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Re: Request That Detective Freeman Be Replaced

by Richard Jay Moller
Headwaters Article Index

P.O. Box 1669
Redway, CA 95560-1669
(707) 923-9199

September 23, 1998

District Attorney Terry Farmer
Humboldt County Courthouse
825 Fifth Street
Eureka, CA 95501

Re: Homicide of David Chain

Dear Terry,

Enclosed please find a copy of my response to Detective Freeman's letter of October 5th to Darryl Cherney. I also am impelled to alert you to my serious concerns that have arisen, based on some of Detective Freeman's statements in his interview with reporter Nicholas Wilson of the The Albion Monitor ( as reported by him in that newspaper. I enclose a copy of that article taken from the Internet. Based on Detective Freeman's inflammatory, biased statements to the press, we request his replacement by a fair-minded investigator, and again request an independent investigator to be assigned to the case.

First, it is absolutely mind-boggling that the detective assigned to this investigation is so blinded by prejudice that he declares to the news media that Mr. Ammons is not a suspect. As I suspected, it is Detective Freeman who has prejudged the case. In my letter to you of September 21st, I told you exactly what my opinion was based on, suggesting that Mr. Ammons should be charged with involuntary manslaughter, including PL's lies, presumably from Mr. Ammons, showing a consciousness of guilt; the victim/witness statements, and the video. Based on this evidence, no unbiased person could possibly state that Mr. Ammons is not even a suspect. Thus, Detective Freeman is not the proper detective for this case. I, of course, respect your position that you must wait to make any charging decisions until after the investigation is complete. What compelled me to write to you last month, however, has proven to be true. Detective Freeman has demonstrated his prejudice towards the victim/witnesses and has virtually admitted he is acting on behalf of PL and Mr. Ammons, not on behalf of justice.

In his interview of last week, Detective Freeman tells Mr. Wilson that the victim/witnesses on the day of David Chain's death, "all believed that it was an accident." This is a lie. First, some of the victim/witnesses did not speak with Detective Freeman that day. Second, the fact some of the victim/witnesses were unable to comprehend the potential for evil in human beings so that they assumed Mr. Ammons did not intend to kill them, does not mean that they did not also believe that Mr. Ammons knew they were in the area and intended to scare them by dropping trees in their direction. Third, what is important is what the victim/witnesses saw and heard, not what they assumed about Mr. Ammons' intent. The facts speak for themselves. I would recommend to the victim/witnesses that they take lie-detector tests, if given by an independent tester, if Detective Freeman and Mr. Ammons will submit to them as well. Then we will see who is telling the truth.

Detective Freeman also makes a slanderous statement impugning my integrity: "On Day 2, after they [the victim/witnesses] conferred with their attorneys, they decided it was manslaughter." As far as I know, I am the only attorney the victim/witnesses consulted on Day 2. For Detective Freeman to suggest that I coached the victim/witnesses or had any influence on the factual nature of their statements about David Chain's killing, is preposterous, if not vile. Of course, Detective Freeman's statement does far more than imply that the victim/witnesses did not know what constituted the crimes of implied malice second-degree murder or manslaughter, or the difference between them, which is not unusual for the lay public. Unfortunately, Detective Freeman also does not appear to know the difference between murder or manslaughter and an accident and has demonstrated an intellectual intransigence that may well thwart justice.

I advised the victim/witnesses of the law. I advised the victim/witnesses to tell the truth. I advised the victim/witnesses to strictly confine their statements to what each of them saw and heard and not to speak about the other members of their group. Aside from one witness speaking to me for a few minutes about what he had seen, none of them spoke to me that day until the interviews, except in the most general terms. I did not share what anyone told me about the incident with anyone else before the interviews with Detective Freeman. I did not advise anyone what to say to Detective Freeman, aside from keeping their testimony in the first person and to avoid speaking about the others. In short, the victim/witnesses gave truthful testimony and did not decide it was manslaughter, rather than an accident, after conferring with me.

Detective Freeman also told reporter Wilson that the main issue of his investigation is whether Mr. Ammons was falling trees "in accordance with the THP and accepted logging practices for falling redwood trees." Please, Terry, remove Detective Freeman from the case, or at least tell him something about the law. This is not what the investigation should be about. It should be about whether "a reasonable and ordinarily prudent, careful person" would have fallen the tree under the same circumstances, and whether "a reasonable and ordinarily prudent, careful person" would not even have yelled timber or something before falling the tree, knowing the activists were in the area less than 30 minutes before. It is an outrage that the only person investigating David Chain's killing is someone as ignorant of the law and as biased against the victim/witnesses as is Detective Freeman.

In sharp contrast, I have full confidence in you and the other attorneys in your office to understand the law and make the legally and morally correct decision about whether there is probable cause to believe Mr. Ammons was criminally negligent, if not extremely reckless. To be forced to rely on Detective Freeman's biased investigation, however, will not serve justice.

Detective Freeman also tells Mr. Wilson that PL will not release Mr. Ammons' drug results, as they are "confidential." Obviously, whether Mr. Ammons had alcohol or drugs in his system is a critical fact that your office has a right to know in deciding the appropriate charge in this case. It is not up to PL to decide to keep this information "confidential" in what should be a homicide investigation.

Detective Freeman also claims that "everytime they [the Earth First activists] are arrested they claim that we [Detective Freeman and other police officers] assault them." First, this is another one of Detective Freeman's lies. Second, it evinces a prejudice that is shocking, and no less virulent than the KKK's hatred and bias towards the blacks in the deep South in the 60's. How can this person be assigned to the case, particularly in light of the number of lawsuits brought by activists against the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department for unlawful or violent conduct against them? In the follow-up interview with an activist, Detective Freeman appeared to be more concerned with protecting Mr. Ammons, PL, and the Sheriff's department from a possible civil suit than in seeking the truth.

Detective Freeman, as I suspected from our first interviews with the victim/witnesses, is deeply prejudiced against them, and David Chain, and is continuing to act "more like a defense attorney for [Mr. Ammons] than an objective investigator." While Detective Freeman appears to be personable enough, his shameless bias cannot but help to thwart justice in this matter.

I again request, on behalf of Earth First and the victim/witnesses, that an unbiased independent investigator be assigned to this case, not only to preserve the appearance of justice, but justice itself. I also believe that Detective Freeman's inflammatory, biased statements to the press warrant his replacement. Detective Freeman has shown he cannot be fair, and, as he continually makes reference to, he has many other murders to investigate. Therefore, Detective Freeman should not be spending any more time on what increasingly appears to be a cover up in David Chain's death.

We also understand that Pacific Lumber has indicated that they will begin logging in the area where David Chain was killed as early as tomorrow afternoon, the 20th of October. We are alarmed by this announcement. We request that you insist that no logging be done in this area, pending the completion of an impartial investigation. Of great concern is the possible violation of CCR 1910.266, subchapter 13, article 5, section 6280, regarding warning cries. We believe that the acoustics of the area will be changed forever once felled trees are removed. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to confirm or contradict the statements given by Mr. Ammons and his assistant, and the victim/witnesses concerning warnings and verbal communications between the two groups, once the area is disturbed. It is plainly inappropriate to rely on Detective Freeman's opinion that he has adequately investigated the killing site. Detective Freeman is biased and cannot be trusted to make this important decision.

Very truly yours,


cc. Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis Attachments

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Albion Monitor

October 28, 1998