The Charlotte News
Friday, February 25, 1938
Site Ed. Note: Speaking of documentaries and, as in "Law of Confession" and "Time Is Irreversible", February 23, doing time for crimes not committed, we watched a documentary last night made about a year or so ago, regarding the case in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, of one Darryl Hunt. We recommend this documentary, which has achieved nationwide distribution, even if limited to one case which had only local news coverage. Indeed, so limited was that coverage that we ourselves had scarcely heard of it, and probably would not have at all, but for our connections to the burg having drawn it somewhat to our attention when it first arose, though even so, not to a great degree, it not being our habit to follow murder cases.
So we knew little about the case, that is, until now, when, not in North Carolina, but in California, we picked up a copy of this documentary and watched it last night. And, indeed, we were quite stunned by its content, even if the content came as little surprise generally, given what we know of the burg and its background.
Mr. Hunt spent 19 years of his young life, from the age of 19 until he was 38, in jail and prison for a 1984 brutal stabbing murder and rape of a young woman who worked as a copy editor for the Winston-Salem Sentinel, the now long-defunct afternoon newspaper associated with the Journal. But, it turns out, after long legal entanglements, through which Mr. Hunt's heroic lawyers stuck dutifully by his side to prove not just that he was not guilty, but, as the system ultimately demanded they do, to prove his innocence, that he was actually innocent of any connection with the matter.
Mr. Hunt, to his amazing credit and character, does not harbor any animosity toward either the system which falsely railroaded him and convicted him in 1985 or the man who finally admitted his guilt in the crime after his DNA was finally matched in late 2003 with DNA at the crime scene.
The crime scene was in downtown Winston-Salem, in a relatively safe area, despite the fact that a few months after the murder, another woman, also walking from her car to her place of work, as was the murder victim, was similarly abducted, stabbed and raped, though able to ward off her attacker eventually and escape sure death otherwise.
We know the area well. We attended movies as a youth within a few blocks of these incidents, attended church in a locale equally close by, often played basketball at a locale within the same proximity, walked or rode our bicycle freely, at night and in the daytime, and as a small boy, alone sometimes, in these same areas. We were never bothered by anyone--save one time at about the age of twelve, when sitting in a parked car downtown, we observed a white shiftless looking male across the way, smoking a cigarette and standing with one leg cocked behind him, leaning against the side of a department store, staring at us in the car, as we tried to mind our business and not look back--until, curious, we finally did look back to see him with his middle finger upraised at us, such that we quickly looked away. But, even so.
Generally, we do not wish to paint an improper portrait of the burg, for it is generally a safe town, one in which we sometimes still regularly bike and run late at night in one of the parks, sometimes alone and in the dark, without worry of being victimized by crime.
Yet, we realize anecdotally that there are plentiful exceptions to this rule of safety. And that, unfortunately, those exceptions sometimes consist of crime by African-American males against Caucasian females. But again, even so, these occasions are rare and should not be magnified into any general rule. The burg is mainly peaceful. We are not going to pick on it.
But we do wish to look at this case as an example of injustice, one repeated many times throughout the land through time, as one such time is too many in any place in a land which prides itself on freedom and democracy and as having a system of jurisprudence which presumes innocence and requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty before one is convicted of a crime, any crime, be it the most minor of offenses to the most serious. For often the most serious offenses begin with false accusations based on the most minor, whether the most serious is based on a real accusation or not.
Mr. Hunt had only a minor criminal record, one misdemeanor, before his accusation of murder and rape in this instance. The documentary does not tell us precisely what that incident involved, but as a misdemeanor, it really doesn't matter. The notion that some people have, that once someone is in the criminal justice system, they become essentially scum to be shunned and distrusted, a social pariah, treated thenceforth as persona non grata in a community, could not be more conducive to future crime, and could not be more unfair and unjust to individuals who make one mistake or are placed in circumstances hard to explain and thus wind up either pleading guilty for expediency to minor conduct or are unable to avoid a finding of guilt. But, we shall not dwell on that notion, for it is not so much the problem which led to Mr. Hunt's being accused of this murder and rape in 1984.
