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Teen’s Arrest Offer Evidence Of Racism That Continues In Law Enforcement
9/7/2016 4:44:27 PM

Lauren Williams
By Barney Blakeney

Sixteen-year-old Marcus Spann returned to school two weeks ago to continue a young life almost ruined by a criminal justice system all too reminiscent of the one which 70 years ago ended the life of another black teenager.

Last March Spann was charged with the murder of a North Charleston man.

The charges were dropped in May after his attorney, Lauren Williams, disclosed evidence Spann could not have committed the crime.

Apathetic police anxious to close the case led to Spann’s erroneous arrest, she said.

Seventy years earlier that same apathy on the part of police led to the execution of 14-year-old George Stinney.

Spann is a typical teenager growing up in one of North Charleston’s predominantly black disproportionately challenged communities off Remount Road. A high school sophomore, Spann worked an after school job. His most glaring violation of the rules had been using his cellphone while in class. But when 42-year-old Draco Walker was killed during an attempted robbery, two six year old children in the neighborhood pointed out Spann and 26-year-old Malik Maybank as the killers.

Williams said the children’s mother insisted they were with her when the incident occurred and that they only heard gunshots. Police however accepted the children's stories they had seen the perpetrators. They knew both Spann and Walker from the neighborhood. Williams said she has no idea why the children chose them as the perps. “They were just being six-year-old,” she concludes.

A little investigation and a few interviews would have cleared Spann of the allegations, but the North Charleston detectives investigating the case seemed more determined to make an arrest than to find the perpetrators, Williams said.

“They could have talked to the same people my investigators talked to and uncovered the same evidence. But it seemed like they were more interested in arresting ‘a’ person than arresting ‘the right’ person. Once the evidence was on the table, neither the solicitor’s office or the judge in the case felt comfortable moving forward. Law enforcement never had enough to make an arrest,” she said.

Seventy-two years earlier 14-year-old George Stinney similarly was hastily charged with murder. Few records about Stinney’s criminal investigation exist, said Charleston School of Law Professor Miller Shealy. The most damning evidence against Stinney in 1944 was that he was among the last people to see his alleged victims alive. Forensic investigation has changed over the years, but the apathetic attitude of of many in law enforcement, too often, has not.

Williams said apathy and racism on the part of law enforcement could have sent Spann to death row as well. She pointed to the vastly different investigative outcomes in Walker’s murder, who was black, and that of Eric Brantley the white bartender killed during an April robbery in North Charleston. Days later the four suspects in Brantley’s murder were in custody.

Since the charges against Maybank and Spann were dropped, no other arrests have been made in Walker’s murder. North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said investigations are continuing.

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