8 acquitted in boot camp death

first_imgBy midafternoon, about 150 people – many from nearby Florida A&M University – were protesting the acquittals outside the state Capitol. They chanted, “No justice. No peace.” Several black legislators also expressed outrage. Anderson was black; the guards were black, white and Asian. The jury was all white. “Ninety minutes of deliberation for a child’s life, a child who we saw beaten to death on videotape over and over again?” asked Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. “Ninety minutes and not guilty. That’s un-American. That is racist, discriminatory, bigotry.” The verdicts devastated the boy’s family, who had wanted the trial conducted outside this Florida Panhandle county. His mother, Gina Jones, stormed out of the courtroom. “I cannot see my son no more. Everybody see their family members. It’s wrong,” she screamed. “You kill a dog, you go to jail,” said the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump. “You kill a little black boy and nothing happens.” Defense attorneys dismissed that the case was about race, citing the guards’ racial diversity. Rather, they said, it was a local case tainted by outside political pressure to convict the guards. Anderson, hit by the guards after he collapsed while running laps, died a day later at a hospital in January 2006. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush was besieged by complaints of a coverup in the case and protesters camped out in his office for two days last year. “There was this perception that we were a bunch of bobo heads up here in Bay County,” Waylon Graham, the lawyer for ex-guard Charles Helms, told Court TV. “And I don’t like that kind of highhandedness, and what we did, we basically showed them that we know how to take care of business here in Bay County. We know what to do, and it was time for them to go home.” Defense attorneys contended that the first, disputed autopsy on the boy had it right all along: Anderson died of natural complications of undiagnosed sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder common in blacks that can hinder blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen during physical stress. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Martin Lee Anderson’s parents have been convinced ever since they saw the videotaped confrontation that the seven former guards, and a nurse who watched but did nothing to stop their blows, killed their 14-year-old son. It was equally clear-cut to the guards: They were just doing their jobs at the military-style juvenile camp, responding the way they were trained to when it appeared a young offender was faking illness to avoid exercise. Though the video may have shocked outsiders, they said it wasn’t their actions that killed Anderson, but a previously undiagnosed blood disorder. Across the street from the now-closed camp in this conservative community, jurors in the Bay County courthouse needed just 90 minutes to acquit the eight defendants of manslaughter. Despite the silent video that a prosecutor said screamed “in a loud, clear voice” that the defendants killed the boy last year, the jurors also didn’t find enough evidence to convict them of lesser charges of neglecting the teen. “I am truly, truly sorry this happened. Myself, I love kids,” said ex-guard Henry Dickens, 60. He added that Anderson “wasn’t beaten. Those techniques were taught to us and used for a purpose.” FLORIDA: A guard said the techniques used to beat the 14-year-old after he stopped running were “for a purpose.” By Melissa Nelson THE ASSOCIATED PRESS PANAMA CITY, Fla. – To both sides, and ultimately to the jury, the case of the teenager who died after boot camp guards punched and kicked him was open-and-shut. last_img read more