Sunday, October 14, 2007
Boot Camp Death Verdict Sparks Outrage
All-White Jury Delivers 'Not Guilty' Verdict in Beating Death of Black Teen
October 13, 2007
A verdict in Florida has angered a community and raised questions about race and justice.
A jury has acquitted eight former boot camp workers in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. He died one day after his videotaped beating that sparked outrage and brought an end to Florida's boot camps.
But the victim's family is not satisfied with the closing of the boot camps. They are furious over the ruling and say there was more than enough evidence to convict the guards.
"There was enough evidence," Anderson's father, Robert Anderson, told GMA's Kate Snow. "It was there in black and what-- What do you need a rocket science? I'm sick of this crap."
It took the jury just 90 minutes to decide that the kicking and punching of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson by eight boot camp workers, captured on video, was not a crime.
Judge Michael Overstreet of the Bay County Circuit Court delivered the verdict against each defendant: "The defendant is not guilty. "
The seven boot camp guards and one nurse had been charged with manslaughter after Anderson died the day after being kicked and punched by the guards.
The defense argued that the rough treatment was routine procedure in the get-tough juvenile facility, and that the guards implemented it when Anderson was thought to be faking illness.
An autopsy found he had a previously undiagnosed blood disorder. The defense argued that is what caused his death. The all-white jury agreed.
"This is like adding insult to injury," Benjamin Crump, attorney for Anderson's mother, Gina Jones, said on "Good Morning America" of the defense's argument that sickle cell anemia played a role in Anderson's death.
He added that they had hoped for more diversity on the jury -- African-Americans who are familiar with sickle cell anemia and what it can and cannot do.
"You kill a dog, you go to jail," Crump said on the courtroom steps just after the verdict was delivered. "You kill a little black boy, nothing happens."
Anderson was in custody for joyriding in his grandmother's car. His family was devastated by the verdict -- and angry.
"Everything was in black-and-white [on] the video," Gina Jones said on the court room's steps. "How the hell they going to let them walk away?"
After more than two years of scrutiny, the guards and the nurse said they felt exonerated.
"[The jurors looked at] the evidence, and if you can get passed the emotion, all unanimously decided they were not guilty," said Robert Sombathy, attorney for guard Patrick Garrett.
That wasn't good enough for several hundred college students, who descended on Tallahassee, Fla.'s state capitol building, to protest the verdict.
One protestor said, "If you look at the video, I think it's really clear that they beat this child to death, and I think they're guilty."
It is not clear that there will be grounds for appeal. As a result of public outrage, Florida closed down all of its get-tough boot camps and opted for a less militaristic approach to juvenile justice.