Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Who Named the Knife"; "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"

Two Books reviews: “Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt and “Who Named the Knife” by Linda Spalding. One a study of murder and life in Savannah, Georgia, the other, also a true crime genre, is a lesson in just how silly liberals can get.

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”Who Named the Knife"by Linda Spalding

Here’s a twisted tale that began in 1978 going on with the latest update in 2009.

It’s a book as much about the author as it is about the subject.

It’s a book about justice and juries and court trials and two innocent males who met their death because two selfish young people went on a killing spree and murdered them for pretty much no reason.

Male in picture above is victim murdered in Hawaii, Larry Hasker, NOT William Acker as the text indicates. My mistake. Woman is Linda Acker.

Let’s begin with the author, Linda Spalding. Spalding was a juror on this case. Circumstances caused her to be late the morning the jury was charged with delivering the verdict against Maryann Acker and an alternate was put in her place. Spalding declares that she would have found Maryann innocent.

Only the jury legally qualified to vote on the verdict found Maryann Acker guilty and she was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

Spalding then began on a life quest to try and free Maryann Acker from the Hawaiian prison for the crime Spalding sincerely believed the woman did not commit.

Maryann and William Acker were young newlyweds when they jointly went on a murder spree that had them robbing and murdering two young men. One was lured by Maryann from a bar in Hawaii to his home where both William and Maryann robbed him then drove him to a secluded roadside where one of the Ackers shot and murdered him. This duo later murdered a man in California, a fellow who stopped and picked them up when they were hitchhiking by the side of the road. While both the Ackers were convicted of murdering the California man, only William was charged with using a gun in the commission of a crime. For the Hawaiian murder, both William and Maryann were charged with using a gun.

Make no mistake, there is some question as to who pulled the trigger to kill these men. As is often the case, lesser charges were also filed against William and Maryann, one of which was the use of a gun in the commission of a felony. Maryann was not found guilty of the use of a gun in the murder of the California man but she was found guilty of murder. Just because she wasn’t found guilty of using a gun, Maryann Acker was very much found guilty in murder in the first degree for the murder in Hawaii. Since she was sentenced to life in Hawaii, the state of California hadn’t a chance to try Maryann but had she been released in Hawaii she would have had to face the judiciary in California.

The testimony of William Acker was all over the place, even to a point of perjury. For Acker testified in California that he shot and killed Lawrence Hasker in Hawaii. He recanted that statement in the 2009 re-trial, saying he lied under oath only to try and get his ex-wife out on parole.

Local stories of that trial HERE and HERE.

William later testified in the Hawaiian trial that it was Maryann who pulled the trigger that killed Lawrence Hasker.

Odd. First, husbands are not normally required to testify against their wives. William so testified willingly. Second, it is asserted that William was hinted at a possible early release if he testified. The jurors in Hawaii, which included, at the time, the book’s author, did not know this, could not weigh the fact that William’s testimony might be tainted by that promise.

What was not disputed was the fact that both of this couple participated in the murder of two men, one in Hawaii and one in California.

Maryann, over the years in her Hawaiian prison, began to create a story that she was completely innocent, that it was her husband William who murdered those two men, that she had nothing to do with it, could not stop him, was totally unaware of it all.

If this writer’s opinion means anything to yon reader, and mileages do vary I get this, sweet little Maryann was knee deep in the murder of these two men. This book’s author, remember, was on the jury for this crime and due to a fluke, was not present to vote the “not guilty” she alleges she would have delivered. Which would have caused a hung jury because Maryann was, in fact, found guilty. Not once, yon reader, but TWICE. Could all of those 24 jurors who voted her guilty be dumbbell boobs with only author Linda Spalding having the brains to see the truth?

At the time of this book’s writing the additional trial had not been complete. As Maryann’s attorney was preparing for the retrial, the author was what I consider a stupid, misled, usually silly liberal, believer in the innocence of the guilty.

They’re everywhere, these people with teeny tiny little lives with nothing more going for them in their life than to embrace the innocence of some very guilty criminal type. They’ll get themselves so emotionally wrapped up in the jailed n’er do well, who is probably yukking it up over having so fooled this fool, that they visit them in jail, write them endlessly, there are stories of stupid lonely women up and marrying a murderer, remaining loyal to them until their release, only to themselves be murdered by the guy whose innocence they so believed.

Linda Spalding is a bit different in that she a)is smart enough to write a book and a very well-written one at that and b)was involved with the criminal she so adored in a more unusual manner by actually being a juror on her trial.

Beyond that, Spalding is a bit of a dim bulb. Dear Lord, does she really believe that Maryann and her young husband picked up not one, but TWO men, who both ended up very dead, without knowing a thing about how these men keep ending up dead all around her? Maryann and her husband thought they were Bonnie and Clyde and I got a bridge through some swampland to sell this author if she thinks this precious innocent she is wasting her life on knew nothing about the young men who died, both who made the horrible mistake of helping Maryann and her husband out.

Linda Spalding would do way better spending her time doing something for the very helpless, innocents who lost their life before having a chance to live it. Instead she throws away her time and money on the evil witch who murdered them in cold blood.

The book’s title is an allusion to testimony at the trial that alleged that Maryann carried a knife that had a name. Spalding said she felt, as a juror, that whoever named that knife was the guilty one.

Maryann Acker named that knife…”JUSTICE”….I have not a single doubt.

As a follow-up to the above review, I chose this book as MY choice for my book club.  I thought that perhaps it was just me who was silently muttering about this dingbat writing this book, how it was not only silly but downright pernicious to involve one's self in the release of this woman who took the lives of two young men, young men who should now be alive, likely married, probably raising a family. 

The book club went ballistic as I gave my summary as to why I chose this book, my somewhat odd need to have my concerns made valid that this author was a crazy person without a meaningful life.  One book club member called her "whiney".  The other members shouted to the heavens that Linda Spalding felt so guilty about her little life that she adopted a ridiculous cause and that she was not a good writer to boot.

And so it ends.  I still sit and ponder that there are people out there like Spalding, tiny people with little logic, who think it is somehow noble to set the guilty free.  A cop killer is going to meet the needle today and as always, there are many Linda Spaldings who have somehow convined themselves that the guilty man didn't heartlessly snuff out the life of a young cop who was trying to prevent an assault on a homeless man.

How can these people live with themselves?

Juries aren't perfect, we know that, but put a jury of average citizens up against a passel of self-serving politicians and I'm sure the juries would come up half again as honorable.  And yet silly little people like Linda Spalding, who said, remind, at the beginning of this book, that had she been able to make it on time as a juror to murderer MaryAnn, she would have hung the jury.

Sheesh.  Just sheesh.


”Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt

Here’s a book as much about Savannah, Georgia as it is about the famous murder that happened there. For a young, handsome and virile Danny Hansford did end up dead, killed by a bullet shot from a gun held by his ersatz room-mate, Jim Williams.

Williams was a Savannah resident of cosmopolitan tastes and European culture. He purchased and fixed up those old Victorian type of homes that filled Savannah’s inner city streets. Williams was a beloved Savannah fixture whose annual Christmas party invites were cherished as any gilded treasure.

Williams was a homosexual. Danny Hansford was a heterosexual who sold his body for money to Williams or, at times, local fellows who hung out in Savannah’s sleazier districts for just such a purchase.

While the story of this book is true, much of it is fictionalized, based, on author assertion, gleanings of truth and Savannah folklore gathered from his research. The author was in pursuit of the story of the Hansford murder, spending many months actually living in Savannah, meeting the local characters, researching the facts of law.

Jim Williams claimed that he did shoot Danny Hansford but only in self-defense. Hansford was a loud lout of a guy. The classy home owned by Williams and shared with Hansford was often the scene of arguments and cussing by Hansford, as any one of Williams’ neighbors would attest. Williams claimed that Hansford was approached while he was sitting at his desk. Hansford had a gun in his hand and shot at the vulnerable Williams. The bullets shot by Hansford failed to hit Williams so he opened the desk drawer, grabbed a gun stored there, and shot Hansford dead before the angry young man could fire off another shot.

The book is full of colorful characters, rich with local lore, and saturated with the kooky, sophisticated traditions of Savannah. Jim Williams was tried three times by a very inept prosecutor. The author spent many hours with Williams as he endured the hung juries of two trials. Williams was nonplussed by being constantly under attack by the prosecutor, smug and secure his innocence would be affirmed.

For there were holes in Williams’ story, big ones. Danny Hansford had NO gunpowder residue on his dead hands, very unusual for someone who’d so recently shot a gun. The prosecutor’s theory was that Williams, out of a final rage and anger at this young man he so obviously loved, got a gun and finally shot him dead. The juries of Williams’ peers in Savannah, Georgia were not buying it. Whether this was because of their true belief in Williams’ innocence or due to Williams stature in Savannah’s gentile society is unknown.

Williams spent a fortune in defense attorneys though musing often to the author that he is as well served by the local voodoo witch doctor than the plethora of defense attorneys who hadn’t managed, through two trials, to get him a not-guilty verdict.

Williams did finally get a defense attorney that pleased him, this defense attorney finally finding one missed fact through the many trials that arguably poked a fatal hole in the prosecutor’s case.

This is a very well-written book. For sure it’s a peek into an intriguing part of America that eschews entry into a more modern world for living in a quaint past.

There are many colorful characters in the book which the author assures us might not exist on a one by one basis but as combined to one fictional name they very much existed in the Savannah he visited and studied.

It’s a great look into a justice system filled with flaws and as far away from justice as can be.


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