Nov 22, 2004
Last week, six young white men in Maryland were charged in the death of Jamahl Jones, a black youth who died this past July. Jones was only 17 years old at the time of his death.
Jones was beaten to death at a party in Pasadena, a predominantly white town in Anne Arundel County, the suburb just south of Baltimore.
A friend of Jamahl's, who was also beaten, said they had come to the party in response to a phone call from a black friend at the party who asked them to help him get away from the party. He and other witnesses said many of the white party-goers were drunk and angry and attacked the three young black men.
A white youth at the party claimed the whites were fighting to defend themselves against the three black men because one had a gun. And sure enough, a gun was produced from a neighbor's lawn. But even the police were not buying that story.
Although the police proposed murder charges in July against four young white men at the party, the Anne Arundel County prosecutors dropped the charges in August. They said the autopsy showed Jamahl could have died of a fall and that the autopsy was "inconsistent" with the police findings that a murder had been committed.
A fall? Is that how Jamahl ended up dead of a skull fracture, with his face bloody and his back bruised?
After the murderers were let off, Jamahl's mother, Robin Jones, and her two sisters insisted that the case be re-opened, getting support from black organizations. Finally in November, charges against the four were brought again. Two other white men at the party were charged as well. But this time the charges are not murder but manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.
People in this suburb continue to dispute whether race was involved in Jamahl's death. Wasn't it just a case of young men being rowdy and drunken, as some people in the area put it? But if that is so, so what? The question is why weren't they charged? How could drunken thugs be responsible for a death and not be sitting in jail on murder charges?
Said Mrs. Jones, "Had that been a white boy lying on the ground that my son and his friends had beat up and killed, you can bet your left eye my son would still be in jail today and he would probably never, ever be getting out."
As if to illustrate what Mrs. Jones said, an Anne Arundel County judge only two days after the second set of charges were brought lowered the bail so four of the six men could easily get out of jail.
The whole handling of the case by the Anne Arundel County legal system – from the autopsy, to the evidence, to the bail – shows that race is involved in every aspect of the so-called justice system.