Jessamy's tough decision is backed by the facts

September 10, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

Patricia Jessamy -- arguably the gutsiest state's attorney Baltimore has ever had -- has been raked over the coals the past few days by the League of the Perpetually Oppressed. But Jessamy shouldn't fret. As with all criticism, you have to consider the source.

In this case, the source is the League, whose members are those black folks whose entire philosophy of life can be summed up in two words: blame whitey.

Within what seemed microseconds of Jessamy's announcement that she would not charge Baltimore City police Officer Charles Smothers in the fatal shooting of James Quarles on Aug. 9, we had reaction from League members spouting the familiar lines: Jessamy was a sell-out, a handkerchief-head. One caller to talk radio station WOLB suggested she might be related to Clarence Thomas. Some called for her resignation and others hinted she might not be returned to office.

The most shrill voices came from WOLB's C. Miles' afternoon talk show, which is sort of a haven for those convinced they are the victims of never-ending and unremitting persecution. If every white person in America vanished tomorrow, these folks would have no reason for existing. Any black person who has the temerity to do something with which they disagree is condemned as working in the interests of the horrible white man.

Never mind that Jessamy based her decision on the facts. The League has no use for facts. They tend to get in the way of the larger ofay-bashing agenda. Facts like the most likely killer of a young black male will not be a cop, but another young black male. Facts like the homicide rate among young black American men is the highest in the industrialized world. Facts like 90 percent of all homicide victims and 95 percent of all homicide suspects in the city are black.

Unable to cope with -- much less acknowledge -- such facts, League members opt to create tendentious fiction. Thus the shooting of James Quarles is seen as part of a nationwide campaign by police officers to wipe out black males. A virtual "blue-bonic plague," talk show host C. Miles called the "epidemic" of police brutality.

Of 71 police shootings in Baltimore the past 18 months, 26 have been fatal. Anybody want to guess how many young black males killed another in that same period? Do the math. Years when Baltimore's number of homicides drops below 300 are rare indeed. I figure we're looking at well over 400 murders in 18 months. If 26 fatal police shootings suggest a "blue-bonic" plague, what do more than 400 cases of black men killing each other suggest?

Ah, but there are those facts again, ever annoying to the members of the League of the Oppressed. Charge Smothers with murder, League members demanded. Justice demands it.

Thank goodness we have a state's attorney who knows that homicide cases are tried on facts, not the exhortations of the mob. For a murder charge, certain facts have to be in evidence. For first- and second-degree murder, the state would have to prove Smothers killed Quarles without excuse, justification or mitigation. For manslaughter, the state would have to prove Smothers killed Quarles in the heat of passion or unintentionally without malice, but with a reckless disregard for human life.

The state's attorney's office interviewed 25 witnesses, most of whom supported Smothers' contention that he fired the fatal shot only after Quarles tightened his grip on the knife and moved his left foot forward. For League members, that's murder. For the rest of us, it's a police officer using justifiable deadly force.

Investigating the shooting left Jessamy "emotionally exhausted," she said. Preoccupation with the investigation precluded her listening to the invective hurled at her the past two days on WOLB, but ironically, she said she's a regular listener of the station.

"I try to find out what the pulse of the community is," Jessamy said, "not that I'm always going to do what everybody wants."

In this case, she stuck to her guns and made the decision based on all the facts, not a few minutes of a videotape that didn't show Quarles' left hand and feet. She repudiated those who would have had her base her decision on race, not the facts. She's tough, she's got guts, she's got integrity and she's ours.

If the League of the Oppressed doesn't want her in office they can show up at the polls and vote her out. But I have a hunch she'll win in a landslide.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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.