Saturday, October 11, 2008

Newsman Helps Get Clemency For Illegally Imprisoned Man

Indianapolis Star Illustration

Inmate Wins Hearing After 37-Year Effort

By Rick Johnson—Indianapolis Star, August 27, 1972

For 37 years, Thomas A. Bratton, an Indiana State Prison inmate, has been convinced that Lady Justice is blind, deaf, and perverse.

He has filed writs in his murder conviction all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He has been denied clemency 10 times.

Indianapolis Star

After learning last week of the many legal snarls involved in the case, the Indiana Parole Board agreed to hold a special clemency hearing for Bratton on September 27. The State Public Defender’s Office has also revived interest in Bratton’s plight.

Bratton, now 59, was convicted by a jury in February 1935, in Criminal Court, Division 1, of first-degree murder in the slaying of roustabout tap dancer Andrew Gaddie.

Bratton denied the shooting when arrested, at his trial, and today. He says poor judgment on his part led to his conviction.

Research reveals that Bratton’s request for a new trial, filed March 28, 1935, never has been ruled upon.

That failure alone provides the basis for winning him his freedom…through a post-conviction relief remedy, or through a motion for a new trial…according to Harriette Bailey Conn, the state’s chief public defender.

Further research reveals that no court reporter’s notes, or transcript of Bratton’s trial exists. No copies of the indictment can be located, and it cannot be established who testified during the trial.

When interviewed at the prison about the gap in Division 1 records between 1935 and 1953, Bratton said:

“Getting out is all I’ve ever thought about. I didn’t kill that man. I’ve never killed anyone. I can’t understand what happened to all those papers I sent to the court. I know they left the prison, and I didn’t know until you told me that my request for a new trial had never been ruled on. You just can’t find out a lot of things when you’re in a place like this.”

As a result of the scarcity of records, a new trial will be tantamount to a release for Bratton since it virtually would be impossible for the prosecutor’s office to prepare another case against him.

The judge pro tempore in the case, Clyde C. Karrer, is dead. So is the prosecutor, Herbert Wilson. Only one of the four policemen who investigated the slaying is alive, and he has no memory of the facts, he says.

Bratton maintains that, from the time he was sentenced, he tried to get a transcript of his trial so that he could appeal, but he was never able to do so.

Prison correspondence records from 1935 to 1948 could not be found, but since 1948, his correspondence with various courts has been voluminous.

The Indiana Law Encyclopedia, Chapter 2, Section 84, states: “A court speaks only by its record, which is its order book, and the records of the court import absolute verity, which cannot be contradicted by parole testimony.”

The only existing records in Bratton’s case are the order book entries in Criminal Court, Division 1. And they are spotty, and in some cases, at variance with records in the public defender’s office. (The latter was not formed until the mid-1940s, so its records are of no help prior to that time.)

Records since reveal that Bratton has been vigorous in his attempts to gain freedom. His latest maneuver was filed with the Indiana Supreme Court on July 14, 1971. It seeks permission to file a belated appeal. That motion is still pending.

Among the many interesting letters and notations in the public defender’s office was one (unsupported by an order book entry) showing that on August 14, 1958, William J. Mahan, the court reporter who took notes at Bratton’s trial, testified that he disposed of those notes 10 years after the trial.

Examination of existing copies of Bratton’s various pleadings and writs reveals extensive repetition. In nearly all, he cites denial of an attorney at the preliminary hearing, denial of constitutional rights, incompetence of counsel, lack of record or transcript, and systematic exclusion of Negroes from the grand and petit juries.

Bratton said that D.C. Stephenson, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who was convicted of the murder of Madge Oberholtzer of Indianapolis, frequently assisted him in preparing his writs and pleadings. Stepehenson received a life sentence November 21, 1925, and was paroled December 21, 1956.

Public defender’s files show that on December 21, 1953, it was established that no trial notes or transcript were available, but in a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court on May 18, 1956, Bratton was denied a petition for review.

In an opinion written by Justice Harold Achor, the denial said, “Petitioner failed to provide a bill of exception and a transcript as required, or avail himself of a public defender.”

Only a fragmentary report on Bratton’s case exists in the Indianapolis Police Department archives.

The police report is dated August 17, 1934. It states that on July 30, the police were called to City Hospital, where they spoke to Andrew Gaddie, 25, 933 North Traub Avenue. Gaddie, who had been shot, told them that he and some friends had gone to a roadhouse, known alternately as The Cabin In The Pines or Kentuck’s Place, about one and a half miles west of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on West 16th Street. Gaddie said, while they were dancing, he was shot once in the chest, and once in the right side.

