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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Death Penalty on Trial
Aired December 21, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, GUEST HOST: Imagine spending years on death row for a brutal murder that you didn't commit, until one day, finally, your life is saved and your name is cleared.
Tonight, meet three men just like that and hear their stories. First of all, Ray Krone. DNA evidence freed Krone after 10 years, four of them on Arizona's death row, for the brutal stabbing death of a young woman. Gary Gauger, sentenced to death for killing his own parents, despite no physical evidence. Three years later, his verdict overturned. And Ronald Keine, 10 days away from the New Mexico death chamber for the murder of a New Mexico college student, until another man's confession got him a new trial.
Plus Bill Kurtis, host and executive producer of A&E's "American Justice" and "Cold Case Files." Once Kurtis was a staunch supporter of the death penalty, but now he's reversed himself. Former prosecutor Lisa Pinto. She supports the death penalty. And psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. And I want to thank you for being with us.
Incredible stories of men who actually went to death row for crimes they did not commit. First of all, let's go out to Ray Krone in Pennsylvania. An incredible story of yours, Ray. I've read about it in depth in Bill Kurtis' book, but I want to hear about it from you. What happened, Ray?
RAY KRONE, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF MURDER: A serious miscarriage of justice, poor investigating, and a loss of 10 years of my life. I was convicted pretty much on the junk science of a bite mark expert, who said that the mark on the body matched my teeth. My alibi of being home in bed and a roommate that knew I was home in bed was no good, according to the prosecutor. And in just three and a half hours, a jury found me guilty of murder and kidnapping, with no other real substantial evidence, period. Just the bite mark.
GRACE: Now, you were a co-worker of Kim Ancona's, right?
KRONE: No, that's not true. She worked in a bar, and I was just a patron there for about two months. I had been going to that local neighborhood bar.
GRACE: Incredible! Because allegations were that you had worked together. How did police connect you to her? KRONE: They actually claim they found my phone number in her phone book and that somebody that was working with her told them that I was her boyfriend, and they believed that when they came to interview me.
GRACE: So based on a phone number in a phone book, you ended up getting arrested for murder. It must have been like a sci-fi horror movie for you.
KRONE: It was -- it was completely unbelievable. I'd never been in trouble in my life. I worked for the post office for seven years, spent six years in the Air Force, honorable discharge, top secret clearance. And now my word is no good, and now they wouldn't believe me when I was telling the truth. And to try to get through to them and say, listen, I'm telling you this is what the truth is, this is what I know. And to be completely ignored, it was just horrible. I could not believe the treatment that they would give a person.
GRACE: Ray, when you were first arrested for this murder, the murder of a young girl, Kim Ancona, a young lady, where were you? What happened?
KRONE: I was actually just -- at the time of her murder, I was actually home in bed. It was sometime after 1:15 in the morning, and I was actually home asleep. When I was arrested, it was actually New Year's Eve. I was driving into my driveway, just getting off from delivering my mail that day at the post office. I was just getting out of my car when I was rushed by police officers and armed -- fully armed police officers that wrestled me to the ground and threw me to the ground and handcuffed me and told me I was being arrested for murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.
GRACE: So you're just getting home from work and you're arrested for murder. Had you ever been arrested in your whole life?
GRACE: What did they come up with at trial?
KRONE: At trial, they used the bite mark expert's testimony to say that a mark on the body was absolutely, 100 percent made by my teeth, that that mark happened at the time of her death, and that made me the murderer. And they disregarded hair. They disregarded fingerprints. They disregarded footprints, DNA, all this stuff that was actually part of the crime scene, the parts that didn't fit me, they just ignored and dismissed as irrelevant.
GRACE: Here in the studio with me, former prosecutor Lisa Pinto. Lisa, I had some murder cases myself as a prosecutor that included forensic dentistry, and I would not introduce it into evidence. I thought that it was such a murky area, much less basing a whole conviction on a bite mark. I mean, how do they know the tissue didn't move during the bite or prosthetic teeth? Who knows what could have been used?
LISA PINTO, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, clearly, it was flawed in this case, Nancy. But I think the most important issue in Mr. Krone's case is the fact that he had not been on death row for seven years when he was so-called exonerated. Mr. Krone had the DNA, he had been -- his death penalty had been taken away. He had been resentenced to life without parole. This was not a man who was facing death -- was looking into the jaws of death at this point. The science was junk, but this is an example of the science working -- of the system working, because he was not executed. He was not on death row at that time.
GRACE: Bill Kurtis, would you agree? I've read your book. It's fantastic, "The Death Penalty on Trial." But the reality is that the system worked in this case. Yes, Krone was arrested wrongly. He went to trial. He was convicted. That was all wrong. But he was cleared and walked free.
