Monday, January 17, 2005

Justice?

Wilbert Rideau is a free man after a jury of whites and blacks convicted him of manslaughter in his fourth trial.

A more detailed account of the case is given locally.

The jury refused to convict Rideau of first-degree murder, after trials tainted with bigotry:
Those same racial biases have echoed into the present, the lawyers suggest, in a systematic exaggeration of Rideau's crime — notably in the contention that Ferguson's throat was slashed, refuted by a well-known forensics expert in defense testimony Friday, who insisted the cut on her throat was "superficial."

I know nothing of the distinction in Louisiana law between second-degree murder and manslaughter, but it seems to me that you could construe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a killer had the intent to kill when shoving a knife into somebody's throat and torso until they collapsed.

After a federal appeals court threw out his previous convictions on the grounds that a black man could not receive a fair trial from an all-white jury, Rideau asked the Supreme Court to release him without a fourth trial. The Court refused.

Rideau's supporters argue that Lousiana regularly releases other murderers and Rideau had been held longer than any other killer in the state, so he deserved to die outside of prison. That may be true.

From what I'm reading though, the only reason he got a new trial was race. He never denied killing Julia Ferguson, and said so on the stand in this case.

The AP reports try to slant the story as healing a racial divide in a small town. Releasing confessed killers probably isn't the best way to go about it.

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