The report does not state, at this point, that Gaddie ever mentioned Bratton’s name.

Police next visited Edward Rutland, owner and operator of Kentuck’s Place, and his son, Herschel. Both were arrested after Herschel admitted grabbing his father’s gun and firing two or three shots at the man who shot Gaddie. Bratton's name is not mentioned even at this point. Neither is the type of gun Rutland admitted firing, nor is there an indication that the police confiscated the gun, or that any other evidence was seized.

The report states police next spoke with Gaddie’s father, Andrew Gaddie Sr., who told them he learned it was Tom Bratton who shot his son. He added that Bratton had been arrested at Greensburg.

The police report says that on July 30, they contacted the Greensburg police and learned no Negroes were in jail there.

On August 1, the report says, police learned that a man using the name Edward Griffin had been arrested in Greencastle on July 30 (charge not specified in police report) and he was later identified as Thomas Bratton, 1729 South Keystone Avenue.

He was carrying an empty .38 caliber revolver, and Greencastle authorities freed him on July 31, 1934. The sheriff turned the confiscated pistol over to the Indianapolis police (date not given).

The report then says that the pistol and a slug picked up from the floor of Kentuck’s Place (it is not noted when the slug was recovered) were turned in to the record clerk (date not given).

The report states (on a date not given) police spoke with Moses Richardson and his wife, Audra. Mrs. Richardson allegedly was dancing with Gaddie when Bratton opened fire. Both of the Richardsons claimed they saw Bratton shoot Gaddie.

On August 11, the report says, Andrew Gaddie died in City Hospital at 6:34 a.m. The report adds that on August 13, evidence in the case was presented to the grand jury, and Bratton was indicted.

But when was Bratton indicted? On August 13, 1934, as the police report states, or on August 27, 1934, when the court order book shows the indictment was returned to open court by the grand jury?

Of the four policemen who investigated the case, only Lawrence L. McCarty survives. Now 75 and retired since 1941 from the force, McCarty said he has no independent recollection of the case or the trial because he always depended heavily upon his notes to refresh his memory.

McCarty expressed amazement that Bratton was still in prison.

“I know there are a lot of worse ones who have been paroled,” he said. “Undoubtedly, he’s paid his debt to society. Unless there is some good reason for keeping him there, I wouldn’t mind helping him get out.”

All coroner’s office records of the case have been destroyed.

The sheriff’s office confirms Bratton’s arrest date and that of Herschel Rutland on July 30, 1934, on a charge of vagrancy.

It shows that Herschel Rutland was released by order of the clerk on July 31, 1934. No entry could be found for Edward Rutland, although the report states he was charged also.

Indianapolis police have no records for either of the Rutlands. No Municipal Court records were available. All those prior to 1944 have been destroyed.

The parole board granted the clemency hearing after considering that Bratton has been unable to appeal his conviction because he can’t obtain a transcript of the trial; that he will have a job, if realeased; and that he plans to marry a childhood sweetheart.

None of the members promised Bratton that he would be released, or even that they would recommend clemency, but they did promise a thorough review of the case, and suggested that he might be eligible for the work-release program, where he could be closely supervised to see how he adjusts to society.

Board member Milo C. Murray, an attorney, expressed amazement when informed that court records show Bratton’s request for a new trial in 1935 never has been rules upon, and that a transcript is unavailable.

“It is indeed a travesty,” Murray said. “And it is a great burden upon the state of Indiana. There should be legislation passed to provide that records pertaining to any convicted felon may never be destroyed.”

“I should think the State Bar Association would want to take an active part in this case.”

Board members agreed that Bratton’s psychiatric problems probably were the basis for previous board’s turning him down in his 10 appeals for clemency since 1950.

But Mrs. Conn observed, “Being in prison so long gave him his physical and mental problems, and they’ve made him suffer for it.”

(Bratton has undergone surgery for stomach ulcers.)

Board members refuse to be specific about Bratton’s psychological problems, but said he was confined to Norman W. Beatty Hospital at Westville between May 1961, and June 1962.

Bratton’s conduct record at the prison is not clean, but it is not indicative of a wildly uncontrollable person either.

