A recent article in The News & Observer, titled “Accused stepdaughter wants her life back,” recounts how Carletta Alston, was arrested and charged with the murder of Michael Donnell Smith in June 2009. Although Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford (who also wrongly prosecuted Gregory Taylor in the 1991 death of Jacquetta Thomas) had no credible evidence or even a motive against Ms. Alston, he held her in jail for a year before finally releasing her. It seems that in North Carolina’s justice system this practice of arresting an individual first and then working up a case against the person is not all that rare… especially amongst the poor, disenfranchised, people of color and those considered Not-So-Privileged.
This kind of arrest first, investigate later policy would not be tolerated if it was applied to the privileged, or those who were deemed to be professionals or educated. For example, Jason Young, who is currently on trial for the murder of his wife Michelle Young, was not scooped up and dumped in the slammer as soon as suspicions about him arose. Heck, no. The police and their investigators conducted a thorough investigation before making the arrest and bringing charges against him.
That is the way the justice system should work when it comes to making an arrest and bringing charges. Justice definitely was not served in the Carletta Alston case… more of which will be presented in the flog which is soon to follow.
In the past few days evidence has been unearthed, literally, which has brought media attention to yet another sad chapter of crime in the cash-strapped city of Durham. Specifically, the case of the so-called “Black Hebrews” religious cult with its leader Pete Moses Jr., who along with a half dozen others, has been charged with the murder of 28 year-old Antoinette McKoy and a five year-old boy, Jadon Higginbothan. According to media sources, a witness stated that cult leader Moses killed the little boy and ordered a follower, Vania Sisk, mother of the murdered boy, to shoot McKoy. It is believed that the deaths occurred sometime in December 2010.
Let me preface my following remarks by stating that neither Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez nor any of his investigators have shared any information about the case with me. All that I have gleaned about the case has come from the mainstream media… which is not the most reliable source. But it is the only source available to me.
I do not question the arrest and murder charges leveled against Pete Moses Jr. and Vania Sisk. From what I have read and viewed on television news, those charges seem to be warranted. Charges against five other individuals seems to be somewhat more suspect. Although Moses’s mother Sheilda Evelyn Harris rented the house nearly a year ago on Ashe Street where the bodies were found, I have seen no evidence that she was involved or had knowledge of the murders. On the television news broadcasts however, relatives of Ms. Harris claimed that she had no involvement in Moses’s religious cult or his crimes. Others arrested included Sheila Falisha Moses, 20; P. Leonard Moses, 20; Larhonda Renee Smith,40; and Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40. Sheila and Leonard Moses are children of Ms. Harris, and siblings of cult leader Pete Moses Jr. Other than living in the house on Ashe Street, there was no information linking Sheila and Leonard in the crimes.
A newspaper article in today’s The News & Observer titled, “Site of woman’s body yields remains of child,” conveyed that Durham Police Chief Lopez stated that prior to discovery of the bodies on the Ashe Street property, Ms. Harris was not a suspect. The mere discovery of the bodies on the property does not in-and-of itself implicate Ms. Harris in the murder.
Although the five charged with murder (outside of Pete Moses and Vania Sisk), are being held without bail, the real possibility exists that they may be totally innocent… that they could have had no knowledge of the crime. It is possible that one or more may have aided or abetted Pete Moses, and possibly deserved a lesser charge of “accessory after the fact.” And, although I believe that it is highly unlikely, the five could have all taken part in the murders and be guilty as charged.
It just seems to me that when it comes to making arrests amid those who are of the Not-So-Privileged class, police and prosecutors in Durham and Wake Counties, as well as other counties within the state, have no qualms about making arrests first and investigating second. I believe that it should be the other way around.
If I were a bettin’ man, I would be inclined to believe that before the dust settles, of the five presently in custody and facing murder charges (excluding Pete Moses Jr. and Vania Sisk), most, if not all of them will have the murder charges against them reduced or dropped. Although arresting the Not-So-Privileged may be popular with conservative law and order Republicans, arresting and charging people without credible evidence is an unjust policy that results in unnecessary misery and hardship, and drains the county coffers that are maintained with taxpayer dollars.
Arrest first and investigate second policies in Durham, Wake County and throughout North Carolina should be abandoned immediately, and in its place there should be a principle that requires an investigation that yields credible evidence before an arrest takes place… in other words, the same policy that is currently in place for the Privileged class should be applied to the Not-So-Privileged.