To the Honorable Governor of Texas and the Board of Pardons and Parole,
Reference: Capital Case of Robert O. Coulson, TDCJ #999115
I, Robert Bennett of Kent County Rhode Island am the biological father of both Robert O. Coulson who is scheduled to be executed on June 25, 2002 and Robin L. (Coulson) Wentworth, one of the victims who Bob was convicted of killing. I am writing this letter in support of Bobís conditional pardon request.
Robin was born on April 13, 1967 and Bob was born the following year on March 13, 1968. I was married to Elaine Courser in 1966. By 1970 my marriage to Elaine was not going well. I had been injured on my job and we were having financial problems. We finally separated with her leaving me to care for our two children. She had run off with another man. After four months had passed, she returned to Rhode Island and took our children with her to Oklahoma and then on to the state of Texas. We were subsequently divorced.
The man she had initially left with wanted to marry her but he did not want his family to know that she had ever been married or that she ever had children. She was given an ultimatum by this man to either give up the children or give him up. She decided to take the children to the Nueces County Welfare Office in Corpus Christi, Texas, and place them up for adoption.
Upon learning who the father was and where I was located, the Nueces County Welfare Office then contacted the Rhode Island Social Services, who then sent me a letter requesting that I make plans for my children. I scheduled an appointment in Providence. Their office was in a large state run foster home. When I drove up to the Mount Pleasant Avenue building, I will never forget the fifty or more children playing and rough housing together in the playground outside the building. I couldnít help but wonder if this is what my children were doing in Texas.
It was their request that I sign papers to allow the state of Texas to place my children up for adoption. They told me my children were unplanned and unwanted as well as that I was unable to care for them. I became very upset and refused to sign these papers. I was then told that the state of Texas would obtain a court order forcing me to sign. I left telling them somehow I would get the money to fly my children home to Rhode Island.
I made a call to the airlines and was informed that I would need $800.00 for tickets that would cover the cost of flying them home to me and that a stewardess would sit with them to watch them. The old car that I had was just too unreliable to make the round trip to Texas and back.
I sold some of my belongings and also managed to borrow some money from friends to raise the airfare and was pleased I had reached the goal to get my children back home with me.
I called the state to tell them that I had come up with the money. They set up an appointment to visit my apartment and concluded it was much too small. They said I would need a larger apartment and probably could not afford one. They also informed me that Texas would not release the children to me unless I could pick them up in person. They said they would not just put them on an airplane at such a young age.
This meant another $800.00 roundtrip ticket for myself, which they knew I could not come up with. It seemed like they kept putting roadblocks up in front of me. Please remember that at this time, which was over thirty years ago it was almost unheard of for a single father to receive custody of his children.
After many meetings in Providence, they finally told me that my children would be adopted by an attorney in Texas who was interested in keeping them both together but that if I delayed much longer, then I would risk my children being separated. Under much duress I finally signed the papers, but they knew I was not at all happy.
Knowing that I had left their office very upset I was called about a week later back to their office. I was then offered help by the state. They offered to pay to bring the children back to Rhode Island if I would quit my job and go on welfare. As this was not the life I wanted for my children, and knowing that an attorney and his wife could provide a much better life than I could on welfare and wanting them to have a better life, I declined their offer.
Please know my children were never forgotten. From that point on, I intentionally planned the rest of my life for when I would finally see them again. I was always hoping to see them again, but never wanting to disrupt their lives a second time, I have lived with the guilt, the hurt, the unknown and the hope that everything was okay.
Now that a Texas jury has found my son guilty of murdering my daughter Robin the guilt is only worse.
I did not start looking for them until they were both eighteen years old, but by then the trail was pretty cold. I had intentionally stayed in the same town for over twenty years in hopes my children might someday try to find me as these were the only children I ever had.
In 1994 when it came time for Bobís trial, his attorney obtained a court order and opened the adoption file. He was them able to locate me and then I was able to keep a promise I made with my ex-wife years ago, that is, whoever heard from the children first we promised to contact the other.
Since that time in 1994 when Bob and I were reunited, my son has always insisted that he is innocent. I am well aware he was found guilty and put on death row.
In the eight years that he has been in prison on Death Row, I have come to see many things that have troubled me. The Texas legal system is certainly not fair in capital cases and my son certainly did not receive a fair trial nor a fair appeal process.
As a witness at the trial, I was not allowed to be present in the courtroom except for my own testimony. For that reason, since the trial I have taken the time to read all of the trial transcripts, to see for myself what all of the testimony was. I have read all the appeals briefs and studied all of the evidence and read the police report that was withheld from Bob and his trial attorneys. On that basis, I am truly convinced that the police lied, they planted false evidence, and solicited false testimony from an accomplice witness who changed his story to the police on four occasions. There is no DNA or forensic evidence that links Bob to the crime nor is they any physical evidence that positively links my son to this crime.
When this false evidence was finally discovered and proven, long after the trial was over, the appellate courts just looked the other way. There is also no provision for getting attorney errors corrected. This certainly can not be called justice. It is only a system of lie Ė cheat Ė steal Ė cover it up Ė and execute them. I ask you - Why waste time just bring back the lynch mobs and hang themÖ
There is also the issue of the visiting judge, who handled the most important part of Bobís appeal and evidentiary hearing. The Judge not even sworn in under the state constitutional mandated oaths at the time, so by Texas law he was in fact not even a judge. He of all people should be doing the right thing and admit his error. The Texas State legislature should be changing the law to allow him to serve without an oath if this is their intent.
I guess it is just turn your back, kill off a few more people and maybe no one will notice your errors.
I, like a lot of people have always believed in the death penalty. We were told it was to act as a deterrent. I like most people assumed they were guilty of their crime, had a fair trial, a competent and experienced attorney, a fair appeal process and a final review by our Supreme Court. WOW WAS I SURPRISED!!!!
I now believe it is time to stop the death penalty and finally end the killing, as all that has been done in the name of the state is to make a lot of people guilty of accessory to murder themselves. It is time that the public learns how the system is run before, God forbid, their son is on death row.
It is time to stop the death penalty as it is very clear that the state of Texas can not and will not play the game fairly and by the rules as the state and federal constitutions mandate. Texas is violating their civil rights.
Three times I have placed my sonís future in the hands of Texas. The first time was when I trusted that my children were to be adopted by an attorney and they were not. The second time was when my son had his trial and appellate process and I thought everything would be fair and it was not.
Twice the state of Texas has failed me, please do not fail me a third time.
I beg that you consider my sonís request for a conditional pardon which I feel has merit. If nothing else, then that he receive a commutation of sentence to life. Even though my only daughter was one of the victims, I do not want Bob executed. You are my last hope.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
COUNTY OF KENT
On this day ROBERT BENNETT signed this letter in support of a conditional pardon request for Robert O. Coulson TDCJ #999115 and that he personally appeared before me and after being duly sworn states that the information in this letter is true according to his belief.
SIGNED under oath before me on this the day of May, 2002.
NOTARY PUBLIC, State of Rhode Island