Mark Brnovich: Re-examine the evidence against Frank before you execute an innocent man!
Mark Brnovich: Re-examine the evidence against Frank before you execute an innocent man!
Why this petition matters
In September 1984, Frank Jarvis Atwood was in a Tucson neighborhood when a young girl went missing. He was arrested and charged with her kidnapping and murder with no evidence at the time of his arrest that he actually committed this crime. His prior criminal record made him an easy target for the authorities, although there was another suspect who was seen with the victim by multiple witnesses hours after Frank had supposedly kidnapped the young girl. Frank’s prior crime made him the likely suspect and easy target for authorities. Thus, the following court proceedings were mere formalities; his fate had already been sealed. Frank has been on Death Row since then, and now the State of Arizona is seeking to have him executed, even though critical evidence casts serious doubt on his guilt.
Hours after Frank supposedly murdered the victim and fled, multiple Tucson Mall employees spotted the victim in the Tucson Mall accompanied by a strange woman. One store witness testified that the girl was crying and saying to the woman, “I want to go home, you’re not going to take me home,” while the woman had a firm grip on her shoulder. The chilling conversation between the woman and another store clerk is documented in the original police report below (where she mentions the victim by name!):
Yet after lying to the police about her whereabouts that day and feigning forgetfulness, THE WOMAN WAS NEVER FURTHER INVESTIGATED:
OTHER ABDUCTION ATTEMPTS
The rush to mischaracterize Frank as the perpetrator intentionally disregards several instances of a person driving a car similar to Frank's black 280Z and descriptions resembling the woman who was seen in the mall with the victim. State witnesses each reported to FBI and Pima County Sheriff's Department how a black sports car chased an eleven year old boy down the street one block away from the disappearance site of the little girl, but a week before . . . while Frank was known to be in California.
Within a block or two of the disappearance site - again while Frank was in California - a lady was in the laundry room of an apartment complex with her young son when a woman attempted to kidnap the child; thankfully the boy's mom was able to wrestle control away from the crazed woman: Laundry Room Abduction Attempt
These occurrences of attempted abductions in virtually the same area where the victim was abducted, and at a time when Frank was known to be hundreds of miles away, is too much of a coincidence. Furthermore, the story of the perpetrator in the laundry room abduction attempt that "police killed her own little boy" sounds eerily similar to the story the woman gives to the store clerk in the police report above, namely that the victim was her own daughter that was given up in an illegal adoption (i.e. she is the victim of someone else trying to harm her own child).
Seven months after Frank was arrested, the victim’s remains were found on the surface of the desert in a Tucson location that had been previously thoroughly searched by land and air:
The presence of adipocere (“grave wax”) on the remains indicates that someone must have taken the time to bury the remains at least one foot under the ground (see expert testimony at the link below). This directly challenges the prosecutor’s story that Atwood scattered the remains in the desert as he quickly fled from the scene of the murder.
Furthermore, the presence of adipocere indicates that the remains must have remained buried for at least two months, and the lack of animal markings on the remains indicates that the remains were unburied and scattered by humans (see the same expert testimony). However, it was impossible for Atwood to have performed this deed, since he was incarcerated at the time the remains were scattered in this manner. All this evidence indicates that some other person or persons disinterred the victim’s remains and scattered them in the desert. At the very least, it casts a serious reasonable doubt on Atwood’s guilt.
The only purported evidence of Frank’s guilt was alleged bicycle paint from the victim’s bicycle, which appeared on the bumper of Frank’s car. Five trained FBI Agents and two detectives testified that there was no bicycle paint from the victim’s bicycle on the bumper when it was taken into custody in September 1984 (Feb. 18, 1987 p.m. trial session; Apr. 23, 1986 Special Agent Klafka interview @ pp. 13-14). Yet days subsequent to Frank’s arrest, observable bicycle paint was streaked along the bumper, and the bumper had obvious signs of having been tampered with:
Frank was accused of having hit the girl's bicycle with his bumper and denting the gravel pan under his car with her bicycle pedal, yet no sign of an accident was observed: Arizona Daily Star 1984
THE DENTED GRAVEL PAN
During Frank's trial, the State of Arizona alleged a 3" deformity in the gravel pan of Frank's car, displayed in images provided by the government's accident reconstructionist, Paul Larmour, at trial:
The state argued that this significant depression resulted from Frank's vehicle having run over the victim's bicycle - the pedal, pinned under the car - causing the dent. However, while the automobile was on a lift at the FBI garage in San Antonio, there existed no such dent in the gravel pan:
Furthermore, Pima County Sheriff's Department accident specialist Clifford McCarter testified that when in San Antonio, he was looking specifically for damage on the underside of the vehicle, but neither did he observe nor did he photograph a 3" dent in the gravel pan!
