camps, cutting people open in the
hopes of discovering a way to create members of the “genetically
perfect” Aryan race. The most famous doctor of this sort is Josef
Mengele, who had a thing about eyes, twins and dwarfs.
“They decided to clear out an entire disciplinary unit at the women’s
Sunny had an entire floor to herself at the now-defunct ​Broward
Correctional Institution ​outside of Ft. Lauderdale.
goiter: ​A significant enlargement of the thyroid gland visible in the neck.
Tends to affect older women.

p. 37

“I saw 141 guys go down:” ​Texas executes the most people of any state.
“Which was also the phone that the governor would use to call in and

stop an execution.”
A governor can order a stay of execution minutes before it starts.
Northsiders: ​the white gang in Stateville Correctional Center in
northeastern Illinois. So-called because they’re from the northern
part of the state.
Aryan Nation: ​white supremacist Christian separatist religion
Skinheads: ​Gary refers to ​white power skinheads​, the white supremacist
American offshoot of the 1980s British punk subculture.
p. 38

Calvin and Hobbes: ​Daily comic strip by Bill Watterson that ran roughly
in the 1980s-1990s. Calvin is a 6-year-old boy; Hobbes is his
anthropomorphic stuffed tiger.
Judge Kaplan: ​Stanton S. Kaplan, Broward County circuit judge.
Robert was held at ​Florida State Prison​ in Broward County.

p. 39

snitch: ​Snitches are another a huge part of wrongful convictions.
Delbert’s jailmate also screwed him over by testifying that Delbert
confessed to him. In Sunny’s case, Rhodes was also a kind of snitch.
pull a train: ​having penetrative sex with multiple men, one after the
other, except that Kerry’s case it’s rape and “having sex” in this
definition implies consent. This is just one of many times Kerry was
raped while in prison.
Western front: ​the European theatre of war in both world wars. Kerry
compares his prison experience to one side of a war and his legal
battle the other.
Job: ​Central figure of the Book of Job in the Christian Old Testament.
He’s a happy, righteous man with a lot of wealth and sons and
daughters who has terrible things happen to him. Answers: “Why
does God allow suffering?” It’s a poetic epic that starts with what’s
basically a bet between God and Satan. Satan’s sure that if God took
away all of Job’s prosperity, Job would curse God. To prove Satan
wrong, God puts Job through a series of unfortunate events. Job
retains his faith in God:
“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21)

p. 40

“In the name of Jesus, I command this rain to stop.”
It’s most likely that David broadly references any biblical miracle at all,
but years of Catholic education make me think it’s Elijah stopping the
rain in the Old Testament:
“As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, during these
years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.” (1
Kings 17:1)

p. 41

King Lear and ​Hamlet: ​I hope you all know.
“​Hito banjuu kimyo ikasatai / Kimi to ito tsuni naritai”
“All night I want to give you orgasms. / I want to be one with you.”
Audio file on the web version. Translation and pronunciation
courtesy of Misato Hiraga.

p. 41 - 43

Doyle Wayne Cook
This is a very complete account, with the very, very glaring typo on p. 43
that Doyle was murdered Dec. 27, ​1987​, three weeks after a higher
court affirmed Kerry’s conviction. Doyle was 33 when he died. Kerry
learned all of this information through ​Jeff Woolverton​. The man
who killed Doyle, Ben Franklin Williams, pled guilty to voluntary
Stevie Wonder:​ A wonderful musician, blind from shortly after birth. Jeff
identified Stevie and this guy’s shared blackness and penchant for

p. 44

Dumbo: ​1941 Disney movie about the titular big-eared circus elephant
whose ears are so big he is capable of flight.
Robert’s lawyer ​was a then-public defender named ​Barbara Heyer ​who
now works privately, specializing in capital cases.

p. 45

“this white guy, her ex-boyfriend:” Scott Nicholas​. While the Florida
courts did not convict him for Albertson’s murder, he was
imprisoned in Ohio on rape charges.
“After I’ve been on death row for 22 years….”
Kerry’s legal journey is insane, but know this: Kerry was convicted in
1977, ​was freed from death row on bond in ​1997 ​and accepted a
“no-contest” plea in ​1999​. And while his murder conviction was
finally set aside in ​2016​, a judge refused to fully exonerate him by
declaring him actually innocent because the DNA evidence only
proves that Linda and Mayfield/Whitfield had a sexual relationship,

not that Mayfield/Whitfeld murdered her.
p. 46

The ​Center on Wrongful Convictions ​at the Northwestern University
School of Law is a clinic of law students who offer representation to
the wrongfully convicted. Founded and originally directed by
Lawrence Marshall, ​who now teaches at Stanford.
“my twin sister:” ​Ginger Gauger Blossom. She now runs a fair trade
import business on the family farm, while Gary and Sue live and farm
down the road.
Outlaws Motorcycle Club: ​biker gang recognized by the U.S. government
as an organized crime syndicate.
Hells Angels Motorcycle Club: ​another biker gang, famously the subject
of a Hunter S. Thompson book
ATF: ​The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“those two guys:” ​Randall Miller and James Schneider, two Outlaws who
were patrons of Gauger Motorcycles. Morrie and Ruth’s deaths were
part of a robbery gone wrong. Miller’s videotaped confession was
secretly recorded by another Outlaw, Mark Quinn, who was
informing on the Outlaws to the ATF. Quinn’s information assisted in
the investigations of other murders in the Midwest.
depose:​ testify to or give (evidence) on oath, typically in a written
affidavit: ​a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use
as evidence in court

p. 47

“I would go to work, I would come home...”
David worked as a foreman at a tree-cutting company in Quincy.

p. 48

Dallas Peace Center: ​a non-profit human rights advocacy organization
Amnesty International: ​another non-profit human rights advocacy

p. 49

Trotting Association: ​United States Trotting Association, governing body
over harness racing and licensing.

p. 50
p. 51

“my children grew up without a family”

“​It took ​thirteen and a half minutes for Jesse to die.​”
Electrocution is the second most botched method of execution in
America. Jesse’s is one of 84 botched electrocutions since 1976.
Mahatma Gandhi: ​leader of Indian Independence movement. Famously
p. 52
p. 53