BILL KURTIS, AUTHOR, "THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL": One of the reasons I chose this case is that the system did appear, on the surface, to work. In fact, there were two critical mistakes. First mistake was exculpatory evidence that we don't yet know who to blame, whether the prosecutor or the forensic scientist. Forensic scientist calls a bite mark expert, Norman Sperber in San Diego, top in the country. This is an initial call to his mentor. Sperber says, you don't have a match. That evidence never made it into trial.
GRACE: OK, wait a minute, let me get this straight. So the forensic dentist the state used call his mentor?
KURTIS: Well, yes. The Phoenix crime lab called his mentor...
GRACE: OK. And they told him, we don't see a match?
GRACE: And the forensic dentist either did not tell the district attorney, the prosecutor, it never made its way to the defense?
KURTIS: Never made a dent. Maybe he was inexperienced, we don't know. The prosecutor, Noel Levy, denies that he ever knew it. And certainly, it would be an ethical breach if he did not reveal that in discovery.
KURTIS: The second -- and we're also, this is investigative reporting in here on how the bite mark really was connected to Ray, because there is a lawsuit.
GRACE: Now, the bite mark itself was inflicted during the murder, and it was on the victim's breast?
KURTIS: It was postmortem, and it was a bite mark around the nipple. So what we think happened...
GRACE: Oh, the postmortem part. Oh, so after they killed the girl, they bite the body. OK. Ray Krone, man, with evidence like that, I bet this jury was so inflamed. KRONE: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, that's part of what the prosecutor has to do. He has to make it -- a murder is horrible enough to begin with, but by outraging the jury, somebody has to pay the price for this horrible crime. And when you're the defendant and you're the only one that they can take that anger out on, you're going to pretty much always get convicted.
GRACE: The reality is, they dubbed Krone the snaggle-tooth killer. And because they said, the prosecution said the bite mark was very identifiable.
KURTIS: Well, he has crooked teeth because of an accident. So they took a mold, and we believe that the forensic scientist went back to the body, and, in an attempt to match it up, to see if it matched, to align it, actually put it onto the skin and created new bite marks.
GRACE: Whoa, whoa, wait. He would have to have forced the mold down on the skin. Do you really think someone would commit that kind of wrongdoing?
KURTIS: Not really heavily, because a corpse doesn't have the resiliency of a live tissue.
GRACE: That's true.
KURTIS: So it would stay. And all you have to do is kind of look around to see if it fits in. Now, if he did that at an early stage of the game, every expert witness would be basing their opinion on...
GRACE: On that?
KURTIS: ... on Ray's teeth. So you're creating your own evidence that can lead to death.
GRACE: How many other experts came in?
KURTIS: Well, there were a number of bite mark experts. I think three for the prosecution.
GRACE: That came in at trial?
KURTIS: Yes. Now, the defense attorney for Ray in the first trial didn't really call a legitimate bite mark expert.
KURTIS: Well, he hired a family dentist to help him with the expert testimony.
GRACE: Ray Krone, is that true? You did not have a forensic dentist for the defense?
KRONE: No, ma'am. The state of Arizona, the county of Maricopa was very generous. They granted my attorney about $6,000 to defend me. And so he had to watch every penny he spent. So we couldn't afford an expert.
GRACE: We've got an all-star panel lined up, plus three men who wrongfully went to death row. One of them just a few hours away from the New Mexico gas chamber. When we get back, more from Ray Krone, who did time behind bars for a murder he did not commit, and from psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRONE: Hi, momma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No handcuffs, no security guards. For the first time in 10 1/2 years, Ray Krone got to hug his mother outside prison walls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At last knowing that there's nothing going to stand between us, that there's nothing's going to get in our way, that there's nobody going to tell him what he has to do. He will now do what he wants to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray Krone will now start looking for a new job. He considers himself a newborn child about to set off into the world again. He says he won't waste any time being angry or bitter.
Now that you're free, when you have a bad day...
I don't think I'll have a bad day. Remember, I can remember. Throw anything at me that you can. Throw it all at me, whatever you can. Because you know what, I was on death row. It ain't so bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry King tonight. What a show. Thank you for being with us. Tonight we are discussing with three men who were wrongfully convicted of murder, who were facing the death penalty. Let's go straight back out to Ray Krone. He's joining us from Pennsylvania. Ray, what was life like behind bars convicted of a murder you did not commit?
