HarperCollins Publishers
updated 7/2/2004 5:42:30 PM ET 2004-07-02T21:42:30

It hardly seemed possible. Two such young, sweet-faced boys were charged with the murder of their own father. Their trial riveted the country and the verdict sparked outrage. Although the case was highly controversial, there was one thing almost everybody agreed on, that Derek and Alex King had been failed by almost every adult in their young lives. You can find a book excerpt about the case, as well as responses from the parties involved, below:

"A Perversion of Justice: A Southern Tragedy of Murder, Lies and Innocence Betrayed"
By Kathryn Medico and Mollye Barrows
Read an excerpt (pdf)

Response from Mike Rollo, Rick Chavis's defense attorney
1) I wouldn't waste my time reading a fanciful fiction piece about a case that I tried to a real jury, with real facts, and got a real acquittal, and about which I know more than either of the authors;

2) It seems that the authors can't face the reality that Alex and Derek King killed their father; they did it without anyone's suggestion or assistance; and they almost got away with it by committing perjury five times and by blaming an innocent man, Rick Chavis.

Response from author Mollye Barrows
Our book was not an attempt to vilify the Sheriff's Department or the prosecutor. It was an honest attempt to write the truth as it was revealed in depositions, trial transcripts, personal interviews, and our perception of the investigation and trying of this case... Kathryn and I absolutely stand behind the truth of this book and I hope Mr. Rimmer will not allow his pride to overpower his common sense.

Response from David Rimmer, Assistant State Attorney
Forasmuch as Mollye Barrows and Kathryn Medico have taken it upon themselves to write a book about the King case and what they perceive as a “perversion of justice,” it seemed good to me also; having had perfect understanding of this case from the very beginning, to respond to their book in order for people, who did not attend the trials, to know the truth.

After reading the book, I was struck by some of the glaring omissions of facts and blatant errors that it contained.  It was as though they were writing about trials they wish they had seen instead of the ones that actually took place.  The book raises questions about the personal motives of the authors.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that Medico and Barrows had developed a friendship with the King brothers and bonded with them long before they and Ricky Chavis went to trial.  Their book is nothing more than an attempt to vindicate the King brothers and vilify the Sheriff’s Department and the Prosecutor.

The book notes that most of the family members believe Derek and Alex are innocent but fails to mention that their grandfather, Wilbur King, stated to Connie Chung on national television that he believed they were guilty.

When the bond hearing was conducted, the tape recorded confessions of Derek and Alex were presented to the Court as well as the photographs of the crime scene, which I had mounted on a large piece of foam board.  During a recess of the proceedings, James Stokes came over to me and asked if he could take a look at the pictures. He picked up the foam board and walked over to where Derek and Alex were seated and propped it right up in front of them.  I watched carefully to see what their reactions would be.  I assumed that’s why Stokes was showing the pictures to them.  You would think that if they loved their father and had not killed him, they would show some kind of shock or sadness when they saw the pictures of their brutally murdered father.  But noooo…they cocked their heads from side to side and demonstrated all the curiosity of two boys looking at a dead squirrel.  And yet on p. 176 of the book a reference is made to Chavis describing how he believes the murder occurred.  The book says, “How could he claim to be Terry King’s best friend and be so amused about the crushing of his skull?”  I thought the same thing about Derek and Alex as I watched them looking at the crime scene photos.  Even when they testified in the trials and later at depositions, they never showed any emotion while describing the murder.

The idea that Chavis committed the murder and convinced the boys to confess in order to protect him is contradicted by the evidence, reasonable inferences, logical conclusions, and simple common sense.  Consider the following:

The boys admitted that when they ran away on November 16
they called Chavis from a pay phone at the EZ Serve store ½
mile down the road from their house.  He came and picked them
up and hid them for almost 10 days.  The phone records
supplied by BellSouth and introduced in evidence show the call
on November 26 to 911 reporting the fire was made at 1:37 a.m.
At 1:39 a.m. a call was placed to Chavis’s home from the same
EZ Serve store where the boys called him when they ran away
on November 16.

The boys would later admit that after killing their father on
November 26, they ran down the road to the EZ Serve store and
called Chavis.  Somehow, this information doesn’t appear in the
book.

At trial Alex claimed Chavis told him to leave the backdoor
unlocked and he would come by at midnight.  After hearing Alex
testify, you would have to believe Ricky Chavis arrived at the
house and parked right in front where the outside motion
detection light was located, sneaked inside without knowing
where Terry King was or what he was doing, removed both boys
and put them inside his car, went back inside with no weapon,
found a baseball bat, killed Terry, set the fire, and left.  Then
after arriving at his home, Chavis told them every gruesome
detail and got them to agree to take the blame.

