Letter to pastor used in murder trial - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Letter to pastor used in murder trial

(Source: WOIO) (Source: WOIO)
Pastor R. A. Vernon, leader of the Word Church gets 50 to 60 inmate letters a week.

"I get them all the time," Vernon told 19 Action News Reporter Dan DeRoos.

So Pastor Vernon was shocked when one of those letters, written by Julius Webster, was read in court without his knowledge. Webster is on trail for murder and his affiliation with the "Heartless Felons" gang in Cleveland.

"I just know how I felt, when I woke up and read in the paper that a letter that was intended for me, got read openly in court. That just bothered me," said Vernon.

Pastor Vernon knows how the system works and knows that anything written by an inmate is searchable by the jail staff.

"I understand privacy issues and being able to check their mail but I don't want other inmates to stop writing to me with things that are important to them. They should be able to confess anything to me, I'm their pastor."

The 2013 letter Webster sent to Pastor Vernon is pretty damning to Webster's case. In it he confesses to being one of the leaders and
co-founders of the "Heartless Felons" gang, and almost seems to be seeking forgiveness for some of the crimes committed.

"By no means do I justify any gang doing anything that hurts black people specifically, but all people. At the same time as a clergyman I take that privilege as serious as kind of an attorney client privilege," said Vernon.

The pastor has never met Webster and according to the prosecutors office that's one of the reasons the letter was allowed as evidence.

"But then again maybe that speaks to young people about don't go to prison, watch your behavior because privacy rights are then taken from you," advises Vernon.

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