KRONE: Maybe the prosecutor would like to explain that. She seems to have a good opinion about everything. Apparently, I wasn't facing death. The fact that nobody gets killed in prison, the fact that I was facing 40-some years in prison, which would have took me to at least 81 years old before I could ever be released is not facing death, I don't know what is. Prison is very harsh. It's a brutal environment. You're oppressed, you're violated in many ways. You're demeaned. You're dehumanized. You go without many, many sensory perceptions, even to be able to contact your family. I was allowed two phone calls a month on death row. Very many things the public is not aware of. And then we release these people back to the public with that type of anger, aggression, antisocial behavior. It was very difficult in there. It's a dog eat dog world. A lot of violence, physical and mental abuse goes on. I just had to survive because my family and friends believed in me. People out there believed in me. I knew one thing. I was innocent, and God knew I was innocent.
GRACE: I'm reading Bill Kurtis' book and I notice on page 74 he mentions, you had been on death row for 3 1/2 years. So at one point you were on death row?
KRONE: Yes, ma'am. My first sentence was sentenced till death and the state of Arizona fully intended to carry that out.
GRACE: Gotcha. So, Lisa, your point?
PINTO: My point is, at the time he was exonerated, he had been taken off death row for seven years. I also feel for Mr. Krone. But I feel for the 100,000 people, Nancy, who have been murdered by criminals out on parole and probation supervision and the 2 million that were harmed, robbed, and beaten by these parolees and former murderers. So there's Mr. Krone's case, but there's 100,000 dead innocents also.
GRACE: So the reality is, Lisa, that these three guys we are meeting tonight are the poster guys for anti-death penalty sentiment.
These are three examples where the system screwed up.
PINTO: They're not the typical cases. Typically, the judge read the wrong jury instruction, Nancy. The lawyer was asleep, incompetent counsel. But that is all changing. Mr. Krone's case was in 1991. We're in 2004 now. The system has changed. Lawyers are eligible for capital cases before they try them, they have to go through intense training. There are no more sleeping lawyers. The courts are taking this all in hand, Nancy.
KURTIS: I think probably, in your jurisdiction and your office, I hope it has changed. Unfortunately, I don't think it's typical that it has all changed.
GRACE: Bill, though, you're anti-death penalty. I understand that. But you came up with three cases three, out of the thousands of people that get sentenced to death row in our country every year.
KURTIS: I couldn't cover the thousands, but these three represented the mistakes that are commonly made in the exoneration of cases. We have more than 100. My fear is that we're going to peer into -- we are peering into the criminal justice system with DNA opening that crack, and finding a lot of mistakes. We don't know how many mistakes there are out there. These happen to be the easy ones to solve.
GRACE: Right. Now, Ray, how were you cleared? How were you exonerated? Was it through DNA? KRONE: Yes. The pants and underwear that the victim were wearing, thank God, had been saved by the Phoenix police department over the years. We finally convinced a judge to do testing on that, over the objection of the prosecution's office, who said that I was already convicted twice, and this was a wild goose chase. Apparently, they wanted to protect the real murderer. The DNA was tested by the Phoenix police department. It was extracted from her clothing. It was compared to me and the victim, and it didn't match. They put it into the DNA data bank, and that's when it came back with a match to a habitual sexual offender.
GRACE: Robi Ludwig is with us, psychotherapist. Robi, wouldn't the psychology, the common sense, work in reverse? He, Ray Krone, was cleared by DNA evidence. Now, when people are sentenced to death row on DNA evidence, does that give you or other people in the public more security, more belief in the system?
DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: I think that's the hope, the idea that some people were sent to death before DNA was around so that there wasn't a way to actually guarantee whether somebody was guilty or innocent. So there is this sense of security that, if we have the right person on death row, if there is, in fact, evidence, then DNA can prove it, and we can feel more comfortable and confident.
KRONE: There's actually a big problem for that, if I may interrupt.
KRONE: Unfortunately, DNA is only available in less than 20 percent of most murder cases. It's not the solve all, cure all for proving innocence.
GRACE: But when it does exist, Ray, wouldn't you agree that DNA is the litmus test? It cleared you. So wouldn't it serve to adequately convict others, if it exists?
KRONE: Absolutely. And that's the point. It's not just a matter of proving people innocent but it proves guilty too. That's something the public should also realize. This is why DNA is so important. It helps us definitively prove, to arrive at the fact of real true guilt, which is the purpose of our process.
GRACE: You know what, Ray, I once had a murder case where I had DNA, so the defendant then claimed, oh, I did rape her, but I wasn't the one that killed her. So, you know, even when you have DNA, believe me, there will be a defense. Thank God in heaven, it worked out in your case. Of course, I'm sure you don't think it worked out because you did so much time behind bars. Describe for us, Ray, one day on death row.
KRONE: You're in a cinder block cell the size of most people's bathroom. You wake up in the morning whenever they first serve food. It can be anywhere from 5:00 to 7:00. It's never hot. Very rarely even warm because the food sat in the hallway until the officers felt like serving you. You got up and ate and usually went back to sleep. Some guys would watch television. That was the baby sitter. I was into more doing crosswords and reading a lot. I would stay up, do exercises to keep my mind and body active. Lunch time would come around, again, when they feel like feeding you. If we were lucky enough that it was either Monday, Wednesday, or Friday of the week, you would be able to go outside for two hours after you were first strip searched and handcuffed and shackled and escorted by a guard one inmate at a time.