In 1936, he was caught planning an escape. In 1937, he was insolent when caught gaming. In 1964, he wrote a letter to the wife of a prison farm supervisor, and gave her a purse. In 1969, he got in trouble again over illicit correspondence, when he wrote a letter to a woman mail carrier.

He was caught drinking applejack in January 1971, and the next month was caught with contraband…$2.60, a kitchen knife, surgical scissors, and a watch…and was charged with hiding contraband for other prisoners.

Prior to the murder arrest, the only previous arrest was for petit larceny in 1931 in Greencastle, for which he served a 15-day sentence at the State penal Farm.

It was evident board member Donald E. Cope previously was influenced in denying Bratton clemency, by some of the inaccurate entries in the Parole Board’s file.

“The file states he pleaded guilty to this murder,” Cope said.

But court records show that Bratton, when arraigned on January 19, 1935, entered a plea of not guilty, and the case was tried before a grand jury beginning February 21, 1935. (A guilty plea would not have required a jury trial.)

Alfred P. Tutsie, board chairman, ordered another psychiatric examination for Bratton. The board members said their decision would be influenced heavily by the findings.

In an interview at the prison, Bratton insisted he was guilty only of poor judgment.

Born at Big Rock, Tennessee, and orphaned when he was very young, he moved to Indianapolis to live with relatives. He quit school in the third grade, and took menial jobs. In 1934, he was working as a laborer at Fairmont Glass Works, earning $15 a week, and he had married.

“I still remember the night my uncle (Tom Brodey) and I went out to Kentuck’s Place,” Bratton said. “I knew Gaddie…not real well…but I knew him, and I liked to see him dance.”

“I bought Gaddie a pint of moonshine, and he put on a tap dance for the people. My uncle Tom and I were talking inside the place, and I heard shots fired. My uncle and I headed for the door. I saw Gaddie laying on the floor. And then, I didn’t know if he’d been shot, or was just ducking.”

“As we headed for my uncle’s car, my uncle said he saw someone throw something into the car, and he pointed to a man who was running away. I didn’t recognize him, and neither did my uncle.”

“My uncle reached inside the car and picked up a gun, and he threw it in the weeds. I went over and picked the thing up and stuck it in my belt. My uncle argued with me about picking it up, and I asked him if I kept it, could I ride in the car? He said I could ride, but he didn’t like the idea of me keeping the gun.”

“When we got to my aunt’s house, she said the police had already been there, and we looking for me. I got scared, and I took off. I hopped a freight train, and headed to Terre Haute, where I had some kin living.”

“I jumped off the train at Greencastle…right in front of the sheriff…and he saw the gun still sticking in my belt. I was still scared, and I gave them the name of Edward Griffin. They checked me out though, and found out my other name, and they released me. I left, and went to Big Rock.”

“All the time I was running, I kept knowing that they’d really find out who shot Gaddie, and I finally made up my mind to come back to Indianapolis.”

“I hadn’t been in town long until the police picked me up in a tavern on South Keystone. I didn’t give them a statement…I hardly talked to them. I asked for an attorney, but they wouldn’t give me one, and I was just too scared to talk.”

Bratton said, while he was in the Marion County jail, that the late attorney T. Ernest Maholm solicited him.

“He said, ‘I know you don’t have much money, boy. What can your family raise?’ I told him I didn’t know how much they had, but to go see them. To this day, I don’t know what they paid him,” Bratton said.

Bratton said further that two women knew he didn’t fire the shots, but were “too scared” to testify (they are now being sought), and that a doctor and nurse testified at the trial that Gaddie told them that he (Bratton) did not shoot him. He also recollected that the slug found was from a .45-caliber, and that he was carrying a .38-caliber when arrested at Greencastle.

“From the time I went away, I kept trying to get a transcript,” he said. “I knew if I could appeal, I’d be freed. I know the letters and things left this prison, but I guess they just never got there.”

“It all seems so hopeless!”

“I know I was a fool for picking up that gun, for running, for using another name,” he said.

Bratton believes he was framed because some people thought he knew who shot Gaddie, and “told their story first while I was running.”

At prison, Bratton has learned a variety of trades. In his spare time, he learned to play the guitar, and repair radios and record players.

“I know I’ll probably never be able to clear myself,” he said. “I accept that. All I want to do now is get out and work for a living and stick by Mattie. She’s really stuck by me.”

Mattie is Mattie Tudor DeWalt. She and Bratton were childhood sweethearts. They dated before Bratton married another girl. She married James DeWalt, and raised a daughter. Over the years, she received periodic letters from Bratton. After her husband died in 1969, she corresponded frequently and visited Bratton. (Bratton’s wife divorced him in 1945.)

