Daryl McReynolds

We have all heard the phrase "Going Postal."  It refers to when someone goes into their work place (or former work place) and begins killing people. It can happen anywhere but many of the most notable have occurred from people working in the Postal Service. I read a book about many of these types of cases and while every story is unique the one thing that most had in common seemed to be that life had become a pressure cooker from often many things and it seemed to boil over.  More often than not the perpetrator (usually a shooter) dies at the scene of their crime either by their own hands or by the hands of authorities.   

On July 29, 1981, thirty-one year old Daryl McReynolds walked went to his former place of work, Crescent Plastics in Evansville Indiana and opened fire.  When he was done he had killed two people and injured three, including a police officer.  McReynolds himself was shot a dozen times by other officers.  The murder victims were William Peak Jr., the Vice President of the company and Glenn Stahl, a foreman.  Noel Jones, Donald Sellers and county officer, Robert Beckham were injured.  

So how did things get to this point?  McReynolds had worked at Crescent Plastics for about ten years before he was fired in September of 1980. It seems that over the previous 3-4 years McReynolds attendance record had not been as well as it once had and he had a tendency to come in late to work.  On the night of September 26, 1980 it was said that he was an hour and a half late for work (my research did not indicate if there was a reason behind this or if anyone had been informed prior)  and was terminated for "lateness and poor performance."  Crescent Plastics was a union shop and union officials argued on McReynolds behalf that there were others that worked there with worse work records yet they were not fired.  When you work for a union company there is a process in which you follow and it seems that the union was behind him in his quest to get his job back.  This process for McReynolds lasted until the first part of July when his appeal was dismissed and his firing was upheld by the company.

Defense lawyers could hardly later argue that their client was innocent considering the fact that there were many witnesses at the scene who saw him shooting victims as well as the fact that when authorities arrived they too saw McReynolds at the scene and shot him multiple times.  When EMT's arrived on the scene McReynolds was in the parking lot of the company and one of the first to be tended to.  One of those EMT's would later testify at McReynolds trial saying that when he tended to him McReynolds said "They done me wrong and they have to pay for it; let me die."  

This case was like so many others we see every day in the justice system and why we have juries to decide cases.  You have the prosecution, who obviously wants a conviction, arguing that the defendant knew exactly what they were doing, they were sane when they did it and they deserved to pay the maximum price for it.  In this case the prosecutor was seeking the death penalty.  Then you have the defense side of things.  When they cannot argue for innocence for their client, as in this case, they often bring up many mitigating circumstances and will argue mental illness or something to show that their client was not sane when the act was committed.  As we often see, each side defense their position and dismisses the other, despite what the evidence or witnesses may say. This is why we need a jury to decide things.  They need to determine which side is telling a story that seems more plausible than the other.

One thing that was very interesting about this case was that during this period of time there had been several high profile cases in this area and it seems that the prosecution was seeking the death penalty left and right.  I found many articles about how these cases had put a strain on the city finances and the fact that just prior to this case the Indiana law was that any death penalty case was to be moved from the area and tried in another part of the state.  That law had changed in recent months to where defense attorney's needed to file for a hearing for a change of venue and it was up to the judge to decide if it would be granted or not.  In many cases, and this is one of them, the judge would state that they would attempt to get an impartial jury from the area and see where that led them.  He would eventually decide that an impartial jury was able to be obtained from the area and decided to sequester them once the trial began.

So we can obviously determine the prosecution side of this.  They of course argued that McReynolds was sane, at least in a legal sense, at the time of the shooting and deserved the death penalty for his actions.  Their witnesses included former co-workers who had seen McReynolds shoot the victims; some say he chased Stahl to repeatedly shoot him. There were police officers who were on the scene who testified as well as the EMT's on the scene. Even their own expert medical witnesses testified that McReynolds was mentally ill, and even argued he may possibly suffer from multiple personality disorder (MPD) but they of course said McReynolds knew the difference between right and wrong, what is needed to prove sanity from a legal standpoint. 

The defense, as I said earlier, could not argue their client was innocent so they brought up several other things in their defense.  First and foremost they argued that McReynolds had absolutely no prior criminal history, nor was there anyone who could speak badly of him or his character.  They based a lot of their defense on the fact that McReynolds was suffering from what they called mental and emotional distress and that said distress made him unable to comprehend what he was doing and that it was wrong.  One of the "mitigating" factors that they brought up was that McReynolds and his wife, Becky, had a twelve year old son who had some major medical issues.  The young boy had a tube that allowed blood to flow from his heart to his brain and every three years this tube had to be replaced.  This procedure was due within this time period of which McReynolds had been fired and was fighting to get his job back.  In fact, during this time his son has spent some time in the hospital.  The defense argued that the firing had obviously taken a huge toll on the family financially.  His wife had gone to work at another local factory, Whirlpool, but not long after being hired she had been laid off.  If you are from, or know anything about the area, you know that Whirlpool, who has now moved operations, was a great place to work for, if you could stay, but they were notorious for hiring a lot of people and then laying off unexpectedly.  They argued that McReynolds had not only failed at getting his job back to support his family, particularly his ill son, but that despite efforts he had been unable to get another job.  In fact on the day of the shooting McReynolds claimed that he had gone to the local mall in which he had applied for jobs and would later say that the last thing he remembered was sitting in the parking lot of the mall and the next thing he remembered was laying in the parking lot of Crescent Plastics with over a dozen bullet wounds. While in the hospital recovering from said wounds the defense let the jury know that McReynolds had attempted to slit his wrists.  

