Ray Krone

Last Friday, a Phoenix School of Law lecture hall was the site for a panel presentation including Ray Krone, famously convicted twice and delivered to death row for murder—until DNA testing proved his innocence.

If there is one thing the panel illustrated, though, it’s that the previous sentence is a huge understatement. Ultimately, DNA freed Krone. But an amazing amount of commitment and shoe leather went into his exoneration.

The event came almost exactly 10 years after Krone’s exneration, he and others told the tale of missteps and worse that led to his plight.

Featured at the Arizona Justice Project event were: 

  • Ray Krone: death-row exonoree and spokesman for Witness to Innocence
  • Chris Plourd: Krone’s defense attorney in second trial (now a California state court judge)
  • Alan Simpson: Krone’s attorney in post-conviction and civil suit against the state
  • Bill Culbertson: Former deputy county attorney
  • Don “Joe” Hedgecock: Juror in first trial in 1992
  • Kelcey Reed: DNA analyst with Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab
  • Kim Kobojek: DNA analyst with Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab
  • Steve Junkin: Witness at Krone’s trial; colleague from U.S. Air Force

Moderated by former Channel 12 news reporter Rich Robertson, the panel walked viewers through the investigation and trials.

L to R: Bill Culbertson, Kelcey Reed, Kim Kobojek, Christopher Plourd, Alan Simpson

Krone displayed his reputation for remaining upbeat (as well as quite a bit of charm) when he offered listeners his greatly abbreviated bio: “I’m Ray Krone, and I didn’t do it.”

That is a statement from which Krone never wavered, said Chris Plourd. In fact, when Plourd first visited his new client on death row, a prison guard told the lawyer, “I hope you can help this guy. He doesn’t seem to belong here.”

Plourd added, “It was hard for Ray to breathe prison air when he knew the killer was breathing his free air.”

Former prosecutor Bill Culbertson finally said that he participated in the panel for two reasons: “to honor a man who has the courage not to be angry, and to try to ensure this never happens again.”

An excellent goal, and yet not three days later we see news out of Colorado that a man imprisoned for 16 years for a murder has been exonerated by DNA. Clearly, there is more work to be done.

Here is another story on Ray Krone and the panel at Phoenix School of Law. More photos are available on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Is lawyer DNA really different?

I just got home—late—from another meeting. And the meeting suggested far more about what makes lawyers tick than about the subject of the meeting itself.

Some have suggested that lawyers think differently than other people do. Criminy, maybe our DNA is even different.

Many would argue that may be going too far. But having sat through another meeting that I was not required to attend, I’m beginning to have my doubts. I mean, what’s wrong with us?

I’m inclined to think that we are afflicted with a nefarious bug that hobbles our judgment, steals our time, and—in serious cases—renders us incapable of spotting a sack of manure even when it’s staring us in the face.

The condition? An abiding love of process, of seeing things through to the end.

Phoenix Light Rail

How serious is it? Well, many attorneys become so attached to process that government officials have developed a legal, nonreligious union for the trembling couple. We call it “Civil Procedure.” When you spot someone who claims “I love Civil Procedure,” civil commitment should not be far behind.

But why should I judge? Is whispering “due process” in a throaty snarl worthy of my condemnation? Is it the love that dare not speak its name?

I’ll try not to cast aspersions. But my meeting tonight makes me wonder whether we ought to regulate lawyers’ love for their procedural paramour.

The meeting was a community gathering regarding the Phoenix Valley Metro transit corridors. It was one of two years’ worth of meetings I’ve attended (as a neighbor, not as a State Bar staffer), all in service to a “Downtown Working Group” on which I sit.

Where Light Rail's going by 2030

Our charge? Provide insight and feedback on the multitude of options that exist for the expansion of rapid transit in and out of downtown Phoenix. We have to assess the mode (either opting for the current light rail method, or for a bus-rapid transit mode). We also look at routes and station placement.

As you might guess, there is much disagreement. But it’s been pretty civil, and Valley Metro does provide dinner, so … .

What has been striking in this meeting, and in every other one community group on which I sit, is how preternaturally calm lawyers remain in the face of virtually no progress. We nod as important items are tabled, or when yet another subcommittee is created, or as an explanation that has been provided 100 times is renegotiated.

Carpool in a hovercraft

The map of proposed light rail extensions extends into the distance—and into 2018, 2019, 2021, even 2030. And that’s assuming the City doesn’t run out of money (again), and that the powers-that-be in, say, 2021, don’t change their mind and opt for hovercraft, or jetpacks. I won’t explain how old I’ll be in 2030.

This is why we all attend a meeting a month for years?

I think I did pretty well remaining calm myself, even when it became clear that little of our input was making a dent in what may have been a predetermined decision. But then I came across another map that gave me pause.

Phoenix Street Railway Map

The Phoenix street railway map of 1887 to 1848 tells me something about how lasting all of our efforts could be. The masters of the universe who crafted that plan saw it stand for 60+ years. Now there was a committee!

But our committee, and most other community involvement? Hmmm. I’m feeling more Ozymandias than everlasting.

Maybe all us lawyers should be a little less civil-procedural, and just buy a jetpack.

Traveling light never looked more fun