Is the Investigation of Ronnie White's Death Being Obstructed?

As TalkLeft noted here and here, Ronnie White's death in a jail cell, within a day of his arrest for running over a police officer, is more than suspicious. Under the circumstances, this editorial in The Washington Post is spot on:

IT IS UNSURPRISING but still infuriating that Prince George's County correctional officers have refused to cooperate with investigators looking into the death of inmate Ronnie L. White. These officers, who swore to serve the cause of justice, are preventing investigators from uncovering the circumstances of the death of Mr. White, who was strangled, according to a preliminary autopsy report.

The questions awaiting an answer are many: [more ...]

The details of Mr. White's death are as hazy now as they were before the preliminary autopsy. It is unclear why, if Mr. White was strangled, there were no signs of a struggle, such as bruising on his neck. It is also unclear how Mr. White was strangled in a maximum-security jail cell that was under surveillance by multiple officers. And why, considering the fact that he was accused of killing a county police officer, wasn't Mr. White transferred to a jail outside Prince George's County?

It's one thing for correctional officers to exercise their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if they're worried that they might respond to questioning with self-incriminating statements. It's another for the county's correctional officers union to criticize efforts to conduct an investigation, and arguably to impede that investigation by making a blanket recommendation to officers not to cooperate, whether or not they have reason to fear self-incrimination.

Fortunately, Prince George's officials have taken aggressive action to encourage cooperation. Yesterday, the county's head of public safety, Vernon Herron, ordered the officers to "make themselves available" to investigators and warned that they could be disciplined if they refused. One officer who had declined to cooperate reportedly met with investigators yesterday.

The union's knee-jerk "cover it up" response is, as the editorial's headline suggests, shameful. But so is the murder of an in-custody inmate who officers had a sworn duty to protect from harm.

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    union (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 01:57:12 PM EST
    A Union's job is not to cover up crime but to represent workers in creating better conditions of employment and allowing workers to use the power of numbers against employers with deep pockets.

    If there is a murder investigation, it sure makes a Union look bad to tell workers not to cooperate. If they wish to represent the correctional officers they can offer attorneys.

    I live in PG (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by bearded librarian on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 12:43:27 AM EST
    and have for over 20 years. Xeno's July 1 post quoted here by squeaky  is, unfortunately, an example of a widely held DC metro-area opinion of what happens "over there," with apparent impunity. It should come as no surprise,  however, to people who are used to sorting out truth from fiction, the reality of being a resident here is quite different from that opinion. So different, in fact, Xeno's perjorative view is the equivalent of throwing stones at Mary in the marketplace.

    I don't take issue with Xeno's facts. Prince George's County law enforcement has a distinctly ugly past. Clearly, Ronnie White's murder illustrates we are still living it. I don't, however, know a single person who lives or works here, including public service employees, white and black, who didn't say "oh sh*t" when the news of White's death was first broadcast, before it was ruled a homicide. Just as they did with the news of Cpl. Findlay's killing. Both are tragedies.  Neither of these deaths makes any sense. And we have been for the past few days an entire populace in a collective state of anguish and grief.

    For those, like me, who have no direct connection to either of the victims, it is grief for those who do, mixed with the sure knowledge the quality of our lives will be judged, once again, and found wanting. We live in a volatile place, to be sure, but it is equally nurturing. And no one knows that better than we do.

     I share with my neighbors and co-workers a rare community. We went from majority white to majority black in the space of 15 years because of "urban renewal" in DC and construction of the Southeast/Southwest freeway through town. Uprooted black neighborhoods moved to PG, and alarmed white neighborhoods moved elsewhere. The people who stayed, in opposing enclaves, fought the changes and each other tooth and nail for a long time, no political correctness, no holds barred. During all this fighting, they also got to know each other. They had to work together, their children had to go to school together, they had to shop and bank and use parks together. And Maryland politics has always been territorial, so they had to make political alliance to prevent being overrun by Baltimore (and rich Montgomery County next door) and eventually found useful common ground against the good 'ole boiz in the county seat at home. In short, stuck with each other, needing each other, we integrated.

    The vast majority of us wouldn't live anywhere else, I think, because of that. There is no Other here, and we arrived in this sought-after psychic space honestly and together.

    Now we share the sorrow of these two deaths, we collectively cry out against the inexplicable chaos of the situation, and we talk and we listen to each other, while we hope like hell the perpetrators are brought to justice.

    no, it isn't. (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 01:41:08 PM EST
    The union's knee-jerk "cover it up" response is, as the editorial's headline suggests, shameful.

    any more so than an attorney's advising his/her client to say nothing. the union represents the correctional officers, it's their job to provide them good advice.

    clearly, these people are all being looked at as potential suspects (since they were the only ones in the unit, at the time of mr. white's death), to expect them to willingly give up their rights to counsel & silence is ludicrous.

    Conspiracy to violate civil rights (none / 0) (#3)
    by Rojas on Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 05:20:24 PM EST
    If they are covering up a murder, take 'em out just like the klan.

    Background (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 07:11:30 PM EST
    here from Xeno:

    The cold, hard fact of the matter is that this is how things are done in Prince George's County, Maryland. The PG County Police have a long, well-documented history of killing Black men (and women), pretty much with impunity. The Washington Post did a massive expose of that department's long history of killing and assaulting suspects. Only rarely have any of the killer cops (as opposed to alleged "cop killers") ever been brought to justice.

    A recent cases illustrates the state of affairs in my home county quite well.....