I was watching the news this morning, and the mainstream media is filled with tributes to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. I have tremendous respect for the man, and I know that the world is a better place because of Dr. King.
Yet my heart is simply not geared toward joining in on the chorus. Instead I have been thinking about a friend of mine, Danny Brown, who was wrongly convicted in 1982 of a rape-murder and who spent 19 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. DNA evidence later exonerated Danny, and he walked out of a Toledo courtroom in 2001 with the right to a new trial.
Unfortunately for Danny, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates steadfastly refuses to give him his day in court, or to do what common sense would dictate: declare him no longer a suspect. The DNA sample, you see, matches a man named Sherman Preston, who is serving a sentence of 20 years to life for a similar rape-murder.
So my thoughts stray from April 4, the date of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and toward April 9, the day that Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Doneghy declared that Danny Brown deserved a new trial. I think that Dr. King, were he still alive, would be more concerned about people like Danny Brown than he would about a media lovefest on his behalf.
Julia Bates: give Danny Brown a new trial, or announce that he is not a suspect in the killing of Bobbie Russell. Either of these decisions would allow Danny Brown to be compensated by the State of Ohio for wrongful incarceration, which he is entitled to under state law. Unfortunately, by taking some action, Julia Bates will expose the judicial system in Lucas County to a good deal of unfavorable press, and God knows how important public image is to an elected politician: like well-polished teak furniture.
So she continues her indecisive middle path, leaving Danny Brown in legal limbo while letting Sherman Preston get away with murder.
I suspect, however, that Julia Bates will continue to pretend that Danny Brown does not exist, and that she will continue to divert attention away from the rug under which she has swept the justice due Danny Brown. I do have one question, though, Julia Bates:
How do you sleep at night with the guilt, and with the knowledge that your continued inaction perpetuates the miscarriage of justice that was the wrongful conviction of Danny Brown?
Oh, and one more thing: Danny Brown is getting older, and perhaps one day the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office will get lucky. Perhaps Danny Brown will die one of these years, and there will be a convenient way to close this chapter in American injustice. Maybe tossing dirt on Danny Brown's body in that six-foot hole will be better than having to deal with the unpleasant facts of his story.
Maybe luck will be on the side of Julia Bates. It sure hasn't for Danny Brown.