“Common sense,” writes Fox Sports journalist Jason Whitlock, is why he offers Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis “forgiveness” for his alleged involvement in the murders of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub in the early morning hours of January 31, 2000 following Super Bowl XXXIV between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.
Mr. Whitlock, a black man, also writes,
“I love him (Lewis) because he plays football like a man who has been to hell and back and has no intention of returning. I will not apologize for loving Ray Lewis.”
Of the prowess of Ray Lewis as a football player, no true fan of the game can disagree. However, for those with any sense of righteous indignation, justice, and order, it can be difficult to watch the 17 year NFL veteran’s on-field and sideline ranting, not to mention the self-aggrandizing “dance” Lewis has become so famous for.
Closely following the Ray Lewis murder trial, broadcast at the time on the Court TV channel (now known as truTV), “common sense,” stripped of racial bias, leads to a vastly different surmise than Mr. Whitlock’s.
Watching the proceedings in the trial unfold, one could scarcely help but harken back to the ineptitude of the prosecution in the O.J. Simpson murder trial some five years earlier in a California courtroom. Despite the mountain of evidence in that case, Simpson skated, but was later held responsible in a civil case initiated by the family of one of the slain.
Simpson is believed by many Americans to have gotten away with murder, primarily because of the District Attorney’s inability to present a cogent narrative to the jury. As if lead prosecutor Marcia Clark’s dereliction wasn’t bad enough, her assistant Chris Darden’s linguistic fumblings were nothing short of an atrocity.
As inarticulate and incoherent as Darden appeared in the prosecution of O.J. Simpson’s double-murder trial, he made Ray Lewis’ prosecutor, Paul L. Howard Jr. of Atlanta, seem like Demosthenes reborn. Howard’s oration was worse than a fiasco. His monosyllabic grunting, his lack of diction, his utter incompetence in every aspect of the tribunal made a complete mockery of the American judicial system.
Hampered as it was by the reality of the situation, the court was probably wise to offer Lewis the deal that it did. Other than #52 accepting a guilty plea for obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against his co-defendants, no convictions ever came to fruition in the case.
Moreover, despite Lewis agreeing to testify against the other men, he did an about face and offered little to nothing to implicate them. Despite the fact that Lewis reneged, the prosecution did not reinstate the murder charges. He was free and served a term on probation.
Jason Whitlock argues,
“We can speculate. We can piece together clues. We can read into the fact Lewis reached financial settlements with the families of the deceased. We can express and feel deep sympathy for the deceased and their families. But we cannot know.”
If Whitlock’s paradigm were used in the court system it would make criminal convictions almost an anomaly. Circumstantial cases would never see a court room and unless a willing eyewitness were to testify to a crime the perpetrator would never receive due punishment.
Fortunately, in the American system of justice, imperfect though it may be and citations of huge miscarriages like the Lewis and Simpson cases aside, “common sense” dictates that evidence can and does point to the guilt or innocence of the accused, even if “we” are not there to witness the goings-on ourselves.
As for Ray Lewis, there is a Judge from who he cannot hide the truth and He is the final arbiter of all things. It has been suggested that the long-time Raven has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior. If this is the case, fellow Christians should rejoice in his conversion. However, it does not dismiss his culpability, if any, in the murder of the two men 13 years ago.
Mr. Whitlock might show greater compassion by considering the perspective of the victims’ relatives. Greg Wilson, uncle of murder victim Jacinth Baker who died from multiple stab wounds to the heart, echoed the sentiment of other family members in a recent USA Today article:
“I cringe. I just cringe,” Wilson says of seeing Lewis on television. He’s upset at how the case was handled by [prosecutor] Howard. He also blames the NFL and Ravens. Prior to the next Super Bowl in 2001, then-Ravens coach Brian Billick criticized the news media for continuing to ask questions about the murders.
“The problem to me is America was more interested in him playing football instead of him paying the price for what he was involved in,” Wilson says. “That's how we feel. They wanted nothing to happen to him. (Team owner) Art Modell didn’t want his golden boy to suffer, so he could make money for him. So they did all they could to get him out of trouble.”
In deference to Mr. Whitlock’s proposal that everyone should love Ray Lewis as he does, it is abundantly clear that what he actually means is “Lewis’ involvement in the killings should be disregarded when considering both the man and the football player.
And THAT is a proposition that is clearly lacking in anything with the remotest semblance of “common sense.”