Chavis and the boys may have had a plan to meet that night but it was not going to be at the King house.  Since Terry had put new locks on the front door and stationed himself in the front room, the only way the boys could sneak out and meet up with Chavis was to wait until Terry was asleep, sneak out the backdoor, go to the EZ Serve store and call Chavis.  Chavis was expecting them to call around midnight and when they had not done so he drove to the area two different times looking for them.  When they finally called at 1:39 a.m., he raced to the EZ Serve and picked them up.  After arriving at this home he had them take showers and he washed their clothes.  Why would the need to take showers at 2:00 o’clock in the morning?  Chavis then drove to the crime scene and made contact with law enforcement in an effort to determine if what the boys had told him was true.

If Chavis had killed Terry King as Derek and Alex would later claim, why should he tell them?  The best thing would have been to say some unknown intruder must have entered the house after the boys ran away.  In that case, no one gets arrested.  Not the boys, not Chavis.  The finger of suspicion could have been pointed at the Walkers because, according to the book, they wanted custody of Derek, and Terry King had said Mr. Walker had threatened to kill him.

The book claims birth certificates were missing from Terry King’s house.  Yet no birth certificates were found when the police served a search warrant on Chavis’s home.

If Chavis was worried about Derek not sticking to the story of being in the woods after the murder (p.316) why would he not also be worried that Derek might not stick to the story that he (Derek) committed the murder?

Alex had no problem with committing perjury.  During his testimony in the Chavis trial the following exchange took place when I was questioning him:

Q: Okay.  Assume that you ran way on November the 16th, did you call somebody to         come and pick you up?
A: No, sir.
A: I didn’t make a phone call.

Here’s what happened a few minutes later when Mike Rollo, Chavis’s attorney, was questioning him:

Q: Now, you had said earlier upon a question from Mr. Rimmer that you did not call Rick Chavis the first time you ran away.  Did you say you did or didn’t call him?
A:  I said I didn’t, but actually I did.
Q: Actually you did?
A:  Yes, sir.

After Alex testified in his own trial the following week, Judge Bell expressed concerns about the possibility of perjury.  The Judge called the attorneys to the bench and said, “I wonder at this point if-if Alex King should not be advised outside of the presence of the jury, of course, that his immunity does not protect him from perjury if you’ve got two sworn statements that are in contradiction with one another.” The Judge was referring to contradictions between Alex King’s grand jury testimony, where he had immunity, and his trial testimony.  Somehow all of this got left out of the book.

Another concern is the book’s unmistakable implication that Nancy Lay committed perjury when she testified.  Mrs. Lay testified in the King trial that after she and her husband apprehended Derek on November 24 they took him to their house and talked to him for approximately one hour.  Then they went by the police station but found it closed and returned to their home with Derek.  They talked to him for a while and called the police, who came to the house.  She testified that during their conversations with Derek he said, “If you send us back, my brother has a plan to kill him.”  This is what she actually said at trial, yet the book claims Derek’s “innocuous statement” would be later “twisted” into “a plan to kill Terry King.” (p.213) Frank and Nancy Lay had taken Derek into their home and tried to help him for 6 ½ years.  They both made it clear to me that they did not want to hurt Derek but they would tell the truth.  They would not even allow me to come to their home so I could see where Derek had lived because they thought it might hurt his case.  The deputy who picked up Derek from Mr. And Mrs. Lay did not hear Derek’s comment because it occurred before he got there.  The deputy was not asked, in the King trial, whether or not he heard Derek’s statement.  But he testified in the Chavis trial as follows:

Q: (By Mike Rollo) “where you present when Derek King admitted to the Lays that he and Alex had plan to kill their father?
A:   No, sir.
Q:  That would have happened outside of your hearing; is that right?
A:   Yes, Sir.”

The book clearly misrepresents the testimony of Nancy Lay.

The book has a picture of Terry King’s feet propped up on the couch as the crime scene.

The picture does not show the cup that was found next to him but the caption at the bottom says “ a full cup of coffee balanced on his hip.”  Balanced on his hip?  Really?  There are several pictures of the cup and not a single one shows it “balanced on his hip.”  But Barrows and Medico don’t include any of those pictures.  The reader must simply take their word for it.  The photos show a container leaning against the arm of the recliner next to Terry King’s right leg.  It is not “balanced on his hip.”

One of the biggest inconsistencies in the book is the fact that Chavis considered Derek a “loose cannon” and it was only a “matter of time before the capricious boy said the wrong thing and sent the calvary charging to Fort Chavis.” (p.216).  If that’s the case, why would Chavis trust him to take the blame for the murder and not “say the wrong thing?”  Chavis had only known Derek for six weeks.  Yet he’s going to trust this kid with his life?

The book points out that the psychologist who evaluated Derek concluded that he didn’t have the capacity to plan and use forethought, as would be required to have carried out the “complicated” acts involving murder.  (p.228).  How complicated is it to pick up a baseball bat and hit a sleeping man over the head with it?  We’re not talking about a plan to hijack airplanes and attack the World Trade Center.

