The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Taylor, MI:
Falsely-accused teens freed after protests

Aug 20, 2007

After protests on their behalf turned the spotlight on the Taylor police department, charges were dropped against Devin Plummer and Franklin Smith in the shooting death of Wendy Meinke. Plummer and Smith are both black; Meinke was white.

Meinke, 38, had intervened in an argument involving her 22-year-old son on the night of July 30 when shots were fired. She was hit by a stray bullet and died several hours later.

Instead of finding the person who had fired that bullet, the cops rushed to grab up anyone who even vaguely fit the description they got from some witnesses: a black man with braids and facial hair. That’s how Devin Plummer and his friend Franklin Smith got grabbed: Plummer had braids.

Plummer, 17, and Smith, 18, had been out celebrating with friends that night; they were to leave for college out of state the next day.

No gun was found; and police refused to say whether they had conducted a powder test on Plummer or Smith’s hands to see if they had fired a weapon. Still, they were held for two weeks on this flimsy evidence, while police tried to extract confessions out of them. Plummer’s mother said she heard her son shouting and screaming from the interrogation room on the first night.

Later, a 14-year-old youth was arrested in connection with the same shooting although he was never charged with anything.

By rushing to grab the first people they could, the police rolled over the lives of four families: first, the family of Wendy Meinke, since her killer still remains free. And second, the families of the three young men accused of a crime they didn’t commit.

For two weeks, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy continued to defend the Taylor police in the case, saying the evidence was there to prosecute.

But on Monday August 13, dozens of family members and supporters demonstrated outside the 23rd District courthouse in Taylor; the next day, another protest was held, this time at the Wayne County courthouse in downtown Detroit.

These protests shone a light on the total lack of physical evidence linking Plummer and Smith to the crime. And they forced the police to reveal that there WERE powder tests, and they showed that neither one had fired a weapon. The railroad job done by the Taylor police was brought out into the clear light of day. Charges were dropped, and the two young men were released. A couple days later, the 14-year-old youth was also released.

People who want justice from this “injustice system” have to be willing to stand up for themselves and for each other in their families and communities.