True Confessions?

Seventeen years ago, Charles Raby said he killed an old lady. Now he's not so sure.

He had made his confession to police on October 19, 1992:

I knocked on the door. I did not hear anyone answer. I just went inside. I sat down for a little bit on the couch. I called out when I got inside but I did not hear anyone say anything. I heard Edna in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed Edna. Edna's back was to me and I just grabbed Edna. I remember struggling with her and I was on top of her. I know I had my knife but I do not remember taking it out. We were in the living room when we went to the floor. I saw Edna covered in blood and underneath her. I went to the back of the house and went out the back door that leads into the back yard.

...I woke up later on the ground near the Hardy Toll Road and Crosstimbers....I remember feeling sticky and I had blood on my hands. I washed my hands off in a water puddle that is near the pipe line by the Hardy Toll Road. I do not remember what I did with my knife. The next day I knew I had killed Edna. I remember being at her house and struggling with her and Edna was covered with blood when I left.

Raby, after more than 15 years on Death Row,...
Photos by Chris Curry
Raby, after more than 15 years on Death Row,...
...says his blackout on the night of the murder scares him to this day.
Photos by Chris Curry
...says his blackout on the night of the murder scares him to this day.

Sergeant Waymon Allen, the veteran detective who took the confession, tells Channel 13 reporter Carlos Aguilar: "It was a very gruesome scene."

Aguilar then interviews a shirtless Rose, who says Franklin had run Raby off about a week before the murder.

"I mean I've known him to beat up on his girlfriend," Rose says.

"She [Franklin] told him that — that he needed to leave, cuz she didn't like nobody beatin' up no woman. And, he got mad and threw a bottle on the porch, and he left. And that was the last time I seen him, and — and he come back and killed her."

The trial began in June of 1994 with a special hearing before Judge Densen on whether Raby's confession had been coerced. To this day, Raby claims that police threatened to charge his girlfriend, Merry Alice Wilkin, who had been brought to the police station with her baby, with aiding and abetting and to place her six-week-old son in foster care. So Raby says he agreed to say whatever Allen wanted.

On the stand that day, Raby testified that he wanted to get Wilkin home and knew that by confessing, things would move faster.

"Are you telling the judge that you would have come clean with the police anyway or not?" the prosecutor asked.

"I don't know. I don't know if I would then or not, because I was prepared to lie then. I was going to lie, whatever it took to try to convince them I didn't do it."

"And you're not telling the judge that the only reason you signed the confession was because you wanted to get her out of there? You signed it because you did it voluntarily and it's true, right?"

"Because it's true and — well, he didn't force me to do it, but I wanted her to go home," Raby said.

No physical evidence tied Raby to the crime. The case revolved around the confession and witness testimony placing Raby near Franklin's house on the night of the murder. The hair in Franklin's right hand belonged to Benge, who has never been a suspect, and the family dogs. The condom wrapper lying next to her on the floor had been Benge's from a few days before. The house was too dirty and disheveled for fingerprints. An apparent set of footprints on Benge's bed, beneath the window police believed the killer used to enter the house, was not tested. Nothing was missing from Franklin's purse; in fact, her jewelry pouch was still inside. Franklin sometimes kept money in her pocket, but nobody knew if she had any that day. The rape kit returned no indication of sexual assault.

There was blood on the telephone in Benge's room, attributed to his 911 call, but no blood on any of the doors or on Franklin's scattered belongings. No blood was found on the jacket, shirt, shoes or jeans Raby wore on the night of the murder. No DNA tests were performed. Allen said on the stand that, to his knowledge, there "wasn't anything incriminating" about the blood beneath Franklin's fingernails.

Neither Raby nor his two court-­appointed attorneys were aware of the actual results of Chu's blood tests. Chu's testimony was quick and uncontested, and the trial continued chugging along.

Raby's lawyers called no witnesses during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. In their closing arguments, they conceded his guilt and focused on arguing that it hadn't been a capital offense.

During deliberations, the jurors sent a note to the judge asking whether they needed to agree on an aggravating offense — actual or attempted burglary, robbery or sexual assault — in order to rule capital. They were told that they did not.

In the punishment phase, the defense's own psychologist agreed with the prosecutor that Raby was a "psychopath."

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