You don't have to be a boxing aficionado to understand the celebrity status Smokin' Joe Frazier enjoys in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and around the world. Millions of fight fans and those who simply. wanted to witness history in it's making could ever forget the memorable fights between Smokin' Joe and Muhammad A the Greatest. There were three bloody wars between them-the most spectacular fig being "The Thriller in Manila " , and one that is forever etched into the annals of boxing history. Years after he'd retired, Joe Frazier opened several business in and around Philadelphia. One such establishment was "Joe Frazier's Restaurant which catered to an upscale clientele.
On a warm spring day in 1982, two men burst into the restaurant with guns drawn and announced a hold up. When it was over three victims lay dead from gunshot wounds. The brutal murders, which had tragically occurred in an establishment owned by the city's most beloved resident-sent shock waves ripping through the community. The police scoured the city in search of the killers.
Young Ralph Trent Stokes, a 19, year old black male. Who was once a restaurant worker at Frazier's soon learned that he was the central focus of the investigation. There was word on the street that the police were going to kill him on sight. Fear seized him because in the city of Philadelphia, the racist police murder young black men with impunity. Stokes knew he had absolutely nothing to do with this vicious crime-so he immediately called his attorney and went down to the police station. A guilty man would have taken flight-like the actual triggermen in this case, Donald "Razor" Jackson and Eric Burley, who, court records show-made a hurried hegira to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and New York City, shortly after the murders.
Stokes told the cadre of homicide detectives that interrogated him he knew absolutely nothing about the crime, that there was nothing he could proffer. They assailed him with a fuselage of verbal obscenities and leading questions, and he answered them the best he could. The cops' angry interrogatories resounded off the grimy, graffiti-scared walls of the holding cell with the fury of vicious attack dogs howling in the night. But they had no legal reason to hold the young suspect simply because he'd once been an employee of Joe Frazier's -so they begrudgingly released him.
He emerged from the police station, a proud and happy young man, thinking it was over. He didn't know the reputations and careers of the Philadelphia homicide detectives, assigned to this case, were on the line. And he didn't know they all were under enormous pressure from the District Attorney's Office to quickly make an arrest in this case-and Stokes. euphoria was short-lived-on the basis of a statement from one of the actual culprits-the police stormed his home, and tore it apart in search of evidence linking him to this crime-but did not find a single shred or anything that could vaguely inculpated him. They arrested him anyway, and in spite of the absence of evidence-Stokes was charged with triple murder.
News of the arrest dominated the front page of local newspapers for months, and it was customary for the nightly news anchors to lead in with titillating detail about the Joe Frazier restaurant case. Before the commencement of his trial, the private attorney, who had accompanied Stokes to the police station, abandoned him and the court appointed a pitifully inept attorney to represent the defendant. Defense lawyer Malcolm Waldron confided to his client that he hadn't handled a criminal case-particularly a capital case of this magnitude-in twenty years! He'd only litigated a hand full of insurance cases-and the complexities of affirmative defense and trial strategies were unfamiliar and inauspicious terrains. He did no investigation, and he called no witnesses who could have established the defendants whereabouts at the time of the offense. This was crucial to counter the maliciously false accusations by his now co-defendant who seized upon the opportunity to !testify against Stokes. In exchange for a life sentence, and another, who was given little or no jail time, they were eager to be prosecutions star witnesses. They would do or say anything. One co-defendant was allowed unsupervised sexual liaisons with his wife in an upscale hotel. He was supplied with illegal drugs and other amenities readily available to pampered snitches.
They both pled guilty well before trial, confessing their guilt well before trial, confessing their guilt to escape death-but they weren't sentenced until Stokes was found guilty.
The trial was a farce. An alleged eye witness told the police that on the day of the murders he couldn't identify anyone, for how could he? They had on ski- masks, he told them, mask that covered their entire face-and it was impossible to proffer an accurate description as to weight, height, or facial feature. He couldn't even tell whether the robbers were black or white. His story changed once he got on the stand. Oh, yes that was him he swore. He was able to see his eyeballs through the two small holes in the black ski-masks. Yeah, he was positive in his identification of the defendant. He knew it had to be him-because of the two killers-Stokes, the defendant, was "the shortest one" .