Mr. Hunt, an African-American, was accused on the basis originally of a 9-11 call made by an African-American male who gave out a false name, but nevertheless the name of an actual person in the community, one who was a friend to Mr. Hunt and who had a fairly serious criminal past. Thus, based on the name, known to the Winston-Salem police department, the man was picked up for questioning. He was with Mr. Hunt at the time, and thus the police questioned Mr. Hunt, who was known to hang out with this man.
Quickly, the police focused on Mr. Hunt and began to place pressure on him to implicate the other man in the murder-rape. Mr. Hunt even claimed at his first trial that the District Attorney at the time offered to pay him $12,000 to implicate his friend, or else face the death penalty himself. Mr. Hunt declined this offer, he said, for he proclaimed his lack of any knowledge of the crime.
After some further investigation within the African-American community itself, after local civil rights activists took up the cause of Mr. Hunt's innocence, the African-American male who in fact made the 9-11 call and gave the false name was discovered.
Thus, the original theory of the police which led to their shining a light on Mr. Hunt and his friend in the first place, fell apart.
Nevertheless, in the meantime, the actual caller viewed a photo lineup and selected the picture of Mr. Hunt as being the person he had seen hopping a fence and leaving the scene that morning of the murder. But the photo lineup was unduly suggestive of Mr. Hunt, in that his photograph was of a different type and appearance from the mugshot photos of the others in the lineup; he stood out. In addition, a gentleman at a hotel a few blocks from the murder scene had stepped forward, indicating that an African-American male had suspiciously entered the lobby of the hotel the morning of the murder, and that shortly thereafter, the employee stepped into the men's room to find blood on the sink and on paper towels. Although he had stepped forward shortly after the murder, he was not shown a photo lineup for some six months, after Mr. Hunt's arrest, and after his picture had appeared both in the newspaper and on the local tv news several times. He selected the photograph of Mr. Hunt also.
Subsequently, yet another man stepped forward, a Ku Klux Klansman, who claimed to have seen an African-American man clutching close to him a white woman on the morning and in the vicinity of the murder--holding her similarly to the manner in which the other young woman who had been abducted a few months afterward explained her abduction was accomplished, at gunpoint, with the assailant making it appear that they were together socially and by consent. The Ku Klux Klansman made note of the matter because he took offense at the apparent interracial nature of the couple, and told friends at his place of work that morning that "there goes another lost white woman", or words to that effect. He also picked Mr. Hunt from a photo lineup, also after seeing the extensive publicity surrounding Mr. Hunt's identification and arrest, based originally solely on the caller's misidentification of himself by the same name as that of Mr. Hunt's friend and the actual caller's subsequent selection of Mr. Hunt from an unduly suggestive photographic lineup.
There was no other evidence implicating anyone. The murder and first trial occurred before DNA testing came into use in the latter eighties. By that latter point, however, the police department had informed the defense, the only DNA material of the assailant available from the crime scene originally was deemed too degraded for testing.
Meanwhile, in 1985, Mr. Hunt was convicted of first degree murder and rape. Despite the aggravating circumstances of rape and kidnapping, he was spared the death penalty by the jury, and sentenced to a life term in prison.
At the trial, the prosecutor had presented a mentally disturbed young woman, a drug addict and prostitute in the care of a mental health facility, who recanted a statement she had allegedly previously provided police indicating that she knew Mr. Hunt and that he had confessed to her his guilt of the crime. Despite her testimony that she never made the statement and other evidence that she could not discern fact from fiction, the statement was read into the record anyway, line by line, in front of the jury, as impeachment of her testimony. The Court of Appeal found this procedure unduly prejudicial and reversed the conviction, awarding Mr. Hunt a new trial.
But on the second trial, the result was the same, conviction and a life sentence. Significantly, Mr. Hunt had turned down before the second trial an offer to plead guilty to second degree murder with credit for time served, meaning he would have then gone free. His attorneys, for obvious practical concerns, counseled him to take that offer. But, Mr. Hunt steadfastly refused, even though knowing his refusal might well land him in prison the rest of his life, convicted of first degree murder and rape of a white woman, and under prison conditions which meant that he could very well be set up and killed for occupying that status, indeed as he had been so threatened already. Nevertheless, he refused the plea bargain, refusing to plead guilty to something he did not do. He instead maintained his faith that eventually the truth would come forth and he would be exonerated and released.
