John Crawford III was standing in line at the Walmart on August 5 in Beavercreek, Ohio to buy a toy pellet gun when he was shot to death by police. Security camera footage shows him leaning on the toy while talking to his girlfriend on the phone. His girlfriend was with his parents, his phone was on speaker and his loved ones heard him screaming as he died. One of the officers who shot him is now on administrative leave and the other has already returned to duty.

 After the incident in Ferguson, the statistic is becoming familiar. Twice a week in the United States a white police officer shoots a black person to death.

 Attorney General Mike DeWine has attempted to defuse tensions and circumvent protests addressing the Beavercreek shooting. His selection of special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier to present evidence to a grand jury may wind up doing neither.

 Piepmeier has a long history with high profile controversy. He was the Assistant County Prosecutor who gained an indictment against Ken Roach, the Cincinnati police officer who shot 16-year-old Timothy Thomas in the back in 2001 while the unarmed teen was fleeing from a warrant for an unpaid seat belt violation. A jury later failed to convict Roach on charges of negligent homicide. It is not clear why Piepmier did not choose to prosecute Roach for murder.

 Piepmeier's questionable past goes back further. Piepmeier is touted as being the tough “law and order” prosecutor who secured a heap of indictments, convictions and death sentences against key inmates as a result of the Lucasville prison uprising. The continuing appeals in those cases have revealed a pattern that appears as systematic prosecutorial misconduct.

 During the Lucasville riots there were a number of murders. After the riots, a group of inmates who led both the rebellion and those who negotiated the peaceful conclusion of the siege were tried separately and sentenced to death for some of the murders. One of those murders was the killing of inmate David Sommers.

 Two men, George Skatzes and Aaron Jefferson, were tried for the murder of Sommers in separate trials. In both trials, the prosecution contended that Sommers had been brutally beaten and stabbed by a number of inmates. In both trials the state medical examiner stated under oath that Sommers had been killed by a single massive blow to the head by a blunt object such as a baseball bat. A bloody baseball bat was found at the scene.

 Despite testimony that only one person could have killed Sommers, two men are still on death row, thanks to Piepmeier, for striking a single blow. Piepmeier ordered the bat, which was not tested for fingerprints or DNA, destroyed. A key piece of evidence that can scientifically prove the truth no longer exists, solely based on the orders of one man. That man has been entrusted by the Ohio Attorney General's office with another controversial case.

 Apparent tampering with electronic evidence also happened during the Lucasville prosecutions.

According to exhaustive research on this issue by activists and lawyers Staughton and Alice Lynd, who published his claims previously on and in book form, the prosecution in the Lucasville trial submitted audio recordings that were edited. These recordings were edited with the help of prisoners who testified at the trials, presumably in exchange for leniency. Juries were not permitted to hear the unedited tapes.

 Mike DeWine's office has so far permitted Crawford's family to view the videotape of his death, and they were predictably appalled. The family's attorney Richard Schulte also viewed the tape and said "From what we've seen, John had no opportunity to put the gun down." DeWine's office is preparing a special video for viewing by the FBI but has no plans to release either the edited or unedited version of the footage before the grand jury is convened. He claims that he does not want to bias potential jurors.

 Three hundred demonstrators rallied at the Beavercreek Walmart Saturday, August 30 demanding the videotape be released. Bishop Bobby Hilton, President of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the National Action Network told those assembled that the “media is slandering Mr. Crawford based on evidence released by law enforcement while Attorney General DeWine continues to stonewall the effort of Mr. Crawford’s family to find out what really happened to their son.” Hilton called upon DeWine “to release the entire video…” showing the last minutes of Crawford’s life.

 Derrick L. Foward, President of the Dayton unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) told the Free Press that DeWine had promised the NAACP that he would release the tape. “We’re very disappointed that he was not being truthful with us, and we will remember his untruthfulness at the polls.”

 Crawford’s cousin Tosha Hill said she wants the video released as well because “the video will show the truth.”

 Hilton said “All we’re asking DeWine to do is be transparent and fair. He’s hiding behind the grand jury process.”

 In Thomas Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities it was famously written that a “grand jury would indict a ham sandwich for murder if that's what you wanted.” Grand juries hear testimony in secret, and as long as they are empaneled, the case is under investigation. Thus, the video from the story will not be seen by anyone that Piepmeier and DeWine do not approve of until after the investigation is closed. The grand jury will not be convened until September 22 and could meet over a period of months, leaving ample time for the death of this young man to recede from the forefront of public consciousness.

 DeWine has so far refused requests to turn the investigation over to the United States Department of Justice. He has spent time meeting with handpicked clergy in the hopes of forming a flying squad to defuse tensions and keep protests under control. The seemingly political choice of Piepmeier and the construction of a process designed for delay dovetails neatly with this.

 As law and order politicians, DeWine and Piepmeier have always actively courted the good will of the law enforcement lobby. This is likely to remain unchanged even as the protests mount both in Dayton and Columbus. Reverend Al Sharpton has pledged to get involved and several groups of activists have taken up Crawford's cause. A glacial process overseen by a prosecutor who has historically been in law enforcement's hip holster appears to be the state's solution to the problem of an yet another inconveniently dead young black man.

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