On Tuesday, June 4th, Shon McClain was critically injured by officer Markeith Council at the Wake County Detention Center. Council (a former football player, 6′-3″, 290 lbs.) picked up the much smaller McClain (5′-7″, 119 lbs.) and slammed him head first to the tile floor not once but twice. If you have the stomach to watch the video of the incident, you will see that the second time Council picks him up, McClain’s body is entirely limp. Council slammed him anyway.
Warning, it is disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPdGh_RNvBQ&feature=youtu.be
Two days later, WRAL ran a report about this and the language there is disturbing. Here is a link to that report: http://www.wral.com/sbi-probing-altercation-between-inmate-wake-detention-officer/12524224/)
The report starts by calling the incident an “altercation,” then accuses McClain of “assault” on Council, then reinforces this false narrative by saying that Council was “recovering from his injures at home.” After watching the video, WRAL’s account is clearly ridiculous. Instead of doing actual journalism, they serve as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the sheriff’s office, dutifully repeating back to us the spin they are given. It would have been worth a trip to see Council’s “injuries” first hand to see if they amounted to enough to stay home for or if maybe he could have changed his Band-Aid on his break. The article also flippantly mentions this was the second incident of officer misconduct in as many weeks. The other incident led to the officer being dismissed, but WRAL did not report on that incident at all.
They weren’t alone. The News & Observer did not report on the earlier incident either until after the more serious (and impossible to ignore) McClain abuse. The N&O didn’t run anything on this until June 12th, when it gave the same basic narrative WRAL had, albeit with a longer history of issues with detention officers assaulting inmates and never being criminally charged. Here is a link to N&O’s first report: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/12/2959074/sbi-probing-jail-altercation-that.html.
Unlike the prior incidents, Council was held accountable, well, somewhat. He was found guilty yesterday and sentenced to an unbelievable 90 days in jail. That’s it. For violently killing a helpless man he will spend 3 months in prison. This sentence from the same court system that recently sentenced Matt Coakley to 6-8 years in prison for a barroom fight where Coakley defended himself and merely injured the assailant. This is only one case that I personally know about. There are dozens of others that I catch rumor of but it is hard to know what is going on because we don’t have any actual journalists in Raleigh covering the court system.
So I guess we have (at least) three failures here. We have a detention facility with a somewhat long record of brutality, most of which has been ignored by the press and the prosecutor. We have a press in Raleigh that doesn’t seem interested in basic issues of justice or for some reason doesn’t ask hard questions and find out things. We depend on them to hold people in power accountable and they aren’t doing that very well. And we have a judicial system that seems to have lost all sense of justice. Holding a man in jail for over a month awaiting trial for drinking a malt beverage in public. (This was the misdemeanor McClain received the death penalty for.) Regular, systemic abuse of inmates and detainees. Selective prosecution. Sentences that bear no resemblance to the crimes they seek to punish, make no sense, and are (at best) arbitrarily given out, or (at worst) influenced by illegitimate factors like race, occupation, or favoritism.