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May 08, 1996 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1996-05-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, May 8, 1996
Edited and managed by ERIN MARSH
students at the Editor in Chief PU EIL
University of MichiganUn Opinion Page Editors
4 ness otherwise noted, unsigned editorials ri f lect the opinion oft
420 M ay nard Street majority of the aily'editorial board^,llof er articfes. tatters and
Ann Arbor, MlI48109 cantons oli ~ lt ntcessarily reflect the opinion tof The Michig'an Daily

By all rights, the case of Ann Arbor's
serial rapist should be fading into the
realm of bad memories by now.
Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic postur-
ing by the Michigan State Police Crime
Lab, one aspect of the case may linger
indefinitely. State police have wrongly
decided to disobey a repeated court order
from Washtenaw Circuit Judge Kurtis
Wilder, dictating the return of certain
blood analysis records to their owners.
The Ann Arbor Police Department
ordered the DNA-derivation tests as part
of the investigation leading to the July
1995 conviction of Ervin Mitchell.
In the months leading up to Mitchell's
arrest, the AAPD came under great criti-
cism for its poor handling of the investi-
gation - the biggest uproar resulting
from its perceived treatment of black
males during the investigation. The
police released a vague, general descrip-
tion of the suspect as a light-complex-
ioned black man between the ages of 25
and 35, standing approximately six feet
tall and weighing about 170 pounds. The
AAPD proceeded to collect blood sam-
ples from approximately 160 men, acting
on anonymous tips from frightened citi-

State must relinquish DNA records

zens deluded by an extremely vague
description. Even though a comparison
of the suspects' DNA with genetic mate-
rial in samples retrieved from the victims
cleared most men from suspicion, the
damage - in terms of vicious rumors
and slander - was done.
Lawsuits followed closely thereafter.
Blair Shelton, one of the men forced to
supply blood, may have lost his job as a
result. In response to that and other
alleged incidents, he filed a lawsuit in
April 1995 claiming undue harassment by
local police. Besides resulting in a
$60,000 out-of-court settlement for
Shelton, the suit also indirectly led to a
ruling last December. Wilder's original
ruling instructed the state laboratory to
return the blood samples and the analysis
records to the AAPD, so that it could
return both to the cleared men. The state

eventually turned over the blood samples,
which remain available for pickup by their
owners. However, the state lab retained
the test records, necessitating a second
court session before Judge Wilder. Thus,
last Wednesday, nearly five months after
his original ruling, Wilder had to reissue
his order that the lab return the DNA
records to Ann Arbor.
As of yet, the lab has not complied
with the ruling. In addition, the state is
considering an appeal of Wilder's deci-
sion. Although it seems doubtful the state
will succeed in its appeal, the very fact
that it ponders challenging the ruling is
In defense of the state's disobedience,
officials cited a need to keep the material
for record-keeping purposes. In response
to critics concerned about state police
using the files in future investigations,

officials offered to label the files off-lim-
its for any future investigations.
This is clearly an inadequate solution.
By insisting they keep the DNA test
records, state officials reduce the cit '
action - relinquishing the blood sampi
- to an almost meaningless gesture. If
the state successfully appeals Wilder's
order to turn over the records, the city's
action to return the blood samples is
pointless - the state would still have on
file all the information obtained from the
The state's arguments in favor of
retaining the DNA records are invalid.
The fact remains that the men who donat-
ed the samples are innocent of the crino
in which they were suspects. If these men
are not guilty of this crime, the state
police should not retain their records.
The state police must overcome its
reliance on paperwork and do the right
thing in this case: turn over the records to
the Ann Arbor police so they may be
released to their rightful owners or
destroyed. Following a series of debacles
and wrongful accusations, it is time
the case of the serial rapist and its sho -
dy aftermath to finally be put to rest.

