Upsetting The Apple Cart
Today is a day of technology and social media. It keeps news flowing and people informed. I am grateful for it, but also overwhelmed by it. We continue seeking justice for Trayvon Martin, Ethan Saylor, Kendrick Johnson, Jonathan Ferrell, Jordan Davis, Marshall Coulter, Marlon Brown.
My fear? That before I can write on or update what is happening in any of these cases, another person with a disability, or a kid, or with dark skin will be unjustly killed by someone with a badge, or a gun owner who thinks a license to carry is a license to summarily kill, or by an unknown party or parties.
This is a long article. It is long because I want to answer a question that has been asked of me several times; i.e., why do I blog? Why do I blog about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, etc.
Originally from Chicago, I am all too aware of corruption, cover-up, and just plain laziness within law enforcement agencies. Through my adult life and becoming acquainted with cops, federal investigators, politicians, and lawyers, I’ve learned to see them as individuals first based on the content of their character. I sit straddle the fence, knowing good, bad, and mediocre.
Then too, there are those who work and do not work as public servants, who take advantage of the biases of those in law enforcement and the court system so that they are not held accountable for crimes they commit.
My first experience causing me to take notice of race relations, the justice system, and corruption within government agencies, was in 1969. Does anyone remember the name Edward Hanrahan? Ed Hanrahan is a former Cook County State’s Attorney whose political career was derailed by a deadly police raid that killed Fred Hampton as he slept in his bed.
I was 18 years old when Fred Hampton was killed. It was my first introduction to Chicago politics and corruption after coming out of my shell of a childhood. I was 20 years old when the documentary film, The Murder of Fred Hampton, was released. Newspaper reporters discovered that the holes in the wall that the police claimed were bullet holes fired at them by those present in the apartment, were actually nail holes where pictures once hung on the wall.
I was 20 years old when a grand jury indicted Ed Hanrahan and 12 police officers with conspiring to obstruct justice in the aftermath of the raid that killed Hampton. I was 21 years old when Cook County Judge, Philip J. Romiti, issued a verdict of acquittal for all 13 defendants.
I was 39 years old when Fred’s brother, William (Bill) Hampton presented me with the Fred Hampton Scholarship Fund Image Award for projecting a positive image and profession in the community to help make society beneficial to others.
I was 58 years old when Ed Hanrahan died from complications of leukemia. He was 88.
The Case of Rolando Cruz
In 1985, Rolando Cruz was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in DuPage County, IL. It was a case where a Latino was painted as a gang-banger, thief and thug. Cruz always maintained his innocence.
Although a detective and assistant Attorney General resigned because they believed in Cruz’s innocence, a jury found him guilty. Cruz’s conviction was overturned on January 19, 1989 due to a prosecutorial error. His case was remanded for re-trial. His retrial resulted in a hung jury. His third trial was held in Winnebago County, IL, and he was convicted. In 1994, the verdict was overturned again. Cruz opted for a bench trial back in DuPage County. A Sheriff’s deputy admitted that he lied under oath. DNA testing was introduced proving that Cruz was not the sexual molester.
The charges against Cruz were dismissed.
The aftermath of the Cruz case is what is known as the DuPage Seven. In December 1996, three DuPage County prosecutors and 4 Sheriff deputies were indicted by a grand jury on 47 charges of conspiracy to convict Cruz despite being aware of exculpatory evidence. The indictment rested on two main points, one of which was that prosecutors concealed a confession by a man named Brian Dugan, while knowing that it included accurate details indicating he had committed the crime.
The DuPage Seven were DuPage County Sheriff Lt. James Montesano and Robert Winkler, detectives Dennis Kurzawa and Thomas E. Vosburgh, and former prosecutors Robert K. Kilander, Patrick J. King Jr. and Thomas L. Knight. In April 1999, the trial of the DuPage Seven began. All seven officers were found not guilty.
Robert K. Kilander went on to become a circuit court judge in DuPage County. Patrick J. King went on to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
In 2002, Cruz was fully pardoned by Illinois Governor George Ryan.
Ten years after the charges against Cruz were dismissed, in November 2005, Brian Dugan was indicted for the Nicarico murder. He was already serving two life sentences for two murders. On July 28, 2009, Dugan, then 52 years old, plead guilty with his 1985 confession being made public for the first time.
The public outcry from the Cruz case resulted in Governor George Ryan declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. On March 11, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois. Effectively, the case of Rolando Cruz that started in 1985 resulted in something positive for the State of Illinois in 2011. We would no longer need to worry about the wrongfully convicted being executed by the State. I was 34 years old when Cruz was arrested. I was 60 years old when as a result of his case, the death penalty in Illinois was abolished.
Lady Justice Moves Slow And Sometimes Gets Lost
Lady Justice is blindfolded. She cannot see. There are times I believe that is why she takes so long. She can’t see where to go, and those leading her take her in a direction where she finds that justice does not exist. While she is feeling her way, the guilty are set free.
So, what interested me in Trayvon Martin? The main reason has a name; Mark Anthony Barmore.
