Black & White

We were silent, mesmerized even, as that videotape fed into the newsroom that day, a year and nine months ago.

It was grainy, at times blurry, but there was no mistaking the crowd of uniforms and flying limbs. Every so often, the crush of uniformed men would part slightly to reveal the slumped form of the boy we would come to know as Martin Lee Anderson. He was listless, rag-doll-like. Eventually, he was unconscious.

That videotape from a surveillance camera at the now-closed Florida boot camp in Panama City was shocking, even to a newsroom filled with people accustomed to a daily roster of humans behaving badly. In hindsight, the most unsettling scenes included the white-clad nurse who just stood and watched the beating, the knee-ing, the punches and body blows. Seven against one. Seven camp guards against one 14-year old who had collapsed after a mandatory jog.

Much has been written about last week’s acquittal of those seven boot camp guards and that nurse in the manslaughter death of 14 year old inmate Martin Lee Anderson, and the confused outrage that followed. Did racial prejudice impede justice? Maybe. Did God-fearing and Law-respecting jurors side too easily with law enforcement and against a kid whose joyriding got him a stay at boot camp? Maybe.

Here’s the part that sticks with me: 90 minutes.

That’s how long the jury deliberated after hearing three weeks worth of testimony: a little longer than a lunch hour. Each of those six jurors spent less time considering the evidence in Martin Lee Anderson’s death than they would spend watching a movie in a theater.

The video was black and white. But legal cases rarely are, especially when the defense introduces experts and theories that raise a reasonable doubt. You can’t tell me six people drilled down, discussed, debated and analyzed all the conflicting evidence they’d heard in just 90 minutes.

That day in the newsroom, what unfolded on videotape sure did look like a crime. If that jury in Panama City could not find the evidence to call it one, maybe a federal jury can? We’ll see.

Hopefully that jury, should there be one, will consider Martin Lee Anderson’s life worth more than 90 minutes of its time.


4 Responses

  1. How about looking at the facts instead of doing what everyone else is doing and that’s making this a black and white issue. Jurors were asked to look at the facts, not whether the boy was black or white as you’ve alluded to. The prolonged beating a 14-year-old suffered at the hands of Bay County boot camp guards had nothing to do with his death the next day. It had to do with a sickle cell trait. If we keep turning everything into a racial incident, all justice will be lost in this country.

  2. It is not a black or white issue. It is a human life issue! You can say it had to do with the sickle cell trait but as previously mentioned the PROLONGED BEATING this 14-year old suffered from the Bay County boot camp guards and the actions the nurse did NOT take are just as much the cause of this young human beings death.

  3. My goodness gracious, how can you not absolutely positively love Glenna Milberg? I mean she’s got the style, the personality, the true gift of gab, her finger on the very pulse of all that makes the Majic City tick, the non-stop smile, the ‘hit the dirt running’ true essence of a fine broadcast journalist, she is the total package and now we’ve got the daily blog to go with it with just great thought-provoking commentary. I commend TV Ten for giving us the the gift of Glenna Milberg.

  4. Sad as it may seem, we still have trusted our jury system as it’s all we’ve got. Sure we were all shocked when we first saw the tape of the lifeless boy being kicked and beaten, but the days of the Wild West frontier sheriff deciding the fate of the offender on the day of the arrest, are gone forever. Yes, it shocks the moral conscience of us all, but it is the system of fairness that has been handed to us and it is never going to be perfect. We hand juries the fate of others they are called on to judge; we need to live with the trust that we place in them, that cannot be disputed.

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