According to the Innocence Project—an organization that fights to overturn wrongful convictions mainly through DNA evidence—Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.
Attorney for Josh Johns—LSU teammate of Jordan Jefferson who also faced a grand jury today for his alleged involvement in an August 19th Bar Fight that led to both players being arrested on felony battery charges—Tommy Damico told reporters that Johns spoke to the grand jury this morning and maintained that his client—a previously little known third string defensive back—was 'miss-identified’ and was not involved in the fight.
Jefferson who also testified before the grand jury today has maintained his innocence from the time the story broke.
Despite early reports that Jefferson told his father John Jefferson that he "didn't know anything about the report", once the full quote was released in context—which included Jefferson claiming that he was nearby when the fight broke out and that after attempting to get some of his guys to clear out he left—it has been clear that Jefferson the younger—along with up to 18 of his teammates that signed affidavits proclaiming his non-involvement—has one consistent version of what happened.
Along with the 18 football players, which includes one player who claims to have been attacked by the self-proclaimed victim—Andrew Lowery—Attorney's for Jefferson were able to obtain statements from another seven to ten people who claim to have eye-witnessed the events.
Some of these witnesses—which include employees of the Bar where the fight occurred—also testified before the grand jury and according to Jefferson's attorney's have corroborated Jefferson's version of events.
So how did we get to this point?
More than TWENTY-FIVE witnesses claimed that Jefferson was not involved, the BRPD DNA tested FORTY-NINE pairs of shoes from Jefferson—and an undisclosed number of items from Johns—and no biological material, other than Jefferson and Johns' own—was found.
The video, widely reported—including in a statement from BRPD Police Chief Dwayne White—as being a key basis for the arrests, definitively shows a man—of average height and build—dressed in all black repeatedly kicking Lowery.
Yet, video from within the bar just seconds earlier clearly shows that Jefferson—standing 6'5" tall—was wearing a light colored shirt.
So considering the evidence, and the decision today by the Grand Jury to ‘no bill’ the charges against Johns while reducing the charges against Jefferson to a misdemeanor simple battery one has to ask what really happened that night?
One might also ask, what happened to that presumption of innocence thing that we used to believe in here in America?
LSU Dean of Students, Kathleen White made it clear that LSU is not bound to the legal process, “The Code of Conduct focuses on the behavior and is not restricted to something being at a felony or a misdemeanor level"
She added “The University has the legal right to deny membership to those applicants who do not meet established standards for academic and personal conduct and to impose sanctions on students who are found in violation of these standards. The rules of evidence applicable to civil and criminal cases shall not apply to University conduct proceedings."
So, LSU isn’t bound to the civil or criminal process yet Jefferson and Johns have been forced to sit out, in Jefferson’s case from his senior and final campaign, based on very little, if any evidence of any severe wrong doing on their part?
And when did the University conduct it's proceeding to determine if any violation by the students actually took place?
According to LSU Chancellor Mike Martin “That’s the way we always do business here, and that’s the way we will continue to do business,” claiming that nothing that has transpired in this case will cause LSU to consider changing its policies.
Martin makes his priority clear “This is a very big business that approaches $90 million a year” noting the power of the athletic department.
Indeed, football is a big business and Jordan Jefferson—who according to ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer, speaking at the pre-season Peyton Manning QB Camp, had the potential to lead LSU to the National Championship—is watching his draft potential slip away with each day and game that passes.
LSU head coach Les Miles has said that Jefferson and Johns would be ‘reintroduced’ to the team as soon as it is appropriate and has made it clear that he and the team would welcome the two back with open arms.
Miles has repeatedly shown his ability to handle adversity—perhaps better than any coach in recent memory—while keeping his team focused on the task or game at hand, so one would expect Johns and Jefferson’s reinstatement to be handled with class and poise, if in fact they are reinstated.
Considering the evidence in this case, or the lack thereof, the real question, is what does it say about our country, or more locally the BRPD, when all it takes is one allegation and a little exaggeration—at least in the eyes of the grand jury—to derail a young man’s career?
Perhaps more troubling—since LSU Chancellor Martin made it clear that business would go on as usual—is that a couple of opportunistic fans of any opposing team now have a blue print to take down the Tigers, if the presumption of guilt policy remains.
“Hey Bubba, is that Jarrett Lee and Spencer Ware over there?”
“Why yes Forest, I think it is.”
“Ok, you go attack them and I’ll call the police and tell them they beat the rammer-jammer (hell) out of you!”
“But Forest, there must be twenty witnesses over there; surely they’ll tell the cops what happened?”
“It will not matter, they don’t want to be seen as being fair to LSU players so they’ll arrest them for sure and if you are hurt bad enough—I can punch a few times myself to make it look good—LSU will kick them off the team no matter what the witnesses say.”
“Ok- but What are you doing with your phone?”
“Oh, I’m going to video tape it for U-Tube but don’t worry, even the video tape will not be enough to keep LSU from doing business as usual!”
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