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As a child in the late 1970s, Kevin Dykes accidentally killed his best friend when they were playing with a gun, sending him to juvie for involuntary manslaughter. When he got out, he turned to petty drug dealing in Compton, California. Fast forward to nineteen eighty six. After a terrible assault that led to a four month hospital stint, Kevin continued peddling drugs from his temporary wheelchair for two men named Slim and Hondo. Kevin rented a bed in a trailer home and his landlord's driveway, where Slim and Hondo occasionally had weapons.


That June two incidents occurred just days apart, resulting in one murder and two attempted murders, the first during a party. When Kevin booted his friend Ephraim from being belligerently drunk, slamming Hondo followed from stabbing him several times. A neighborhood mother, Mrs. Bradley, came to Ephraim's aid, only to get stabbed as well. Kevin intervened, jumping from his wheelchair to stop the assault before it turned fatal. A few days later, Slim and Hondo accused Kevin's friend Otis Perry, of stealing their gun from Kevin's trailer home, stabbing him eighty one times.


Unable to stop the murderous frenzy and fearing for his own life, Kevin helped them clean up before going to the police. A few hours later, a few days after that, Kevin was arrested for cocaine possession and put into a special holding tank for state's witnesses. Then three jailhouse snitches claimed that Kevin had confessed to all three attacks in exchange for leniency in their own cases. Kevin Dykes is serving life in prison on the word of three notorious jailhouse snitches.


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Thank you for using global Carelink. Welcome back to Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom. Today, we have an incredible story. So we're going to get right into it. And I'm going to introduce you first to Steven K. Houser. He's a criminal defense attorney representing the star of this episode, Kevin Diek. Steven, welcome to Wrongful Conviction. Thank you. Glad to be here. And Kevin Dykes is on the phone with us from prison. And I hope we'll be able to do something about his situation because it is awful.


Kevin, I'm sorry you're here or you're where you are, but I'm happy you're here with us today. So thank you for being here.


I thank you for the opportunity. This case goes back to Compton, 1986, and it's got it's got so much that you'll think I'm talking about a movie script that would be too much to be believed, except for it's real. It's got gangsters named Hondo and Slim. It's got drugs. It's got snitches that ended up on 60 Minutes. It's got laws that changed and victims who testified that this was not the guy who did it. It's got a guy who's in prison for three and a half decades with no evidence against him except the testimony of jailhouse snitches who have recanted their testimony.


It is nuts, but it's true. So let's get right into it. And Kevin, let's start with you. Going back to your youth because you grew up in Compton, right?


Yes, I grew up actually a whole lot of sports. I actually had a real good upbringing and. I have to think I fell in love, my best friend, I went for about an there and I was sick, alive.


And for those of you who don't know why A or C, why is the California Youth Authority, as I understand it, your friend's death was entirely accidental. Just two kids who made a big mistake playing with a gun, but they still sent you away to juvie for involuntary manslaughter. And I also understand that you harbor a lot of guilt about this, even though the family forgave you.


Yes. This family dictator across the street from my family, because they still feel the same thing, although the family is really, really there. Who has come to see me when I got out from what I did to that family and I didn't know how to process, although my mother, my father, my grandmother and all kinds of people trying to help me, I didn't know how to ask for the help that I actually got people for granted.


So so the guilt kind of derailed your potential, it seems. And after juvie, you start dealing drugs and looking outside of what seemed like a supportive home for whatever it was you felt you needed acceptance, identity, whatever, out in the street. So fast forward to January 1986. Some other really bad stuff happens January 18th.


Somebody tried to kidnap me and try to keep them in front of my house, a photo. They ran me through a brick wall and my head and smashed my phone. So I went to the hospital January 28th, which in my 20s when I got out of the hospital, I was in a wheelchair and I had to walk and I was to there.


Yes, someone tried to kidnap Kevin. So you fought them off and they ended up hitting you with their car against a brick wall, broke your hip, snapped your pelvis and put you in the hospital for four months. I mean, you're lucky to even be alive. And we haven't even gotten to the part that has you locked up right now. OK, so it's May nineteen eighty six. You're temporarily in this wheelchair doing physical therapy, dealing drugs for these two mid-level management drug dealers named Slim and Hondo.


Slim and Hondo decided that they were going to take over the local drug sales. I believe they helped Kevin and some of his friends with small amounts of cocaine to sell in the neighborhood. And they would periodically show up and I guess resupply the local sellers, including Kevin and Kevin.


You were renting a place to stay from a man named Mr. Bryce. You were renting a bed in this mobile home that sat in his driveway, right? Yes, I was a fan.


