Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Court sends message to Springfield Police: you CAN be found guilty of abuse!

It's not like the criminal injustice system is ever off-duty in Springfield, but sometimes it runs in the background; people don't say much and organizing falls off   But former police officer Jeffrey Asher kicked us into high gear in December of 2009, when he beat Melvin Jones to a pulp.  On Wednesday, Asher was found guilty of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery.  Sentencing will take place on March 28.  Here's a link to an excellent summary of the case by Buffy Spencer at the Republican.   The article reminded me that former DA Bill Bennett refused to convene a grand jury to investigate the conduct of officers in the Jones beating; victim Melvin Jones had to file an application for a criminal complaint himself.

It seems necessary to say here that most Springfield police don't go around assaulting members of the public with flashlights-- but also that no officers seem willing to speak out against misconduct by a fellow officer.  We saw that in play yesterday when Michael Ververis' lawyer, Luke Ryan, called officers to the stand to ask if it was unusual for a cellphone that might be a critical piece of evidence in the criminal case against Michael-- which very well might have exonerated Michael-- was released to the cellphone's owner without a sign-off by the DA.  Nothing to see here, move along.  I haven't heard a report back yet from Arise and Out Now members who were in court with Michael yesterday as to whether the judge agrees that this destruction of evidence-- a video of Michael's arrest which disappeared from the cellphone, apparently while in the evidence room -- is sufficient to dismiss charges against Michael.

Momentum is increasing in the case of Charles Wilhite.  From his website:

On September 17th, 2009, Charles Wilhite was arrested and interrogated as a murder suspect in the shooting death of Alberto Rodriguez that occurred on October 14th 2008. On December 6th, 2010, a jury delivered a guilty verdict against Charles Wilhite, for murder in the first degree, sentencing him to life imprisonment without parole.
As a community, we have significant concerns about the way the case was prosecuted and the way the verdict was reached:
  • There is no physical evidence linking Charles Wilhite to to the shooting.
  • The testimonies presented at trial were contradictory, including the initial testimony linking Charles to the shooting.
  • During the trial, one of the Commonwealth’s key witnesses recanted her testimony.
  • After the trial, another key witness, immunized for his testimony, recanted his statement, including his identification of Charles. He cites police intimidation as one reason for his falsehood.
  • Jury deliberation lasted only three hours, despite the need to examine over fifty exhibits.
Charles has not known freedom since September 2009. Charles pleaded his innocence then, as he does today, and will continue to do until he is freed.

The campaign to free Charles will kick off on March 3, noon, at Spring of Hope Church, 35 Alden St., Springfield.  The concerned community is urged to attend.  On Thursday, March 8,  Judge Peter Velis will hear the motion to discharge after jury to set aside Charles' guilty verdict.

Last but not least, we've simply got to mobilize against the proposed Three Strikes legislation.  Not only is the bill unnecessary (we already have a Habitual Offender law), not only will it cost the state a fortune, we have to remember that innocent people are convicted every day.  Tell the Governor, NO! Print Friendly and PDF

1 comment:

marty said...

I have lived in the Valley almost 17 years. In the first year after I arrived Jeffrey Ascher was caught beating a black man brutally but never punished for it. It was appalling. I had moved up to the "civilized" North from North Carolina. It was an eye-opener. Thanks, Arise, for pursuing this until, finally, there is a semblance of justice and deterrence.