JUSTICE DENIED

The Case

of

Thomas Koonce


Thomas Koonce is a thirty-six year old Afro-American who grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts. Tom is the son of Lola Irene Koonce and the late Thomas Koonce Sr. who were good hard working parents with two other children.

Tom was a true American success story up until July 21, 1987. He had graduated with high honors from Brockton--High School. Upon graduation, Tom was accepted at Northeastern University where he intended to pursue a degree in Law Enforcement. His dream was to eventually become a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the State Police. Unable to raise the necessary finances to fulfill his immediate educational goals, Tom opted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. In fulfilling his service to his country, Tom began working towards his dream in security forces, while stationed at the Bremerton, Washington Nuclear Submarine Base.

Tom would finish his tour of duty with the Marines and be honorably discharged while stationed at the U.S. Naval Station in Weymouth, Massachusetts. After his tour with the Marines, Tom found employment with the John Hancock Financial Services and Sears Roebuck Co., Loss Prevention Department.

HOW DID ALL THIS CHANGE?

While home on leave from the Marines on July 21,1987, Tom and some of his friends went to a club located in Westport, Massachusetts. Unknown to Tom at the time, was the fact that people from Brockton, MA were not welcome in the New Bedford area. Tom is Afro-American; the vast. majority of the residents of the Westport -New Bedford area are of Cape Verdean origin. On occasion, racial tensions ran high between these two groups.

While at the Club, Tom noticed that plenty of tension existed. A fight had already taken place and things appeared to be getting out of hand. Tom quickly decided to leave. A friend suggested that they .go to a party at the United Front Housing Development in New Bedford.  The promise of enjoying his last couple of nights home from the from the Marines was too inviting to I resist. Tom rode along with his friends. At the Housing Development, Tom noticed lots of people arriving in cars. Finding parking was difficult, Tom and his friends had to walk back about a block to the location of the party. It was about at this point that Tom recognized some of the same people who had been fighting at the Westport Club earlier. Tom and his friends immediately began to leave the area. Before they could reach their car, they observed approximately 50 to 75 people approaching them. Some were armed with weapons, (bats, clubs, iron pipes and other undetermined shining objects). Tom and his friends ran for their lives back towards their car. Many others were also attempting to flee. One car, located directly behind the one Tom was in, was attacked by the mob. Windows were smashed, paint was thrown on the occupants. One person was dragged from the vehicle by members of the mob and beaten so severely that he sustained a concussion. The mob then surrounded the car Tom was in. All attempts to flee were blocked by the mob. Tom and his friends were trapped! As a last resort Tom, who was licensed to carry a firearm, drew his weapon (a .22 cal. pistol). Tom pointed the weapon in the air in an attempt to disperse the mob. At the same time, the driver also took evasive action. He drove the vehicle up on to, and the back off of the sidewalk in an attempt to get free from the mob. As he did so, the sudden action caused the driver to be hurled across the front seat and into Tom who was ducking down on the passenger side attempting to avoid the oncoming mob. The unexpected jolt caused the weapon to prematurely discharge a single round. The bullet hit a person named Mark Santos. Mr. Santos expired from the wound. While any loss of life is very tragic and sad, it is important to consider a number of factors:
 
1. Tom did not intend to fire his weapon at Mr. Santos.

2. The discharging of the weapon was an involuntary action, caused by the sudden and unexpected lurching of the vehicle as the driver attempted to flee the area.

3. The victim, Mr. Santos, was not an innocent bystander. Mr. Santos was a principal instigator of the mob that had already attacked another vehicle at the scene. In addition, toxicology tests performed during the autopsy, revealed the strong presence of cocaine and alcohol.

4. Thomas has been extremely remorseful for the loss of life of Mr. Santos. He expressed these sentiments in an apology letter to the Santos family in 1998. He prays that they will one day find it in their hearts to forgive him.
 

WITHOUT JUSTICE FOR ALL THERE IS JUSTICE FOR NONE


TOM'S TRIAL IN SUPERIOR COURT

While awaiting trial, and free on bail, Tom continued with his service to his country. He was Honorably Discharged from the Marines in 1991. Tom would remain free on bail for over five years. It would take two separate trials to convict Tom. The first trial ended when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. It was later determined that 10 of the 12 jurors voted "Not Guilty."
The other two jurors had voted to convict Tom of the lesser offense of Manslaughter.

Tom's mom (at that time) worked for the Brockton Area Transit Co. (BAT), hired a lawyer for Tom after she took out a $20,000 mortgage on her home. After the first trial, the lawyer demanded more money if he was to continue representation at the second trial. He sought an additional $10,000. Once again, Tom's mom struggled to raise the necessary funds. She was able to raise another $7,000. Then unexpectedly, in late May of 1992 Tom was informed that the second trial would begin on June 15, 1992. The lawyer pressed Tom's mom for the balance of $3,000 in a week's time. The lawyer filed a motion to withdraw from the case. He had given up on Tom's case. To him, it was all about the money -innocence mattered not. The trial judge refused to allow the lawyer to withdraw at this late stage of the proceedings. Despite the court's assurance that it would pay the lawyer, he continued to press the Koonces for the $3,000. Prior to the second trial, the lawyer stated to the Koonces "We don't need to spend too much time going over anything...I know this case." No time was spent meeting with Tom or his family to discuss either the case or trial strategy. Tom, with his very life hanging in the balance, was ill prepared for the second trial.

