Death Row and the Wrongfully Convicted: Derrick Quintero

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Ayúdame a detener esta injusticia

Hechos criminales no contados

As Derrick will note, he has not sat idle for 31 years. He is an artist, many of his writings have been published, and he is an active, positive contributor to his community inside the prison walls. Some of his work can be found below (ctrl and click to visit):

Como Derrick dice arriba, no ha estado inactivo durante 31 años. Es un artista, muchos de sus escritos han sido publicados, y es un colaborador activo y positivo para su comunidad dentro de los muros de la prisión. Algunos de sus trabajos se pueden encontrar a continuación (ctrl y haga clic para visitarlos):

"Freedom to Be Free"

Untitled (Daily Life)

If My Journey Were a Book Title

Stations of the Cross

Art Without Parole

So I Can Live: Visions of Life from Death Row

Derrick Q via R.E.A.C.H. Coalition

Derrick's art will, also, be on display starting January 17th through the end of June at the Curb Center, and you are encouraged to stop by for viewing if you have availability.  

*Please feel free to reach out to Derrick, as he would welcome the correspondence:

Derrick Quintero 165463

R.M.S.I  2-D-204

7475 Cockrill Bend Blvd.

Nashville, TN 37209-1048


  • Since 1973, more than 160 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. (Staff Report, House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil & Constitutional Rights, 1993, with updates by DPIC).

Like the exonerees referenced above, Derrick has claimed his innocence all along and there is strong evidence to suggest that he is innocent of the crime that he has been convicted of; this petition will allow him to explain, in his own words, how the justice system has failed him over and over again. Derrick deserves his freedom, he has spent 3 decades in prison for a crime that he did not commit; and a lack of evidence supports that fact. It is important that we cast light upon the corrupt, incompetent behavior that ruined the fairness of trial and appeals for Derrick.

We intend to see that Derrick's freedom is won and your signature on this petition can help. It is our responsibility to stay involved, informed, and active in our community. It is our responsibility to see injustices corrected. Please sign and share this petition and help us move closer to Derrick's freedom. We are seeking a pardon against his murder conviction. Your support is necessary and appreciated. 

In his own words: 

Help Me Stop this Injustice

I know it is easy to cast me aside since I am writing from Tennessee’s Death Row. Yes, this case is almost 31 years old, come this June 2019. And, yes, almost every day of my adulthood (I’m 57) has been spent in prison. The convict code became what had the most influence in my adult life decisions. This experience warped my relation with authority even more than it already was when I was sent to prison. It is not an excuse, just a fact.

Again, knowing all this, I can see why you can easily walk away from reading this. All I can say is that fairness has to be held as the bottom line standard in OUR criminal justice system. Justice is blind for a reason. No matter how righteous one thinks they are, justice has to be impartially administered. No one can break laws, if laws are to be followed, even if it is those who are allowed to ensure its integrity.

I do not ever forget that two people lost their lives after I led a group of five escaped convicts into a remote, recreational area in Dover, Tennessee. That has always been my burden to bear. I think that 31 years has paid that debt off. There is a reason why there is no physical evidence of my involvement in these murders: I was not involved in these murders. You should not be allowed to execute anyone just because you do not like them for reasons other than what the evidence proves.

The State’s local prosecutors and any law enforcement agents, should not be able to convict people by withholding evidence that they know if exculpatory. It is their duty to turn over everything materially relevant to the defense before trial. And, they have to prevent their rank and file members from breaking the laws that are designed to ensure that the legal system is fair and impartial. There are checks and balances to ensure nothing unconstitutional occurs. These checks and balances even remove the bad apples in the legal system. This is how the criminal justice system is supposed to work.

The system should not take thirty-one years to correct the kind of obvious imbalance that has occurred in this case. I cannot ever get the years back, and from a Karmic stand point, I should never ask for it. The escape was my debt.

I have not sat idle these 31 years. I have educated myself both Spiritually and Academically. My body of work speaks to where I am at today. I have turned this cell into a place of growth and healing. A group of my fellow prisoners and I have created programs and charitable works that have us sharing reformative justice experiences in our in-reach and out-reach, social justice partnerships with students and faculty of various universities and colleges.

I say all of this because I want you to know a little bit about me. It is only right since I am seeking your help. None of these 31 years mean anything if we do not end with reforming the criminal justice system. I am here because I am too poor to acquire an attorney who was not forced to represent 800 other clients in an office that ran out of finances.

I am seeking help with a political plan that reverses the injustice that has been allowed to continue to go unaddressed in this case. I have done all that I can on my own. I have had to learn how to speak up for myself after coming to Death Row. And, I have made some mistakes in learning to do so. All I am asking for is a fair legal process, which was not provided to me. Fairness should not mean I have to continue to wait on a system that seems bent on leaving me imprisoned until I transfer from prison to a nursing home.