The statement on p.245 that Alex testified in the Chavis trial about the details of his sexual relationship with Chavis is simply not true.  He merely acknowledged that a sexual relationship existed.  He was not asked about details.

Much is made of the various love letters that Alex wrote to Chavis, which I introduced in the trials.  But no mention is made of a letter that Alex wrote to his father that was also introduced.  In this letter, Alex addresses his father as “Terry” and refers to their home as a “prison” from which he and Derek had planned to escape.

When Derek started crying on the witness stand during cross-examination by Mike Rollo and the court took a brief recess, the courtroom did not brake into “pandemonium” as the book claims (p.258).  I did hear someone sobbing hysterically and looked up to see that it was Kathryn Medico, the wannabe-mother of Derek.  I didn’t see or hear anyone else crying but I did see a lady rolling her eyes at Medico’s performance in disgust.

Another error appears on page 244 regarding love letters that Alex had written about Chavis.  Alex was shown these letters at trial and identified them.  The book says, “This process continued for well over a dozen letters.”  This is simply not true.  There were a total of 7 such letters, not “over a dozen.” This error is inexcusable because Barrows and Medico were present when these letters were shown to Alex and entered into evidence.

The book criticizes the fact that the courtroom was not cleared of unnecessary spectators when Alex testified in the kidnapping and molestation case against Chavis.  (p.368).  Contrary to the book, Judge Bell did conduct a hearing even though James Stokes, who was Alex’s lawyer, never filed a motion on his behalf.  Mike Rollo objected to a closure of the courtroom.  The Judge was provided with case law that says the Court cannot order closure unless it makes required findings to justify it.  To do so without making such finding is reversible error.  An attorney who represented the mother of Alex, asked the Court for closure and said that Stokes was supposed to have filed something but failed to do so.  After hearing Alex testify that it would bother him “somewhat” to testify in open court and after carefully considering the relevant case law, Judge Bell ruled that the courtroom would not be closed when Alex testified.  Although Florida Law does allow the use of video taped testimony of a child under the age of 16, the motion to do so can be filed by the victim or his attorney, or his parent, or even the Judge, as well as the prosecutor.  Interestingly, James Stokes never filed such a motion.  In any event, the Judge still has to find that certain facts exist to justify such a procedure.  It is not automatic.  If Barrows and Medico and the numerous other fans of Alex were so worried about him having to testify in open court, why didn’t they show their solidarity and support for him by walking out of the courtroom when he testified?  Instead, Barrows and Medico remained crouched in their seats salivating like two dogs waiting for a treat.

The most telling moment of all came not during any of the trials, but during a deposition of Alex that was taken on 1-15-03 at the Juvenile Detention Facility by Mike Rollo.  James Stokes announced before it began that he had to leave in order to catch a flight and Dennis Corder would remain on his behalf.  There came a point during the deposition when Alex was asked about what, if anything, did Chavis tell him about the idea of killing his father.  Before answering, Alex asked to speak to Stokes in private and the two held a private conversation outside our presence.  When the deposition resumed, Stokes stated on the record that he would be leaving shortly and Corder would sit in for him.  Corder made it clear that he didn’t claim to have any attorney/client privilege with Alex.  The deposition continued with Rollo asking Alex about the circumstances of his father’s death.  Eventually Stokes left.  Alex admitted that he did not tell the truth when he tried to blame Chavis for the murder.  When Mr. Rollo asked him whose idea was it to try to blame Mr. Chavis, Mr. Corder immediately objected on grounds that the question may violate attorney/client privileges! He argued that he didn’t know if it had been Stokes’ idea or not but he didn’t want Alex to answer that question.  That was absolutely amazing!  At no time had Mr. Rollo asked Alex any questions about his conversations with Stokes and the questions itself had nothing to do with conversations between Alex and Stokes.  And yet Corder objected.  It was clear that Corder was concerned that Alex was about to say that the idea to blame Chavis had come from Stokes.  I wonder why none of this was ever mentioned in the book entitled “A Perversion of Justice?”  Instead the book is full of so much melodrama that it reads like an over-the-top self-parody as seen on the “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

There will always be people who believe Derek and Alex are innocent.  Just like there will always be people who believe that Michael Jackson is innocent no matter what happens with his case; or that the cops tried to frame O.J.  I could have taken the easy way out on this case and simply dropped the charges on the King brothers after Chavis was indicted and just gone after him.  The supporters of the King brothers would have loved me.   I would not have received all those hateful e-mails, and the molester from Missouri would not have filed a complaint against me and the Florida Bar.  But the truth is not always easy to find and not always easy to accept.  Sometimes Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light and wolves, even young ones, come to us in sheep’s clothing.  Sometimes judgment is turned away backward, justice stands far off, and truth is fallen in the street.  For people like Mollye Barrows and Kathryn Medico, that’s something they may never understand.

David Rimmer/FBN:348953
Assistant State Attorney
Special Prosecutions

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