Every once in a while a story crosses my path that is so powerful you have to pursue it Lenny Nicholas’ story is one of those..
Last December I was filming Sunday services in Angola Prison in Louisiana. The plan was to film the boss, Warden Cai
n, who was scheduled to share some good Christmas spirit with the inmate congregation. We waited and waited and the Warden did not show up and the Preacher was about to end the service. Knowing how important it was to get this scene in the ‘can’, I asked the Preacher if he would invite the man who had been ‘testifying’ when we first entered the Church to repeat what he had said as we were unable to film it the first time.
Up walked Lenny, who is best described as the Marlboro Man… Six feet plus inches, in cowboy boots, a hat, blue jeans and a horseman’s saunter. In his 50′s, sun worn, tough with a kind demeanor. A bit shy at first, Lenny began sharing his experience of a Christmas miracle. (here we can put in some video as I shot this)..
Lenny had been in prison for close on 30 years always proclaiming his innocence. He is serving a life sentence for murder of a barkeep in an armed robbery in New Orleans. The eyewitness and girlfriend of the victim, Carolyn Krieger, was raped. There was no physical evidence and as such, the entire case rested on her testimony. There is no doubt that Lenny had been a bad ass, but he had no prior convictions for violent crimes and over the years had evolved into a model inmate. Indeed, he had earned the trust of the administration by being the Farm’s horse whisperer. In fact, his sleeping quarters (and not a cell) are down at the barn where the prison keeps their best horses.
Lenny explained that a year earlier the had met a man named Will who was donating a horse to the prison and wanted to make sure it would be well taken care of. From there a friendship began. Will was a wealthy businessman who had never visited prisons nor trusted prisoners, so when Lenny told him he was innocent, he asked, “okay, then are you willing to take a lie detector test?”. Lenny passed it with flying colors, but Will, not trusting brought in someone from the outside with decades of experience. Once again Lenny passed and Will was now willing to trust.
He then hired a detective which led to Lenny’s Christmas miracle. After a few months he tracked down another inmate from a different facility who wanted to confess to the crime for which Lenny is serving time. Warden went to the hospital with a film crew and recorded the confession. With the confession in hand Will went to the district attorney’s office to see if they would reconsider the life sentence. They offered to change the charge from Murder one to Manslaughter and with it a shift from ‘life sentence’ to 50 years. With that Lenny could walk out of Angola.
The problem is Lenny refused to confess to something he insists he did not do and would rather stay behind bars then lie.
The District Attorney’s office now says they’ll fight it and he’ll never walk out or if he does it will be years from now. They have little to gain by relenting the real possibility of a law suit against them if they don’t fight. Lenny’s lawyers have filed a motion requesting a new trial. This hearing is set fro Monday, October 27.
And the crazy thing..beyond the confession? When Lenny’s lawyer’s finally got access to the DA’s files they found out that the key witness, Carolyn Krieger insisted that the perpetrator of the crime was a black man…
Anyhow, I’ll keep you informed as the story unfolds. I’ve been filming with Lenny in Angola, ut not sure where we’re going with this. I want to tell the story, but I want to follow it even more and by the way, Lenny is a great person and fully deserving of freedom and everyone in the prison, especially the Warden, knows it.