And only on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday was the only day you were allowed to get a shower. The rest of the time was spent in your cell by yourself. You wouldn't see other inmates unless you were able to look out through a doorway and possibly see one crossing by. You couldn't talk to anybody, unless you yelled out through a door or heater vent, that you might be able to have communication with another inmate. You pretty much lived a life of isolation and your own wits and means, and a lot of guys weren't able to keep their sanity through all that.
GRACE: Ray, what was it like behind bars with hardened murderers?
KRONE: You know, first, I want people to realize that, just because we're against the death penalty or because I went through prison and DNA freed me, doesn't mean now I've lost my compassion, my sadness for the victim and for what happens in our country. I'm all for putting people in prison. Most of them all deserve to be in there. So I was around a lot of violent people. But what I come to find out was there were still some humanity left in them, that there were actually certain good traits that they actually did show at times. Usually, in most cases, the person that killed that victim, the person that committed that horrible crime, is not the same person 5 years later, 10 years later, 15 years later, when we execute them. I'm not saying that to make them better people, I'm just saying we as a society have to recognize there's still humanity in all of us. And I don't think any of us, I haven't met anybody in this world who's smart enough, intelligent enough, wise enough to determine who should live and who should die.
GRACE: Ray Krone, an incredible story. Thank you for sharing.
KRONE: Thank you for having me.
GRACE: Yes, sir. When we come back, more stories just like ray Krone's. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRONE: I think, if hi to spend ten years in there and people said, why did the lord let that happen? What was the purpose and a half? What did that all mean? And I think it wasn't about the ten years I spent in the past, it's about the future, what I can do now to make it right. And all the people that helped me and all the people that supported me, there's no way I could ever support them or pay them back for that support that got me through this, got me here to talk to you today. But there's other people out there that maybe I can help. Maybe I can do something for them that came from a place they never expected or least expected it. And then maybe when I get old enough, I'll look back and say, that's what you accomplished, Ray. You did something in life that was good. Just like the people who did good an helped me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gary Gauger digs in the dirt for his tomato plants and thinks about how was almost buried, sentenced to death for murders he didn't commit.
GARY GAUGER, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF KILLING HIS PARENTS: People asked me, how did I get through it? Well, you don't have a choice, you either live or die. If they were going to kill me, eventually they would have.
FLOCK: Gauger spent nine months under sentence of lethal injection here at Statesville Prison in Illinois before his conviction was thrown out and he was set free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us. What a story. Tonight you meet three men off death row, men who did not commit murder. Shocking stories. Let's go straight out to Gary Gauger. Gary, wrongfully accused, convicted and sentenced to death for the '93 murder of his own parents. Gary, welcome. Thank you for being with us. When I first read this fact scenario, you had to deal with, A, the shock of your parents' death, which is overwhelming, I'm sure. B, the fact that they were murdered. And, C, the fact that you were the suspect.
GAUGER: Right. Yes, it was horrible.
GRACE: Tell us what happened.
GAUGER: Two members of the Wisconsin Outlaws Motorcycle Gang planned a month to rob and kill my parents. They came up to our farmhouse in April of 1993, and they killed my parents in a botched robbery.
GRACE: Now, how did they plan for a month to come rob your parents out on a farm?
GAUGER: This is all testimony of James Snyder, the man who killed my mother. There was an ongoing gang war between the Hell's Angels and the Outlaws, and it was part of a fund-raising campaign. And my parents were old, retired, considered somewhat eccentric by people that didn't know them very well. And they just decided they must have a lot of money stashed on the farm and thought they'd make an easy target. These guys didn't know I was living at the farmhouse. If they had, they certainly would have come and killed me too.
GRACE: Gary, what you just told me in itself is a tragedy, the loss of one parent -- when you just said, killed my mother, the way it rolled off your tongue, it just stopped me in my tracks. But you've had to deal with so much more.
What happened when you were arrested?
Could you believe it?
GAUGER: No, no. I was in shock as soon as I found my father's body. Anyone who's ever experienced the loss of a loved one, I think knows what I'm talking about. You do what you try to do to help, but it's like you walk into a dream. Nothing seems real. I was in severe emotional shock.
GRACE: You know, I'm thinking back on how prosecutors may have thought you were the one that did the murders. You found the body and called, so that places you there, since you had been living there. Your prints and DNA were probably at the scene. That's probably why they honed in on you as the suspect, right?
