T Minus Thirty

What’s Another 30 Days… Or 60 Years?

We are now exactly one month away from the next court date in the Wone case.  DC Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg has scheduled a status conference for April 24.  Perhaps on that day we learn the outcome of the defense team’s Bill of Particulars motion, asking the prosecution to offer more specifics and details on the pending counts and charges against the three housemates.   There also remains a possibility a trial date may be set at this hearing.

Judge Weisberg has had his share of tough cases.  Also before him is the notorious case of Banita Jacks, a mother accused of killing her four children in January 2008.  Authorities said the four girls were dead for up to six months before being discovered and that they had been stabbed, strangled and beaten.

We’ll have to do a more thorough audit of what’s been written about Judge Weisberg, but a cursory search turns up this Washington Post story from last September, quoting:

“Weisberg is one of four judges at D.C. Superior Court who oversee the District’s most violent crimes: murder, rape and sexual assaults.”

But it was this Slate column from 2003 that stands out.  Slate’s Pressbox columnist, and former Washington City Paper editor Jack Shafer, shares this about a Weisberg ruling and the reaction to it by Washington Post columnist Colbert King:

(King’s) Sept. 21 column, “A Washington Welcome for Hattie Purefoy,” chronicles the prosecution of a man accused of repeatedly stabbing a woman in the back and chest during a hold-up attempt. The prosecution, which had three eyewitnesses, charged the man with intent to kill while armed and wanted him detained indefinitely for trial.

But D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Frederick H. Weisberg rejected the charge.  King demolishes Weisberg with the stupidity of his own words. “Somebody wants to kill somebody, he can kill somebody. He didn’t. He took her purse and ran,” the judge said. “And maybe he wanted to kill her. But if he wanted to kill her, he could have and didn’t. Look, this is a silly argument to have.”

Rather than scrutinize Judge Weisberg’s conduct, King reports, the court’s senior judicial leadership poked around in hopes of finding out who alerted the columnist to the story—even though the matter was heard in open court. The same judge later released from jail a baby sitter charged with throwing a 9-week-old baby out a second-floor window.

King, a Pulitzer prize winner and weighty presence on the Post’s opinion pages has taken it upon himself to chronicle the city’s seemingly never-ending body count, woefully inadequate resources, and the sometimes slipshod work by DC’s law enforcement and criminal justice systems.  Few cover these mean streets like King and his February 28 column is particularly haunting.

He wrote not of a recent crime but instead reached back 60 years to, when as a child growing up in old Foggy Bottom, his neighborhood learned of the savage killing of an 8 year old boy in Rock Creek Park – Harrison McKinley Walker.  Harrison was sexually abused, stabbed, slashed repeatedly and his skull crushed.

Then King provides the all to familiar context; he recounts the failed police investigation, neighborhood rumors swirling about the real culprits, bureaucratic bickering and how “Every lead in the murder appeared to have vanished.”  DC Police destroyed the file on Harrison decades ago.  Interest in the case may have dissapaited long before that. Harrison remains another unsolved cold case, like Robert Wone apparently.

-posted by Craig

11 comments for “T Minus Thirty

  1. Frankie
    03/24/2009 at 2:09 PM

    What is the sense among people on whether the police have botched this investigation? It appears that, at the least, they should have requested a more thorough toxicology screening for the victim and performed a more complete search of the house immediately.

    • 03/24/2009 at 7:23 PM

      i prefer to keep the focus on the botching of a life of opportunity and promise: from summa cum laude graduate of the SFS to trolling the crew club with the best of the tina queens. why aren’t we asking everyone who knew this one where is his missing knife? an innocent question that needham and others must answer before i look to other suspects.

      this trial will be high profile, with public support favoring the victim. the judge will be fine.

      • The Perfervid Inch
        03/24/2009 at 7:38 PM

        If the gay police who have their office on Dupont Circle want to do something, why don’t they go undercover at the crew club and get some info. I’ve never been there but I’ve certainly been past it and seen people coming out of it. Certainly you don’t have to be faboo
        to get involved there.

    • George
      03/25/2009 at 11:10 AM

      Frankie has posed a good question which I am disappointed to find left unanswered. If others are disinterested right now, that’s fine, but I think the public has not yet been given enough information to judge how well the investigation was handled and I certainly hope this topic gets more attention as more information is released.

      • CDinDC
        03/25/2009 at 1:56 PM

        Perhaps when the discovery phase of the criminal case takes place, we’ll know more. Seems hard to say what they did or didn’t do before then.

  2. jackson
    03/24/2009 at 4:27 PM

    I don’t have a good feeling about this judge.

    • CDinDC
      03/24/2009 at 5:12 PM

      Ditto, Jackson.

      He has sat on a case that got a lot of local attention. Namely, US v. Hannah. A murder trial in which a gay man was beaten to death by a teenager that alleged he was sexually assaulted by the gay man. Even though a witness disputed the teenager’s allegation, Judge Weisberg downgraded the charges to involuntary manslaughter, using the teenager’s allegation of sexual assault as his basis for this ruling. The teen eventually was sent to a halfway house.

      By the way, Craig…great post.

      • CDinDC
        03/24/2009 at 5:37 PM

        Just for clarification….I’m looking at Judge Weisberg as if he’s soft on murder.

        You could also look at this in a different light…..he could be anti-gay, in which the defendants may have a more difficult time. (But I don’t think that is the case as he held the defendants in a 2008 Georgetown hate crime without bail.) In that case, the defendants were Muslim and they beat a gay man. He only sat in for an absent judge and during his proceedings held the defendants without bail. The original judge returned and sentenced the defendants to 2.5 years for assault (and imminent deportation.)

  3. Anon.
    03/24/2009 at 11:15 PM

    The judge sounds disastrous. I predict more typical DC incompetence.

    I passed Dylan Ward on the street a few days ago. First time I’ve knowingly looked a rapist-murderer in the face.

    I think we should have a demonstration outside the courtroom to demand justice – keep the media and thus the pressure, on. If a miscarriage of justice is in the cards, by god lets make sure everyone knows what’s happening, every step of the way.

  4. david
    03/25/2009 at 9:05 PM

    For those interested in dramatic crimes of sex and violence, the murder of George Weber in New York is worth a look.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2009/03/25/2009-03-25_violent_sex_ad_led_to_murder_of_wabc_new.html

  5. Craig
    03/26/2009 at 10:18 AM

    david – That episode raises some interesting questions…

    -craig, editor

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