If you are a reader of my blogs than you know that despite innocence or guilt I am often about the law and how things are done.  I do not always agree with how laws are written and there are some I think should be revived but I believe they should be followed and I believe that if something is going to be entered into trial as evidence that everything should be done legally.  Search warrants often play a huge role in trials.  First there is always the question of is one needed and if so, was it gotten.  Then there are often the questions of what exactly can be obtained when a search is conducted. Often the latter answer is that only things mentioned in the warrant can be held for evidence, although they are often purposely written vaguely.  For instance, in this case the officers went to the McReynold's home with a search warrant.  Daryl McReynolds had a sawed off shotgun with him at the scene.  He would later say that he got it for protection of his family after the recent murder of Laura Luebbenhusen  by Thomas Schiro (see previous blogs).  While conducting the search warrant, officers found what were described as "marijuana seeds" and they were entered into evidence.  Defense attorney's would argue at trial and again during an appeal about this evidence. Prosecutors would argue that although the search warrant was obtained to look for the barrel of the gun that was used that it also allowed them to obtain any evidence that was clearly in the open of illegal activity.  Now, in my opinion marijuana "seeds" do not necessarily show illegal activity, despite the time period but there was not evidence shown that marijuana played any role in McReynolds actions. Yet we have to keep in mind that the officer had been injured, and nearly died, in the attack and so emotions were running high and it is likely they were going to find and use whatever they could to make sure this man paid.  It was said that although Officer Robert Beckham was severely injured in the shooting that McReynolds had actually attempted to shoot him again, at close range, almost ensuring his death, but that his gun had misfired. One other thing that bothered me about the trial was despite having "expert" medical witnesses testifying for both sides of this case it seems that co-workers from Crescent Plastics were also asked to give their opinion as to whether McReynolds knew what he was doing at the time of the crime. Now, I have no issue asking a witness about the demeanor of a defendant at the time of a crime so that a jury can get a description of the events that unfolded but I do take issue with asking any Joe Blow on the street, despite if they knew the defendant or not, if they had an opinion on whether the defendant seemed to know what they were doing.  This is not a question to be answered by the every day lay person, or their opinion to be considered.

In the end the question was never whether or not McReynolds was guilty but whether he was sane when the shooting occurred and that was up to the jury to decide.  They did so on March 10, 1982 when they convicted McReynolds on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.  Then came the penalty phase to which of course the prosecution was hoping they would vote to enact the death penalty.  In this phase the jury could not come to a decision and so the judge was forced to sentence McReynolds. He could have, at least at that point, still given the death penalty but the case of Thomas Schiro had brought questions of that already.  In Schiro's case the jury recommended life and yet the judge gave the death penalty and although it was being argued at the time of McReynold's sentencing it would be years before that would be settled.  Obviously this case is a bit difference since the jury could not decide on a recommendation for sentencing. A judge is more often than not going to give a sentence that the jury recommends and in cases like this will deferred to a life sentence when a death penalty is asked for.  In the end the judge sentenced McReynolds to the maximum number of years he was allowed to under the law..... 270.  McReynolds received 60 years for each murder and 50 years for each attempted murder. 

Throughout the years this case has been appealed and it seems that at every turn the conviction and sentencing have been upheld.  According to the Indiana Department of Corrections website McReynolds is not eligible for parole until April of 2116... surely long after his natural death.  I have said many times that I believe that the death penalty should only be enacted in cases in which there is absolutely no question as to who committed a crime, and although this is such a case, I believe there were many mitigating factors that barely seemed to be considered in this case.  Is what Daryl McReynolds do right and just?  Absolutely not! But what makes a man who was considered to be considerate, nice, quiet and law abiding commit such an act?  Was it mental illness? Perhaps.  How do each of us know at what point our stress level could rise to a point in which we could snap?  We all have that point, just thankfully most of us have never reached that point.  I am just not fully convinced that he was completely sane when he committed the crime.  Do I believe he remembers nothing of the crime?  That I cannot say. But I do believe that this is one of those cases in which the definition of "sane" in a legal sense bothers me.  I have never been comfortable with the legal definition which basically states that all a person needs to know in order to be sane is to know the difference between right and wrong. That definition is so vague and without lead way of any kind and in many cases, and in my opinion this is one of them, prevents true help coming to a defendant.  While there is the part of me that is glad that he did not receive the death penalty for his actions, there is also a part of me that wishes that he had and this would be over for him, his family and even his victims and their families.

Comments

  1. If Nick Reynolds alive and if so where is he today where is I still live in Evansville in remember this event. Is McReynolds still alive and if so where is he today?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He is still alive in Michigan City prison serving his sentence.

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