Jeffrey Dicks

Sullivan County, Tennessee
Date of Crime:  February 15, 1978

Jeffrey Stewart Dicks and another man, Donald Wayne Strouth, were convicted of the capital felony murder of James Keegan. Keegan was killed during the robbery of a Kingsport clothing store.

At Strouth's trial, the state presented hearsay evidence that Strouth had committed the murder. Different people related that Strouth had said to them that he hit the victim in the head with a rock, that he had to hurt the victim, and that he had to slit his throat. The state vouchsafed this evidence as trustworthy as it was inculpatory of Strouth. However, at Dicks's trial the same evidence was deemed untrustworthy and prohibited, as it was exculpatory of Dicks. One would think the reverse situation might apply, as the evidence might be trustworthy enough to prove reasonable doubt, but not absolute guilt. Other witnesses offering evidence of Dick's innocence were also prohibited from testifying. Dicks was prevented from presenting a full defense as allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chambers v. Mississippi.

The state alleged that a set of footprints put Dicks at the scene. These footprints were reportedly seen but not documented in any way. The state said they took photographs of the footprints, but the camera malfunctioned. However, the camera did not malfunction when they took photographs of the victim. The “expert” witness who testified about the footprints admitted that he was a non-expert and did not know what he was doing.

The prosecutor submitted a pair of bloodstained jeans into evidence, alleging they were Dicks's pants. He had previously introduced them as Strouth's at his trial. When his apparent dishonesty was caught, the prosecutor removed them and stipulated that they did not belong to Dicks.

The state alleged that a coat, which was burned by the Dicks's family, though not by Dicks, had bloodstains of the victim on it. As with the footprints, the non-evidence of a bloodstained coat was hardly proof of anything and could not reliably be used to prove Dicks's guilt. Secondly, even if Dicks participated in the murder, his coat would not likely be bloodstained. Other evidence indicated the victim was unconscious and prostrate, having been hit by a rock, and was not standing up when his throat was cut, as alleged by the prosecution. Therefore, while the victim's blood did spurt on bottoms of Strouth's pant legs, it would not likely spurt on any perpetrator's coat.

Dicks had been tentatively scheduled for execution in Sept. 1998, but he died in his cell of heart related problems in May 1999. Dicks's mother, Shirley Dicks, has written a book about the case entitled, They're Going To Kill My Son.  [2/08]


References:  Justice: Denied, JDS, Website Copy

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Tennessee Cases, Hearsay Testimony