And Mr. Right. We had a mobile home here, like six bars, a shower and all that stuff inside. It was parked in the driveway. Sometimes my friends say, yeah, like places like Africa do. So I mean, sleeping here.


And Otis is Otis Perry, who occasionally stayed at Mr. Brice's mobile home. And he's the one that was eventually stabbed by Slimane Hondo for taking the gun that they had left in the trailer the night that these two attempted murders occurred outside a party at Mr. Brice's house.


Yes, my cousin Pam was inside the mobile home. I was inside the house where the party was at when the fight and when the fight after. So I didn't know who else was out there at the time. And I don't feel put up with the wife, didn't allow guns in his house, but he had a gun in the mobile home with my cousin and all. But I didn't know about that at that time.


OK, so now the stage is finally set for these crimes to take place. This is we're talking June 19th. Nineteen eighty six. There's a little party going on at Mr. Price's. Your friend Otis and your cousin Pam are in the mobile home in the driveway. Sliman Hondo. Your bosses come to hang out, but out of respect for Mr. Brice, they leave their gun in the mobile home. Then your friend Ephraim is at the party and he is drunk, to say the least.


Well, from his motor home where he was not being belligerent and messing with the females, trying to grab a drink that didn't belong to him. Actually, for me to go down to the pool and came back, I got home. So I got pissed off and I hit him one. And when I hit him, Honda fell the hook because of my peers. What they said, because I didn't understand. What if they get involved here? Here's what they said.


Because I could barely walk. They said people were taking advantage of my. Ability. OK, so your drug bosses are sticking up for you, but then they go way beyond what you would ever want them to do.


Yes. So what if I the if I got them to stop? So if he's there and then they say he's got a street, they caught him right end the corner. Once I got down here, I saw that they were actually standing. When I hollered handle the handle, he looked up and saw me. But when he saw me, he saw that rally behind him as badly as my older homeless mother was here, double sided with her son.


She tried to turn right here and grabbed her by her breast for stabbing. I got my way to him and grabbed him to keep him off of her. And what I was holding, she got loose, which gave me some time to sit up. And then I got to convince them to get into the car and drove them off. I drove off to a motel and I came back. And several Islamist radicals have already committed I was in hospital.


So you basically saved Mrs. Bradley and Ephraim from being murdered by Sliman Hondo by convincing them to stop stabbing them and drive away from the scene. But this incident on June 19th is what becomes two charges of attempted murder that gets stuck on you, the guy confined to a wheelchair at the time. Yeah, OK, so Slim and Hondo stabbed both Ephraim and Mrs. Bradley. You drove them to a motel. At some point, your friend Otis back at the mobile home takes the gun Slim and Hondo had left behind.


Not too smart, by the way, because Slim and Hondo knew who was in the mobile home when they stashed it in the first place. So they come looking for Otis.


On June twenty third, June 2013, he came over this Otis estate was home in the morning. They took him out, five year old. I didn't know Otis was out in the motorhome. So when I went out to the front yard during the open borders crowd, hundreds of casualties hit me with my gun. I said, we can go get in here to make an in a fight in order to fight back for the final fight. Animal went around the garage and that was the first time I saw Alistair and I came back from around our neighbor one, whatever you say, nothing.


And just listen to everything that was going on. And I don't know how much time Patrick handles came from around it. No more noise. I was OK. Now you should also read me. I gave him my blessing. So he was with behind a bag and wrapped up, throw him out and put him in the car. He said to him, say what you say he was our brother was coming from my removal. And so we arrived with him.


So I took him over to my old neighborhood by Camille, and that's where he dumped a similar body back. I left and never came back.


And what would you tell anyone listening now who's wondering why you played any part in getting rid of the body with Slim and Hondo?


I did what any reasonable person that kind of I would have gone out where I thought I knew if I got to be something that made myself a partner, what's going on? And I wasn't physically able to do nothing to prevent myself from being killed. And I suspect that was the first thing that I could do at a time for myself instead of doing nothing.


If you had done nothing at all, what do you think Slim and Hondo would have done?


I would be too afraid to find out. I want you to do this with something happen to my friend. And you know what I'm going to do for myself. Not going to now say the money. Otis's murder eventually gets pinned on you, the guy who was only able to watch or listen helplessly as your friend got stabbed to death, and then in order to save your own life, you did with probably any of us would have done, you played along with Slim and Hondo until you could get away.