GAUGER: No. There was no physical evidence tying me to the crime. The only thing the police went on is it was an isolated farm house. I was a family member, and I was at the scene of the crime. Statistically, that can implicate somebody in a certain amount of crimes. Unfortunately, a lot of police precincts, what they do is tend to focus on a primary suspect and then disregard any evidence to the contrary. So in my case, the crime was never investigated.
GRACE: Wow. Wow. Now, they claimed that you killed your parents during an alcoholic blackout. Did they have evidence that you were an alcoholic or did they just fabricate that?
GAUGER: We had an 18-hour interrogation, where I was illegally arrested, held against my will, and I spoke freely about my past. I was very thorough and honest, and I was trying to do everything I could to help investigate the crime, and basically exonerate myself from any involvement in this crime. The police knew that I was a recovering alcoholic. I was 32 days sober when my parents were killed.
GRACE: When you realized that you were the central suspect and you were going to be arrested for your parents' murder, what did you do?
GAUGER: It didn't happen like that. I basically was arrested, but I was a very cooperative suspect. I was doing everything I could to try and prove my innocence. No matter where the trail went -- the interrogation lasted 18 hours. It became very bizarre after I took a polygraph test.
GRACE: What do you mean by that?
GAUGER: After I took a polygraph test at midnight to try to prove my innocence, the police became very abusive. They told me they had a stack of evidence against me. They told me I hadn't passed the polygraph test.
GRACE: Is that true?
GAUGER: No, no. Basically, the polygraph examiner ruled that he couldn't get a reading because I was so tired.
GRACE: Yes, yes.
GAUGER: The police only told me, you didn't pass the polygraph test. I -- to this day think they told me I failed. Either way, that was basicly the belief I was left with.
GRACE: Gary, how were you finally exonerated?
GAUGER: I was not exonerated because of the system. I was exonerated in spite of the system. If it was up to the prosecution, they would still try to execute me. They've been doing everything they can since my release to somehow implicate me with this crime, which is very unethical, but they do it anyways. I was freed because of my friends and family working on my behalf contacted professor Larry Marshall, professor of ethics at Northwestern University. They currently have the center on wrongful convictions. Him and 60 of his students, he took my case, involved 60 of his students. They worked on my appeal, and I was freed because of an appeal on the appellate level in which what the police were calling a confession, even though there was no confession, was thrown out of court.
GRACE: Ultimately, two motorcycle gang members were indicted for the murders, correct?
GAUGER: They were indicted and convicted, yes.
GRACE: Wow, what a story. When we come back, we're going to hear the rest of the story from Gary Gauger, who went to death row for the murder of his parents. We'll hear from Lisa Pinto, Dr. Robi Ludwig, and A&E's Bill Kurtis. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE RYAN (R), ILLINOIS: Because as governor of the constitution and powers that are vested in me, I am right now pardoning Orlando Cruz, Gary Gauger, and Steven Lynn Scott for these crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us. Tonight three incredible stories of men who went to death row and later were exonerated. Joining us from Chicago, Gary Gauger. He went to death row for the murder of his parents. Later, two gang members bragged about the murders, and he was exonerated. Here in the New York studio, Bill Kurtis from A&E, the author of "The Death Penalty on Trial," an incredible book. Also with us, psychotherapist, Dr. Robi Ludwig, and former prosecutor Lisa Pinto weighing in. Lisa, what do you make of Gary Gauger's story? PINTO: I would just like to point out a couple of things on how the system worked again. The trial court vacated his death sentence because they felt the mitigating evidence had not been considered in Mr. Gauger's case. Furthermore, Bill, who goes after the use of informants in criminal cases, well, it was an informant in this case who saved Mr. Gauger's life.
PINTO: Well, there was basically a snitch. Gary was talking about the gang members who had committed this horrible, heinous crime against his parents, one of their fellow bikers was arrested by the federal government, and he turned a federal witness, and he wore a wire. And that's how he got -- heard the actual killers talking about the murder.
GRACE: So a snitch was wired up and heard the gang member bragging about the murders?
PINTO: Right. And Bill feels the use of informants is unreliable, but it's an essential component of criminal justice.
GRACE: Bill, you want to respond to that?
KURTIS: I do. No, I like informants. Wearing a wire is the best evidence you can get. Jailhouse informants are usually not wearing wires, and in the Ray Krone case -- the Thomas Kimble (ph) case, came back and testified, he said, he said. So suddenly you're implicating any conversation...
GRACE: I've used a couple of snitches in my day, so I'm going to take you to task on this in a moment.
KURTIS: They're probably not in jail. If you're in jail, you'll say anything you know the prosecution wants to help your case.
LUDWIG: One of the reasons why doing a show like this is so important is because I think the general public doesn't understand that just because you're a defendant in a criminal case, does not make you guilty. There is a presumption of guilt.
