Baylor Case Attorney Cries Foul

Carlton Dotson, former roommate and teammate and alleged killer of Baylor University basketball team center Patrick Dennehy, 7-22-03
The newspaper intern who got a jailhouse interview with a former Baylor basketball player accused of murder did not tell the suspect she was a journalist, the man's lawyer alleged Thursday.

Grady Irvin, who represents Carlton Dotson, said in a written statement that Shani George did not disclose her affiliation with The Dallas Morning News before meeting his client Wednesday at a Maryland detention center.

The newspaper stood by George's work and the story, which reported that Dotson suggested he acted in self-defense in a deadly confrontation with former teammate and roommate Patrick Dennehy.

"It is our understanding that the intern did not provide any identifying information as being a reporter or intern," Irvin's statement said. "Instead, it is our understanding that she represented herself as a Christian who was there to let Mr. Dotson know that she was 'praying' for him."

Dotson, 21, was arrested in his home state of Maryland in the shooting death of Dennehy, who had been missing about six weeks when his decomposed body was found July 25 in a grassy field four miles from the Baylor campus in Waco. Dotson is awaiting extradition to Texas on a murder charge.

The Dallas Morning News defended its story, saying George was following up on several interview requests from the newspaper when she went to the jail during visiting hours and told the desk officer she hoped to interview Dotson. The paper said George gave the officer a copy of her press credentials and an unsealed note to Dotson identifying herself as working for the paper and requesting an interview.

"She immediately introduced herself to Mr. Dotson as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, not, as Mr. Irvin suggests, as 'a Christian,"' Stuart Wilk, vice president/managing editor of the newspaper, said in a written statement.

"Mr. Dotson said he was willing to tell his side of the story to the public. Mr. Dotson apparently noticed a small gold cross necklace Ms. George was wearing and asked if she was a Christian. She said she was."

Warden Ron Howell told The Associated Press that George did not tell guards before the interview that she was a journalist, but that she was not required to do so. She was only required to show a photo identification, which she did, he said.

He said George mentioned as she left the jail that she was a member of the press.

Dotson, in the copyright newspaper report published Thursday, said he believed Dennehy was his friend but betrayed him.

"If someone points a gun at you and shoots and it doesn't go off, what would you do?" the story quotes him as saying. "If someone is pointing a gun at you and they start putting more bullets into the gun, what would you do?"

Irvin's one-page statement does not dispute the accuracy of the story but says George took no notes and identified herself at the end of the meeting as a "friend of someone who worked for the newspaper."

George, an intern in Washington, D.C., for the Morning News' parent company, Belo Corp., told CNN that Dotson agreed to meet with her and she identified herself to him as a reporter.

"He had been corresponding with another reporter before, so he was familiar with my organization and he was just, I think he just wanted someone to talk to," George said.

She acknowledged no notes were taken, but didn't say why.

Immediately after talking to Dotson, George called an editor in Dallas and related the brief conversation, including the direct quotes that were still fresh in her mind, Wilk said.

Visitors to the jail are not allowed to carry recording devices or cameras, though they are allowed to carry pencil and paper, Howell said. The jail doesn't record conversations between inmates and visitors, so he said authorities don't know whether she identified herself as a reporter during the interview.

Dotson, who was arrested July 21, told FBI agents he shot Dennehy after the player tried to shoot him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

After his arrest, Dotson told The Associated Press that he "didn't confess to anything." He has declined requests for an interview with The AP.

On Thursday, two local attorneys representing Dotson visited him at the jail and approved a "visitors list" for Dotson. Anyone not on the list will not be allowed to talk to him, Howell said.

Among the details in the Morning News' story on the interview Thursday was that Dotson related a confusing story about meeting someone in Texas named Roman who told him he would be able to do miraculous things.

Melissa Kethley, Dotson's estranged wife, told the newspaper for a story in its online edition Thursday night that Dotson had introduced her to a Baylor student named Roman in May.

"This guy was real Christian-y," she said. "He gave Carlton all these religious books to read." She added that after meeting Roman, Dotson seemed more preoccupied with religion and began to talk more about seeing visions and hearing voices.

By Matt Curry and Gretchen Parker By Matt Curry and Gretchen Parker