I would not want to have been in your shoes at that point. You just lost your friend. Otis had to contend with the question of how to snitch or not to snitch on like a Sophie's Choice on these two murderous drug dealers. That's when I was trying to out what was happening. And so I started tracking the mortgage samples and I told them that I knew there was what I come over here and I know it was unfair. I had no way of knowing how they knew when we came back and saying I am a failure.


If I had any information, how could I confess? And me, his car. I took a car loan around two hours. I wish you move. And then I call the police and I told everything, you know, it's a little while ago that they came and picked me up, took me out to the station and I made to take any more somewhere to escape the because I was at home. So you made a statement to a sergeant, Sergeant Preston, and you're going to be a witness.


And Steve, maybe you can tell us about the next part of this story, which is how Kevin was picked up for cocaine possession some time later. And while in the state's witness holding area of L.A. County jail, he eventually meets three guys who are responsible for him being in this horrible predicament today.


What happened was Kevin got arrested for possession of cocaine charge. And because he was the main witness against Sliman Hondo on a murder case, they put him in with other prosecution witnesses. And it's commonly called the snitch tank, which is a separate jail from the men's central jail. And while Kevin was in there, he told his cellmate, Willie Battle, and the guy that was in the next cell over Jesse Williams, he told them what actually happened because they asked and that's very common in jail when he ran for the exchange information.


But this time it only came from Kevin. Told him what happened. And they twisted around and ran with it, and then they called the Compton Police Department and asked them if they had a murder case where the body was found by a canal. They called it a canal. It's really a drainage ditch. And they put him in contact with Detective Marvin Branscum, who was not Sergeant Preston, who Kevin gave the statement to. And they convinced Branscombe that what they had to say was was true, which he said that Kevin confessed to these attempted murders and murder.


They say we had a guy down here bragging about killing Dienstag with radios, telling picado, trying to go from being the actual witness to now being the actual killer. So Kevin became a defendant instead of the prosecution witness, and they moved him out of the snitch tank to another part of the jail. So Kevin's transferred over to the central jail. And then he met a very notorious snitch named Leslie White. And I get a call from Leslie White. I never heard of Leslie White.


Leslie White says, I understand you're defending Kevin Dykes and that he has been ratted out by two snitches. And I said, that's exactly right. He says, well, I can help you. You come down here and I'm going to tell you all about the snitch system and how it works. OK, so I go down to the jail, I talk to Leslie White, he tells me about how inmates get a hold of paperwork and change facts and get a hold of the detective or D.A. that's handling a particular murder case.


And because they know these unique facts, they can convince the detective or district attorney that's handling the case that this confession was a valid confession. So I said, well, that sounds good. OK, I'll put you on the witness list, Mr. White. So about a week or two later, I get the witness list from the district attorney and Leslie White is on there as a people's witness. And not only that, I get a report that says that Kevin Dykes confessed to Leslie White.


And I'm flabbergasted because I just talked to Leslie White and he was going to be a witness for Kevin. So I go down to the jail and I call out Leslie White and he's willing to come and talk to me. And I said, what are you. Are you a witness for the prosecution now? He says, yep. I said, well, you know that Kevin's innocent. Why do you do what? How can you do that? And he says, well, man's got to do what he's got to do.


That's what he said. I got to be honest, my head is spinning and I didn't even live through this. I mean, this is Kevin. I mean, I'm so sorry that you're living this is this is your life we're talking about.


I actually believe that what was going on was even possible. I didn't think that this whole. I'm like, what am I with these guys? They don't know nothing about reality, about what actually happened. So I didn't really believe do what they what they were doing to me. I had never even heard about that before.


I mean, this is this is like nothing I don't think we've ever heard a story like this before. So, Stephen, what happens next?


When we got to court, all they had was his statement to Sergeant Preston and three snitches. And I couldn't believe that they would even want to proceed with this evidence, but they did. And just before the verdict was issued, I told Kevin, I said, now, Kevin, when you get out of here, you've got to change your ways, be a law abiding citizen and a used to society. And he said, yeah, OK, Mr.


Houser, I'm going to do that. Came back guilty. You were both flawed, you were sentenced to twenty four years to life. Here it is now, 20, 20. You're still in. Can you just take us back there, put us in that courtroom with you if you can. I actually could not believe the verdict, we are afraid of crime. Hydrophilic possible. Yeah, I was afraid I would just ask for I gave everything in all areas the car, the weapons, the people I'm testified that I didn't attacking if I stabbed like thirty three times and he kept fighting, I didn't attack at five that I didn't attack this Bradley fellow, my friend's mother.


There was nobody there afraid of anybody.


