I am a Killer season 1, episode 3 recap: The Mockingbird


Episode 2 of Netflix’s I am a Killer profiles Justin Wiley Dickens, sentenced to death in 1994 for a shooting. Did it result from a struggle?

I am a Killer has looked at compelling cases thus far, and “The Mockingbird” is no different. In fact, this story plays out very much like a movie. The killing occurred at a jewelry store on Mockingbird Lane in Amarillo, Texas.

Justin Dickens was only 17 as he faced the prospect of the death penalty for robbery and homicide. I am a Killer catches up with him in the James V. Allred Unit, a prison in
Iowa Park, Texas

There’s More (or”Moore”) to the Story

Justin Dickens never denied responsibility for the shooting, but he says there’s more to the story. He insists he wasn’t a “hardened criminal,” but was essentially brought into it through life circumstances, and by a disastrous relationship with a criminal mentor.

Dickens was born in Amarillo in July of 1976. He didn’t have the best role models imaginable, according to himself (and, ostensibly, “I am a Killer“). Dickens says his mom was on cocaine regularly, and his parents split up when he was 13. Because he and his mom did drugs and crimes together, it’s no wonder that he continued down a bad road.

I am a Killer season 1, episode 2 recap: ‘Killer in the Eyes of the Law’. light. More

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This is where Dallas Moore comes into play. Moore, a charismatic tattoo artist and frequent criminal, was impressive to Dickens. Dallas and his female companion, Martha, would “party” for days at a time, shooting cocaine through needles. Bad things seemed all but completely inevitable.

March, 1994

On this date, Dallas happened to be passed out (due to Martha drugging him), and Martha stole cocaine from his pocket. They used it all and panicked over how Dallas would react. Their fears were justified, according to Dickens. Justin claims he woke up with a knife to his throat. When Justin’s buddy, Craig Pennell, entered the scene, both he and Justin were beaten up and threatened. Justin says he was given a ski mask and tasked with robbing money to pay Dallas back.

After procuring a gun, Craig drove Justin to the Mockingbird Jewelry Store, which at that time had two people in it: The owner, Jim Jacobs, and a customer named Francis “Allen” Carter, a school teacher and military veteran. According to Justin, Carter tackled him early on in the robbery, and was killed in the ensuing struggle. Meanwhile, Jim Jacobs fled through the back, and Craig abandoned Justin, whose only option was to run and hide. Justin was arrested 3 days after the robbery, and we know where he is now.

Forensic Arguments and the Napoleon Complex

Prosecutor James Farren doesn’t believe Justin’s version. Farren says that, due to his short stature, Justin suffered from a Napoleon complex, and was always trying to prove how tough and bad he was. He also claims (as he argued during the trial) that forensic evidence suggests a lack of a struggle.

Specifically, Carter must have been further away when he shot, because Justin didn’t have blood all over him. Similarly, Barbalee Blair, who had taught with Carter, says that Mr. Carter would never have tackled Justin. The impression is that Justin wanted to do this crime, and may have loved it.

In contrast, Rus Bailey, Justin’s Lead Attorney, says police didn’t attempt to trace the path of the bullets forensically. Had they done so, it could have helped establish whether or not a struggle took place. Bailey also noted that Dallas Moore had disappeared during the trial, so he could not be called in as a witness.

In any case, the whole “Napoleon complex” theory seems far-fetched as a significant point against Dickens. Really, any shorter person accused of a crime could face such an accusation, and it seems catered more to biasing someone against the accused, as opposed to establishing a genuine motive. Similarly, claims that Carter couldn’t have tackled Dickens seem altogether far-fetched, because, despite his being a kindly school teacher, Carter was a veteran.

In other words, he probably wasn’t 100% timid, or incapable of such a confrontation, even against a juvenile robber. In fact, people in the military are specifically supposed to be fearless and self-sacrificing. If they’re not, they are arguably not properly trained. Conversely, even if Carter had not been in the military, it’s still plausible that he (or countless others) might have acted similarly, and for any number of reasons (including simple panic).

More on Moore (Including from Moore)

 am a Killer brings us closer to the story, meeting up with Chante Moore, Dallas Moore’s daughter. Frankly, she doesn’t have the kindest words for dear, old dad. Chante says her father is indeed charismatic, likening him to a “friendlier” Charles Manson. She says he has a way of making people do what he wants. She notes how Dallas became a fugitive after tying up an 83-year-old woman in a home invasion. Sure enough, he now has up to 5 life sentences for his various crimes.

When interviewed, Dallas denies being Manson-like, saying he didn’t order Justin to rob or murder anyone. He claims he just kicked Justin out, telling him he was never welcome back, not even to apologize.

This contradicts the story of Martha Cummins-Bell – his ex-wife, who had stolen Dallas’ precious cocaine. Martha verifies that Dallas pointed to the ski mask and said, “That’s how I handle my debts” (though she doesn’t say he handed it to Dickens). She says there were reasons to be afraid of Dallas and expresses regret over what happened to Carter and Dickens.

On the brighter side, Martha says she’s completely cut ties with Dallas, is totally clean from drugs, has 7 kids and works with people who have a borderline personality disorder.  Isn’t it nice that a show called I am a Killer has some uplifting news?

Jim Jacobs Drops a Bombshell

This is one of the episode’s biggest moments. While no one says Dickens is completely innocent, it is important to know whether or not his version of the story is accurate. It actually appears to be, according to Jim Jacobs – the only living witness in the store that night.

Jim plainly says that “Allen took action,” had engaged the kid, and the gun went off. Had this been stated loud and clear at the trial, it could conceivably have resulted in a lighter sentence.

Next. I am a Killer season 1, episode 4 recap. dark

In any case, Texas had Dicken’s sentence commuted to life with a minimum of 40 years, after finding that juveniles can’t be offered the death penalty. Dickens is not eligible for parole until 2034. Now, after Justin has heard the recordings of Martha and Jim Jacobs corroborating his version, it’s a small yet worthwhile consolation.

It also won’t hurt that Christi Carter, Allen Carter’s daughter, has forgiven him.  While Justin Dicken’s story is a lamentable one, it is possible to put one’s self in his shoes a bit – whether or not one has “Napoleonic” feet.

That’s it for this I am a Killer recap. What are your thoughts on this story? Let us know in the comments!