City Paper Widget

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 17 (City on Trial)

This is the seventeenth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 15: City on Trial (two of three)

Just before the start of Barry's 1989 drug trial, one of the lead investigators on the case told another investigator: "Unfortunately, a lot of those jurors are going to base their decision purely on the issue of race. If I'm a juror, and think that the investigation was racially motivated, I vote to acquit."

The second investigator "simply couldn't believe it; he certainly could never accept it. 'You're dead wrong', he said. He looked away for a moment and said, 'I hope you're dead wrong' " (Kindle location 4909).

On the first day of the trial, Barry sat with his lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, an African-American. His wife Effi sat in the second row of spectators. US Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens also was in the audience. Ricky Roberts ("tall, stiff, light-skinned African American" (l.  4948)) made the opening statement for the prosecution on June 18, 1990.

" 'This is a case about deceit and deception,' he told the jury" (l. 4928).

Mundy's tactic was to put the government on trial.

" 'This case is about the deals the government made with the devil,' he said, asking jurors to remove the headlines from their minds, and pretend they had just awakened from a long sleep. 'Seven years ago the government made a determination that it would get Marion Barry, and it would to to any lengths, any extremes to get him' " (l. 4930).

"Ken Mundy... was a master of making jurors see the world through his eyes. He played the homeboy attorney, talking to the twelve men and women as if they were neighbors" (l. 4955).

"Mundy had no special love for Barry and vacillated before taking the case after the Vista bust. He had supported his cousin, former council chairman Sterling Tucker, against Barry in the 1978 mayoral campaign. He knew that defending Barry now would require a full frontal assault on the system of justice, and he wondered what the members of the 'club' would think of him. In his moment of indecision, NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks personally urged him to take the case" (l. 4960).

Nelson Mandela started a visit on DC on June 25, while jurors heard testimony from women on the receiving end of Barry's unwanted sexual advances.

"The mayor had vowed to keep a proper distance between his tawdry trail and Nelson Mandela's triumphant celebration and put his intentions in a letter to Mandela's tour committee ..." (l. 4992).

However, Barry appeared at a private fundraiser for Mandela. "Barry showed up with ten aides, bodyguards, and a photographer. Pushing and shoving, they forced their way into the room just so that Barry could have his photograph taken with Mandela. Barry's stunt preempted the fundraiser, and thousands of dollars were lost as the mayor kept the Mandelas occupied while one of his aides went looking for a key to the city" (l. 5001).

Barry showed off his pictures with Mandela in the courtroom to reporters in the press section.

Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore described her multi-year drug-fueled affair with Barry. Mundy made Moore look bad on cross-examination.

"Street vendors did a brisk business in T-shirts that said: 'Bitch set him up' " (l. 5027).

"Effi Barry escorted her husband back to the District Building after Rasheeda Moore's first day of testimony, took him into his office, and slammed the door. Aides then heard the First Lady scream: 'I'm a person too. I have to sit and listen to all this. How do you think I feel?' " (l. 5028).

"That night the mayor took his wife for a suprise appearance at a rally for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the Convention Center, just one night after Nelson Mandela's speech..." (l. 5029).

Barry had had a "rocky relationship" with Farrakhan, a vocal anti-Semite. He accused Barry of "bowing down" to the Jews who had contributed to his election campaign. But at this moment they made common cause.

The next day, Farrakhan tried to appear in the courtroom as Barry's guest. The judge barred Farrakhan for the duration of the case. The action was eventually reversed after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complain, but by that time Farrakhan had moved on.

On the same day Farrakhan was barred, the jury saw the video of Barry smoking crack at the Vista Hotel for the first time.

Outside the courtroom, "...most saw the quick clips played on the TV news. The distilled version showed two scenes: the mayor drawing deeply and professionally from the crack pipe, and authorities crashing noisily into the room. The people who judged Barry's guilt or innocence on the single frame that made newspapers all over the world -- the picture of Barry hitting the crack pipe -- got an even more one-dimensional view" (l. 5086).

"The issue of who first mentioned drugs was debatable, but once Barry had the crack pipe, it was quite clear that he knew exactly what to do with it. There was no doubt he bought crack, that he possessed crack, that he smoked crack. The evidence seemed to ensure a conviction, but it was neutralized by the following scene showing the police and FBI agents piling into the room. It was a violent and disturbing scene" (l. 5094).

"The Vista tape, besides being an embarrassing peep show, left the impression that Barry was hoodwinked twice: once to come to the room and again to smoke crack. It didn't fit the legal definition of entrapment, but that was irrelevant. It looked like a trap, a con job" (l. 5095).

"Ken Mundy knew that, and he made certain that the jurors saw the tape over and over again. It turned out to be his best weapon" (l. 5096).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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