Crime/genetics forum left a few stones unturned

September 30, 1995|By GREGORY KANE

A group of scientists and scholars -- looking to create mischief because, apparently, they have no real jobs -- gathered in Queenstown last weekend to search for the elusive connection between genetics and violent crime. They came, they conferred, they found no link.

Protesters disrupted the conference last Saturday, charging that the hidden agenda of the conference was to establish the invidious notion that blacks, in particular, are genetically prone to violent crime. Odd, isn't it, how when blacks were being lynched from one end of the country to the next no one asked if the lynchers were genetically predisposed to such acts?

Which is precisely why I wanted the conference to continue, the objections of the protesters notwithstanding. I want the research to continue, and I have some specific avenues the scientists and scholars might want to pursue. So, dear scientists and scholars, I think you should:

* Study Mark Fuhrman. See if there's anything in his genes that makes him hate black people and brutalize black suspects. Add to this list former New York City police officer Bernie Cawley, who confessed to beating and robbing hundreds of civilians and stealing huge amounts of drugs and cash. His street nickname was "The Mechanic," because, in his words, he "liked to tune people up."

* Earlier this year, Jeffrey Gilbert of Prince George's County was accused of killing a police officer, Cpl. John Novabilski. Police who arrested Gilbert claim he resisted and pummeled him into submission, giving him a broken nose, a concussion and a broken blood vessel in the brain. If the evidence finds Gilbert didn't resist arrest, study the officers and see if they were genetically predisposed to beat Gilbert -- against whom charges were later dropped -- and then lie about it.

* In May of 1989 Martin and Gregory Habib were minding their own business when they were stopped -- without probable cause, as it turned out -- by Prince George's County police. Four white officers beat the pair, killing Gregory and severely injuring his brother Martin. Study those four officers to see if their urge to use excessive force was the result of genes gone berserk. Study the grand jury members who failed to indict the officers to see if there is a genetic link that prevented them from seeing a crime had indeed been committed.

* In 1955, two white men beat a 14-year-old black boy named Emmett Till to death in Mississippi. The men were acquitted -- despite being identified by Till's uncle -- and later bragged about their crime. See if bad genes caused them to commit the crime and if jurors had some biological quirk that prevented them from convicting the pair.

* In 1963 four black girls died after a church was bombed in Birmingham, Ala. Only one suspect was caught, and then only years later. See if his homicidal urge lay in his genes. Study other Alabamans alive at the time and see if some genetic mutation prevented them from finding, indicting and convicting the others responsible for the crime.

* Study photographs of some of the more gruesome lynchings that took place during the early part of this century. Pay particular attention to the one that shows a group of white men cheerfully leering over the body of a burning black man. As best you can, identify them and try to see if these men had some sort of "urge-to-lynch" genes. Also check to see if there is a biological reason why the sight of the poor black man's searing flesh sent them into spasms of ecstasy.

* Those of us who feel that violent crime is part of a continuum of American history that glorifies violence are, in your view, obviously wrong. You should do a historical study to see if some of America's murderers who have been elevated to the status of heroes -- Billy the Kid, Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin -- were genetically predisposed to violence. Dig up their bones. Check their DNA. See if there's any genetic material therein from which you can draw a reasonable conclusion.

Good luck in your work. You have an arduous task before you, one that should keep all of you busy well into the next century and for the rest of your lives. As you toil, sweat and strain to find the necessary data to support the theory of a genetic link to violent crime and grow ever oh-so-weary, remember one thing:

You asked for it.

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