FORENSIC PROCESSING OF FRANK’S CAR
FBI Agent Burwitz ran a full forensic investigation of the inside of Frank’s car and testified in court that no trace evidence was ever found that the victim had ever been in Frank’s car (1987 Burwitz trial testimony, p.1). An FBI Agent even told Frank’s parents during the trial that “she could not, therefore, have been inside the vehicle at any time.” Yet Frank is considered guilty of having driven her in his car over 20 miles!
FRANK’S SUPPOSED CONFESSION OF GUILT
State authorities engaged a “jailhouse snitch” who had a prior history of acting as an informant against other criminals (for his own benefit) in an attempt to get a confession out of Frank. Due to his acting as a government agent, the trial judge did not even allow the informant’s testimony to be heard! Yet, this false confession was sensationalized by the media and the state referred to this “testimony” in future proceedings to sway the courts in their favor, despite the fact that the informant’s and Frank’s housing assignments in the jail prevented any possibility of a “confession”.
As well, at least one transient that Frank had been travelling with was put up in a hotel and given vouchers to fine dining steakhouses in exchange for information regarding Frank’s whereabouts on the day the crime occurred.
STRANGE OCCURRENCES DURING THE COURT PROCEEDINGS
One evening when Frank’s appeal attorney came home, her German Shepherd was found murdered by hanging, a clear sign that someone did not want her defending Frank.
NINTH CIRCUIT COURT RULINGS
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Frank Atwood of any relief, upholding the lower courts’ decisions. While other rulings took the court years to finalize, the ruling against Frank took only an unprecedented two months. Regarding the adipocere expert testimony, the lower court ruling was upheld that Atwood did not carry “his burden of proving that there ever was a grave”. As if the expert testimony was not enough! The State falsely claimed that due to a “good deal of rain” in September 1984 (the rainfall was only .33” while the evaporation rate was nearly 3”), the adipocere would have formed on a body resting on the desert surface, which contradicts the known science of adipocere formation needing an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment.
The Court also denied any chance of a hearing in regard to the evidence of his car bumper having been tampered with. In short, due to the court’s bias - already believing him to be guilty because of the testimony of false witnesses and his prior record - the strong evidence supporting his innocence was cast by the wayside.
ARIZONA’S HISTORY OF MISHANDLING EXECUTIONS
In 2014, convicted murderer Joseph Wood was executed by a combination of multiple lethal injection drugs, but the administered cocktail took nearly 2 hours to kill him, as he snorted and gasped for air almost the entire time. Mr. Wood should have died within minutes (ref. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Execution_of_Joseph_Wood
Now after seven years of halted executions, the Attorney General’s office is again in a hurry to execute Frank and another man who had documented severe mental illness when he committed the crime and is now blind. In their haste to “do justice to the victims’ families”, they are making critical mistakes:
They procured a lethal injection drug (costing $1.5 Million!) with only a 45 day shelf life once compounded, but the pharmacist from whom they procured the drug told them it had a 90 day shelf life. Due to the nature of the legal process for commencing the execution proceedings, this would put Frank’s execution after the 45 day expiration date, and would potentially cause him to greatly suffer due to being injected with an expired and less potent drug. After realizing his mistake, the Attorney General sought to ‘speed up’ the process and discard the established legal protocol in order to execute Frank hastily before evidence of his innocence can properly be considered. Fortunately, for now, the Supreme Court of Arizona has ordered the Attorney General to conduct testing of the drugs to establish that they will have the potency and stability necessary to be used under Arizona law. The question will be whether the Attorney General can prove in the future that they are ready to carry out a lethal injection execution without making the kinds of mistakes that caused the horrific death of Mr. Wood in 2014.
They also purchased the wrong chemical for execution by gas chamber. Whereas the legal protocol calls for sodium cyanide, they instead purchased potassium cyanide. Their plan is to allow inmates the option to die using the same gas that the Nazis used to kill the Jews at Auschwitz.
JUSTICE FOR FRANK AMIDST A BROKEN JUSTICE SYSTEM
As of May 31, 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations (i.e. exonerations from Death Row) reports that official misconduct was a contributing factor in 571 of 836 homicide exonerations 68.3%, very often in combination with perjury or false accusation, which also was a contributing factor in 68.3% of homicide exonerations.
Any reasonable juror, when presented with the full evidence of Frank’s case, would have been unable to reach a guilty verdict. But Frank has been denied the necessary evidentiary hearings by the courts, and a jury has never been given all the facts.
Yes, this was a tragic crime. We grieve over the unimaginable pain that the victim’s family had to endure all these years, but executing an innocent man will never assuage their pain.
Please join our petition and let your voice be heard. In order for justice to be properly served, the investigation must be reopened before Frank is unjustly put to death!
Full details of the case along with photographic exhibits can be viewed at http://www.thefrankatwoodstory.gr
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- Mark BrnovichArizona State Attorney General
- Doug DuceyGovernor
- Arizona State Supreme Court
- Laura ConoverPima County Attorney