“I’ve never believed he killed anyone,” Mrs. DeWalt said. “He was always a good man, and kind to me and my mother.”

Mrs. Bratton said she sought help for Bratton “everywhere,” but without success. She finally decided to visit the Indianapolis Star to see if anyone could help her.

She also contacted Daniel Dozier of the voluntary community organization, Concerned People for Action Through Corrective Teamwork (C-PACT), and got him interested in the case.


Board Hears Bratton

Backers Ask Clemency

By Rick Johnson—Indianapolis Star, September 28, 1972

The state public defender yesterday urged the Indiana Parole Board to grant clemency to Thomas E. Bratton, who has been an inmate of the Indiana State Prison 37 years, and has been thwarted at every attempt to win legal release.

Harriette Bailey Conn, the public defender, with Mattie DeWalt, a sweetheart from Bratton’s earlier days, and several friends and relatives were present at a special clemency hearing granted by the board.

Bratton, now 59, was convicted by a jury in 1935, in Criminal Court, Division 1, of first-degree murder in the slaying of tap dancer Andrew Gaddie.

Research disclosed that Bratton’s request for a new trial, filed March 28, 1935, never has been ruled upon, a single fact, Mrs. Conn claimed, which should be sufficient to win his freedom in the courts, either through a post-conviction relief remedy, or through a belated motion for a new trial.

Although none of the board members announced how he intends to vote, Milo C. Murray, the only attorney on the board, said yesterday, “What has happened to Mr. Bratton should forever be a thorn in the side of the legal profession of this state. It is indeed a travesty.”

No court reporter’s notes or transcripts of Bratton’s trial exist. No copies of the indictment can be located, and it cannot be established who gave testimony during the trial.

The absence of a transcript and other documents put Bratton in a legal never-never land because he could not appeal his conviction without a transcript, and his various attorneys failed to press the issue.

“The mills of the gods grind slowly, but exceedingly fine,” Mrs. Conn told the board, “and I say that in Thomas Bratton’s case, there has been a lot of slow grinding.”

“If you decide not to grant clemency, I’ll take action through the courts, but I urge you to grant clemency, because it would be the speediest form of relief for this man.”

“I’m not here as a lawyer today. I’m here as an individual speaking for a man who is well deserving of being out. I doubt his guilt, and the records are certainly a shambles in this case.”

Daniel Dozier, of a voluntary community organization, Concerned People for Action Through Corrective Teamwork (C-PACT), told the board that if Bratton is granted clemency, he has been promised a job. Mrs. DeWalt confirmed that if Bratton is released, they plan to be married.

Attorney John Preston Ward has been hired by C-PACT to represent Bratton in processing various legal motions if he is denied clemency, or if the board recommends clemency, but Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb denies Bratton’s release.

It will be a minimum of eight weeks before the board’s recommendation will be sent to the Governor for his action.

Bratton was not present at yesterdays hearing.

Members of the board sitting as the clemency commission yesterday included: Chairman Albert P. Tutsie, John J. Barton, Glenn E. Douthitt, Milo C. Murray, and Donald E. Cope.


Bratton Wins Clemency In Lengthy Battle

By Rick Johnson—Indianapolis Star, October 17, 1972

The legal treadmill, which Thomas E. Bratton has been propelling 37 years, came to a halt yesterday when Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb granted the State Prison inmate clemency on his first-degree murder conviction.

Bratton, now 59, was convicted by a jury in 1935, in Criminal Court, Division 1, of first-degree murder in the slaying of tap dancer Andrew Gaddie, and sentenced to a life prison term.

Whitcomb approved clemency for Bratton upon recommendation of the Clemency Commission, which held a public hearing on Bratton’s case last September 27, and then voted immediately to recommend clemency.

During that hearing, members of the Indiana Parole Board sat as the Clemency Commission, and heard from the state’s chief public defender, Mrs. Harriette Bailey Conn, from Mrs. Mattie DeWalt, a sweetheart from Bratton’s earlier days, and from several friends and relatives.

Mrs. DeWalt brought Bratton’s plight to the attention of the Indianapolis Star in July. Facts disclosed after an investigation by the Star, and later confirmed by Mrs. Conn and her aides, that Bratton’s request for a new trial, filed March 28, 1935, never has been ruled upon. Mrs. Conn claimed this fact alone was sufficient to win his freedom.