Survey the damage
Pharmacology must release survey results
D uring the past several years, the University's medical school departments have been
fraught with racial tensions. The medical school's survey, completed earlier this year,
revealed chronic inequalities and inadequate representation of minorities. Similar find-
ings may arise from a recently conducted survey in the Department of Pharmacology.
Though problems of racism are strongly suspected, the University community remains
uninformed because the pharmacology department has not yet released the actual results
of the survey, despite repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Dr. Peggie Hollingsworth, a pharmacology research faculty member, filed the initial
grievance against the Department of Pharmacology earlier this year. She cited depart-
mental racial hostility as the reason for unfair performance evaluations, resulting in pro-
motion refusal. The department ordered a survey in response to the grievance, but failed
to release the actual survey results - the only information the department released was
in the form of a "committee report." The report concluded that "the environment with-
in the Department of Pharmacology is acknowledged, by all accounts, to be one of ten-
sion, anxiety, one-to-one confrontation, and hostility. It is acknowledged that offensive
incidents and experiences have occurred, as well as some highly contentious interactions
concerning the role of race in admissions and promotions. Nonetheless, the committee
did not find evidence that the environment in the Department was racially hostile."
The department's "committee report" and the actual results of the survey may be very
different. Dr. Thomas Landefeld, a pharmacology professor, filed the initial request for
the survey information under the FOIA. The department failed to comply, providing
instead its committee's vague report. The FOIA request specifically demands the actual
survey results - not the pharmacology department's version of the survey results.
Although concrete statements are impossible, the department's disobedience seems to
strengthen suspicions of racism.
Allegations of racism are not new to the department of pharmacology. In 1994,
Landefeld accused Dr. William Pratt - also a pharmacology professor - of racial
insensitivity. This year, the department chose to honor Pratt in the Distinguished
Faculty Lectureship in Biomedical Research - a poor choice that looks worse in
light of the recent survey concealment.
The pharmacology department must stop stalling and comply with Landefeld's
FOIA request. Department administrators must realize that survey studies are meant
to identify problems as a first step toward corrective action. The University commu-
nity is concerned about racism, and it has a right to the survey results - positive or
negative. Pharmacology's purpose in conducting the survey was not to produce a
glowing report, nor a reassuring or comforting one - the department has a responsi-
bility to report the truth.

Protecting asylum
Bill takes wrong approach to immigration
L ast week the U.S. Senate approved a bill that will greatly change the status of il
gal immigrants in this country. The bill generally carries on the tactics tMe
Republican Congress and the Democratic White House have adopted toward immigra-
tion in the last few years - with provisions to increase the number of law enforcement
officers on the border and to make the deportation process for illegal immigrants more
efficient. However, the law that might result from this bill has some disturbing implica-
tions. The problems lie not with the Senate's proposal, but with the bill's counterpart in
the House of Representatives - which includes provisions that would greatly infringe on
the civil liberties of those immigrating to this country for political asylum.
Until recently, this country held its arms open to people fleeing their nations of ori-
gin because of political persecution or similar violations of their human rights. Th*
who came to this country without valid travel documents, as is often the case with those
trying to escape a hostile government, had a hearing before an immigration judge and
usually were released on bond until that hearing date. Earlier this year, Congress passed
an anti-terrorism bill and it was enthusiastically signed into law by President Clinton.
The law has a vague provision that has been interpreted to allow immigration officials
to hasten the deportation of many immigrants without valid documents, or at least deny
bail to the person requesting asylum. The bitter irony of a person fleeing political per-
secution, only to be imprisoned by the country from which they are seeking aid, seri-
ously questions the principles of individual freedom this nation claims to champion. The
present immigration bill, should it pass in the form approved by the House, would only
increase these trends to a dangerous extent.
The House bill holds a provision that would allow the fate of a person seeking po&
ical asylum without valid travel documents to be decided by a single immigration offi-
cer and supervisor. That officer would have the option to bypass judicial review and
immediately call for the deportation of the person filing the claim, or imprison the per-
son until a means of deportation could be arranged. Not only does this provision give
an inordinate amount of power to a single official, but it diffuses the power from its
proper place in the judiciary. Any person, regardless of their citizenship status, has the
right to due process of law when charged with a crime. This political persecution should
be treated no less seriously. This country would never allow a law enforcement official
to take on the added responsibilities of a judge and jury in any other situation, and this
should not be made an exception c0
The members of Congress's joint conference committee are taking on very serious
precedents as they decide which provisions will end up on the president's desk. Since it
seems inevitable that this bill will pass, Congress needs to reaffirm its support of human
rights by passing a version devoid of added restrictions on requests for political asylum.

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