Jordan slaying: Cover-up or a senseless crime?

MIKE ROYKO

August 23, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

A white business owner came to his office and said to his secretary: "Thank goodness they caught those two guys."

He was talking about the two young men who had been arrested in the murder of James Jordan, Michael's father.

The secretary, who is black, scowled, shook her head and said: "You don't really believe those boys did it, do you? It's a cover-up."

He was too stunned to ask her who she thought really did it, and who was arranging the "cover-up."

Later, he told me: "My goodness, look at all the evidence. And she still thinks it's some kind of white plot."

A couple of days later, my assistant was riding the subway. Two black women were sitting nearby. They were talking matter-of-factly about a conspiracy and a cover-up. It wasn't clear who the conspirators were, but they were sure of one thing: The accused killers hadn't done it.

So there appear to be two distinct reactions to the arrest of a young black man and a young Lumbee Indian man for the killing of James Jordan.

Many whites were relieved that the murders hadn't been committed by some redneck racists.

And many blacks refuse to believe that the murder was committed by the accused. They're still convinced the two men are being framed and whites are behind the killing.

Even after the police released information on evidence that sounds damning, skeptical calls kept coming in to Chicago's most popular black radio station.

Lon Dyson, the morning news anchorman at WGCI-AM, told a reporter: "We've had all kinds of callers who believe some hick sheriff murdered James Jordan and the whole investigation was just a cover-up for that.

"The car with no blood, the quick cremation. It all makes sense to some black people, and no matter what new evidence comes up, what new facts, they won't listen to me. I know a woman who, no matter what I bring up, she says: 'No, it's a conspiracy. There's nothing you can tell me to make me think otherwise.'

"Many blacks have roots in the South, and when they think of law enforcement down there, they think of the Klan. There's just kind of a natural distrust of authorities down there."

Perry Williams, the morning anchor on the station's FM broadcast, told a reporter that, as more evidence comes out, many blacks seem to be changing their minds about a cover-up. But others aren't persuaded.

"Traditionally, most African-Americans are against cremation, and just the fact that it happened so suddenly. It was seen as a real insult to the family and raises all kinds of questions. Would they have cremated the body of a white man so quickly?

"One theory is he was killed because people down there didn't like a black man driving such a nice car. He was seen as uppity. And we all know stories of black men in those little Southern towns. I know a man who changes his car when he gets to Memphis."

Considering the history of race relations, not only in the South but in much of this country, the suspicions aren't entirely unreasonable. Or they weren't until the arrests were made and some of the evidence was disclosed.

But why would it be hard to believe that a young black man -- with a history of coldly violent behavior -- would be involved in the shooting and robbing of a middle-aged black man? Especially when the victim was napping in a $46,000 car, which would indicate he might have a plump wallet.

Is there anything shocking about a black man shooting a black man? Not if you look at crime statistics and listen to black leaders talk about social problems. The single biggest threat to the life of a young black man is another young black man with a gun. Black on black crime. It's constantly talked about.

The only difference in this crime is that James Jordan wasn't young. But in the dark of night, while stalking a victim, who checks ID cards?

Amateur sleuths are heard on radio talk shows questioning the absence of blood in the car. They ask, how can you shoot someone and not have blood all over the place?

I even heard that question raised by the morning host on WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station, which prides itself on its journalistic standards.

The people who wonder about the lack of blood in the car have seen too many violent movies, where special effects always provide a big splatter.

But that question is easily answered by Dr. John Fildes, a senior trauma surgeon at Chicago's Cook County Hospital, and an expert in gunshot wounds.

"We see a number of mortal wounds that have either no blood or just a trickle. The hemorrhaging can be contained inside. All you would see is a round wound with just a trickle of blood. There can be two or three liters of blood internally and you may not see anything externally."

No, the trial will show there is no frame-up, cover-up or conspiracy.

Except for the victim's famous name, it was just an everyday 1990s American crime. And that's what people should be worried about.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.