Then, in 1993, something startling happened. The defense was able to get the North Carolina Supreme Court to order the discovery of the State Bureau of Investigation's file on the case, something which should have been afforded by the prosecution under the well-known case of Brady v. Maryland from the time it was compiled. In the file, the SBI noted in 1990 that there was DNA available for testing. Upon this revelation, the defense requested, and the prosecution so ordered, that Mr. Hunt's DNA be tested against the DNA from the crime scene. The test revealed that Mr. Hunt was eliminated as the source of the DNA at the crime scene, DNA which inevitably could not have belonged to anyone but the rapist, and, presumptively, therefore, the murderer. For there was never evidence to show more than one assailant, either by the statements of any of the eyewitnesses or by any of the physical evidence.
Nevertheless, the trial court refused Mr. Hunt a new trial, ruling that, while the DNA excluded him as the person who performed the vaginal rape of the victim, it did not exclude him from other forms of sexual violence in evidence, or of the murder itself. The court concluded that there was no evidence to show that there was not the possibility of an attack by more than one person--again even though there was no evidence to support that theory, and that the prosecution in neither of the previous trials had ever sought so to do. The court found that the legal standard for granting a new trial based on newly discovered evidence after conviction, that the new evidence was reasonably probable to produce a more favorable result on retrial, was not met--even if such a finding is not within the bounds of reason, in our view of it, that a new jury would not even probably acquit a defendant on the basis of even partially exculpatory DNA evidence not available at the time of the earlier trials. In any event, Mr. Hunt, hopeful of his release, was instead returned to the state prison in Raleigh.
The North Carolina Supreme Court then ruled 4 to 3 against giving a new trial. The United States Supreme Court in 2000 refused to hear his petition for writ of certiorari.
Mr. Hunt appeared flat out of luck, at the end of the road, with nowhere to go but to rot the rest of his days in prison, a convicted scumbag rapist-murderer, so convicted in not one, but two trials--despite having been scientifically eliminated as the attacker, exculpated as far as any evidence in the case.
But, Mr. Hunt's heroic attorneys did not give up, nor did Mr. Hunt, nor did the civil rights activists in the community who believed in him.
And, one of Mr. Hunt's lead attorneys, his original attorney in the case, decided to take a long shot and ask that the DNA be compared to the entire sample base available in the state and nationwide, if necessary, to determine if there was a positive match, the DNA having eliminated previously in 1994 both of the other prime suspects also, the man making the 9-11 call and the man whose name he used to make it, the tangential fact, coupled with amateurish crime novella-style suspicion derived from it, which originally led to the flimsy implication of Mr. Hunt in the first instance. Does it really make sense to believe that because a 9-11 caller, one with a lengthy criminal history, calls in and reports a crime, giving a false name, that the person who happens to possess that name is thereby necessarily suggested as the actual culprit, and if not him, his best friend--such that one would even dare offer, suggestive or not, a photo of the latter as part of a photo line-up to witnesses, not of the principal crime itself, but with limited, fleeting and distant glimpses of the presumed course of the abduction, fleeing, and washing of the hands, all in a highly emotionally charged atmosphere surrounding a particularly brutal and heinous crime?
Finally, in late 2003, after a series of articles had appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal, exploring the evidence in the case, apart from the emotional environment surrounding it in its original setting 19 years earlier, the SBI reached a positive match between the DNA at the scene and an individual. The match was for the African-American man who had been identified in a show-up by the other young woman who was the victim of a knifing and rape a few months after the murder, a few blocks from the murder scene, in downtown Winston-Salem, while also on the way to work. Because the woman felt she was not being supported by the police at the time of her attack, was not encouraged to prosecute, and discouraged from making known her own intuitive connections between her attack and that of the murder a few months earlier, she decided not to press charges and consequently this man's identity and association with that latter incident had remained unknown to the defense for nineteen years. The Journal series had uncovered this woman's story and the identity of the man she had accused, but an investigation had showed that apparently he had been in prison at the time of the murder, appearing to lead to a dead-end as to any involvement he may have had in the murder. That information, however, was based on an estimated release date from the department of corrections, not his actual release date, which, it turned out, was a few months earlier than the estimated date, and before the murder. That fact, however, was either ignored or not discovered by the police at the time of the other, never prosecuted attack, and thus was not deemed significant until the DNA match showed his unmistakable culpability in the murder, leading finally to his confession.