GRACE: I hope not. Of innocence.
LUDWIG: Well, I know. That's what one would think. Psychologically, the assumption is, if you're a defendant and there's enough information out there that you're probably...
GRACE: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
LUDWIG: That's right. You're probably guilty.
GRACE: As many cases as I have prosecuted, I still wonder what life is like behind bars. I've been in plenty of jails, I'm not proud to say, Gary. What was life like on death row for you?
GAUGER: Ray Krone did a very good job portraying what life is like. You're in a cold small cell. You're freezing in winter. You bake in the summer. Very violent. We had four prisoners killed by other prisoners in the 22 months I was at Statesville Maximum Security. Beatings were almost daily. There were prisoners there that should be in mental institutions for criminally insane because they're a danger to themselves and others around them.
GRACE: Gary, I want to go back to your case. When you were behind bars and you learned, I guess, from your defense lawyer, that these gang members have actually bragged about your parents' murder, did you want them to get the death penalty?
GAUGER: I did not learn about this when I was behind bars. The prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence which would have shown my innocence. We didn't learn about these facts until seven months after my release, even though the sheriff's department and the prosecutor's office knew in the fall of 1995 about this evidence. They fought my appeal in February of '96. They reapplied to the Illinois supreme court, and it wasn't until the Illinois supreme court refused to overturn their decision in October of 1996 that I was freed. We did not learn of this exculpatory evidence until June of 1997, eight months later.
GRACE: The people that murdered your parents, did you want them to get the death penalty?
GAUGER: No, of course not. I feel a civilized society should be able to do better than killers. We should rise above it. Yes, society has a right to protect itself against people that have proven they're not safe to walk the streets. But we do not need to reduce ourselves to a murderer's level by killing them to make an example of that. We see it all the time. It's brutal. It's archaic and there's no place for it.
GRACE: Lisa, the grounds for the original reversal, what were they?
PINTO: On appeal, you mean, Nancy?
PINTO: They decided he was arrested without probable cause. Therefore, any of these statements, which he says were phony, but which the police believed to be true, any of those statements had to be thrown out under the so-called fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. If the arrest is tainted, then anything that stems from the arrest also has to be thrown out. That's why his arrest was overturned.
GRACE: Now, Gary, Lisa Pinto, former prosecutor, supports the death penalty. She says the system worked in this case because your case was reversed before it came out that these guys had confessed. What is your response?
GAUGER: It doesn't work. The system is the police and the prosecution. The police perjured themselves to convict me. I counted approximately 150 instances of police perjury at my trial. We can't sue in civil court. They're immune to anything in civil court that they do at trial. The prosecution issued false statements during closing arguments that we couldn't even rebut. The last thing the jury heard was false. That's part of the system. They have to this day denied any wrongdoing in any of this and basically said they did nothing wrong. That's the system.
GRACE: Gary, before we go to break, I want to hear about your life now.
GAUGER: My life now, it's up and down. I'm an emotional wreck. I can't sleep. I've seen cameo shots of what happens behind the scenes, what's wrong with the system. I'm not saying all police and prosecutors lie. Majority of them don't. Unfortunately, we have prosecutors and police that hide behind this. I mean, it's an honorable job. I support the police. I support the prosecution. I have good friends that are police. But there are people that subvert the system and use it for personal gain. This is what we need to try and get rid of.
GRACE: Gary, I didn't get a chance to mention to start with, first of all, thank you for being with us. And second, I'm surely sorry about your parents.
GAUGER: Thank you.
GRACE: Thank you, friend, for being with us. OK?
GRACE: Gary Gauger signing off for now. When we come back, another story. Our third story tonight. Our third and final story of someone wrongfully sent to death row and saved from execution. Stay with us.
GRACE: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. And I want to thank you for being with us.
Tonight, three incredible and almost unbelievable stories about men that went to jury trial, were convicted and sentenced to death row, then later exonerated.
Let's go out to Detroit. Standing by, Ronald Keine. Hello, Mr. Keine. Thank you for being with us.
RONALD KEINE, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED OF MURDER: Well, thank you for having me. How are you?
GRACE: Well, I've got to tell you, I'm beside myself after reading your story. Keine was convicted of a murder of a young college student. He went to jail, to death row, and was 10 days away from the gas chamber before he was exonerated.
Ronald, what happened? How were you connected to this murder of this young girl?
KEINE: Well, our only connection, actual connection, to the case whatsoever was we drove through the state a week after the murder.
GRACE: When you say we, you're talking about what you call a motorcycle club, but I will call a motorcycle gang. But still that was a week after the murder, correct?
KEINE: It was a drinking club with a motorcycle problem is what it was.
