Saturday, April 15, 2006

Thoughts on the Big News

Hennings/Parker bodies discovered?
I think it's important, with the recent discovery of two bodies in a McGovern Park lagoon, that any inference of snitching, or lack thereof, led to the prolonged disappearance of Quadrevion Henning and Purvis Virginia Parker. If the bodies are, in fact, those of the two missing boys, it sounds as if the level of decomposition points to the bodies having been in the lagoon for quite some time. Police Chief Nan Hegerty said in a late-night press conference that in spite of repeated searches, the amount of mud, muck and garbage in the lagoon could have prevented searchers from detecting the bodies. If this is the case, we may be witnessing what amounts to no more than a tremendously unfortunate accident. It would make sense that two boys playing in a park wouldn't have attracted anyone's attention and therefore there would have been nothing for anyone to hide or snitch about.

Now, information released to the public is not yet complete. Autopsies may reveal more information, including some level of foul play. But if it does come out that the bodies have been in the water since the day they disappeared and no other signs of trauma are present, a resounding chorus of apologies to the black community for accusations of possibly withholding information that could lead to finding the boys is in order.

Jude Beating Verdict
I was surprised by the verdict, but as every attorney involved in the case said, including E. Michael McCann, to some extent, the justice system worked. Sometimes it just doesn't work the way we want it to. The jury was unable to find the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and I heard a commentator on last night's news remind viewers that it was not the former officers' duty to prove their innocence, but rather the prosecution's job to prove their guilt. Remember, in this country it's "innocent until proven guilty," and the state simply couldn't make its case.

This isn't to say that there wasn't a problem with witnesses not coming forward. Obviously, a perceived "code of silence" among police officers is more than just perceived. Hopefully this case and the public's reaction will lead law enforcement to change its culture and understand that while fellow officers may not like "snitching," the public demands it.

Accusations that an all-white jury had anything to do with it are irresponsible. They did their civic duty. To imply the color of their skin impacted the verdict says they were incapable of doing their duty. I fear that now we'll hear calls for racial quotas on juries, and we all know how well quotas work.

As I said above, I think all the attorneys involved in the case made a point to say that, for better or worse, justice worked. It worked within the confines of what the law allows. That said, the tempered reactions from both sides of the case stood in stark contrast to Mayor Tom Barrett's first statement late last night. He came out and showed clear disgust over the outcome. That's fine, but in his position (one I have to say is often forgotten considering how rarely we see him in the news), at a critical moment when public outrage had a suspected chance of turning to violence, he should have better chose his words. I don't have the transcripts for the public statements, but having watched pretty much all of them back-to-back and as they happened, his really stood out.

Barrett did say something like "this isn't over." Though I don't think that was appropriate at the time, he was right. Where the state prosecution failed, I believe federal prosecution might succeed. And one defendant is still facing state charges for which he'll stand trial, including a mis-trial resulting from a jury deadlock. But we must recognize that as a society we have to accept how these trials work. We may not have a perfect system, but it's one of the best around.

Today is a sad day in Milwaukee. In one case I'm afraid there was simply nothing we could do about it. In another, I think there are valuable lessons for everyone to learn.


At 4:49 PM, April 15, 2006, Blogger Billiam said...

Well said.


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