Paul Reid: Mentally Incompetent Or Playing The System?
By Jennifer Kraus Investigative Reporter
Fourteen years ago, Paul Dennis Reid killed seven fast-food workers in a rash of restaurant robberies that stunned Middle Tennessee. Reid was sentenced to death for the grisly murders, but his attorneys argue that he's too crazy to execute.
On Friday, the state Court of Criminal Appeals will hear both sides of the argument.
But NewsChannel 5 Investigates has the videotapes that could help the court decide, tapes that some believe show that Reid's mentally incompetent, while his victims' families say they prove he's just playing the system.
What is on the tapes is pure Paul Reid. At one point, he turns to the camera and asks, "Y'all videotaped this whole session? I have just one question. Is my hair alright?"
Reid, of course, was convicted of murdering the workers during a string of attacks in Middle Tennessee back in 1997.
And, during the hours of raw, unedited interviews, Reid talked with two psychiatrists hired to determine whether he's competent to be put to death.
One doctor said to Reid, "You're sort of trying to make a case that you're in prison and you're crazy, that your conviction was erroneous."
Reid's response: "Yes, sir, that I was coerced, um, to go ahead and plead guilty to something I was unaware that I was pleading guilty to."
Reid did not plead guilty. Instead, three separate juries found he was the one who committed the crimes.
Reid often rambled on during his conversations with the doctors, conducted between February of 2007 and April of 2008, about something he calls "scientific technology" -- which he claims is run by the government, monitoring, controlling and even videotaping everything he says and does.
"They can physically see me on a screen such as your computer screen, your laptop right now. They can physically see me. They also have the science where they can visually see what I'm seeing out of my eyes," Reid described.
"I tried to share this with people and the more I got into this conversation with you and people, y'all looked a me and said, 'You must be crazy. There's no science like that.' But, I was trying to tell you, 'Yes, sir. There is science. I'm the victim here. Please have mercy,'" Reid went on to say.
Court records indicate that one of the two doctors believes Reid is delusional. The other, however, has told the court he believes it's all just an act.
Reid insists the so-called "scientific technology" has videotapes that will prove he didn't kill anyone.
One of the doctors asked Reid, "What if they said, 'Look, we're gonna give you what you've been asking for (those videotapes) all of these years?'"
Reid got a bit choked up, cleared his throat, and then answered, "Um, you know, that's a tough question because look what happened to me. I got robbed of my life. I wanted to go to school and get my education too and make something of my life. I wanted to move forward in my life and get married and have children. I had the American dream too, sir."
Much like, no doubt, Reid's seven victims, Sarah Jackson, Steve Hampton, Andrea Brown, Ronald Santiago, Robert Sewell, Michelle Mace, Angela Holmes, did.
Never once during the interviews did Reid mention their names, express any remorse or even take any responsibility for what happened.
Reid told one doctor, "I will do nothing to defend myself."
"Why not?" he was asked.
"I didn't do anything to get in this situation. I didn't kill anybody for starters and I didn't commit three aggravated robberies," Reid answered.
At one point in the tapes, Reid gets upset about the way he claims he's been mistreated.
"Y'all kept me in a room for ten years and 11 months and only let me out of the room for one hour a day and that's Monday through Friday. Y'all don't realize what y'all done to me, how you murdered, how y'all successfully murdered each day of my life," Reid said.
But again, this is a man who three separate juries found guilty. A man who not once, but three times was sentenced to death, something Reid debated with one of the doctors.
"Everybody knows the trials were fake. Everybody knows I didn't get the death sentence," Reid insisted.
The doctor argued, "I don't know that."
The doctor then told Reid there is no proof the trials were staged.
Reid replied, "Okay, listen, if the trials were real, you can't continue all this playfulness now. You have to put me on death watch and you have to execute me and it's all over. It's just that simple."
And that is the day the victims' families say they're waiting for. They said Reid's appeals have gone on long enough.
In fact, Deanna Hampton, widow of Captain D's manager, Steve Hampton, wrote on the NewsChannel5 Investigates page on Facebook, "I beg the state of Tennessee to put an end to this sad excuse for a man."
Reid's attorneys agree this case has dragged on, but said it's because the criminal justice system isn't set up to effectively handle cases involving mental illness.