I will accept the responsibility for the Foster burglary charge, even the uncharged Harris burglary. There will never be any proof that I am guilty of the Crawford or Cherry burglaries, nor the Vester murders.

This request is not about receiving a life sentence to replace the death sentence. That does not stop the injustice. This request is about helping me obtain the justice of being charged for crimes I committed, and throwing out the ones I did not.


In regards to his case, the lack of evidence, and proof of systematic failure

  • After a 42 day trial, a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice opined that there was no direct evidence that Quintero (nor his co-defendant Hall) killed Mr. and Mrs. Vester, between June 2 or 21, 1988. See, State v. Hall, 976 S.W. 2d 121, 175 (Tenn. 1998). (Birch, J., concurring and dissenting).
  • No evidence before, during or after the trial has ever presented to show what role, if any, Quintero (or Hall) had in the murders.
  • No evidence has ever been presented to prove that Quintero (or Hall) was ever at the Vesters’ murder scene, in Dover, TN.
  • Quintero and Hall had a two-part defense strategy. First: they denied that they looked like the three white men, with long hair and full beards, seen exiting the Vesters’ car in Memphis, TN. On June 2, 1988. Second: they argued that the State’s witness, Zachary Pallay, (who pointed the finger at Quintero and Hall), and maybe his cousin, Chris McClain, more aptly fit the damning evidence presented at trial, when considered with the more damning impeaching evidence withheld from the trial and defense jury.
  • Quintero and Hall’s sole defense witness, Ben Spencer, testified that he cut Quintero and Hall’s hair for years, every two weeks, just as he did about one week before the murders. He said he cut their hair “two fingers width” in length, and up off the neck. Spencer, also, testified that Quintero never wore a beard but for a few days when he was locked up in the prison’s disciplinary unit. In addition, he testified that Hall could not physically grow but a couple of chin whiskers.
  • In Quintero and Hall’s 2003, state post-conviction proceeding, one of the original trial jurors testified that the jury discredited the defense’s only identification witness, Spencer, solely because he changed his name to his Mother’s Native American name, Oogitie Boogitie.
  • Another juror testified in 2003 that they trusted the opinion of the State’s investigative law enforcement people, that Pallay was credible, because nothing pointed at him or McClain. A statement by Mira Mason was withheld from trial defense that identified a vehicle like Pallay’s at the victim’s house in the appropriate established time of death. Within this same window of time, two fishermen saw a truck like McClain’s a few minutes before they heard shots coming from the direction of the Vesters’.
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) case agent, Rick Stout, testified in the 1991 trial that he knew Pallay and McClain were once considered suspects, yet he said he never questioned Pallay’s changing alibi, especially as it relates to when he last talked to both victims and where he was. Stout continued that he did not see any evidence pointing towards Pallay and McClain.
  • The defense attorneys did not investigate Pallay, or the exculpatory evidence, known or unknown. Even the State was admonished by the State appellate court for allowing Pallay to lie about his previous record for perjury and life threat. Pallay lied in the 2003 Post-Conviction hearing, when he arrived clean-shaven and testified that he never wore a beard in his life. Many official and regular citizens witnessed that to be a lie. One of these witnesses was the victim’s son, Wayne Vester, who testified that Pallay and McClain both had long hair and beards the day his parents were found dead. Wayne Vester continued that Pallay was a liar when he said he was best friends with his parents, and he felt strange when Pallay approached him sitting in Sheriff Hick’s car, wishing him consolatory words.
  • In 2009, Quintero first became aware that the local prosecutor’s office and the TBI withheld the fact that TBI Agent Hoyt Phillips had been allowed to commit PERJURY when he testified that he did not find and test a latent lift from the 20-gauge shotgun said to be a murder weapon. The test result determined to be negative to Quintero, Hall and the other three of the Kentucky prison escapees.
  • The State lost the brown paper bags TBI Phillips used to collect the evidence in the Foster burglary. Phillips testified that the only way he could identify the evidence was by his writing and signature on the bags. He was allowed to testify to the only physical evidence that placed Quintero in the community where the murders occurred.
  • TBI Phillips switched a test result to a positive to Quintero on a gun shell box in the Foster burglary. This was the next day, after Quintero touched all the evidence presented for the defendants and their attorneys to look over.
