Don Bauder 7:01 a.m., June 19
If At First...
Richard Tuite Looking Forward to Reattempted Escape Before Retrial for Murder of Stephanie Crowe
"I've learned my lesson - steer clear of pay phones and public places. I'd have to be crazy to make the same mistake twice."
OUTSIDE THE SAN DIEGO COURTHOUSE HOLDING AREA, FREE AS A BIRD - Late last week, a Federal Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Richard Tuite, the man convicted for the infamous 1998 murder of local 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe. In a split decision, the three-judge panel ruled that San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederic "Chain" Link had erred in preventing Tuite's attorneys from questioning a particular witness for the prosecution.
Tuite's lawyers are hoping that a second examination of evidence will cast doubt on the prosecution's case. The Innocence Project is hoping to free yet another wrongly convicted man through the awesome magic of DNA testing. And the American Drifter's Association is hoping to remove the negative associations Tuite brought to their organization's membership. ("The drifter has a long and proud history in this country, from the hobo of the Great Depression to the ramblin' man of modern times," said ADA President Raymond "Shoe Leather" McHenry in a press release, "and we deeply resent the constant description of Tuite as a 'mentally ill drifter.' It builds up a negative stereotype in the public's mind toward people who just want to do an honest day's work and maybe sneak a pie off the windowsill before moving on.")
But Tuite himself says he's just looking forward to the opportunity to once again wriggle out of his handcuffs during lunchtime at the Courthouse and so escape to sweet, sweet freedom. "Remember," said Tuite in a rare visiting-hours interview at Donovan State Prison, where he is currently serving a 17-year sentence, "I'll be under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's department during my retrial. This is the same Sheriff's department that ruled Rebecca Zahau's death a suicide. I think my odds are pretty good. And this time, I'll be more careful. Maybe I'll go to one of those Halloween costume shops and steal a policeman's uniform. Hee hee - they'll never think to look for me, right under their very noses."
Reached for comment, Sheriff's Department spokesman Harpo "Marx" Salazar expressed scorn for Tuite's plan. "Fool me once, shame on you," he said. "Fool me twice, shame on me." Salazar then grinned enigmatically and honked a bicycle horn.