Investigation further revealed that no court reporter’s notes or transcript of Bratton’s trial exist, no copies of the indictment can be located, and it cannot be established who gave testimony during the trial.

Absence of a transcript and other documents put Bratton in a legal never-never land because he could not appeal his conviction without a transcript, and his various attorneys failed to press the issue.

Mrs. Conn told the Clemency Commission, and won the support of Milo C. Murray, that if Bratton did not receive clemency, she would take Bratton’s case to the courts to win his release.

Murray, an attorney and member of the Parole Board and Clemency Commission, said yesterday that he would attempt to place Bratton’s case on the calendar of the next regular parole session at the prison at Michigan City, November 1.

If he cannot be worked into that calendar, Murray said, Bratton’s name would be placed on the parole board schedule for the first week in December.

Unless there are new developments in Bratton’s case, the parole hearing will be just routine. His release will be authorized after a parole officer has investigated and confirmed he has a place to live and a job to go to if he is released.

Mrs. DeWalt said she and Bratton would be married as soon as possible after his release. She said she is pleased and thankful that public officials finally recognized Bratton’s plight.

It was learned that the Clemency Commission’s decision to grant clemency was based on the facts that Bratton served 37 years in prison, and it was his only conviction, that many interested people had offered Bratton help and a job, and Mrs. DeWalt said she and Bratton would be married when he is released.

A psychiatric evaluation of Bratton stated he would be a good clemency risk, and that as much rehabilitation as was possible had been accomplished. The doctor’s report recommended close supervision with periodic psychiatric assistance.

Bratton, when questioned at the prison yesterday, said, “This means everything to me. You just can’t know,” he said as he choked with emotion.

The prisoner has always denied that he was Gaddie’s slayer, and Mrs. Conn told the Clemncy Commission that she doubted Bratton’s guilt.

Bratton claimed that from the time he was sentenced, he made one attempt after another to win his release through hearings and various appeals. But from the day he was sentenced, it was more than 13 years before any record of legal proceedings could be located in the Criminal Court, Division 1, order book.

Bratton said he also made unceasing efforts to win freedom in the Federal Courts with equal lack of success. Police records in Bratton’s case were also scanty, and brought up many questions which cannot be answered. No prosecutor’s office records exist. No coroner’s records exist, and the sheriff’s office confirms only Bratton’s arrest date.

Yesterday, after learning of the Governor’s decision, Murray said, “As an attorney, what happened to Bratton deeply concerns me, and it should concern every member of the legal profession.”


Indianapolis Star Photo

Tom’s Thanks Will Be Fervent

Free First Time In 38 Years

By Rick Johnson—Indianapolis Star, November 23, 1972

Michigan City, Indiana—Today, for the first Thanksgiving in more than 38 years, Thomas E. Bratton will return thanks with his family and friends instead of with the 1,800 inmates and guards of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City.

Bratton, now 59, with tears glistening down his cheeks, walked out of prison yesterday after receiving a handshake and a good luck wish from Warden Russell E. Lash.

Light snow, propelled by a chilly wind from Lake Michigan, was whipping around, but Bratton, long the victim of an unyielding legal knot, didn’t seem to notice.

Taken to his first breakfast outside prison, Bratton for a long time studies the menu.

“My, my,” he said, “Do we have enough money to pay for this?”

He was assured there was enough money.

Later he confided, “The first thing I’m going to do when I get home is kick off these shoes. Boy…they hurt!”

“Then, I just might play Mattie (Mrs. Mattie DeWalt) a little song I wrote for her.”

Bratton taught himself to play the guitar while an inmate. He composes his own tunes, which he terms “the lonesome blues, because I only play by myself.”

A jury convicted Bratton in 1935, in Criminal Court, Division 1, of first-degree murder in the slaying of tap dancer Andrew Gaddie.

Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb granted Bratton clemency last October 16 after an investigation by The Indianapolis Star disclosed Bratton’s case was in a legal never-never land.

He had been thwarted consistently in attempts to win release, via either an appeal or a new trial.

Bratton’s sweetheart from earlier days, Mrs. DeWalt, 2035 North New Jersey Street, and Daniel Dozier of C-PACT (Concerned People for Action Through Corrective Teamwork), who also worked to gain Bratton’s release, met him yesterday when he walked out of prison.

Mrs. DeWalt’s granddaughter, Mrs. Sherron Daniel, 3852 Broadway, also was there to help her mother and Dozier transport Bratton’s belongings back to Indianapolis.

