A Murder Planned, An Innocent Man, The FBI on the Job

I was going to write about Clarence Carter who's got an execution date of April 12. Actually, that's not right. I wasn't going to write about Carter. I was going to write about how the Parole Board reviewed things in 2007 before Carter's planned murder and by a vote of 6-3 recommended that Governor Ted have him killed. That didn't happen for reasons having nothing to do with the Parole Board or Governor Ted. Instead the courts got in the way and stopped the killing. Anyhow they've rescheduled and so the Parole Board took another swing at it. Nothing much has changed. Carter still killed James Allen back in 1988. He still apologizes to Allen's family. He still says he's remorseful. He still says he's learned that "violence is not the answer." The jury still didn't hear anything about his turbulent background. The jury still didn't have some of the corroboration of conflicting testimony regarding just how the altercation between Carter and Allen began or who started it. Herb Brown, the former Ohio Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion affirming Carter's conviction and death sentence still doesn't think death is the appropriate sentence. Carter's adjustment to prison remains about the same – not perfect, but not terrible. The jury still didn't have the option, back at the time of the trial, of sentencing Carter to life without parole. And since nothing has changed to make Carter more fitting now for murder than he was four years ago, it's not immediately evident why this time, in 2011, the Parole Board voted unanimously to recommend that he be killed. Oh, yeah, there's one thing that's different now. Two of the Parole Board members who voted for life back in 2007 are no longer on the Board. And the third, Ellen Venters, switched her vote. That's what I was going to write about. ******* Or maybe I was going to write about how Thomas Haynesworth doesn't hate the women who wrongly identified him as the man who raped them. Oh, sure, he spent 27 years in prison on their mistaken say so (DNA indicates that the rapist was one Leon Davis), but he can't blame them he told Maria Glod for the Washington Post. "They have been through a tragedy," he said. "What happened to them shouldn't have happened to them. I blame the person who did this, Mr. Davis." One of the women Haynesworth didn't rape is less magnanimous toward herself. On the day that two detectives showed up at the Henrico woman's house in March 2009, she felt a rush of fear. Haynesworth, she thought, must have made parole. But the officers started talking about DNA and evidence. She began to understand what they were saying: DNA had cleared Haynesworth and implicated a convicted rapist named Leon Davis. Suddenly her mind was transported back to one of the most painful days of her life, a day she spent years trying to put behind her. But now the man she long thought of as a brutal attacker, a criminal, had become a victim, too. She wept. For the first time, she told her children that she had been raped. She wanted to reach out to friends, but it never felt like the right time to broach the subject. And she struggled to remember each detail of her identification of Haynesworth. "I've gone through it 100 times in my head," she said. "Was there any point where there was a clue? Did something not make sense to me that should have been a red flag?" She has found none. The Henrico woman ticks off the milestones of the past 27 years of her life. Marriage, raising children, holidays, family vacations. Haynesworth, she thinks, has been robbed of all of that. "All these things go through your head," she said. "The Mother's Days that he's missed. Just thinking what would I do if my son was torn away from me, or if my daughter was torn away from me." She knows that Haynesworth has said he feels no anger toward her, and she said knowing that comforts her. She knows he wants to get a job as a mechanic. And she hopes to meet him someday. "I hope that he is able to pick up his life and have nothing but great things happen from this point on out," she said. This is virtually a carbon copy the story of Jennifer Thompson-Canino and Ronald Cotton. It's a story of uncommon decency all around. And enormous suffering. And of a system that's seriously fucked up. And maybe I was going to write about that. ******* But then Anna D sent me the news that simply emphasizes what we already know. The zeal of those who would keep us safe is matched only by their incompetence. Have you tried to enter a government building lately? Tried to get on a plane? Tried to pass through security? Empty pockets. Take off shoes. Remove coat. Place all objects on conveyor belt. Get naked for the cameras and the amusement of the guards. Submit to sexual assault. Bend over and spread 'em. And for godssake, if you see something, say something. And so it came to pass that in late February a private contract guard at a federal office building in Detroit found a package outside the building. He brought it inside for safe keeping. Put it in the lost and found. Last week someone decided that maybe the package should be x-rayed. You know, like all the other stuff that entered the building. Ooops. That bomb sat in the Lost and Found for three weeks. Yep. Bomb. Lost and Found. Next to the odd gloves and the broken umbrellas and a couple of scarfs and some kid's backpack. Three weeks. Detroit police said they recovered a package on Friday from the federal building and detonated it. After three weeks. The FBI, you'll be comforted to know, is investigating. Which is only appropriate. Their office is in that building.

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