In February, 2004, therefore, Mr. Hunt was duly exonerated officially and the case dismissed after the nineteen-year long, hard road spent fighting his unjust conviction of a crime he never had anything to do with, save that his friend's name happened to be plucked from the sky as the identity of the 9-11 caller reporting the crime. And, indeed, had anyone listened to her, a female friend had testified at both trials, that he was at her house, along with his friend whose name the 9-11 caller gave, throughout the night before and the morning of the murder. And, as her testimony appears in the documentary, she was quite forthright and convincing, not the least bit appearing simply as a person offering up a concocted alibi for a friend. But, unfortunately, for Mr. Hunt, the jury chose to believe the three witnesses who made photographic identifications from suggestive line-ups, two of whom after the face of Mr. Hunt, with his distinctive cornlocks, was all over the local press.
There is a temptation here to blame racist cops, racist prosecutors, racists in the community, for this travesty of justice which took the youth unfairly of this gentleman.
But, we know this community. It is a good community; it is a good community in which to grow up. It is a peaceful community. It fosters the arts and it fosters good will unto one's fellow man, regardless of race or background. And it is, relatively speaking, a community with good, sound, if certainly by no means ideal, race relations. But that is not to suggest that there isn't significant room for improvement, as there always has been. There are racists in the community, though few are virulent in their racism. There is de facto racial segregation in the community, though lessening with time, and notably so in recent years, as formerly all-white neighborhoods have given way to integration. The community is getting better with regard to race, far better than it was 30 or 40 years ago. But there is much room still for significant improvement.
Mr. Hunt's case is but one aspect of this overall issue.
Race is but one aspect of this overall issue.
For, the overall issue is not, as we see it, when boiled to its essence, about race per se. For you will find that even in the most virulent and caustic of the racists, at least the ones in this community, there is nevertheless a willingness to be affable with individuals of another race, to be hospitable, to be accepting of such individuals in the work environment, and in roles which are meaningful, not merely menial--even if more generalized attitudes against persons of another race not known to them individually are apt still to be found.
The issue, as we see it, one true of the South in general, one true of every place that we have ever been for very long in the country, to one degree or another, is rather, more generally, obscurantism--that is to say, adopting a viewpoint willy-nilly, without reflection, without thought, emoting one's way to a conclusion, without regard to the rational facts available to reach that conclusion, disordered thinking at best; or, at worst, no thinking, no ability, or at least none exhibited, to objectify matters, indeed, seeking to hush anyone who would avail themselves of facts and thought and offer an opinion based thereon. Rather, reaching opinions either purely through emotion or at least a significant mixture of selected fact and emotion, to reach the result one's emotions have already dictated one must reach. Fitting the facts, in other words, which one wants to accept with the pre-determined emotional conclusion, rather than objectively allowing all the facts to come forth to dictate the conclusion one should logically and rationally reach through an acceptance and analysis of that totality of fact, from the most glaring to the most miniscule--a far harder task, but better, less expensive and time consuming to the justice system and the community as a whole in the long run.
Never was that any more evident to us than in discussing with people in this burg the O.J. Simpson case in 1994-1995, a case which at its end, related to this burg directly, as Mr. Fuhrman had contact, if you recall, with an instructor at the North Carolina School of the Arts, who had recorded Mr. Fuhrman using, in a degrading way, the word nigger, in relation to the street crime he came across as a Los Angeles police officer; that being the basis for his own perjury conviction for having claimed on the witness stand, under cross-examination by F. Lee Bailey, that he had never used the word nigger. Justice, in our opinion, as we have previously mentioned, was done in the O.J. Simpson case by the acquittal--because the bloody spot on the gate in the morning didn't fit the undisputed fact that it was not present in the photograph of the previous evening at the time shortly after the murders in that case. But we digress.
