M aybe I've been spending too much time watching Investigation ID (channel 111) on TV. In fact, I know I've been watching too much Investigation ID.
Because I now not only think anything is possible when it comes to solving a crime, I know it for a fact.
The same applies, of course, for the commission of a crime. If it can happen, it almost surely has happened and will likely happen again some time in the future.
When it comes to crime, there is not much new under the sun.
I'm also convinced that sometimes -- far more frequently than it should -- an innocent person is convicted of a crime he/she didn't commit.
It happens. I'm certain it does. We know for a fact that it does. One has to look no farther than the case of Ray Krone, a Dover-area man who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of a woman in a bar in December 1991, in Phoenix, Ariz., and spent more than 10 years in prison, some of it on death row, before DNA evidence eventually cleared his name.
Which brings me to the case of Zachary Witman, a former New Freedom-area resident, who was convicted of murdering his 13-year-old brother, Greg, on Oct. 2, 1998, at their home. Zach was 15 at the time of the murder.
Witman has spent 10 years of a life sentence in prison.
I recall some of the details of the case without having to look them up, partly because I attended some of the trial sessions, partly because I wrote about it at the time and partly because the boys' father, Ron Witman, made it his mission in life to keep me informed of all he thought was wrong about the investigation of the case.
And that was a lot.
Ron was convinced Zach was innocent of the death of his youngest son.
After hearing much of the evidence, I admit having concerns about Zach's guilt, but I finally came down on the side of finding him guilty in my own mind based on one piece of evidence -- the bloody gloves and murder weapon (knife) that were buried under a pine tree in the backyard, and the human footprints that led from the house to the burial site and back to the house again.
The time line shows Greg arrived home from school that day at 3:10 p.m. and the police arrived on the scene at 3:25 p.m. So the murder -- which included more than 65 stab wounds and knife slashes on Greg's body, plus hiding the evidence in the back yard, Zach having talked on the phone with a friend at 3:15 p.m. and having placed another call to 911 to report the crime -- had to have been completed in fewer than 15 minutes.
Zach and Greg were the only two people in the home that afternoon. Greg was dead. In my mind, that left Zach as the only other person who could have made those tracks.
Could it have been someone else? I guess it could. Which might account for the footprints leading out to where the evidence was buried. But what about the footprints going back to the house again. If the murderer had been an outsider, would he/she have buried the evidence and then returned to the scene of the crime?
To me, that seemed highly unlikely. Would that have been enough to have created reasonable doubt to Zach's innocence had I been on the jury? I think so.
Anyway, the Witman case is back on the front pages of this newspaper again, as it was many days in the four-plus years between Greg's murder and Zach's conviction in 2003.
Ron and Sue Witman have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the freedom of Zach.
As importantly, they have hired a dream team of private investigators and wrongful conviction experts to give the case new eyes, in the hope of finding enough new evidence to either secure Zach's release from prison and/or a new trial, or finding the "real killer."
The truth of the matter is the only person on this planet who knows absolutely for certain if he killed Greg, is Zachary. Unless, of course, another person committed the murder, in which case that would make two.
The rest of us -- including his parents, the courts, the police and the prosecution -- are guessing because we weren't there.
And the evidence in this case never did line up all nice and tidy in favor of Zach's conviction.
The dream team has publicly questioned the quality of the police investigation and the prosecution of the case.
The dream team is saying some of the evidence produced at Zach's first trial was "faux scientific evidence."
And this dream team is top-notch. One member, Jay Salpeter, a retired New York City homicide detective, is well known for having investigated cold cases -- murder cases all -- and securing the release of men after proving they were wrongfully convicted.
So this could get interesting.
Based on what I know -- all of which goes back to the murder trial in 2003 -- I'm thinking Zach is now guilty until he's proved innocent. I know that's backasswards, but the jury made it so 10 years ago.
But like I said, I've been watching a lot of Investigation ID on TV. Enough to know guilty people sometimes get away with murder and innocent people sometimes get convicted of murder they don't commit.
So anything is possible.
And nothing would surprise me.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.