Friday, October 26, 2012
This all started when a friend asked me to look into the taser death of a family member in Dothan, Alabama. I know that taser death cases are hard to make. Generally, taser deaths arise from some alleged misconduct on behalf of the decedent. But I could not begin to suspect how little cooperation local authorities would provide in merely attempting to discover how Johnnie Warren met his death in February, 2012. I am dismayed that eight months after his death we still don't have the toxicology report, autopsy records, witness statements or police dispatch reports. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation completed its report more than two months ago and advised us that we needed to check with the District Attorney to review the records. Despite numerous calls, emails and letters, we still don't have the information. A similar case in Atlanta resulted in a meeting with the GBI within weeks and a massive stack of documents from the medical examiner. After all these years of practicing law in the South, I thought I had seen it all. Today, I started browsing the Internet and learned that on Monday of this week, a woman and her friends led a protest on the steps of the Houston County Courthouse, seeking basically the same information for her son who was shot and killed by Dothan police. Then, I discovered that Houston County's DA, Doug Valeska, is being sued for striking 82% of blacks from criminal juries - a possible constitutional violation of the Batson case. A similar taser case was dismissed about a year ago, without it ever going before a jury. Now that I have a better understanding, I am seeking out media coverage and church involvement, just to find out how Johnnie Warren died.