THE JURY

At the second trial, the jury pool consisted of fifty-five Anglo-Americans. Tom's mom expressed her concerns to the lawyer several times regarding the fact that there were no people of color in the jury pool. One juror noted that she had previously been robbed by a black male. Had Tom not noticed this (by coincidence) on the jurors' information sheet and brought it to the attention of the lawyer, she would have been allowed to remain on the jury. One can only imagine how many other "pro-prosecution" jurors slipped by his defense attorney. Subsequent to seating the jury, a male juror may have brought a firearm into the jury room to conduct an illegal weapon demonstration. While questioned by the judge about this matter, the juror denied it, despite the fact that a holster and ammunition had been found in the jury room. Witnesses for the state were intimidated and offered "freedom" deals on outstanding criminal charges. Tom was discouraged from taking the stand in his own defense by his lawyer telling him, "Well, Tom... not taking the stand worked well in the first trial." Tom's second trial was a complete "sham" and a "travesty" of justice. Tom was convicted of First Degree Murder by the all white jury and sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in prison. This, despite the well established fact that there had been absolutely no motive or premeditation involved.

TOM KOONCE TODAY

During the past ten years, Tom Koonce has dedicated his time towards four principal objectives: (1) His spiritual relationship with God. (2) Bettering his education. (3) Helping at-risk youth stay out of prison. (4) Getting out of prison and continuing in his plight to help at-risk youth in the community in a re-entry program.

In regards to Tom's spiritual growth: Tom has given his life over to God and has really grown in his dedication and service to God. Tom (under the pastor's care) oversees the Usher's ministry at the MCI-Norfolk Chapel. He also helps coordinate the "follow-up" ministry, specifically for those new Christians who have just accepted Christ and want to change their lives. It is Tom's faith and commitment to Christ, that his strengthened and sustained him over the long and trying years.

With regard to education: Tom began his studies in Criminal Justice Law (while stationed in Bremerton) at Olympic College in Washington, in theSprrng of 1987. Despite his unfortunate circumstances, Tom continued his education from the moment he arrived at Walpole State Prison in 1992. Tom was eventually transferred to MCI-Norfolk, where he would continue his education via Boston University Prison Program. Tom graduated "Magna Cum Laude" (i.e. with high honors) and received his Bachelor's Degree in 1998.

With respect to helping at-risk youth: Tom is the principal coordinator of the Second Thoughts, Inc. program. Tom has been involved in helping to keep at-risk youth out of prison, for the last ten years. There is no doubt that Tom enjoys what he is doing, as coordinating any youth program requires a great deal of time, patience, and sacrifice. Tom has literally helped counsel "thousands" of at-risk youth over the years and still has the fire and desire to counsel a thousand more. He simply loves working with the youth!

In attempts to reach even more youth, Tom (and the Board of Directors) have now shifted their focus toward also reaching the at-risk youth within the community, by incorporating a brother program to Second Thoughts, Inc., (operating outside the prison). This reentry program will be appropriately named, "Second Thoughts II...Beyond The Walls!" Second Thoughts II will operate within the community and assist at-risk youth in their neighborhoods and schools. This brother program will also meet the needs of those youths and adults leaving the system, by providing more counseling opportunities to youth in the community, and by also providing these ex-offenders jobs, education, training, and guidance in an attempt to keep them on the right track.

The "Fight for Justice": Over the years, Tom has continued to appeal his case through both State and " .Federal Courts, in hopes that someone will see the injustice and act upon it. Although Tom's dreams of being in Law Enforcement may have been shattered, his dreams and willingness to help others' continues to flourish. Tom, his family and supporters are still praying that the system will eventually "right the wrong", but until that time, he needs his case to be exposed! We need to bring this case of injustice to the "Court of Public Opinion."

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

You can help Tom and his family by helping them to reach out to those who can make a difference: The President, the Governor, Political Leaders/Activists, Celebrities, Religious Organizations and Media Sources etc. We need a massive letter writing campaign on behalf of Thomas. For additional information about Tom's case, write directly to Tom at P.O. Box 43, Norfolk, MA02056

Tom and his family continue to ask for your prayers, support, and suggestions, in helping him fight this battle. Financial contributions for investigators and letter writing campaigns (stamps, envelopes, paper) are always helpful. Thank you! You may mail your contributions to Lula Koonce, P.O. Box 153, Coy, AL 36435. Please call Tom's family (334) 337-4390 or (508) 587-6380.


The above from a Flyer that Tom sent me.  Please help Tom and other innocent victims of the system.  I hope to have more from Tom in the near future and a picture.

Second Thoughts Flyer

Second Thoughts II Flyer

Second Thoughts Program

The Injustice System Site Map