On Saturday evening, May 15, 2010, a 35 year old man, Johnny West, went to pick up his 11 year-old daughter from a house in Stedman, a city in Cumberland County. On their return trip home, they traveled through a neighborhood with children at play in what one man thought was at an excessive speed. He yelled at Johnny West to slow down. Angered by the rebuke, Mr. West arrived home, picked up a shotgun, and with two of his nephews joining him and his daughter, drove back to the neighborhood with the intention of confronting the man who had yelled at him. West shot at the man, who returned fire with a weapon of his own. Johnny West sustained a superficial wound to his arm, however his daughter was struck by a bullet in the abdomen. She was taken to the hospital where she is in critical condition after undergoing surgery to remove part of her stomach and her spleen.
Two days later, on Monday, May 17, 2010, police charged Johnny West with felony child abuse, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and communicating threats. He was not charged with attempted first degree murder. His bail was set at $28,000, and he was released after the bond was satisfied. Also, on making bond, there was no condition that upon his release from Cumberland County Detention Center that he be placed under house arrest.
Crystal Mangum, on the other hand, allegedly scratched her ex-boyfriend and initiated a controlled burn using some of his clothing for kindling and was charged on arrest with felony first degree attempted murder, five counts of first degree arson, felony identity theft, communicating threats, assault and battery, three counts of child abuse, injury to personal property, and resisting, delaying, and obstructing a public officer. Magistrate B. Wakil set bail at $1 million. When Durham Assistant D.A. Angela Garcia-Lamarca went before the grand jury, she obtained indictments for one count of felony first degree arson, three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, injury to personal property, and obstructing a public officer.
Later Ms. Mangum’s bail was reduced by Judge Claude Allen to $250,000, but with the condition that if she bonded out, she would be placed under house arrest. Weeks pass before Judge Ridgeway reduced the bail to $100,000, with conditions for house arrest still in place. On Saturday, May 15, 2010, members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong held a prayer vigil for Crystal’s release, and on Monday, May 17, 2010, their prays were answered by the gracious, courageous, kind, and generous owners of Hammond & Hammond Bailbondsman, Inc. They posted the $100,000 bond to secure Crystal Mangum’s release from jail. Lonnie Hammond and his wife Janet made the bond on Ms. Mangum’s behalf pro bono after reading an article in The Herald-Sun about efforts Ed Clark and some other members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong were making to raise bond.
Thankfully, Ms. Mangum, though not free, is no longer incarcerated at the Durham correctional facility… she’s is being electronically monitored to keep her from straying from her home. The same cannot be said for Johnny West, who, after making bond, is free to go wherever he pleases… with his shotgun… a man provoked to kill because a stranger yelled at him to slow down in a neighborhood where children were at play… a man who attempted to kill a stranger for yelling at him to slow down… and a man who took his daughter and two nephews with him to an armed confrontation with a stranger.
This is but one of many case comparisons that reinforces my belief that the North Carolina justice system has its priorities misplaced, to put it nicely. Bluntly, the state runs a “vendetta justice system based on Class and Color,” making a mockery of justice and making it the laughing stock of the nation. If it’s equal justice you’re after, North Carolina is not the place to be… just compare the cases of Crystal Mangum and Johnny West, and you’ll see.