Not being a native of Rockford, and hearing natives ask “Why are they bringing outsiders here?” spoke volumes. In large urban areas such as Cook and DuPage Counties, the justice system gets out of the starting gate and at times, runs into smoke and mirrors. In small towns like Rockford, they often don’t want justice to get out the starting gate. They don’t want their apple cart upset.
I read and heard people in Seminole County, Florida state things about “outsiders” causing problems for them. Most recently, the Sheriff involved in the Kendrick Johnson incident said something along the same lines. “Outsiders” do not cause problems. Rather, they reveal those already existing. Everything done in the dark comes to the light — eventually.
On August 24, 2009, 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore, an unarmed Black man, was killed by two White City of Rockford police officers; Oda Poole and Stan North. Unarmed Barmore, who was committing no crime, was shot to death in Kingdom Authority International Ministries church, in the basement of the church that houses its daycare center. He was killed in the presence of children and two adults; the wife and daughter of Pastor Melvin Brown. Those preschool children will live the rest of their lives remembering the sound of guns, the smell of blood, and the sound of the death gurgle. Oda Poole and Stan North set an example for them that cops do not always serve and protect. They kill, and they kill in sacred places where children are to be safe.
It was reported that Poole had shot and killed three unarmed Black men previously. In previous cases, Poole said that he thought he saw a weapon. In Barmore’s case, Poole said that Barmore went for his service firearm. Both Poole and North were placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation.
Witnesses said that Barmore had his hands up; that Stan North shot him in the neck and after he fell, that Oda Poole shot Barmore in the back more than once.
Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fidducia said that Barmore died of multiple gunshot wounds, but she would go no further on the basis of there being an open investigation. Sue Fidducia has ran in elections for county coroner in what seems like forever, unopposed. She can be the only person voting for herself and win.
Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Rockford and asked to see Barmore’s body. He upset the apple cart. Whites became angry that Blacks brought in an outsider. Rev. Jackson saw bullet wounds in Barmore’s back. North and Poole’s supporters however, argued that the wounds in Barmore’s back were exit wounds and that he had been shot in the chest. Rev. Jackson said there were no wounds in Barmore’s chest. Fidducia addressed the media saying that Rev. Jackson was not a doctor. That would be picked up by those supporting North and Poole. That in fact, one Sheriff argued with me asking if I was a doctor. As Judge Judy says, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining” was my response. That officer, who once called me the “smartest woman” where we worked, never spoke to me again.
Pastor Melvin Brown stated that the Barmore family had an independent autopsy done on Barmore’s body. The autopsy showed that Barmore was shot once in the neck and three times in the back. The outsider was correct.
Oda Poole’s defense that he is not racist sounded very close to that of George Zimmerman’s claim of mentoring Black children. Poole was awarded an Illinois medal of honor for rescuing two Black children from a fire in a Rockford housing project in 2006. He passed them through a window to safety before collapsing from smoke inhalation and was rescued by a firefighter. Subsequently in his defense, his wife would blame the adults in that burning house for leaving the children inside. There is nothing documented to support her claim and it reeks of bigotry against Black parents. No matter what Poole did to earn the Illinois medal, it was rendered moot when he desecrated a church.
On December 23, 2009, the grand jury issued its decision that the police had used “justifiable force” and would not face any charges. Maryann Barmore, who raised Mark from childhood, told the local TV station that “it was as if Mark had been killed all over again.”
The two witnesses, the wife and daughter of Pastor Melvin Brown, were held in contempt of court for not appearing at the grand jury hearing, although their attorney had filed a motion apprising the court that the witnesses had arranged to take vacation out of State for Christmas and would not be available. Subsequently, Marissa Brown, Pastor Brown’s daughter, was arrested for allegedly making a false police report unrelated to the Barmore case. She was convicted and sentenced to 24 months probation.
In 2010, independent assessors submitted their report finding that Poole and North created the situation by failing to follow proper procedure. For one, they were wrong to enter the church with their firearms drawn.
In June 2010, Stan North filed for disability for emotional issues resulting from the killing of Barmore. His application was approved in 2011. Nearly two years after the Barmore shooting, and while on paid administrative leave, Poole was dismissed from the police force for being unfit to return to work.
On April 24, 2013, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the criminal contempt finding against the pastor’s wife and daughter. On May 6, 2013, the Appellant Court reversed Marissa’s conviction and remanded for a new trial. Lady Justice slowly feels her way.
Holding the Accused Accountable When Those With Them Are Killed
In October 2011, off duty sheriff’s deputy Frank Pobjecky was in Marie’s Pizza in Rockford when Lamar Coates, Desmond Bellmon, Brandon Sago and Michael Sago Jr. entered the restaurant. Lamar Coates had a gun and tried robbing the restaurant. When Pobjecky showed a gun, all four ran. All four men were shot by Pobjecky. Three survived. Unarmed 16-year-old Michael Sago, Jr. was shot 3 times in the back. Michael fell to the ground and laid bleeding in the parking lot until he died. Marie’s Pizza is located across the street from a hospital. Pobjecky did nothing to get nor provide medical care to the dying teenager.