The problem we found in discussing that case was that most people in this burg of Winston-Salem to whom we talked, people who are not racists, we think, but who were nevertheless locked into the opinion that Mr. Simpson was guilty--still are, so far as we know--, was that they reached a conclusion by hasty emotions garnered from tv presentations of the evidence initially presented and the fact that the police focused on Mr. Simpson as the suspect, and thereafter refused to relent or maintain an open mind in the face of these already dedicated opinions, as if their pride itself was at stake, their personal intelligence and ability to discern things at issue generally. They thus believed that shifty lawyering "got him off", not the failure of the prosecution evidence in the face of a presumption of innocence absent evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.
But the law, for good reason, is not based on what we anecdotally or emotionally believe. If it were, most of us, maybe all of us, at one time or another, would have done a stretch or two, and for crimes we never even thought about committing. Again, we know that what we propose is considered by some dangerous, even worthy of false accusation against us in retaliation. For some see thinking as dangerous, as heretical to the established order of things, that the world might end otherwise, should we not go along with what, after all, the major news outlets seem to suggest, the opinions of the announcer on the tv or the reporter in the paper covering the matter at hand intimate as the correct opinion to have. And the evidence, after all, seems to point directly to one person. All these people can't be wrong. It's not one giant conspiracy. Anyone who says differently, well, they are either a little soft in the head, of bad character, should be shunned, or, goodness, may be criminals themselves. Stay away from them. They are not like us.
Feeling, not thinking.
Taking facts out of context, selectively, to the point of irrationality even, to prove a conclusion, which fits feeling. Not taking the facts in their totality and trying to understand objectively the truth, or as clearly as we might, possessed of our lights, approximate it, as the Truth, as we have pointed out, is often fleeting, as fleeting as a ray of light being chased down the street by a baseball sent from heaven. And so, we might only approximate the Truth. But, nevertheless, so in pursuit of the best approximation possible we must, especially where individual reputation, liberty and even life are at stake, both of the accused and future victims. For if the police had behaved at all rationally in this matter from the beginning and not latched onto ridiculous notions, perhaps the right individual would have been caught before the second victim was attacked, and Mr. Hunt would have lived his life with reasonable anonymity and normalcy for the previous two decades.
So, we offer that the community wherein this injustice occurred and which we know well from many years of experience with it, is not racist in its general make-up, but does, too often, and in too much of its population, tend toward this obscurantist viewpoint of which we speak, as does too much of the South, too much of the country. And that is true, on both sides, on all sides, of the color spectrum, and the political spectrum, and probably even the educational spectrum. But, strides are nevertheless being made.
For the sake of Mr. Hunt and his future credit, for the sake of the memory of Deborah Sykes, the woman who lost her life that morning in August, 1984, we hope the community will seek fully to eliminate this obscurantism from itself--something which can, at the end of the day, only be done by persistent individual self-motivation to do so. By study of individual cases of this very sort, objectively, not necessarily coldly and without inevitable emotion--for, candidly, after watching this documentary, we got mad, angry that it took 19 years for the community to put the right man behind bars and release the man wrongfully accused, despite all the evidence from the very beginning telling it they had no case, that they had the wrong man. This city is a former company town, built to its modern existence by tobacco and textile interests, which over time in a century since those interests overtook the sleepy nineteenth century burg it once was, perhaps, has made it a community more predisposed to such obscurantism than other communities similarly situated which are not company towns. Ditto for Durham. Ditto for many such places across the land.
But we are blessed nowadays not to live in an age where we are consigned to be slaves to a company, unless we want to be. Nevertheless, the company, so ingrained within the population's general mindset in such places, is so overwhelmingly omnipresent that it persists as the great benefactor, but for which the precious gifts endowing the community would not be, and thus becomes to some the ultimate god of Mammon to whom obeisance must be paid, even having, after all, built many of the churches, large and small, and most of the schools, and other infrastructure, the very basis for modern life therein.