But and this is something I really need to highlight here, which is that if you go in a jury box and you're presented with a case where someone's life is hanging in the balance, just like Kamins was, and there's no evidence connecting that person to the crime except for the testimony of a snitch, you cannot vote to convict because it's crazy. I mean, these are people who are clearly incentivized. They may not tell you that at the time, but you have to understand that the defense can never bribe a witness.


That's a that's a crime punishable by long time in jail. But the government can make a deal with a snitch to reduce their charges or drop their charges in exchange for testimony. And that is the best bribe of all. So it's the most unreliable testimony imaginable. And here you have a case where the direct evidence contradicts what the snitches were saying. The evidence showed that Kevin could not have committed this crime, and yet he ends up getting convicted on the testimony of people who were notoriously untrustworthy and were incentivized to lie with the help of trial evidence, where in apartment they say, oh, he threatened my family.


So the government gave money to relocate them in the prime of all of them end up getting a jail sentence. Nancy, why is Jason out exercising his way out of the river? Just because he came right back? He threatened the district attorney. If you don't let me back out, I will blow this whole case.


What happened was Leslie White then went on 60 Minutes when he was back in again in the jail, and he showed on camera how he could work his magic and get favors from D.A. And then when I saw that I went down and talked to Leslie White, I said, well, now I know for sure you lied in Kevin's case. And he said, Yeah, I did. And I said, well, I want you to sign an affidavit. That you live in Kevin's case because Kevin deserves a new trial.


And so, sure enough, he signed it. But instead of giving Kevin a new trial, the D.A. indicted him, Leslie White with the grand jury had me come in and testify. And they gave Lesley White four years for perjury. They gave Kevin Dikes nothing. And that's where it's at, it's all so backwards and upside down, and of course, you know, we have two more characters that are coming up. Gordon, who's on the right side of this story, and Willie battles.


We can't leave him out.


Yeah. When this snitch system came out, thanks to Leslie White, believe it or not, Jesse Gordon was appointed. She's a defense lawyer. She's deceased now, but she was a criminal defense lawyer friend of mine. And she she Gordon was appointed by, I think, the Supreme Court to do an independent investigation on all of the snitch cases to see if justice was done. And she spent over a year on this project being paid by the state of California.


And as a result of Jesse Gordon's research and investigation, a law was introduced in the legislature to require corroboration if snitch testimony is going to be used in a case. And that happened, but they didn't do it retroactively. Am I getting that right? Because it's it always drives me nuts when we change a law in this country and we don't do it retroactively. How could it be different now than it was before? It doesn't make sense.


Doesn't make any sense to me. And that's why I appealed it. We went to the appellate court in California, then the Supreme Court. And actually when we went to the Supreme Court the first time, the law had not been changed yet. But then we went back to the Supreme Court on another issue in the law had been changed. And in federal court, the judge actually said that Kevin might be innocent, but there's nothing I can do because this law is not retroactive or something to that effect.


And I just thought that that was the most unjust result I've ever had in my whole career.


Still is. Wow. And so if Kevin's case were tried now, they wouldn't have any any evidence against him because the only incriminating evidence was from the snitch testimony.


If Kevin's case were to be tried now, they would have no evidence against him, and yet it's thirty four years later and he can't. This is nuts. I went to the district attorney with that very argument with each new district attorney that came in. I would go talk to him and they told me that because of his statement admitting what he did, pretending to go along with what Sliman Hondo were doing because of that statement that made him guilty. And they said, sorry, you have to present new evidence to us before we're going to recommend anything for Kevin.


And I said, what's the matter with these confessions by these snitches? That's new evidence, at least since the trial. Two out of three, Leslie White signed an affidavit that said he put himself in prison and Jesse Williams signed a letter saying that he lied in Kevin's case and said, no, we want some more than that. Plus, you've got one snitch that you don't have retraction from really battle. And we never had a retraction from him and Willie Battle I tried to find, but he's probably dead.


So that's where we sit and what is the outlook now? I mean, is there hope?


I think Kevin has two two hopes. No.


One with a new D.A. I think Gascoine is as much more progressive than Jackie Lacey. I thought Jackie Lacey was very progressive and I had high hopes for Kevin when she put together her internal Innocence Project. And I met with what I thought was a very ethical fine lawyer and I got a very unfavorable result and I asked him during that hearing, I said, you know, as a human being, you know, do you really think that Kevin Dykes was convicted properly?


