Case Study - Brenton Butler

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The Case
On the morning of May 7th, 2000 the murder of Mary Ann Stephens occurred. She was a tourist to Jacksonville, Florida along with her husband. The two were staying at the Ramada Inn Hotel and had just came from breakfast when they were approached by a young black man who held them at gunpoint, took Mrs. Stephens' purse then proceeded to shoot her between the eyes. When the police first arrived, the elderly woman's body was several inches away from the path on which her and her husband were walking along to get back to their room. Her body was strewn across the grass, covered in blood with the bullet and it's wound being clearly visible to the naked eye. This case became controversial and it is believed that there was racial discrimination and profiling involved because Brenton Butler, and young black male, was arrested several hours later by police.

Police Investigation
In the process of the arrest of Brenton Butler, there was no extensive investigation done by the police. During the trial, this fact was admitted by the officers when Pat McGuiness, who was representing Brenton, raised the point of them not questioning neighbours, not checking for DNA on the stolen purse etc. When they arrived at the scene, they asked Mr. Stephens to give them a description of the shooter. Mr. Stephens described the shooter to be tall, skinny build, dark shirt and shorts, a fishing hat and black in skin color. Police that were surveying the area saw Brenton Butler, who was at the time walking from his home to Blockbuster to hand out a resume, a thinly framed, tall, male wearing a dark shirt and dark shorts...coincidentally, Brenton Butler was a black male. Officer Williams and Officer Darnell told Brenton there had been a murder nearby and asked him to come with them to ask him some questions about anything he may have seen, which Brenton agreed to. When they brought 15-year-old Brenton Butler to the crime scene, Mr. Stephens immediately identified Brenton as being the murderer and asked the officers to bring him closer, at this time he positively identified him as being his wife's murderer. When brought into the police station, Officers William and Darnell passed Butler onto Detective Glover. Detective Glover got Brenton to confess to the murder. He did this by physically threatening the life of Brenton and saying that for every ten seconds that passed in which Butler didn't sign the confession, he would hurt him. He represented that by showing Brenton his gun. Detective Glover then brought Brenton out into the woods where the gun had allegedly been hidden and wanted Brenton to show him where it was, which Brenton did not know. Because of this, although there was no sufficient evidence to prove such actions, Detective Glover punched Butler in the stomach twice and once in his left eye. If more investigating would have been done, they would have accounted the fact that Brenton was 5 inches shorter and many years younger than the man that Mr. Stephens reported. Brenton also had a very noticeable logo on the front of the shirt he was wearing, when Mr. Stephens spoke of what the murderer was wearing he said the shirt had been plain. Also, when Mr. McGuiness spoke with Brenton's mother in their home, he got a look at Brenton's hat collection, which consisted of 3 hats, none of which were anything remotely close to the “fishing hat” which Mr. Stephens identified on the murderer. Mr. Stephens also never mentioned the murderer wearing glasses, which Brenton wears everyday and would have been visibly noticeable to Mr. Stephens considering the position of the murderer at the time in relation to himself. Neither officers nor detectives felt the need to question neighbours asking if they had seen Brenton at the times specified in their report, they didn't feel the need to gather background information on Brenton or consider the fact that Brenton Butler had never been in jail before that date, therefore he had never committed a crime in...
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