So, we just offer it up as example. There is more to thinking than merely musing about something, watching tv, even reading the newspaper. It should have taken a jury far longer than two hours to course through the evidence in a murder case of this nature. It should have taken at least a week of dutiful study of the evidence and review of the testimony, especially as most of the witnesses for the prosecution were inherently unreliable, and since the prosecution primarily, in both trials, relied on appeal to emotion--in most places deemed highly improper and even prosecutorial misconduct, itself warranting a new trial. The defense is allowed some room to inject emotion, for the defense always has a somewhat uphill battle to fight in any criminal case, there being the notion of the cards being stacked by the police and prosecution before the defense or the defendant ever gets a crack at it. That is why the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty the guilt of the accused. But the prosecution is supposed to be based on evidence, not emotion, not speculative references to the victim's presumed and imagined last thoughts--as in truth few who are in utter terror of imminent loss of their very existence have time to "think" at all about anything except surviving, the most primal of instincts at the first and the last. And thus, great wandering oratorical flourish seeking to elicit practical religious fervor in the bargain to the prosecution's stance, inevitably delivers not a case based on evidence but a cheap, tawdry mirage worthy of a tent preacher, and at the expense of truth and in lieu of facts actually implicating the accused, equally as damning to the victim of the crime and those potentially victimized by the actual perpetrator still at large as the tent show proceeds to its vaunted conclusion. And citizens comprising juries ought be sufficiently wary of such prosecutorial tactics to disregard them, to objectify back to the evidence, not the rhetoric of the prosecutor.
Any boob can fall for emotion; it takes discipline and character to focus on the evidence and only the evidence. But, again, we do not accuse those juries, or the prosecutors, in this case of racism. We do, however, suggest that, albeit, as we know too well of this community's history, practically in the drinking water to take the more trammeled emotive path to "knowledge"on any given issue, the one which is deemed holy and good by the good churchmen, the one which is deemed the righteous way, which doesn't challenge the established order of things, ordained from on high, to look to some holy divination to part the skies to provide providence and good will to men--and we mean this not facetiously--to afford the "Truth" on a given matter, such an approach is not the way to find truth or even to approximate it in legal cases. It is a sure way, however, to confusion, leading on eventually to hell, damnation, and general chaos. For the truth doth out, especially as to murder, as we have previously suggested.
And, now, you see, the State of North Carolina has had to pay Mr. Hunt some $360,000, a cheap price for taking 19 years of his life unjustly; and the City of Winston-Salem has had to pay him 1.6 million dollars, also a pretty cheap price for taking a man's youth from him. All because some police officers used tunnel vision to examine the facts and were unwilling to waver from their initial conclusions thus fixed in their minds and likewise then fixed by the local media in the minds of the public, any such deviation from the thusly fixed pattern of thought becoming heresy of a sort not to be tolerated politically. And the whole mess was off and running amuck, headed straight to hell. There's blame enough to go around.
But through it all, Mr. Hunt maintained his integrity, his equanimity; he did not admit to a crime he did not commit. From the beginning to the present, he maintained his extraordinary faith in his religion, and in the ultimate humanity of his fellow man. And, Mr. Hunt, being himself from Winston-Salem, thus conveys also the best side of that community and that which it instills in its youth. And, we hope that his efforts to teach about injustice, how to cope with it and avoid it, will be well received over time and afford some positive change on both sides, on all sides, of the color lines, the black and the white and the colors in between, ultimately to avoid obscurantism in all.
Yet, again, we stress, color, in this case, where the original identifying witness was also African-American, even if the other two primary witnesses were white, and even if one of those was plainly racist and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was not the primary issue, as we view it. Perhaps, in the end, it is not really the primary issue in most such instances, for we find the same elements of obscurantism in crimes where the victim and alleged perpetrator are of the same race and general background, as well as when they are different in those attributes.
The object, then, ought be to educate both the young and adults, through debate, through discussion, through better reading and observing, to think, and to think clearly and reasonably objectively. That is not a function necessarily of how well one does in school, or how high one's I.Q. might be. Or, even to what extent one has been educated. We posit that anyone who is human may be trained to think in some reasonably ordered manner, and that it is only the lazy or the deliberately dissembling, those who have an axe to grind and wish to grind it regardless of truth, who do not thusly constrain themselves to disciplined thinking when lives and liberty interests are at stake under the panoply of rights afforded by our Constitution to protect all of us equally from unjust accusation.
