Thursday, August 7, 2008

This is a case that is not going to go away

Crossposted from our new home blog,They gave us a republic...

The family of a man who was strangled in police custody after being arrested and accused of killing a police officer is asking for an autopsy. Yes, this case is still ongoing, and is being investigated by the Maryland State Police. And, no, it's not going to go away.

The family of a Prince George's County police officer slaying suspect who died in his jail cell wants to know why it's taking so long to learn the results of his autopsy.

Ronnie White, who was accused of running over a police officer with a stolen truck, was found dead in his cell more than five weeks ago. His death is being investigated by Maryland State Police.

White may have been an unsympathetic and unsavory character, but he was supposed to have his day in court. That's how our system works.

Controversy surrounds the case:

The preliminary report from the state medical examiner's office said White died of asphyxiation and had two broken bones in his neck, indicating that he had been strangled. The investigation became a homicide investigation, but no charges or suspects have been announced.

The medical examiner's office said the final autopsy report would be released in 30 days, but that deadline has passed, and there is no indication when the official determination of the cause and manner of death will be made public.

"The problem here with taking so long with this investigation: It is a disservice to the White family, it is a disservice to the Prince George's County community, it is a disservice to our state, because there are a lot of people who deserve an answer in this particular situation," said Bobby Henry, the lawyer representing White's family.

This issue generated a lot of discussion, most of which was based on the belief that the killer always gets away unless a vigilante who is brave and knows the system is corrupt can deliver "justice." Sound like any movies or TV shows you've seen? Sadly, that's what informs the public.

Over at the old site, if you click over and read the comment threads, there seems to have been a belief that he got what he deserved, the rule of law be damned.

Why do we continue to accept the violence and not fight back? This isn't a black, white, red, or any other problem. It is a humanity problem. It is a hateful world where everyone is entitled to do anything they want without any repercussion. So we'll continue down the road of the law where it matters to you and I. We'll continue letting the criminals thumb their nose to our societal rules. You're right, let's leave our rose colored glasses on and feel good about our law. That will make everything better.

That one part of the comment crystalizes the immature mind's inability to think of the rule of law. I don't think we accept the violence. I think we realize that, but for the grace of God go I. As in, if it was you in that cell, and if you were accused of a crime, you'd certainly prefer having a chance to prove your innocent rather than be strangled until you were dead by a vigilante.

How does that honor the fallen policeman? He deserves to be honored and remembered, and his killer does need to be brought to justice. How we go about that is how we determine whether we're living in a just society.

Here's a case, right here in the news and from the same website, that illustrates what can happen and why we need to remember that our criminal justice system is flawed.

A man convicted of first-degree murder in 1990 was freed from prison this week after his attorneys uncovered new evidence disproving witness testimony, according to the firm Venable LLP and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project at American University Washington College of Law.

Aaron Michael Howard was released Tuesday night. In 1990, he was convicted in the 1988 death of Bobby Parker.

"While I was not responsible for his death, I can only imagine how much pain it caused his family," Howard said in a statement released Thursday. "I extend my deepest sympathies to them."

Had Howard been strangled in his cell in 1990, would we have ever found out the truth? It's bad enough he has spent 18 years in prison. Should he have died as well? And don't get me started on what DNA testing has unraveled. As in, quite a few "airtight" cases.

See, this case isn't really about whether the guy was guilty. It's about letting someone be a vigilante.

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