  • Shippe Weems, Quintero’s 1991 trial and, subsequent, Direct Appeal attorney testified in the 2003 Post-Conviction hearing that his office maintained an average of 800 cases per attorney when he represented Quintero. He said there was no way he could defend any of his clients, and the local judge and prosecutor’s office knew of his unconstitutional situation. None of these officers of the court intervened. Weems has nine death penalty cases during this period. His office was a plea bargain machine, rather than a functioning law office. No matter how good Weems was said to be, he could not overcome the imbalance of representative power. Weems said he had to rely on Quintero helping him defend his case, by convincing him to please guilty for a life sentence and testify against Hall and the other co-indictee, Blanton, who was granted permission to be tried separately from Quintero and Hall. Blanton allowed his attorneys to point the finger of blame at Quintero and Hall. In the end, Blanton could not overcome the fact that his latent lift was found in the victim’s care, on a Budweiser beer can. Blanton died on Death Row in 1998 due to a heart attack. One of the Memphis funeral home employees testified that he thought Blanton looked like one of the people he saw exiting the Vester’s car where it was found still sitting several days later. The rest of the known and withheld identification evidence all points to Pallay and McClain, not Quintero and Hall.
  • Sheriff David Hicks committed PERJURY when he testified that James Mongtomery, one of the other Ky. Escapees, told him that Quintero, Hall and Blanton gotten separated from Hudson and him two days before the murders happened. He had, earlier, testified that Montgomery had not made any statement worth Hick’s time to memorialize it. On cross-examination, by Quintero’s attorney, Hick’s switched his testimony. It was mandatory for the State to place Quintero and Hall with Blanton. The lead prosecutor, Alsobrooks, argued to the judge at Blanton’s severance hearing, that he could not convict Quintero and Hall unless he was allowed to try our cases together. The prosecutor has argued this position extensively throughout this case’s history.
  • Alsobrooks’ office withheld the fact that the FBI submitted eight (8) sworn statements to the effect that Quintero’s fingerprint was found on the garage door where Ms. Settles had her car stolen from. Alsobrooks presented that whoever stole the Settles’ car were not involved in the murders, which occurred two days after the Settles theft. Alsobrooks charged and let plea bargain to a “NO CONTEST”, for Montgomery and Hudson. Alsobrooks charged the other three escapees with the murders. If this evidence were available to Quintero at trial, the judge would have been forced to grant Quintero a directed verdict of acquittal immediately after the close of the State’s proof. It would not have made it to a jury deliberation. Quintero would not have had to present anything.
  • In 2016, Quintero filed a pro se motion, seeking the removal of all of the local judges and prosecutors from any further involvement in his case, due to the influence of the relationships that existed, some dating back to childhood, of the judges, prosecutors and Quintero’s defense team. This included switching between the prosecution and defense offices, and Weems and trial Judge Wallace being former law firm partners. These relationships devastated Quintero’s case, as Weems trusted his friends and peers to be honest and open about what evidence they had, whether it was incriminating or exculpating.
  • One bad attorney devastated Quintero’s Post-Conviction after another. By the time Quintero was able to find attorneys on his own, that he knew would not sell his constitutional rights down the toilet, the damage was done. Quintero’s trial was over and he was heading into appeals and the federal courts. The attorneys were so bad that an assistant prosecutor, Bob Wilson, was allowed to prosecute the Post-Conviction, even though Weems hired him as a public defender, during the period that the office represented Quintero. Wilson left for the prosecutor’s office shortly before Quintero’s 1991 trial occurred. All of these bad male attorneys, from Quintero’s 1991 trial through the Post-Conviction trial phase, were recovering drug addicts (one eventually dying of Hepatitis C), alcoholics, and recent (ongoing) psychiatric care patients, not to mention, three facing or having faced suspension (3) and indictments (2).
  • Judge Robert Birch presided over the 2003 Post-Conviction hearing. He did so even though he had recused himself from presiding over the 1991 trial due to his expressed bias. Quintero confronted him on April 11, 2000 at a motion hearing to dismiss attorney McGown, a long-time friend of Birch. The problem between McGown and Quintero began when Quintero asked him to investigate Birch for recusal level bias and to seek the removal of the local prosecutor’s office for interfering with the fairness of the 1991 trial. At the April 11, 2000 hearing, both McGown and Birch expressed bias towards everyone in the legal system outside of their jurisdiction. McGown stayed on the case until Quintero’s brother, Brian, died. Brian was a critical innocence witness and McGown’s lack of investigation or seeking a second assisting attorney, caused irreparable harm to the case.



An innocent man's life is on the line; with Tennessee having resumed executions, we do not have time to spare. In 31 years, the system has not corrected this injustice, and that is why we need YOUR help. Please sign and share this petition on all platforms available. With your help, we can cast a wide net, and are hopeful that Derrick will get the legal defense that he deserves.

La vida de un hombre inocente está en juego; habiendoTennessee reanudando las ejecuciones, no queda tiempo. En 31 años, el sistema no ha corregido esta injusticia, y por eso necesitamos TU ayuda. Firma y comparte esta petición en todas las plataformas disponibles. Con tu ayuda, podemos lanzar una amplia red, y esperamos que Derrick obtenga la defensa legal que se merece.