Thursday, May 28, 2009

Delaware Attorney General's Office and the strange sound of silence in the DSU slaying case

I don't often blog about DSU, given my position there, but this isn't really a post about the university, or even about the tragic events that took the life of Shalita Middleton in fall 2007.

It's about the absence of outrage.

The charges against Loyer Braden have been dismissed, not just because the Attorney General's office apparently failed to share exculpatory evidence with the defense, but also because a key witness recanted testimony tying Braden to the homicide.

Here's the key paragraph from the WNJ story today:

Braden’s murder trial was dismissed last week by a Superior Court judge who said prosecutors withheld key evidence that could have compromised the former DSU student’s right to a fair trial. The evidence was a witness’ statement to Dover police identifying someone other than Braden as the shooter.

What's missing in this picture? How about somebody in State government, State politics, or even the News Journal calling for a serious investigation of whether or not it is common practice in the AG office for prosecutors to just, ah, forget to hand over evidence in discovery as required by law?

It pains me (well, not really) to have to admit that pretty much the only serious discussion of this whole mess has occurred at Delawareliberal, and even there the focus was almost evenly split between outrage at the prosecutorial conduct and speculation about how badly this would damage Beau Biden's political career. [DL being DL, and intensely politically oriented, this is not a criticism, just an observation.]

But I'm waiting for somebody in the General Assembly to stand up and say, Wait a damn minute! We need to investigate this case! We need to investigate this office! Somebody needs to get fired or disbarred, and oversight needs to be put into place to insure that this doesn't happen to anybody else.

Holding my breath. Turning blue.

I'm going to go way out on a limb here, and suggest an unlovely possibility: if the victim--Shalita Middleton--had been white, if the accused--Loyer Braden--had been white, or if the whole affair had played out at UD rather than DSU, our state politicians would be pissing their pants to get into this issue.

Instead, we have two out-of-state African-American students at that university....

We have those people killing each other....

[Even though you'd have to have been both blind and deaf on my campus not to know what a special and amazing young woman Shalita Middleton was, and how much the world has been impoverished by her death.]

Which is not (imagine my surprise) a political priority in the State of Delaware.

Racism: it's not just for people who don't agree with President Obama.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps because the victim was not the niece of AL or Hazel PLANT?

Mark H said...

What is also annoying me is that the 2nd victim in this, has pretty much had his life ruined because of, what looks like anyhow, shoddy police work

tom said...

"I'm going to go way out on a limb here, and suggest an unlovely possibility..."

No, probably not. The AG's office is much more concerned with stuffing more drug dealers & users into Delaware's overflowing prisons.

Here in Newark last year, in an apartment complex primarily inhabited by UD students, a British national (of Indian descent) attempted to rape and murder a (white) friend of mine. He beat her severely, strangled her, and tried repeatedly to stab her to death with a sword, and incidentally did several thousand dollars worth of damage to her apartment and possessions in the process. Probably the only reason she survived was that he was very drunk and she was sober.

The Newark Police officers who responded were completely incompetent and/or didn't feel like doing their job, because they attempted to write it off as a domestic dispute and take no action.

After she spoke to a Newark Police detective, who had the original officers reprimanded and got the department to pursue the case, she spent the next few months trying to get the AG's office to do anything to prosecute & punish him. Their preferred solution was to buy him a plane ticket back to London.

Steven H. Newton said...

I'm talking more about the lack of outrage as a result of racism than about the actions of the AG's office themselves.

Hube said...

Steve: And your evidence that this lack of outrage is due to racism is ...?

As you said: "Way out on a limb." I tend to agree.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about this, Steve. This was an outrageous incident. The feds should be investigating this.


tom said...

I don't know if RAH would approve of the paraphrase, but:

"Never attribute to Racism that which is adequately explained by Incompetence."

Anonymous said...

"Never attribute to PREJUDICE that which is adequately explained by Experience."


Steven H. Newton said...

OK guys:
First, be clear: I am not suggesting that the incompetence or even malfeasance at the AG's office is potentially racist. Never said that; the whole piece was about the strange absence of outrage over the gratuitous screw-up in the DSU shooting.

I could point to a whole history of coded language: two years ago, referring to the possibility of a UD-DSU football game, the WNJ opined that to schedule such a game would be a "black mark" on UD's schedule.

I have personally attended budget hearings for the state universities in which legislative aides fairly openly (because I'm white and they didn't immediately associate me with DSU) discussed their feelings and those of their bosses that DSU should be happy with what it got because the state allocation was, after all, only a representation of charity for "those people," and that they didn't much worry that most DSU grads didn't remain in the State because things were better off when "they go back to their gangs in Camden."

How much evidence do you want, guys? I have been working at that institution for nearly two decades, and I can tell you that it used to be a standing joke as late as 1998-2000 to refer to then-President DeLauter as "the gentleman of color with his hand out."

I don't blog about this very often because of what happens: people who have absolutely no idea about the continuous use of a racially-oriented political sub-text against DSU by many of our legislators will pop up and say, "Where's your evidence?"

One sign of a dysfunctional situation or organization is when it is more reprehensible to speak about bad behavior than it is to engage in bad behavior.

Delaware Watch said...

I heard prominent defense attorney Eugene Mauer on WDEL says that this incident was quite exceptional...that the AGs office was not known for withholding exculpatory evidence and that the evidence screw up might have actually been a result of an error in the investigating police agency's handling of the evidence and not so much anything the AG's office maliciously did.

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