“You’ll never believe how I’ve longed for this day,” Bratton said as he walked through the front door of the prison a free man.

After shaking hands with Warden Lash, Bratton gave Mattie a big hug and a kiss. He then assisted in loading his guitar and amplifiers into the trunk of Mattie’s car.

After numerous inmates bade him goodbye, Bratton and his friends drove out of the prison grounds and headed for Portage, where he ate his first meal as a free man.

Thousands of things have changed since Bratton went to prison. Prejudice towards Negroes has softened, but the atmosphere was tense at the truck stop, and Bratton, Mrs. DeWalt, her granddaughter, and Dozier drew a gush of mutters when they entered.

However, they were served, where 35 years ago, they might not have been, had they dared enter.

Bratton sensed the tension, and he broke it up.

“You can’t imagine how this feels to be free…eat what you want…imagine…and order from a menu,” he said in disbelief. “No one telling you it’s time to eat…time to go to bed.”

Mattie and he discussed plans for today. A big dinner will be held at her granddaughter’s home for all of Mattie’s family and for Bratton’s sister, Mrs. Pauline Pierce, 2514 Paris Avenue, with whom Bratton will live.

Mrs. DeWalt said she and Bratton plan to regularly attend St. John’s Catholic Church, 126 West Georgia Street.

Bratton will soon begin work at Hill’s Auto Parts, 909 North Capital Avenue, but not before he rests a few days and attempts to adjust to his freedom.

He said he intends to work with youngsters in his spare time at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, teaching them how to box. Bratton was quite a boxer at the prison.

“I’m going to teach them a lot of other things too,” he said. “Like…don’t go around with a chip on your shoulder, because it only brings trouble.”

“All through the years, in spite of all I’ve been through in just about all the courts, I didn’t get bitter, or carry that chip. It will ruin a man.”

Mattie and Bratton had planned to be married as soon as he won freedom, but those plans have been postponed until he has time to accustom himself to life outside the prison walls.

“I’ve got all I’ve ever wanted now…freedom, Mattie, a job, and my music,” Bratton said. “No man should want any more.”

Without further evaluation, Bratton likely could teach many of us how to return thanks today.

Indianapolis Star


Illegally Imprisoned 38 Years Because State Lost Records

Newsman Helps Him to Finally Get Parole

By Paul Reining—excerpt from The National Tattler, February 4, 1973

After 38 long years of incredible illegal imprisonment, Thomas E. Bratton finally won his freedom from prison.

Bratton claims he never committed the murder that put him in Indiana State prison in the first place, but every legal effort he made was thwarted because the State of Indiana lost almost all records of his case.

And now that the judge and most of the lawmen involved with the case are dead, nobody can prove that he did anything to deserve his life sentence.

Bratton’s luck began to change when he sent Mrs. Mattie DeWalt, an old friend and childhood sweetheart, to the Indianapolis Star. She told her friend’s painful story to Rick Johnson, a veteran crime reporter.

“Of course, I made a preliminary check on what she told me. Then, for more than a month, I tried to reconstruct the record,” Johnson said.

“I was shocked at the lack of records in the case, so I went to see Bratton up at Michigan City, and then I wrote the account.”

“There was a possibility the man had been railroaded, and I realized he would have been freed if he’d had a lawyer to follow through for him,” Johnson said.


Rick Johnson Recipient Of CASPER Award

Indianapolis Star—May 4, 1973

Rick Johnson, reporter for the Indianapolis Star, was named a winner yesterday of a CASPER (Community Appreciation for Service in Public Enlightenment and Relations) Award for articles which resulted in the granting of clemency to an Indianapolis man after 37 years of imprisonment.

Johnson’s articles were about Thomas E. Bratton, who spent 37 years in the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City before the investigation revealed he had been denied a new trial improperly.

As a result of the articles, Bratton was granted clemency by former Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb.

Rick Johnson


Bloggers note:

Judging from Mattie's 2004 obit, she and Thomas Bratton never married. I'm not sure what happened to Bratton, but he has passed away by now probably. I asked my mother about him, and she says things did not turn out as swimmingly for Bratton as all had hoped. But, at least he was free to choose his own path...

Not only did Dad receive the CASPER award for his efforts in these articles, he was also nominated for, but did not win, a Pulitzer Prize for this work in getting justice and clemency for Thomas E. Bratton.

Nice job, Pops. I'm very proud of you.


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