Bad Company

Dubious informant boomerangs on Hennepin County prosecutors.

DEFENSE ATTORNEYS ALMOST never hear from the jurors who convict or acquit their clients, so public defender Sandra Babcock was amazed at the call she received from one of the jurors who recently acquitted her client, Obuatawan Holt, of attempted murder. The jury acquitted Holt, the fourth person to stand trial in what prosecutors are referring to as "the Bloods trials," because it thought the police snitch who served as the state's star witness was a liar. "We wouldn't have believed Johnny Edwards," the caller reportedly said, "if he'd stood in front of us claiming he only had one leg." (Edwards lost a leg three years ago in a gang-related shooting.)

In jail last year on charges he held up a motorist, Edwards called police and fingered six men police say are the most violent members of the Rolling 30s Bloods gang. At the time, Hennepin County prosecutors had already failed to win convictions against three of the men ("By Any Means Necessary," CP, 1/22). This time, with Edwards's testimony at the heart of each case, three men, including Holt's half-brothers Reggie and Alonzo Ferguson, so far have been convicted.

In fact, so much information discrediting Edwards emerged during Holt's trial that the Ferguson brothers' cases may be headed back to court to ask for a new trial. Frederick Goetz, the attorney who represents the brothers, plans to appeal both convictions based on what defense attorneys in the cases say is the prosecutors' failure to disclose at least four incidents in which the police gave Edwards special treatment in exchange for his testimony. Police returned $1,400 in suspected drug proceeds confiscated from Edwards when he was arrested and charged with selling marijuana, and made sure that he was never charged in a December 1996 incident in which he was arrested carrying an illegal gun with a laser sight, according to testimony. In addition, prosecutors failed to disclose an assault complaint filed by Edwards's wife and dramatically understated the amount of "expense money" he'd received.

Hennepin County recently dropped charges against a fourth Bloods defendant after it became clear Edwards identified the wrong man. Nonetheless, they're counting on Edwards to take the witness stand for the fifth time when the last of the Bloods trials gets underway next month.


RUMORS OF GUNFIRE, assaults on cops, and general mayhem have been running wild since last Monday, when more than two dozen squad cars were called to First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis after a Death Row Records CD-release event. The real story is anticlimactic. According to a bouncer working the club that night, a fight broke out among some patrons, who were taken outside. Cops sent to the scene say they got worried about a potential riot when they noticed nearly 100 people crowded near the club's entrance; one man was subsequently arrested and two others ticketed on charges including disorderly conduct and obstruction. No injuries were reported. Still, the scene made various local newscasts all day Tuesday, with WCCO running footage of the club besieged by squad cars and repeating claims (which police deny) that shots were fired during what one broadcast called an "all-out concert brawl."


IT DOESN'T GET much more blatant than this: On Monday, St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and City Council member Janice Rettman were out mugging for the cameras as they mixed up the city's first batch of hot asphalt, thus demonstrating that they are "serious about fixing potholes in city streets." Monday, of course, was the last day of Rettman's campaign in a hotly contested election for a Ramsey County Board seat; for Coleman, it was the day before his State of the City address, considered to mark the kickoff of his bid for the governorship.


URBAN VIGILANTE DAVE "Cowboy" Ronning has hit the dusty trail. According to sources in the Phillips neighborhood--where Cowboy conducted his midnight meanderings--Dave recently packed up his trusty truck and headed west to Colorado, where the buffalo have reportedly been loitering.


WE COULDN'T HELP noticing that the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press both ran the same New York Times wire story on cloning this past Monday (ah, competition...). Nor could we miss the fact that Strib editors excised the third paragraph of the wire story, which read as follows: "For starters, quipped Dr. Ursula Goodenough, a cell biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, with cloning, 'There'd be no need for men.'" CP


With pro- and opponents of Identity Politics chasing each other like Road Runner and Coyote, it's beginning to seem to us as if sheer tedium is the principal weapon in the Great Late 20th-Century Culture Wars. Seeking a little light relief we dipped into the Dewey decimal scrap-heap of UNIVERSALISM and out came Why We Behave Like Americans by Bradford Smith (1957) and the classic The American People: A Study in National Character by Geoffrey Gorer (1948). We can only hope our current hipness proves as amusing 50 years from now.

Here are a few other influences which minimize or erase class differences [in the U.S.]:

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