A suspect in the case has stated that Michael had no knowledge that they intended to rob the restaurant.
Coates, Bellmon, and Brandon Sago have been charged with felony murder for Michael’s death because police say they were committing an armed robbery at the time.
In a statement released by his department several weeks after the shootings, Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers said that he believes that Deputy Pobjecky’s actions were “in compliance with all department policies and procedures and he acted according to proper police training.” Sheriff Meyers subsequently nominated Pobjecky for a law enforcement award for his actions. Pobejcky received that award in August 2012. (I want to cry with sadness that Illinois awarded Pobjejcky for killing an unarmed teen who posed no threat. It’s even more shocking that Pobejcky would want that award.)
Sago Jr’s family says that the actions and statements of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department are “sending the unmistakable message to Sheriff’s Deputies that shooting unarmed teenagers in the back is a proper act.” They also say that the Sheriff’s message directly encourages future abuses.
In my humble opinion, the family is behind in time. With Oda Poole and Stan North, the City of Rockford already sent a message that shooting unarmed men in the back is a proper act.
Lamar Coates was found guilty of felony murder and sentenced to 40 years. Cases are still pending against Desmond Bellmon and Brandon Sago, both charged with felony murder.
On the other hand, in April 2008, Cody Moore, 19; drove Nathan Whitmire, 17; Justin Doyle, 15, and Travis Castle, 14, to a home in neighboring Ogle County. Moore, Whitmire and Doyle all resided in Rockford. Castle resided in Durand. Moore drove them there to rob the house of guns and money, knowing that the owner was in the hospital. He did not know, however, that there was a house guest.
The house guest heard breaking glass and coming out of the bedroom, saw 14-yr-old Travis with a gun, and fired two shots. One grazed Travis on the neck, and the other was fired into his chest, killing the 14-year-old.
Cody Moore was offered a plea deal and sentenced to 30 years for home invasion , with a concurrent sentence of 5 years for involuntary manslaughter.
In exchange for a plea of guilty to residential burglary, the State dismissed charges of felony murder and home invasion against Nathan Whitmire. He was sentenced to 12 years.
Justin Doyle was sentenced to 5 years for involuntary manslaughter, and 30 years for home invasion.
Because Travis Castle was committing a crime, the house-sitter was not charged. Castle’s dad filed a civil action against the house-sitter, but the case was dismissed. He will have to live with two-men sentenced to 5 years each for involuntary manslaughter for the death of his son.
Yes, people must be held accountable for crimes they commit. And, yes, in the deaths of Michael Sago Jr. and Travis Castle, the State is the same; the races of the defendants and the sentences however, are different.
Sanford Police Didn’t Want Their Apple Cart Upset
When I heard about the killing of Trayvon Martin and that George Zimmerman had not been arrested, I thought, “Here we go again.” Then I learned that Zimmerman is not deputized in any law enforcement capacity. The demeaning of the victim and his parents, criticism against “outsiders,” etc., was like watching the Barmore situation all over again. This time, it was not local people on local online news sources verbally vandalizing the comment sections. It was worldwide. Zimmerman’s supporters and defense team would treat his conceal carry license as a badge to paint his killing of Trayvon Martin as a good-shoot.
I was also reminded of the Rolando Cruz case whose critics argued that the DuPage Seven did Illinois a favor imprisoning him for over 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit because he would have been in jail anyway for committing other crimes.
Now with the Kendrick Johnson situation, I am reminded of Michael Sago Jr. His family is represented by Chicago civil rights attorney Basileios “Bill” Foutris. Sheriff’s deputy Frank Pobjecky’s claims for why he fired the gun, shooting all 4, including Michael in the back, are based on his statement that Coates pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him. It was discovered that the entire incident was captured on the pizzeria’s video security system. Sago, Jr.’s family has not been permitted to view the video footage. Prosecutors in the criminal proceeding against the gunman in the Marie Pizza robbery successfully obtained a gag order on the video so that it cannot be shared with Sago, Jr.’s family or the media, according to Foutris.
Like the death of Kendrick Johnson, the school has surveillance photos of the gym where Kendrick’s body was found, but have refused to release them.
The blindfold on Lady Justice doesn’t make her impartial. Rather, it makes her blind to the prejudices and biases in which decisions are made in the justice system.
With electronic communications and social media, we have opportunity to upset the apple carts.
Need anyone now ask why I blog?
Posted on 10/15/2013, in Cases, Cops Gone Wild, Fred Hampton, Mark Anthony Barmore, Michael Sago Jr, Potpourri, Rolando Cruz, Travis Castle and tagged Cody Moore, Frank Pobjecky, Fred Hampton, George Zimmerman, Kendrick Johnson, Lamar Coates, Mark Anthony Barmore, Michael Sago Jr, Nathan Whitmire, Oda Poole, Rolando Cruz, Stan North, Travis Castle, Trayvon Martin. Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.