Randy Gentry’s Greatest Hits

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

Here’s the audio of the charming Mr. Gentry’s answering machine message.

Check here if you’d like to read along with the transcript.

I also received the following email late last week:

Look, I know this fella and you’re right, he is unreliable and not very credible. Very much a racist. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “hate niggers” come out of his mouth. Credibility should be thrown right out. Ask Mr. Gentry about his music tapes he has about bashing blacks. I am telling you this man is totally out to get blacks. He has stated in the past he would rat out a “nigger” in a heart beat. He is just a senile old man. Good luck.

I’ve been corresponding with another resident of Prentiss and a good friend of Ron Jones’ for several months now. This particular person was originally quite upset with me, but I think has now begun to suspect that perhaps something isn’t right about this case. She too says Mr. Gentry is well-known around Prentiss and Jefferson Davis County to be a bigot. At the hearing this week, one of the more bizarre arguments by District Attorney Buddy McDonald was that Mr. Gentry’s memory and state of mind have probably impaired by his lifelong abuse of drugs and alcohol. If that’s the case, why the hell was he being used as an informant in the first place?

I’ll get into why Mr. Gentry’s bigotry matters with respect to Cory’s case when I talk about his testimony at the hearing. But one thing his involvement in all of this ought to do is raise some serious questions about the use of informants, and about why courts often allow prosecutors to keep their identities secret, even in cases like this one, where a defendant’s fate may turn on the informant’s credibility. Judges give almost complete deference to police officers when they attest to the reliability of an informant in search warrant requests. There’s virtually no oversight at all. In the Overkill paper, I talk about one wrong door raid in New York City a few years ago in which an informant described by the police as “reliable” had just a 44 percent record of success.

In Cory’s case, the trial transcripts show that Judge Kruger — the man who signed off on the warrants — conceded on the stand that he didn’t ask Ron Jones much of anything about the reliability of the informant. Jones’ assertion in the affidavit that Gentry’s tip had led to at least one previous arrest was all that was necessary to estabish his credibility. No mention of his obvious and well-known biases. No mention of how many times his tips didn’t lead to an arrest. No mention of Mr. Gentry’s own problems with substance abuse.

So I have to ask…

If it was well known around town that Mr. Gentry is a raving racist who “hates niggers,” why did the police continue to use him as an informant in cases against black people? How many times has Mr. Gentry been described in a search warrant affidavit as “credible and reliable” when it’s now quite clear that not only should police have known that that’s not the case, but even the man’s own brother doesn’t consider him to be either? How many black people are in jail based in whole or in part on the word of Randy Gentry? How many more peope like Randy Gentry are serving as confidential informants — in Mississippi or anywhere else?

These aren’t rhetorical questions.

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