Barry Lee Fairchild

Pulaski County, Arkansas
Date of Crime: February 26, 1983
Executed August 31, 1995

Barry Lee Fairchild was convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 22-year-old Marjorie “Greta” Mason.  Mason was a white Air Force nurse and a former homecoming queen.  Six days after the murder and after the media had reported many details of the crime, the police received a tip from an unnamed informant, a man described in police files as inaccurate about half the time, with a tendency to exaggerate.  He named Barry Lee Fairchild as one of the culprits.

Fairchild, a functionally illiterate and mentally retarded black man, was unarmed outside his house and fell on the ground when surrounded by Pulaski County Sheriff's deputies.  The deputies released their dog on him and Fairchild was badly bitten on the neck, side, and head.  He required nine stitches to close the gash on his head.

After treatment at a hospital, Fairchild gave two confessions, neither of which agreed with the facts.  In one he gave a police supplied name of his supposed accomplice, but that man was later known to be in Colorado at the time.  The facts of the crime did not fit Fairchild.  Fairchild had blood type A, while the semen found inside Mason showed her assailant had blood type O.

During his trial, Fairchild recanted his confessions, saying that he had been threatened and beaten by Sheriff Tommy Robinson and Major Larry Dill.  He testified that when he told the police he knew nothing of the crime, Robinson hit him on the head with the barrel of a shotgun, and Dill kicked him in the stomach repeatedly.  He said he had been rehearsed for twenty minutes on what to say.  (At one point on the videotape, he is asked how many times Mason was raped.  He pauses, looks behind the camera, waits with his mouth open, then finally raises two fingers.  He looks back at the camera and says, “Two, two times.”)

Fairchild was convicted and sentenced to death.  Seven years later Fairchild's lawyers found out that at least five other “suspects” were brought in to confess to Mason's murder.  “All but one were beaten... several were bloodied... they were threatened with guns, often thrust into their faces, and they were kicked.  All were pushed, shoved, and knocked around.  And they were all told, ‘We know you were involved; we know you raped and killed that nurse; we're gonna' do to you what you did to her if you don't tell us what happened.’”  A number of these suspects testified at an evidentiary hearing, but some were too afraid to speak publicly.

In 1990, thirteen men publicly disclosed that, like Fairchild, they too had been detained for questioning about the Mason murder and were tortured.  One of these men, Michael Johnson, reported that he heard sheriffs in the next room torture Fairchild into confessing.  Two former Pulaski County Sheriff Deputies, Frank Gibson and Calvin Rollins, have admitted that physical assault and abuse were common interrogation tactics at the time of Fairchild's arrest.

Fairchild apparently gave into the brutality and confessed because unlike the others, he was mentally retarded.  At a hearing in 1991, Fairchild's conviction and death sentence were upheld.  Fairchild was executed on Aug. 31, 1995.  After Fairchild's conviction, Sheriff Tommy Robinson became a U.S. Congressman from 1985 to 1991.  After Fairchild was executed, Robinson ran for Congress as a major party candidate in 2002.  [8/05]


References:   DPICNew York Times

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Arkansas Cases, Coerced Confessions, Defendants Executed After 1976