Thursday, October 11, 2007

The murder of Martin Lee Anderson

You knew one of them would die eventually. As soon as the whole "boot camp movement" took off, you knew this was coming. I did, anyway.

I've been indulging my COURT TV addiction again, and pondering the "boot camp death" of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, as we watch closing arguments.

Hovering over the case is the decreased value and humanity of young black males in our culture. Obviously, Martin was just bitching and complaining; ain't nothing wrong with him. The video, which I have seen over and over, is chilling. They didn't believe him; obviously, they thought he was just faking his respiratory distress. They stand there in the video like a bunch of fucking idiots: Duh!

All eight stand accused, of standing there like fools as Martin dies. What's that expression? Throw the book at them. It's just so horrifying, to work a child to death like a MULE.

Guard describes procedure used to subdue teen who died after altercation at boot camp
By Emanuella Grinberg
Court TV

PANAMA CITY, FL — A former drill instructor at a boot camp for juvenile offenders became emotional on the witness stand Monday as he recalled the only time one of his young charges died on his watch.

In more than 20 years of active service with the United States Army, retired Lt. Charles Helms Jr. said he never saw a soldier die under his command. But, as second in command at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Juvenile Boot Camp in Panama City, Fla., Helms was in the hospital with the parents of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson when they decided to take him off life support after an altercation with drill instructors the day before.

"This is a kid who came into our program in supposedly perfect condition, in perfect health," Helms testified. "I'm trying to figure out what in the heck is going on."
You don't know???? You people killed him, obviously.
Helms, 51, was the first of eight defendants expected to testify. All are charged with aggravated manslaughter for Anderson's death on Jan. 6, 2006. Prosecutors rested their case before Helms took the stand Monday.

Along with Helms, former drill instructors Henry Dickens, Charles Enfinger, Patrick Garrett, Raymond Hauck, Henry McFadden Jr., Joseph Walsh and nurse Kristin Schmidt face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter for the teen's death.

Prosecutors allege the eight defendants caused Anderson's death by suffocating him and administering excessive amounts of ammonia capsules on him when he refused to participate in a mandatory run on his first day at the boot camp.

During the encounter, which was captured on surveillance camera footage, Helms and the drill instructors are seen covering Anderson's mouth and waving the ammonia capsules in his face while Schmidt stood by.

But lawyers for the defendants, ages 30 to 60, say they were acting in accordance with boot camp policy and blame his death on complications from sickle-cell trait, a typically benign genetic disorder which impedes the flow of oxygen through the blood.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors called the chief medical director of Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice, who testified there was no outlined procedure for the use of ammonia capsules in the boot camp's policy manual.

As the final witness in the prosecution's four-day case, Dr. Shairi Turner also testified that the department did not consider sickle-cell trait to be a condition that would automatically exclude juvenile offenders from participation in the program, like asthma or even sickle-cell disease, a more advanced form of sickle-cell trait.

Helms, however, insisted that, had his staff known of Anderson's condition, they would not have accepted him into the program, which opened in 1994 to rehabilitate serious juvenile offenders considered on a track to adult prison.

"The last thing we wanted was for any kid to come into boot camp with physical ailments that would cause him to injure himself," said Helms, who was a drill instructor at Kentucky's Fort Knox before he went to work at the Panama City boot camp.

Several jurors leaned forward as they listened to Helms describe the precautions that the staff took to ensure the safety of the offenders. He described screening them for medical issues before they entered the boot camp, and separating gang members and using plastic flatware once they entered the program.

Helms said Anderson, who entered the boot camp for violating probation on a grand theft auto conviction, received the highest security designation upon entering the boot camp based on a record of gang affiliation and a propensity for violence.

In light of his security designation, Helms said that guards took the typical course of action when Anderson told them, "This is bulls---," and stopped participating in a 1.5-mile run to gauge his fitness level.

Standing next to a video projection of the surveillance footage, Helms described for jurors the actions he took upon being called to the drill field about 20 minutes into the encounter.

When he arrived, Helms said, Anderson appeared to be conscious and actively resisting the drill instructors' attempts to get him on his feet. Helms said he eventually took over administering the ammonia capsules by "cupping" his hand over the teen's mouth so he could determine through the movements in his jaw whether he was conscious.

The retired Army lieutenant testified that the use of ammonia capsules on offenders was normal, especially on the first day, when the teens were likely to feign unconsciousness to get out of completing the 16-lap run.

Nearly four minutes into the encounter, Helms said, he realized something was amiss and asked Schmidt to take his vital signs. Even though Anderson's heartbeat and respiratory rates were normal, Helms said, they decided to call 911 when the teen became clammy and unresponsive.

"My hand is on his stomach. I'm shaking him back and forth. At this point, I go from drill instructor mode to rescue mode," testified Helms.

Helms accompanied the teen in an ambulance to the Bay County Medical Center, where, after two hours, doctors decided to airlift him to the pediatric intensive care unit in Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital.

Helms said he was not permitted to accompany the teen, so he made the two-hour trip by car to Pensacola, where he waited in the hospital with Anderson until his parents removed him from life support at about 2 a.m. the next morning.

"Why did you go?" Helms' lawyer, Waylon Graham, asked him.

"It's one of my kids. I'm responsible. I'm the officer in charge," Helms responded. "I've been in the military for a long period of time and you never leave one of your soldiers."

Helms was prevented from answering his lawyer's question about how the incident had affected him, but the answer was clear. He wiped tears with a handkerchief as he stepped down from the witness stand.
Crocodile tears, I think goes the expression.

