For me, writing about the people and places of Georgetown includes more than just the shopkeepers, politicians, and restaurateurs. It’s about finding interesting people in the oddest of places so for quite some time, I have been wanting to write about Jody Ward.
Although, I had never met him, I do remember his case. I had just started working in a detention center when he was sentenced and sent upstate. Jody’s current location has made it difficult to contact him because, at present, Jody Ward is in prison doing two life sentences for a double murder. I missed him by a week so it was still fresh in the minds of the officers and guards at the jail. This particular inmate was all they could talk about and each one of them gave their own rendition of facts as if they were personally present when the crimes were committed.
One person at the trial told me as fact, “I know he did it.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
With a laugh he answered, “Because I was there at his trial; there was no plea deal.”
Therefore, in this person’s mind, Jody is guilty because he didn’t take a plea bargain: Not because he actually did the crime or because the evidence shows guilt, but because he took it all the way through trial.
Jody requested a jury trial. He refused any plea agreements and insisted on being allowed his day in court. With a plea agreement, he could have walked out in only a few years while going to trial, he was facing the death penalty or, at best, life in prison without parole.
That fact spoke volumes to me and made him an even more interesting person to talk with. I’ve reached out to him through family and friends to let him know of my interest of writing about him. It’s taken a while, as everything slows down in prison, but we’ve finally connected.
One of the first things Jody said to me was, “I do want you to write about me because I want you to tell people: I didn’t do this.”
As I jot a few notes, I say offhandedly to him, “Yeah, they all say that, Jody. Everyone in prison is innocent.”
“No, Michelle...Listen to me.” With great emphasis on his words, he repeats, “Listen to what I’m saying. I. Did. Not. Kill. Anyone!”
I did listen. I listened to the passion in his voice as he repeated his denial. So I asked, “If you did not do it, then how is it that you’re doing double life for a double murder?”
“I think they just needed someone to pin it on,” he says quietly. “There is a lot of evidence out there that shows I didn’t do it. I have witnesses who can say I didn’t do it.”
“Why were they not presented at trial?” I asked with genuine interest.
“You’ll have to ask the solicitor that,” he answered. “He violated the fifth rule of the Brady Law which means he withheld exculpatory evidence; evidence that could have proven my innocence.”
“What about your lawyers? Didn’t they have any evidence that would help your case?” I asked.
Without stopping to think or form his answers, Jody replied, “My lawyers were great! They came running out the gate at the start, but when it was time to sit down at the table, they pushed themselves away. It was like they were different people. They didn’t put up much of a fight. There are a lot of people who believe it was as if they were part of the conspiracy to have me convicted.
“As far as evidence went, some of the evidence we didn’t know about, or didn’t have at the time and found out later. Also, like I said before, some of the evidence was withheld and that is one reason we’re asking for a retrial.”
We talked about how one of his defense attorney’s refused to go against the prosecution over a key piece of evidence. Jody stated, “She refused to go against him because the solicitor had helped her career a lot.”
“She said that?”
“Yes, she said it,” Jody said adamantly. “I was so mad. My life was on the line and she’s worried that she might upset her buddy! I fired her.”
A lot of our conversation was about some of the evidence. He referred to a pair of shoes citing the prosecution presented a pair that were a different pair completely. They were the wrong color, the wrong size, and even the wrong brand. Jody maintains the solicitor implied to the jury they were the same shoes and thereby, misled the jury.
“Speaking of juries,” Jody added, “There were a couple of the jurors on there who should not have been. They may not have known me personally, but they know my family. One juror was really good friends with my brother in high school.
“Even the foreman on the Grand Jury was involved in gathering evidence in the case prior to being called as a juror for the Grand Jury. That’s almost the same as having an arresting officer be on your jury detail. He should have never been the foreman, much less on the Grand Jury.
“There’s also DNA evidence that was never presented. The solicitor hid that from the case as well. We found it after I’d been convicted and requested all the paperwork. There was a lot of foul play going on to have me convicted.”
As we neared the end of our conversation, Jody says, “I know I’m no angel. I’ve done some unsavory things at times, but does that mean I should have to go to prison for the rest of my life for a crime that I did not commit?”
Since then I’ve seen some pictures of Jody and it just makes me wonder about things. For example: as good of an actor as Danny Trejo is, he could play the role of a mass murder based on his looks and be believable, but that doesn’t mean he is one. Is it the same with Jody? Did he really do the crime, or did the jury convict because he looks like someone who might have?