Harold Davey Cassell, known as Dinker, will file his last appeal...
by Danny Lyon
John Gibson, the head of the Arkansas Delta Truth & Justice Center, who I got to know this summer while I was down in Mississippi at a reunion of civil rights workers from the 1964 Voter Registration Project, asked me to publish this story, by Danny Lyon, on my blog. John Gibson is a good man, devoted to the principles behind the name of his non-profit organization. I gladly place the story here. Danny Lyon is an American filmmaker and photographer who received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1963. He began publishing his photographs in that same year while he worked as a volunteer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
My name is Danny Lyon. I am a well known photographer and filmmaker. In 1962, when I was twenty, I was in jail in Georgia with Dr. Martin Luther King. When I was twenty six I did a major photo documentary inside the Texas Prison system, published as Conversations with the Dead. At the time there were 12,500 inmates in the Texas Department of Corrections. Today there are 200,000. Inside the prison I met an inmate named James Renton.
Early in the morning of Dec. 21st, 1975, in the woods outside of Fayetteville, a young police officer from Springdale, named John Hussey was murdered. Kidnapped, handcuffed and shot four times in the head with his own gun, it was clear from the beginning that his abduction and murder were connected to a burglary that had happened a few hours earlier, in Rogers, Arkansas. The FBI believed that four men were present that night at the burglary, and all four were present at the murder, and that all four fired a shot into Officer Hussey.
One of these men, Don McLaughlin, committed suicide. Another, Larry Wallace, vanished into the Texas prison system. The third was Renton, who was convicted and sentenced to Life. Renton died in prison in 1995. The fourth man was Harold Davey Cassell. Cassell, who would not testify at his own trial and refused to “help put Renton in the electric chair” was also found guilty of capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Cassell, whom most people call Dinker, is still in prison.
During the process of writing “Like a Thief’s Dream” (PowerHouse Books) a book about Renton, I visited Fayetteville and went through thousands of pages of documents and evidence that has been preserved in Springdale. I also interviewed all the major figures still alive in the police department and the FBI that were active in the case. I interviewed Cassell many times for many hours and collected other documentation from inmates that knew both Cassell and Renton in prison.
There is absolutely no question that Cassell was not present during the burglary at Rogers that proceeded the crime and was not present during the abduction of Officer Hussey. He and another burglar, who had been in Fayetteville the previous night, were 100 miles away in Oklahoma when the officer was murdered by two people (McLaughlin and Renton), not four, in the woods west of Fayetteville.
Cassell, who is today at 58, an extremely likable and educated inmate, has been in prison for thirty years. He is innocent. He is also one of over one thousand men doing life sentences in Arkansas who will almost certainly die in prison. In the United States there are at least 100,000 inmates also serving life sentences. Most of these men will almost certainly never be released.
Cassell has unsuccessfully used up all but one of his Federal and State appeals. His wife, Colleen McGrath, who still awaits him in the free world, says “Dinker should be released for time served.” She is right. Whatever his role in this horrendous crime, and it was zero, he has done enough prison time. Father Louis Franz of Arizona has hired the West Memphis Lawyer, Gerald Coleman to file what is Dinker’s last chance to leave the Arkansas prison alive. Dinker is a teacher in the Cummins Unit. His address is...
Harold Davey Cassell #73885
PO Box 500, Blk #2
Grady Arkansas, 71644 – 0500.
Media interested in this story may contact me at email@example.com.
Father Lou Franz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Arkansas Churches for Life
PO Box 1208
Thank you for reading this.