Listening to: Yo La Tengo - Moby Octopad
via FoxyTunes


bryce said...

medical disinformation,m sickle cell trait doesn't produce symptoms or illness. jesse jackson, lots of people have it. it just means you are a carrier of the disease

abstractjenn said...

"Hovering over the case is the decreased value and humanity of young black males in our culture"

This says it all....its disturbing and disgusting. I don't have cable so please keep us updated on what happens. Slap on the wrist is my guess.

drakyn said...

Helms, of course soldiers don't die when they're supossed to be running laps! Soldiers, even those in-training like ROTC kids, have been running and training. They know thy don't have any health conditions that would affect their performance. They want to be there so they try their best and aren't generally force-fed pills!
Hell, soldiers are all adults, not 14-year old kids.

And who wants to bet he went to the hospital to try and do some damage-control?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Verdict: Not guilty, so say we all.

They have deployed riot police outside the courtroom, as well they should.

abstractjenn said...

Not Guilty - this is disgusting

Donna said...

"The last thing we wanted was for any kid to come into boot camp with physical ailments that would cause him to injure himself," said Helms

Injure himself, eh? Damn that kid for killing himself and causing those poor innocent prison guards so much distress.

If there wasn't a verdict already, I would have said, it's going to be not guilty. The cops, prison officials, just about anyone in this country can get away with murdering POC.

DaisyDeadhead said...

I'm getting a buncha hits on this thread from a list/message board in Sweden, so I assume the thread is linked there. I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions, if anyone speaks English? (and I assume so, since I write in English? Or is it translated?)

In any event, WELCOME Swedish readers! :)

bint alshamsa said...

Daisy, it seems we both had this on our minds. I swear, I could have saved myself the trouble of writing two posts about this and just linked to yours instead. Are you reading my mind, Miss?

Marcus said...

Thanks for the welcome Daisy! Ofcourse we speak English in Sweden, it's our second language and all children learns it since the age of 7 (If I remember correctly).

Anyway, this murder is terrible and the verdict is sick. I hope that the american people realize that there is a big problem with your system and you need to do major changes right now.

I hope you can take some criticism about the American justice system, dont you think that it's wrong to let random people decide the verdict? I'm talking about the jury , If I've understood it correctly it's just random people that sits in the jury with no lawyer-education or education when it comes to moral and ethics. In Sweden we got no jury. We got a judge and three other educated people that help the jury to decide what the verdict should be.

This is their fulltime jobs.

RIP Martin Lee Anderson. Good luck U.S

DaisyDeadhead said...

dont you think that it's wrong to let random people decide the verdict? I'm talking about the jury, If I've understood it correctly it's just random people that sits in the jury with no lawyer-education or education when it comes to moral and ethics.

Okay, you are doing a terrible thing here, forcing me to quote the likes of William F Buckley, but I just have to:

I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.

I have to agree with him on that one.

Education does not guarantee fairness. Why would it? The jury in the Phil Spector murder trial was hung up by the foreman, an educated white man with a Ph.D.

In addition, "educated people" in the USA, often means people of means. The idea of a "jury of your peers" was to insure that the people judging you can fully appreciate and understand your values. At the time the "jury of your peers" concept was introduced in the Bill of Rights, the people who were guaranteed these rights were all white men, and these rules pointedly DID NOT apply to women, blacks or Native Americans. Crimes were not legally "equal"--depending upon who the victim was. A crime against a white man or his property (white women, children) was a "real" crime; nobody even prosecuted the murders of slaves, unmarried poor women with no benefactors, orphans or Indians. These days, we do prosecute them, but the juries are drawn from the pool of registered voters. This is hardly "random"--registered voters must have made the effort to register (i.e. time off work to do so, transportation to the place to register), must not have moved within a certain period of time, etc. Also, if you don't vote for a certain number of elections, you are automatically unregistered in some states. These economic factors disproportionately favor white people on juries.

This works in a number of ways. It works in the favor of a defendant like Spector, but against a victim like Martin.

The jury that returned this verdict was all-white. Perhaps if he had looked like their own son, they would have returned a different verdict. Or, perhaps if they had learned to mistrust/question authority, as American people of color have, again, a different verdict.

There is also the relatively new and disturbing trend of what are called "jury consultants"... during the voir dire process, a number of people (registered voters) are called in, and most dismissed. Any prejudicial factor could be enough to dismiss them. Example: you are from Sweden. If you moved here, and became a citizen called to jury duty, and the defendant or victim was also Swedish, there is a good chance they would dismiss you for that, believing that your loyalty to another Swede would over-ride the facts of the case. Other possible disqualifying factors: being a crime victim, family of law enforcement, etc. The lawyers are then in the second phase, and they get a certain number of dismissals each. The jury consultants fashion a battery of psychological tests to try to choose jurors sympathetic to the side they work for, which could be the defendant (famous jury consultant Jo-Ellan Demetrius worked for both OJ's defense team, as well as rapist William Kennedy Smith's defense team) or the plaintiff in a lawsuit. The jury consultants (and there was not one in Martin's case) have messed with the whole "random" aspect of juries. But of course, only if you have the major bucks to pay them; they certainly don't work cheap.

For a high-stakes drama about all this, check out the movie RUNAWAY JURY, with I think John Cusack? Not a great movie, but dramatizes the whole process I am describing.

Hope this made sense, and thank you so much for your comments! :)