Fairly. He wouldn't answer. He wouldn't give me an answer. That was the guy in charge of Jackie Lacy's internal Innocence Project. And in case people think there's not enough here already, we have a case where the victim's family doesn't hold Kevin responsible. I think anybody coming out of high school would look at this and go, OK, well, this guy is innocent. Let's get him home. But the way the laws are set up, it's really, really difficult, even in a case like this, with so much compelling evidence of not just reasonable doubt, but evidence of actual innocence.


And now the next step, really. And luckily, we have a great governor by opinion, of course, the great governor of the state of California, Gavin Newsom. What is the process for trying to get this on his desk?


The law in California is that if you've done state prison time, you have to go to the Supreme Court before you can petition the governor on a different case because of that prior conviction for involuntary manslaughter. Kevin can't go to the governor's office or I can't go on his behalf to the governor. You have to petition the Supreme Court and get permission from them to ask the governor for a pardon or clemency. And in the years past, we've had a pretty conservative Supreme Court, which is different now.


But I'll try that if there's nothing else.


That is a strange thing in the law to in California is not the first time I've encountered it where it has to. The underlying previous conviction stands in the way of even the governor taking action, because I believe if he knew about this case, he would want to. But I think the best thing to do is to hope for parole.


I hope that the D.A. does not oppose parole. Kevin comes up for parole, I think, in another year or two, 713 next year.


Yeah, but even better is to have the new D.A. take a look at this case and admit that Kevin was wrongfully convicted. Kevin, what would you like people to do or or ought to know?


Well, I know what he's writing. When I was at to college and high profile the jury, even now, I don't regret doing the right thing because rough way of life. And it was important for his mother to know who ran for her. I would be you and I was feel with the officer who maybe I wouldn't say that while I'm in jail, it cost me a lot of life, like 17 family members. My mom had a stroke a few years ago right across the line.


But I was angry at all the stuff and all this time in prison.


Have there been any, like, moments of little rays of light that poke their head into such a dark place? And was there a particular moment where you almost lost hope? Sort of the darkest moment for you?


I found the last time you saw that picture, I got my cell phone outside. You know, there's nothing I can do about what they've done. I'm not going to let them take what's left when I got my feet. And now my family is proud of me, even though I've never done nothing before in my life. So I can't trust a lot. But I'm a person. I'm looking. I got to.


So I got I mean, I'm just sitting here with a heavy sort of knot in my stomach. Just the fact that I mean. Fifty nine year old man, you spent almost twice as long in prison as you were free. You're no threat to society. This is what the parole board is for. This man needs to go home. I'm going to stay optimistic and I'm going to tell you we're going to do everything we can. And I feel like society owes you a debt and an apology.


And all we can do is bring as much attention as we can and trying to bring this to the attention of the people who can make a difference in this case, try to make it right. All right.


So we have a very special section segment of this show. That's my favorite part. And this is what we call closing arguments. I first of all, thank you both. So, first of all, Stephen K. Houser, attorney, thank you for being here with us today. Thank you. It's a privilege. And Kevin Dykes, what can I say, man? You are inspiring guy from what little I know you just from this call, I can tell your spirit is coming through the wire all the way across the country and it's going to be going out to a lot of people.


So thank you for sharing your thoughts and being so courageous here today. Thank you. No problem.


And now I turn my microphone off and I just leave my headphones on, close my eyes and let you both talk about whatever you want for the last few minutes of the show. Kevin, we're going to save you for last, if that's OK. And Steven, please just share whatever it is that's on your mind. Well, Kevin, let's hope this is another step to. Get you out of prison. It's been a long, long road, but I won't give up ever.


Kevin, over to you, I'm thankful, you know, and it's taking me a long time, but I'm at peace and I feel like there's five years now and my life now to have purpose and meaning, despite what they've done, I'll be there for nobody. He has always been guilty of a lot of my life. I was 24 years ago. Officially right now I'd be fishing next year. I've been clean over five years. So if I felt I had to get out of control it, but I won't let what they've done to me back then up to me now I'm free, you know.


Yes, I am. I'm happy doing it. Even if I die in here, I'll be in prison or hospital for a stroke. And for once I did the right thing as an adult for my family. I was always a criminal. When it came down to it for my life to death, I didn't do the right thing to run from my parents. The problem is that I would keep my mind focused on what's possible, what could be possible if I was given off with this guy family and my community around me now.


And I will take that from know how I am. And I appreciate everything that you're doing and I appreciate support reading my words to the government, whatever can be done to help me get the truth out in front of people and a lot of fall. I need planning to where they need. If they say so, that can happen. Hey, I was worried for my life, fear for my life. And when I see where I believe he will be writing and I don't regret on.


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