GRACE: OK. You know what, I'm glad to know that, after what you have lived through, sir, that you can still laugh at everything, that you still have a sense of humor.
KEINE: Oh, you've got to.
GRACE: But I still don't understand the prosecution connection to you that came through town a week later. There had to be something more than that. What about the maid?
KEINE: The maid, who testified against us, later testified that she was coerced and told everything she was to say. The -- it turned out that the prosecution -- well, the detectives -- they passed her around like a sex toy for three weeks. They kept her at her house for two, three weeks at a time, steadily, all the time coaching her on what she was to say in court. She admitted this later.
GRACE: Now, I'm reading that you actually had credit card receipts showing you were not in Albuquerque at the time of the murder. When you were arrested for the murder of this college student, what were you thinking?
KEINE: Well, we thought, you know, this is some problem, we thought there's no way. The system works. They're not going to convict us of anything. We didn't do this. Oh, we're rowdy, loud, drinking beer all the way through the trip and everything, but we're not murderers.
GRACE: Now, you had been...
KEINE: I believed in the system. I believed the system worked.
GRACE: Tell me about the day of your arrest.
KEINE: We were driving through New Mexico. We were in a van. We were going to Michigan to visit our families. And we were pulled over because we harassed some hitchhikers. Some hitchhikers were hitchhiking. We picked them up, and one of them got a good smack in the eye because we caught him stealing our beer, and they were let out. Well, they complained to the police. That was our first connection, and that was why they arrested us.
GRACE: OK. Lisa Pinto, when you have a suspect that has an assault under their belt, that has an alleged robbery under their belt, that may not be squeaky clean character -- does that add into the police opinion as to their candidacy for a suspect?
PINTO: Sure, Nancy. I mean, it's just common sense that you have a propensity to commit crime if you're done it before. But the issue here is this is the Wild West 26 years ago, Ronald. This is not the way things are done now. You probably had incompetent counsel. The police were less than ideal in your case. That's not the way death penalty cases are handled nowadays.
KEINE: Are you smoking something over there? Are you crazy?
GRACE: I can vouch for you that she is not.
PINTO: I am not.
GRACE: She is cold stone sober.
PINTO: I don't know about you, but I don't use drugs.
KEINE: You've got to wake up and smell the coffee. It's still the case now. Things still happen like that.
PINTO: Mr. Keine, they don't. We have proper representation. You have to be...
KEINE: Proper representation? All right. We've got over 130 people right now exonerated. They all had proper representation. I'll tell you what, we're not here because the system worked. We're here in spite of the system.
PINTO: Unlike you, their cases were quite different.
KEINE: After Northern Law University...
PINTO: They were not factually innocent like you, sir. Most of these people had -- their lawyers were asleep. They were co- conspirators. They were let off for various other reasons.
KEINE: You can make all kinds of excuses, but it doesn't work.
PINTO: They were still guilty of the crime. It was the fact was they were not properly served under the legal system.
GRACE: Guys, hold on one moment. I want to go back to Ronald Keine's case. So you were arrested...
KEINE: Thank you.
GRACE: ... and all along you never believed that you would actually be convicted, but then you were. I want to hear what your life was like on death row.
KEINE: Well, first of all, they put us on death row two weeks -- I'm sorry, four months before our trial. We were arrested and taken to death row. That kind of told us a story right there. But you know, it is an archaic system a little bit back then. We were dealing with the good 'ole boy network. And basically, all throughout the trial, the evidence, what we could read in the papers, are coming up with all this false evidence that we knew, you know, any minute now, they're going to find out we didn't do this. We didn't know that they already knew who did it, that they were covering for a guy. They had the murder weapon in the sheriff's safe. It finally got opened with a warrant, and they found the murder weapon proved who really did it.
GRACE: OK. I was asking you about your life on death row. But we've got to go to break. So I'll pick it up there when we get back.
GRACE: Stay with us.
GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. And I want to thank you for being with us. Tonight, the incredible stories of three men wrongfully convicted of murder who went to death row, later exonerated.
Right now, we are speaking with Ronald Keine. He went to death row for the murder of a young college student. Very quickly to you, Lisa Pinto. How was he exonerated? I know that a born-again Christian confessed later. But legally, how did the exoneration take place?
PINTO: Well, there was a problem with the way death penalty cases were handled in New Mexico prior to 1976. In a case called State v. Beide (ph), they said, you know what, you have to consider mitigating evidence in these cases, which they hadn't been doing in New Mexico prior to that. So they changed the whole way the system worked there.
GRACE: Now, was he exonerated? Was he let off death row before the confession from the third party?
GRACE: It was afterwards?
PINTO: I don't think so, no.
GRACE: So it was after this guy comes out of nowhere and confesses to the murder, correct, Mr. Keine?