This witness told the police three different stories of what occurred that day- and it was clear that the final version was meticulously tailored to fit the prosecutions twisted scheme. The state utilized unspeakable tactics in insuring a conviction-and forging signatures on statements inculpatating the defendant was one of its cruelest tricks imaginable. The prosecutions star witness, Donald Blackson, was cross-examined by defense attorney Malcolm Waldron about this egregious misconduct:
'Do you have Commonwealths exhibit number 34 in front of you?:
"Did I ask you whether or not they were your signatures on pages 1 ,2, 3,4, and 5?"
"And what did you tell me about your signature?"
"That it didn't look like my handwriting'..
Here, a prosecution witness admitted under oath that he hadn't even endorsed the statement accusing a man of being involved in a triple murder that inevitably sent him to death row.
Then who did? His pitiful inept attorney should have ask. It became clear that the evidence against the defendant was deliberately fabricated.
"Did I ask you whether you had a conversation with Mr. Stokes about the incident referred to in that statement"?
"About the things you said in that statement? And did you tell me that, "I don't remember whether I talked to him"?
"That's what I told you, that I didn't remember, yes...
"Now, you were asked here today if you remembered a conversation on March 11th, 1982. Isn't it a fact that you don't know whether you had a conversation with the defendant"?
"Well, I went over my testimony, and from my testimony, it said that I had talked to the defendant on the day of the murders".
"Well do you really remember that, to be true now"?
Any reasonable man or woman could deduce, from this portion of the trial Transcript that this witness' testimony was not only patently manufactured, but perjurious. He was merely one player out of a sickening sequence of tainted witnesses for the prosecution-like Philadelphia homicide detective Robert Kane, who was under state and federal investigation for police corruption, and tampering with evidence. Detective Kane testified that he was the central figure at the scene of the crime, who collected, and preserved crucial physical evidence, introduced positional photographs and body charts of the victim. He was allowed, (without any objections from attorney)-to testify about the ballistic evidence concerning bullets that were in no way connected to the crime-though the jury was told they were. Kane swore under oath that his observation of the crime scene and the critical evidence he'd collected there undeniably established the defendants guilt-but documentary proof, recorded in police log books, clearly contradicts this ridiculous assertion-because he was somewhere else at the time, and his presence at the crime scene would have been physically impossible.
Stokes was barely 18 years old-one of the youngest defendants to be sentenced to death in the state of Pennsylvania at the time. In a hellacious battle for his young life, the state was a formidable opponent-and without a competent attorney-it was no contest. There are no screaming crowds of supporters, no strict referees issuing stern warning against the state's illegal tactics. This is his biggest fight.
This is the last round.
Mr. Ralph Stokes has been a prisoner of the commonwealth for 18 yrs... and
throughout his appeal process the Philadelphia court-appointed attorney system,
repeatedly appointed attorneys that have no interest in the case. Half of
Mr. Stokes trial has never been transcribed and not one of his past attorneys
looked into this very important fact, but submitted a 'so called appeal'.
How can an attorney file an appeal withol.1t a complete record, secondly how
can an appeal court make a decision without a complete record ??? Mr. Stokes
needs the help and support and attorney or attorneys that are not into playing
“one hand washes the other with the Phila., D. A.'s office" ...This is why
Mr. Stokes is reaching out to the unbiased citizens of the productive society
that he was taken away from. To learn more about the Court-appointed attorney
system go to: abcnews.com crime and punishment aired 2-3-00... Mr. Stokes also
said that he would like to encourage those who see this article to distribute
leaflets (even if it is copies of the article) in support of his campaign for
justice. You might also recommend to people that they forward the article and
news about the brother to any friend/subscriber groups that could also put his
plea on their web site and link to many other sites thought appropriate. He
would also like to encourage those who are able to get abolitionist and aj1ti-
death penalty newspapers & magazines to publish his plea to please do so to
help spread the word of this horrific injustices.
Lastly, after all the years that Mr. Stokes has been incarcerated he still does not have sufficient funds to hire a competent attorney, your contributions are both welcome and needed. So please do send whatever small monetary gift in the form of money-orders and those outside the U.S. please remit international money orders to help Mr. Stokes hire a competent attorney. It does not have to be very much every little bit helps.