Favorite

Singing the Delta blues 

An unprecedented strike force of more than 700 law officers swept across the Delta last week to arrest 70 people indicted for drug dealing and public corruption.

Key targets of Operation Delta Blues were Lee and Phillips County, particularly the latter, where five Helena-West Helena police officers were indicted for participating in drug running and protection schemes.

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer lamented that long-standing rumors of Delta corruption appeared to be true. Thyer singled out Helena-West Helena Mayor Arnell Willis for coming to him for help recently to clean the city up. This was a little ironic in light of local blog reporting about the records of some people Willis has chosen to assist him in his administration. A two-time felon charged with wife beating was one of his department head picks, for example.

But, based on indictments and information revealed in bond hearings, no one could argue action wasn't in order.

With that in mind, I asked Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long of Forrest City, whose district includes Lee and Phillips counties, what he thought of the operation.

"I'm ecstatic about it," he said.

But, I asked, mightn't the sweep and some of the comments reflect poorly on local law enforcement?

"I don't see it that way," Long. "They have the wherewithal that I don't have, for sure." And then he ranged into the racially-tinged psychodrama that is the Delta.

"They also have another advantage. They can take people into a venue where they won't have friends on the jury."

Long means that a thug arrested in Helena-West Helena will be tried there. "The defendants may not be neighbors or friends of the jurors, but they know somebody who knows somebody," Long said. "After they reach a verdict they have to go back out and live in that community."

Federal prosecutors may have to try cases in the courthouse in Helena-West Helena, but Long notes that jurors will be drawn from the entire Eastern District of Arkansas, not just Phillips County.

Is Long's comment on juries the bigotry of low expectations or merely a realistic recognition of a community sometimes not kindly disposed to authority? It is also not an excuse, but a fact, that the hopeless and the impoverished in economic disaster areas might turn to using or selling drugs.

Long said he'd had his share of "bitter experiences" with hometown juries. He recalled a case about alleged school board corruption in Helena. "We did a thorough investigation. We tried the two best cases. It took the jury 45 minutes to acquit," Long recalled.

Then there's the case of Curtis Vance, the convicted killer of TV anchor Anne Pressly, who stood trial later in Marianna for rape. The very DNA evidence that convicted him in Pressly's slaying didn't wholly move a jury in Marianna. It hung – divided on racial lines.

More than the feds' presence is necessary to restore faith in the justice system in the Delta. The community is going to have to pitch in, too.

Long said he took no offense at not being invited to the feds' huge press conference. "I'd just as soon it be that way," he said. "If something had happened, I wouldn't want to be suspected of tipping someone off."

"As long as the job gets done and as long as the results are good, I don't care who does it."

He defended his office's work. "I don't know of a single deputy prosecutor that has a single thing he wouldn't be more than glad to lay out on the table for anyone to look at."

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • City Board discovers LRSD

    An article in Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reminded me of John Belushi in "Animal House" exhorting frat brothers to rally against a dean's effort to put them out of business. "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Supremely disappointing

    The Arkansas Supreme Court last week delivered a blow to civil rights in Arkansas. It was another results-oriented decision that gives a clue to how far the justices likely will go to appease the legislature.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Worse than N.C.'s bathroom bill

    SB 774 extends birth certificate requirement to bathrooms in all public facilities, and that's an original birth certificate, too.
  • Attack the poor

    If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for the poor.
  • Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    • The South hasn't quit fighting. No, but Robert E Lee did and he could have…

    • on March 23, 2017
  • Re: City Board discovers LRSD

    • You reap what you sow, the seeds were planted when the Max Brantley's of LR,…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Diane, as noted above, this is a *column* not a news piece. So yes, it's…

    • on March 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation