Melvin B. Coley

A victim of the Arizona Injustice System

Melvin B Coley Legal Defense Fund
Post Office Box 24517
Tempe, Arizona 85285

July 17, 2003

Mr. Lee Gaylord
The Castle of Hope for Lost Souls
114 W. Adams, Apt 912
Detroit, MI 48-226

Dear Mr. Gaylord,

In July of: 1986., I was charged with first degree murder, conspiracy to. commit first degree murder, hindering prosecution and obstruction of Justice. A jury acquitted me of the murder charge, but found me guilty of the three other counts.  I was sentenced to 25 years to life for conspiracy to commit first degree murder, and two concurrent two year terms for the other charges.

On the night of March 12-13, 1986, Carl Martin was killed in Tucson, Arizona. At the home on the night of his death, was Ralph Ben-David AKA Ronald Gomes, Martha Martin, and Richard Hale. Ralph and Richard were both employees of the dead man. Martha was his wife. I had invested money in the victim's business. Mr. Martin was shot between one-three times, a plastic bag was placed over his head and he was buried in a dry river bed. In July, 1986, Richard Hale made an agreement with the police, and led them to the body of the victim.

Hale was given two different plea bargains. The first plea agreement was withdrawn when police and prosecutors found out that Richard had actually shot Carl Martin. The trial Court ordered the Pima County Attorney's office to give Richard Hale his plea agreement back. The court felt that Richard had given. up his :Miranda rights and based on the plea agreement. The first plea agreement allowed Richard to go free. Richard's second plea agreement required him to serve 10 years for assault with a deadly weapon.

Hale testified that I assisted him and Gomes with the disposal of the dead man's body. According to Hales testimony, these conversations, one involving discrediting the victim, or giving him a hot shot, and one about digging a hole, was not in response to killing Carl Martin. When Gomes and Hale talk about discrediting giving him a hot shot, Hale can't remember if I am. present. In Armand Salese' closing arguments on June 16, 1987, pages 40-41, lines 7-15, line 21-25, page 41 lines 1-23. (attached) details Richard Hale's testimony about the murder/conspiracy.
Although all four of us were charged with the same crimes, we went on trial at different times. On the advice of their attorneys, Ronald Gomes aka Ralph Ben-David and Martha Martin did not testify at my trial. At my trial, Hale stated he had no agreement with me, to kill Carl Martin.  Hale stated he was with Martha Martin and Ronald Gomes from before the murder was committed until the time he was arrested and never heard them say anything about me being involved in the murder.
All three of these people were friends of a man named Steve Elliott. They all spoke to Steve Elliott after the. murder, Elliott was interviewed by the police and prosecutors,. prior to my trial. Elliott stated that all three of them told him about the death of Carl Martin. Steve Elliott said at no time was my name mentioned as being a participant in the crime. Although Steve Elliott was interviewed by the County Attorney and law enforcement and told them I was not involved, when confronted with testifying, he refused to take the witness stand.

The state felt that Homer Payne, a police informant with multiple felony convictions, placed me in the middle of the murder/conspiracy because of alleged phone conversations between us. While in prison, Payne kept a journal he called CATS NOW! In that Journal, Payne alleged that I had ties to Libyan leader Khadafy and other militant leaders around the world. Payne pretty much portrayed me as a black militant terrorist, with plans to overthrow the. government.  The Journal also detailed the alleged activities of hundreds of people involved in criminal activities. I was supposed to be the head of the group.  Judge Meehan ordered this journal sealed at the end of my trial, probably because a US Senator, a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge and countless Italian Attorneys were named in the Journal, all participant in illegal activities.. Attached is Armand Salese's' arguments before the trial judge during pending motions on 6/8/87 pages 12-18, detailing this information.

Payne was described as "untrustworthy" by his parole officer Leo Henke. Another defense witness. Leo Boteler, a realtor/business man,. who had given Payne a job,. upon his release from prison, said Payne was "the most accomplished liar he had ever met". Joe Higdon, the undercover officer who had worked with Payne, stated he would "rely on or trust Homer Payne, only if he could verify the information separately."

The police attempted to put me in the conspiracy through the testimony of Johnnie Akins. Mr. Akins stated he purchased a weapon for me and Gomes the day of the killing. Gomes refutes this statement at his own trial, stating Akins purchased a gun for him, but that was after the death of CarI Martm.  To this day the police have never recovered a murder weapon, so they could not put me together with the murder weapon. John Akins stated he would purchase guns for me and then have me sign a receipt for the purchase. John Akins was never able to provide the police or prosecutor with a copy of those alleged receipts I signed John Akins was a sorry case.  He was a Vietnam veteran,. who was self medicated with drugs to the point that he had a guardian appointed to care for him. I found him a place to live, and supplied him with work gas for his car, and food.
Prior to my trial, John Akins was under investigation for sale of drugs, and selling firearms illegally. To this day, John Akins has never been charged with any crime, in exchange for .his testimony against me. A classic example of no good deed ever going unpunished.

Katherine Mead, a Detention Officer at the Pima County Jail, testified that she talked to Martha Martin on several occasions. Martha told her that I had nothing to do with the murder, and she did not know why I was in jail, because "he was never at the house the night Carl was killed". At her own trial, Martha Martin denied any conspiracy or agreement with me to kill her husband.  Martha. Martin,. Ronald Gomes,. and Richard Hale, have all given me affidavits stating they never conspired with me or anyone else to kill Carl Martin. Katherine Mead's testimony is included, June 15, 1987, pages 96-98.

At Gomes trial, he states that I assisted only with the disposal of the body. Gomes testifies on July 14, 1987, page 52 (attached) that he notified me after the death of Carl Martin, that the man's body is in a shed that I used for work supplies. Line 5, "I
ultimately end up over to the shed with him (Coley) trying to keep him away from that while he gets the material, he stumbles on the body. I have to explain the situation to him at that time." During the same testimony Gomes, p55, line 19, Gomes is asked about calling me in regards to getting rid of Mr. Martin's body, and he responds "I never call anybody period in relation to the body." Gomes .answers on line 23-25 and page 56 line one, (attached). How about arranging to get rid of the other stuff? Gomes, replies, "you are talking about the bed and the rug? Yeah, I made a call, I called Melvin."
Ronald Gomes first trial ended in a hung jury. At his second trial, the judge declared a mistrial, when it was learned that law enforcement officers had withheld information given to them by a state's witness. It turned out that this witness, Elizabeth Kerwin, had worked as a cleaning lady at the Pima County Attorney's office and had access to my case, as well as Gomes and Martha Martins case. Ms. Kerwin also made a statement to the police alleging a date rape situation between Ms. Kerwin and myself.  The police did not believe Ms. Kerwin's statement and agreed to keep the information quiet. After this disclosure, the State dismissed all charges against Gomes relating to the murder/conspiracy.

It was my bad luck to get a prosecutor by the name of Thomas Zawada. Zawada believed Homer Payne and the existence of a Black Militant Terrorist Group. When the police first talk to Homer Payne, he was in prison, and sent his reports through Joe Higdon, Tucson Police Department. The Arizona Department of Corrections tried to use Payne' s information, but felt he was not a credible informant. Since my trial, Zawada has been sanctioned twice by the Arizona Supreme Court for his actions in two cases. Pool v Superior Court, 139 Arizona 98, 106,677 P2nd 170, and State v Alex Vidal Hughes, Supreme Court no CR97-0238. Both these cases were reversed based on prosecutorial misconduct. I have enclosed copies of news articles dealing with Mr. Zawada's misconduct.

In three separate trials" no one has ever testified that they conspired with me to kill Carl Martin. I believe Richard Hale would have testified against his own mother to keep from getting a death sentence. I knew all these people, yes, but they were all addicted to alcohol or drugs. I am not a drinker, and drugs have never been my problem. I felt sorry for Richard, because he is. a guy with a third-grade education, who is an alcoholic and just goes along with anyone who is stronger then himself.. He worked for the victim, was in love with Marty, and was a friend of Ralph. I knew him, but we weren't friends.

Martha Martin had a history of prostitution, and a drug and alcohol problem. She was also a victim of domestic violence. Martha never worked and pretty much depended on men for her income. She is on the streets now, and is still an alcoholic. Martha was an active participant in the killing of her husband, and yet she is a free woman. Richard Hale shot Carl Martin, and he is on the streets. I was not there, and had nothing to do with this situation, and I am. still locked up. To this day,. Ralph and Richard point the finger at each other, so I don't really know who killed Carl Martin. Richard Hale testified at Martha's trial that she tied a plastic bag over her husbands head, and he shot at the victim, and Ralph shot the victim.. Ralph Ben David is a heroin addict. There isn't much more one can say about that situation.

Richard was released from prison in 1997, and Martha was released in 1998. Both Martha and Richard are white, and I am an African American. Ralph remains in prison, but on other unrelated charges. I was sentenced to 25 years to life for conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

All three of my co-defendants had a motive to kill Mr. Martin. Martha wanted him dead, because he was physically abusive to her. Richard was in love with Martha, and was also writing bad checks on Mr. Martin's business account with Ralph's help. By this time, Martha and Ralph were. lovers. I had invested $10,000.00 in Martin's business, but with all the theft going on, the business was failing. After Carl Martin disappeared I tried to protect my investment, and for that I needed Martin alive. The police believed I would kill the man who owed me money, to take over a failing business. That's clearly what they thought a Black man would do. Pretty racist thinking in my opinion.

I am enclosing copies of John Kaumann' s letters and the Court of Appeals petition ruling. Also letters from Ralph Ben-David to his wife Martha Martin's attorney. Thank you for taking the time to read this material

Sincerely yours,

Melvin B Coley

The following is an editorial comment by Lee.

The address above is for Melvin's Defense fund.  I am sure that he would be happy to have donations sent there.  If you want more information on the case you can also send a request for information their.  If you or someone you know can help with Melvin's case please contact the defense fund.

The package Melvin sent me has copies of everything he referred to in the above.  People of all colors and nationalities are railroaded by the Good Ole Boys.  The common denominator is usually the lack of money.  In the cases of whites being railroaded it is because they pissed someone off.  In the most cases where blacks are railroaded it is because the are blacks.

In Melvin's  case I feel it is because he was a successful black man.  I have been given a lot of flack because much of my writing tells it like it is.  I have lived in black neighborhoods for 19 of the last 22 years.  I have seen first hand that prejudice is alive and well.  I have had that prejudice leveled at me because of my choice of friends and my life style.  Racial profiling has been used against me many times because one white man with a bunch of black men equals a drug dealer or a cop does not like a mixed couple.

America, wake up!!!  We are all one race, the human race.  Inside we are the same.  Remember this, the white man may be in the majority in the north western world but we are the minority on earth.


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