In any event, if you lean toward obscurantism, you have at least the duty to confess it during voir dire examination when called upon to render service as a potential juror, to say honestly whether or not you have preconceived notions of the guilt or innocence of the accused. If you say you do not, you had better not. Or God, or eventually your own conscience, will get you. If you do, then simply say so. You will then be excused and thus be able to go about your daily business, at least with the clear conscience that you were honest in confessing your obscurantism. And we all profit from refreshing honesty.
In any event, this couple of hours spent viewing that film last night was not at all wasted, and we recommend this documentary, "The Trials of Darryl Hunt". Such a case, for the sake of the victim and potential victim and their loved ones, as well as for the potentially falsely accused, we hope, does not repeat. But that will require that police officers be trained to think clearly, not emotionally, be hired for that attribute, be willing to admit mistakes and not stubbornly persist in the face of plain contrary evidence to the conclusions previously reached, that prosecutors be elected with the same ideas in mind, that judges be appointed and elected likewise, not with a jaundiced view predisposed toward seeing how many ne'er do wells we can lock up to solve the crime problem, through Crimestoppers. That latter sort of thinking, prominent in the eighties, when Mr. Hunt's case first came before the bar, is what, in large part, drove the thing, this obscurantist thing, at least in recent times. Most people make poor eyewitnesses, even to automobile accidents, let alone murder. Vigilanteism is not the answer. Better community relations, better intercommunication, better exchange of ideas, better listening, better listening to the more educated part of the populace who can educate at least about the process of thinking through the facts, and less about the emotion, and less about the titillation on the nightly news, and what new fact has come forth from the titillating reportage, are good starts, not only to achieve greater acuity with respect to the facts once the tragedy occurs, but moreover to render the beneficial by-product of preventing the tragedy from occurring in the first place.
The rest of the page is here.
Cross Their Hearts
The news that Mussolini and Hitler have agreed, "in principle," to Mr. Chamberlain's request that foreign troops be withdrawn from Spain, is hardly news at all. There never has been a time, so far as we recall, when the pair have not been agreeing to just that. Agreeing to the withdrawal of their troops, in fact, is one of the things these dictators do most easily--and immediately thereafter they invariably land 30,000 more troops in Spain.
Do they perhaps mean it this time? That, we should think, all depends. They are not likely to withdraw troops until Franco has won, for if they did he would be left practically without an army and would quite likely be hanged by the indignant Spaniards within a few weeks. But Franco is just now launched on a great drive to capture Valencia and Barcelona, and if he succeeds the jig will be up for the legitimate Spanish Government. And if Musso and Hitler can delay matters long enough for that consummation--why, to be sure, they'll probably be willing enough actually to withdraw their troops.
By Its Friends--*
This New Deal Administration stands, as it has declared too frequently to admit of any doubt, for High Ideals and Clean Government. In fact, some of its ideals have been so high that they flew squarely in the face of that ancient handmaiden of democracy, the United States Constitution. But its government has not been so spotlessly clean that it has ever, for that reason alone, found itself at outs with the political bosses of the Democratic Party, no matter how unclean those bosses might be.
Boss Frank Hague, for instance, The Works of Jersey City. While the storms of investigations and court actions and defense committees rage about City Call in Jersey City, Mayor Frank is playing golf in Florida with Jim Farley, chief politico of the New Deal and a Cabinet member. And why not, Jim might ask? Isn't Frank Vice-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee?
And Boss Joe Guffey of Pennsylvania, for another instance--he of Alien Property Custodian ill-frame, indicted by a Federal grand jury for embezzlement. The President has prevailed upon him not to run for governor because he "needs Joe Guffey in the Senate"--needs him, we take it, to rally behind the President for High Ideals and Clean Government. Joe Guffey, the indicted embezzler, standing for High Ideals and Clean Government! Quick, Henry, the Flit!
Site Ed. Note: You're not alone if you don't know right off hand what the devil a Flit is. It is, or was, before the age of aerosol cans, simply a pesticide sprayer.
Law of Confession
A story comes out of Raleigh in explanation of why the two men, Jack and Marion Ammons, who spent five years in State Prison for a Buncombe County crime they did not commit, had never got to be A-grade prisoners. According to their own statement, it was simply because they would not confess their guilt to prison officials.
