- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

BALTIMORE — The Anne Arundel County state’s attorney said yesterday that after an “exhaustive review” he has decided not to prosecute the young white men charged in the beating death of a black Pasadena teenager.

Six men originally were charged in the death last summer of Jamahl Jones, 17, outside a party at a home.

On May 12, an all-white jury acquitted Jacob Fortney, the first of the men to be tried, of involuntary manslaughter, first- and second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment. Mr. Fortney, 19, had faced up to 50 years in prison.

State’s Attorney Frank Weathersbee said prosecutors presented their strongest evidence in Mr. Fortney’s trial.

When the jury found that evidence — which included an eyewitness who said he saw Mr. Fortney jump on Jamahl’s face — insufficient, Mr. Weathersbee said he had “an ethical, legal and moral responsibility not to proceed in prosecutions that I feel have no reasonable hope of success.”

Civil rights leaders and members of the county’s black community reacted yesterday with anger.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow. People are upset about it,” said Gerald Stansbury, president of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“An African-American young man was killed by a white, and no one is being charged for it. There has got to be some kind of value in a human life. How can people get away with this kind of stuff?”

The Justice Department is investigating Jamahl’s death. Its officials have declined to comment on the case.

Carl Snowden, a civil rights activist in the county, urged young blacks to “remain cool” over the decision. “It’s pretty volatile, and people are pretty angry,” he said.

The county NAACP demanded Monday an investigation into charges that a juror inappropriately discussed Mr. Fortney’s case with other jurors before the trial’s closing arguments.

Members from the civil rights group monitored the weeklong trial and expressed deep disappointment with the verdict.

Throughout the trial, however, prosecutors, defense attorneys and witnesses all said they thought that the fight that broke out July 24 had nothing to do with race.

Jamahl was a senior at Northeast High School in Pasadena when he and three friends burst into the backyard party, trying to help another friend they thought was in trouble. The group was armed with a handgun, a stun gun and a hammer.

Mr. Weathersbee said his office still planned to pursue a handgun charge against Marion Shepherd, who was with Jamahl that night.

One of the other men charged in Jamahl’s death, Joshua Bradley, testified at Mr. Fortney’s trial that he saw the defendant run and jump on Jamahl’s face during the fight and heard him brag about it later.

But defense attorneys cast Mr. Bradley as unstable, and a medical expert contended that Jamahl’s injuries were inconsistent with such a jump. Prosecutors had agreed to drop charges against Mr. Bradley as part of a plea agreement.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide