Archive for the 'Global Politics' Category

Red Flags in Media Hands and the Case of Frank Wetzel

definition:  red flag, something that provokes an angry or hostile reaction (Dictionary.com)

quote:  The evidence of Mr. Wetzel’s guilt…is highly suspect.  [attorney Mark Edwards, Petition for (Wetzel) Clemency, December 18, 2002]

He would have had to average a speed of 140 and 190 m.p.h. (to have committed the two crimes of which he was convicted) (court document requesting reconsideration of Frank Wetzel’s convictions as cited in Lost Angels Times article “1957 Murders Leave Lingering Mystery…)  

Getting any governor to commute the sentence of someone who killed a trooper is almost impossible…we get into the politics of it… opponents would use that… (attorney Jim Cooney, Family of Elderly Convicted Killer Wants Him Released, WSOCTV.com, Juny 8, 2011)

in the news:  1957 Murders Leave Lingering Mystery Despite a Conviction (Christopher Sullivan, AP February 5, 1995)

Family of Elderly Convicted Killer Wants Him Released (WSOCTV.com, June 8, 2011

Scandal-Plagued North Carolina Crime Lab Sued By Exonerated Man (Huffington Post, June 30, 2011)

in perspective:  Frank Wetzel was convicted in two separate trials of killing two state troopers within 15 minutes of each other at a distance of 45 miles apart.  The murders were committed in November, after 8 p.m. on North Carolina backroads.

Frank Wetzel is now 90 years old and has been eligible for parole since 1978.  His case comes up annually for review and the board still rules that he can benefit from further rehabilitation despite the fact that he has Alzheimer’s and has a 56-year-old half brother whose family would welcome Frank into its home with open arms.

The powerful force that has kept Frank Wetzel imprisoned for 54 years is the same one that brought about his convictions in the first place, despite numerous determinations that he did not have fair trials, despite recantation by a sole eye witness to the first murder who was allowed to testify in the second trial though he was not present, and despite the findings presented in a 2002 petition for clemency on Frank Wetzel’s behalf that said the evidence of his guilt was highly suspect.

That strong force more powerful than the law is the effect of red flags waved by the media to sway and motivate public sentiment according to a barometric reading by decision-makers about  the information the public should consume.  Viewership is important because it translates into ratings and sponsorship dollars.  It also translates into political and social power.

The WSOCTV.com article of June 2011 on the “Family of Elderly Convicted Killer Wants him Released” is one example of how the powerful red flag works in media hands when covering a story.  The local TV channel that conducted an interview with Frank Wetzel’s half-brother Richard never mentioned the facts of the case.  Among others, that included the timing of the two murders that would have required unreachable speeds for one perpetrator to accomplish.  The article also never stated other obvious factors that contributed to determinations that Frank Wetzel was innocent, including a recantation and claim of coercion by a sole eye witness and the staged planting of evidence linking the two killings.

Furthermore, rather than recounting the true facts of the murders, the article repeatedly states the fact of the convictions, even if erroneously since two juries and not just one convicted Frank as stated in the item.  In addition, the article quotes a top North Carolina defense attorney as stating point blank that Frank was among those who “killed a trooper.”  The article quotes North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue as saying “she won’t consider” commuting Frank’s sentence.  It also ends with Richard Wetzel saying he thinks it will take a death certificate to free his brother from prison.

Yet the case of Frank Wetzel deserves more careful consideration by media, political and legal powers than simply a wave of the “trooper killer” red flag.  If Frank Wetzel was really innocent, then a reexamination of his case while he is still alive would demonstrate the strong grip of injustice in our society.  It would also reaffirm the power of justice to defeat the unjust however long it takes.

Advertisements

The last shall be first with the 2012 election

quote:  the world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress (Charles Kettering)

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant/Success in Circuit lies/Too bright for our infirm Delight/The Truth’s superb surprise (Emily Dickinson)

in the news:  Obama Tells Supporters Change Harder than Expected.  White House Releases Obama Birth Certificate.  Bin Laden Killed. Billionaire Donald Trump Won’t Run for President in 2012

in perspective:  “Change you can believe in.”  That was the slogan of the half-white man savvy enough to lead America into the historic step of electing the first non-white leader of a western industrialized country.

The conservative traditionalist backlash was no surprise.  The Tea Party movement cropped up with the inauguration.  The racial element was barely address in comparison to the monumental change that had come to America and through it, to the world.  Even the Birthers demanding to see the new President’s birth certificate denied they were racists and few voiced the view that of course racism was obvious.  Had anyone ever asked George Bush to show credentials?

A corollary to the issue of race in the modern world is a whole gamut of factors  determining social status.  Where status is in play, so is entitlement.  Determinants of status include power and money.  They also include attitudes such as exclusivity.  Golfing clubs have fewer members than YMCA’s and the membership is quite jealous to keep the proportion as it is.

While the 2010 midterm elections did show  evidence of the backlash, the damage to the new President’s progressive agenda was less than traumatic.  Thereon entered Donald Trump, the real estate magnate and TV game show star who was the caricature of the chest thumping white Anglo-Saxon protestant male whose most highly developed skill was to domineer through fear.

The message was never voiced with the volume it deserved.  Trump had appointed himself the guardian of the status quo through which he had risen. 

By the  time he withdrew from the political arena in mid-May 2011, a May 4 Quinipiac poll had indicated that the majority of Americans would not vote for Donald Trump as president.  They would also not vote for Sarah Palin to be in that position, howevermuch the conservatives in 2008 had elevated the Alaskan cheerleader to political stature as a symbol of the rustic cowboy loner image considered to be all-American.

The Quinipiac poll is proof that Americans may be lost in a global world but they’re no fools.  They are led by the same gut-instinct wisdom with which they elected Barack Obama in 2008.

Americans do seem to grasp the concept that the world may still be dominated by white Anglo-Saxon males and the women who support them, but global society is no longer captive to that historic remnant.  Asian countries are emerging economies, as are the South American nations.  They are making alliances with minerally rich African countries to access those natural resources.  The Arab countries are adapting to modern democratic ways.  Americans seem to sense that the way forward for America with job creation is to help the world help itself through cooperation.

The most direct way to gain an opening onto that prosperous future is to state the obvious in the blunt American manner.  America is now led by a non-white family.  The effect of the historic leap that has been made is profound.

In 2011 America with another presidential election on the way, it is time to stop criticizing President Obama for failing to live up to the promise of change.  However brilliant, no man can be faulted for failing to change 2,000 years of a status quo in a mere two years.

No better proof can be offered for the effectiveness of the new President’s strategy than the end of the Osama Bin Laden albatross that has weighed on America since 9/11.  Bin Laden was at long last located not through the use of force but by working with local communities.  Credit also goes to improved coordination between American intelligence and armed services.

Those mighty aspects of America’s status in the global community of 192 countries are beyond the scope of America at large.  They are, however, part of the machinery that keeps America’s businesses expanding.

They are also the responsibility of the new non-White President and his family in the White House.  That President deserves patience with his dealing of the status quo during his first four years.  He needs another four to achieve the promised change.