There is not, as we understand it, any provision in the formal prison rules which lays down any such Hitleresque requirement. But apparently, the petty politicians in charge of the prison are given such latitude in the management of it that they can make such a rule on their own account.
That is very interesting in the light of Governor Hoey's statement that Fred Beal will become eligible for a parole only when he gets to be an A-grade prisoner. It is exceedingly doubtful that Beal is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted, and if he isn't guilty, of course he can't honestly confess to guilt. Which, supposing that the Ammons story is true, would seem to mean that Fred Beal will become eligible for parole as soon as--and no sooner than--it suits the pleasure of the prison czars.
Bob Changes The Subject
When Bob Reynolds comes down to North Carolina, which is pretty often now, what he usually expounds upon is those dratted aliens, of whom North Carolina has virtually none. But Wednesday at Asheville he got off on the subject of the war debts. He thought they ought to be paid. And Robert's notion of how they could be paid was something to open your eyes. In brief, England was to give us Bermuda, Bimini, and Nassau for payments already past due, and Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia to mark the whole bill paid.
If you'll look at your map, you'll see that what Robert was proposing with that last was merely the modest scheme of securing a deadlock on the St. Lawrence and the Hudson Bay--the bottling up and taking over of Canada! Is Robert trying to do Signor Mussolini a favor by having Mama Britain shoot at us instead? And what about the Nova Scotians, a crusty breed? And the Labradorians and the Newfoundlanders and the Canadians generally? And those jolly blighters peddling around Bermuda on bicycles? Has Robert asked them?
Yes, and in connection with that business of taking over some more islands, we seem to remember that, along back in 1935, Robert paid a visit to some we already have, the Virgins--and came back to say that he wished "there were some way to pay the Danes to take those islands back." The difference somehow escapes us.
Maybe, on the whole, the Senator had better stick to his aliens.
Mr. John Wins Through
Our wavering pride in our status as prophets is somewhat refurbished today as we discover that, as we said he would, Mr. John Carson, Consumer's Counsel to the Bituminous Coal Commission, is going, after all, to be allowed to do his stuff. The Federal courts have suspended the minimum coal price schedule ordered into effect last November by the commission on the ground that it violated the law in not first hearing Mr. John. And the commission, faced with that, has awaited the order, and decided to start all over again.
This time Mr. John will be given plenty of room. He'll be allowed to trot out all his little consumer witnesses, and to talk and gesticulate quite as long as he pleases. To be sure, the coal commission, having heard him, is practically certain to promulgate exactly the same schedule all over again. But that, of course, isn't the point. The point is that there is nothing sadder than to see a fellow human creature frustrated in the performance of his appointed function, whether strictly useful or strictly decorative. And, as we have said before now, it is Mr. John's peculiar function to make a noise like a Federal Government determined to see that coal prices shall not go up, when the same Federal Government has already passed a law which makes it inevitable that coal prices shall go up.
There might appear, at first glance, no remote connection between Colonel Luke Lea of Tennessee, the prominent swindler, and one Hudson Robinson of Charlotte, obscure Negro murderer. Yet the two do have something in common, as we shall proceed to show.
His crime in North Carolina wasn't the only one with which Luke Lea was charged. There was pending against him Federal charges of "aiding and abetting in the misapplication of funds" of a national bank in Tennessee. But when North Carolina finally put the elusive Colonel in prison, the Federal case against him was dismissed. When he was paroled after serving less than two years of his North Carolina sentence, it was as a man whitewashed of all previous sins. The Federal court took cognizance of the fact that he'd gone to prison to serve a six-to-ten-year sentence. It did not take cognizance of his premature release.
Hudson Robinson's case is similar. He killed two men, a cafe proprietor and a bystander. He was tried on the first count and sentenced to die. Since death is the extreme punishment the State may mete out, there was no sense in trying him for the second killing. A man executed for two murders is no better than a man executed for one.
But now Governor Hoey, on the strength of extenuating evidence, has commuted the man's sentence for his first murder to life imprisonment. The second offense? That was disposed of, as was Colonel Lea's, by the severity of the court's punishment for the first--severity which the executive promptly moderated.
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