KEINE: No. He was a -- he was a federal narcotics officer, and they knew about it ahead of time. He didn't come out of nowhere. They had the gun that he killed the guy with immediately. He later confessed, all right, after two years on death row. His conscience -- after we were there on death row.
GRACE: So he comes forward and confesses. Now, when you heard that, where were you, and what was your reaction?
KEINE: Well, we started packing our clothes. We figure we're going to get off of death row now. But now the prosecution refused to hear his confession. They told him to get out of town. They refused to talk to him. He ended up having to go to our defense in order to be heard with his confession. And they had to force the judge to take a look at this.
LUDWIG: I was just going to say, it's so interesting, because you're trying to get to their psychological experience, and they keep telling you all of these wrongly convicted men, I'm innocent, see? You know, look at all these other people who did it. And very often, that is their experience, that they need to convince people of their innocence, because it is horrible to be thought of as a criminal, when, in fact, you didn't do anything wrong. There's a loss of self- esteem. There's chronic depression. There's panic attacks. They often need to change their very character in order to survive in prison, in jail.
So when they get out, the best years of their life, where they can develop a trade, get education, be with family -- they come out, and they're like prisoners of war. With no support, like parolees get, so they have no support. Their family sometimes is dead and have moved on. The little changes in life that make sense to everybody else don't make sense to them. They become institutionalized of sorts. And it's very hard for them to make the transition. People think, oh, you're out. You should be happy. And everything should be fine. And very often, that's far from the case.
GRACE: You know, Bill Kurtis, reading your book, "The Death Penalty on Trial," you had three examples of people exonerated. Two examples of people exonerated that had been on death row. What do you -- what did you learn about them re-entering society, as Robi's talking about?
KURTIS: Very difficult. They've been to a school of higher education in crime. They were trying to stay alive. So take 10 years out of your life, and then what are you going to do? Train for nothing.
Many go back into jail. That's almost home for them. These gentlemen are well spoken, and they have taken up the fight of what happened to them. They'll be in good shape. Some of the others aren't.
May I say that, Lisa, you're an excellent example, as are you, Nancy, of good prosecutors, which are sort of attack bunnies. Now, that's...
GRACE: I'm going to take that as a compliment, OK? I've been called a lot worse.
KURTIS: Well, it is a compliment. Within the adversarial system, because the defense attorneys vigorously represent their client. Somewhere along the line, you have these two sides fighting. I'm afraid things are dropping through the cracks. Obviously, mistakes are made. GRACE: But with the explosion in the technology of DNA and other forensic techniques, wouldn't you say that cases are more provable now than ever?
KURTIS: If the DNA is there. If there is evidence.
GRACE: I'm going to ask you something, Bill.
KURTIS: But they aren't present in all cases.
GRACE: My question is, did you ever speak with the victim's families?
KURTIS: Yes. And the victim's family -- I wanted to talk about closure, an overused word. But did it do them any good to see or not see, in these cases, the perpetrator killed? And some say yes. Some say not. Justice is really what they were for. Closure comes within. And maybe that's a better answer coming from you, Robi. What works?
LUDWIG: Yeah. I think time works, obviously. Listen, there's nothing that can replace the person who adds joy and pleasure to your life. And especially when that life is cut short. So it really depends on a person's moral feeling about the situation. In some cases, it feels like due process was done, and it can be helpful.
GRACE: Bill, did you go to death rows and -- in looking at this?
KURTIS: Yes. And that's one of the big problems in replacing death, in replacing death with life without parole, is convincing people that the penal system is going to be worse than death. I think these men would probably say, yes, it is. We've heard it described very well.
GRACE: Ronald Keine, final thought?
KEINE: We have to understand that this system is broken. I hear people tell me this is the best system in the world. I wonder, what, did you get this out of a fortune cookie or something? It's the worst system in the world. We're one of few countries left in the world that even has capital punishment. Other countries are even starting to think of trade embargoes against us because of it. It's archaic. It's barbaric, and it is just not -- it should not be applied anymore. There's just too many mistakes.
We talk here about being exonerated. What nobody ever mentions is the people who were killed. We didn't find out they were innocent until after they died. Something has to be done. The system has to be stopped from killing people. Give them life in prison. That's a great alternative.
GRACE: Mr. Keine, thank you for sharing your story tonight. Of course, many people who are victims of violent crime would rejoice in your exoneration, but respectfully disagree with you. Of course, we hear both sides here on the LARRY KING show. Thank you for being with us.
KEINE: Thank you.
GRACE: I want to thank also former prosecutor Lisa Pinto, psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, and of course, Bill Kurtis, who has brought this to the forefront in his brand new book, "The Death Penalty on Trial."
I'm Nancy Grace signing off for Larry. Thank you for being with us.
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