April 1, 2021

DOING THE RIGHT THING: Ga. lawmakers vote to pay soldiers wrongfully convicted of murder.

The state Senate last week approved a trio of bills to pay Mark Jones, Kenny Gardiner and Dominic Lucci $1 million each, which is one-third of what they would’ve earned if they’d retired from the service, as they’d intended.

The money, paid out in monthly installments over 20 years, will help with the struggles the three men face after so much time lost — and endured — in prison before the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously tossed out their convictions in late 2017. The men, who were barely 20 when they were sent away, work constantly, often doing grueling labor.

A million bucks seems cheap, considering. Backstory:

In 1992, the soldiers, stationed at Fort Stewart, were caught up in a murder case while visiting Savannah for a bachelor party.

Jones was to marry the next morning. The friends became lost on the way to a strip club. Around the same time, a Black man named Stanley Jackson, 35, was gunned down in the street by multiple shooters described by a witness as possibly white men in a dark car. The soldiers, white men in a dark car, happened to ask a police officer for directions as she walked the witness into the police station.

Soon the witness would falsely identify them as the killers. The witness, a Black minister, would later say police, prosecutors and even fellow clergy encouraged him to identify the soldiers as the killers because of fears of a riot if no one was convicted. Black residents in Savannah at the time were outraged by the Police Department’s failure to solve crimes against Black people. They alleged that detectives seemed to have a far easier time when the victims were white.

Just Jim Crow justice with the races reversed. And this was almost 30 years ago. Maybe try to enforce the law without giving in to threats of mob violence?

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