Bigger Than Bite-Size

When confronted by 20 years' worth of City Pages news stories, it's striking how difficult so many of them are to excerpt. The best of these articles are so meticulously researched and organically reasoned that their "nut graphs"--the collection of sentences meant to sum up a story in bite-size form--almost inevitably undersell the wealth of information and ideas to follow.

A case in point is Jennifer Vogel's 1994 investigation "Hit Parade: Minneapolis's ten most expensive cops, blow by blow." The premise was simple enough: Go through the civil lawsuits that resulted in damages paid out by the City of Minneapolis to citizens who were physically abused by members of the Minneapolis Police Department over a certain period of time, assign those dollars to the cop or cops who performed the dirty deeds, and tally up the results. But Vogel didn't stop there. Buttressing the court files with interviews from lawyers and investigators, she treated each incident as a mini-story, recounting the brutality in gruesome, painstaking detail and revealing how often, and how routinely, certain cops lashed out with little or no provocation against people they were being paid to "protect and serve." Vogel also noted the number of citizen complaints lodged against each of the ten officers (they ranged from three to thirty-two) and added a "dishonorable mention" sidebar--again with details--about violent officers who hadn't amassed enough damages to ascend into the ranks of the elite thumpers.

By the time a reader got finished with Vogel's piece, it was nearly impossible for him or her to rationalize the incidents as the handiwork of a few bad apples, and equally impossible not to suspect that something was fundamentally, institutionally flawed in the way the MPD went about its business. (Given the millions of dollars in damages, judges and juries were coming to the same conclusion.) Yet to recount even one of the top ten cops' sordid histories would eat up 500 words, and to isolate or synopsize a few cases here and there would betray the abiding purpose of the piece.

Similarly, when Steve Perry and Monika Bauerlein analyzed the Legislature's pending bailout of Northwest Airlines back in 1991, they did more than simply crunch the numbers involved in the deal. Their story also revealed how NWA executives Al Checchi and Gary Wilson had walked away with a bundle from the Marriott Corp. while hurting that company's overall performance; how Northwest had accumulated enormous debt while paying the duo millions of dollars annually under an independent contract; and how the airline would inevitably have to go looking for a corporate partner in order to survive (which eventually happened with the KLM-Northwest merger).

This form doesn't do justice even to the stories that did prove more easily excerptable. How much of their meaning, after all, lies in the context of the time, and the continuity of the coverage? Pieces like the ones Patricia Ohmans wrote in the mid-Eighties on behalf of parents wrongly accused of molesting their kids at the height of hysteria over the Scott County child-abuse scandal. And the dogged series penned in recent years by Beth Hawkins about Johnny Edwards, the specious snitch who manages to come up with damning testimony against others whenever he's in trouble with the law.

But if "news" is defined simply as revelation of fresh, important information, the following selections--plus some others that were too good to make the cut--eminently qualify.


Wherever [Marv] Davidov has traveled since first getting involved with politics after dropping out of Macalester College in the 1950s, the FBI has followed: to Mississippi, where he risked his neck on the freedom rides that launched the civil rights movement; to Miami, where authorities stopped him from sailing to Cuba on the final leg of a Montreal-to-Havana disarmament march; to Berkeley, where he helped Allen Ginsberg and others organize some of the first Vietnam War protests; to Minneapolis, where he led protests agains the Honeywell Corporation's manufacturing of deathly weapons; [and] to Lowry, Minnesota, where he ended up in the local caboose after protesting the construction of a power line opposed by many local farmers.

Jay Walljasper, October 1, 1981


Thomas R. remembers the first day in prison as the day the admissions officer squirted DDT from a flit gun at his underarms and pubic hair. No one had ever done that to him before. Just a sanitary precaution, the officer said. They took his mug shot, gave him some coveralls and a pair of ugly brown shoes, and locked him in an adjustment and orientation (A & O) cell where he would remain for a month. It's a form of quarantine, a guard told him that evening. Say you were to come in here with a communicable disease, or maybe you've got some violent tendencies. We want to know that.  

Bruce Rubenstein, April 22, 1982


Everyone on the Range knows what U.S. Steel did when the Reagan administration provided it with a tax break with which the company and its corporate colleagues were supposed to do their part to "rebuild American industry." U.S. Steel bought Marathon Oil. In Hibbing, high school freshmen and coarse-speaking Finns who order beers as their fathers did in the old country (kalja! they say) are aware of this fact....

Hibbing lies next to the largest open-pit iron mine in the world, the Hull-Rust-Mahoning. The experience of viewing the pit for the first time from the scenic overlook point is not unlike the first time you look out upon the Grand Canyon....[A]round World War I, a rich body of ore was discovered directly underneath the city....To get at the ore, they moved the entire town, building by building...."In the early days, open-pit mining encroached on the town of Hibbing from all sides, and the clatter and roar of the steam shovels and the blast of explosions filled the air day and night....Hibbing was being literally blasted off the map. But nobody complained...It was Iron and Hibbing was iron."

Dick Dahl, June 24, 1982


"The prognosis for people who fit the rather strict epidemiological definition of AIDS is very bad," says Dr. Frank Rhame, who works in the infectious diseases section of the department of medicine at University Hospitals...."This is potentially a serious public health hazard. It's the closest thing to the Andromeda strain that we'll see in our lifetime."

Claude Peck, November 17, 1982


Last month the Metropolitan Council announced that it would spend $250,000 of its own and $500,000 of the federal Urban Mass Transit Administration money to study, yet again, light rail and other transit alternatives between St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the western suburbs. When the planning agency finishes this study, it will join the host of other transit studies that line local government bookshelves.

David Page, March 30, 1983


Early Friday morning when she walked up to a house on Parkwood Lane in Edina, F. Regina Reed had on a gray wool Harve Benard suit, gray high-heeled shoes, stockings, and a bright red beret. She was also wearing lipstick and rouge. A neighbor promptly called police to report a suspicious person.

Reed is black--in fact, she grew up on a Mississippi farm owned by her grandfather, a freed slave. Today she is a real estate agent in Edina, and after the police showed up at the door of the home on which she was making an offer, she called the chief to talk it over. Chief Craig Swanson says that the incident does not indicate racism.

Philip Weiss, October 26, 1983


If the accusations of pedophilia at the Children's Theatre prove to be true, then it was pedophilia in a genteel context, comfortably removed from the lives of ordinary people. Talented adults and beautiful children may have had their own dirty secrets, but those secrets were hidden behind a veil of costumes, fantasies, and lavish opening-night parties. There's something titillating about sodomy served up with champagne in a chilled glass and there's something satisfying about the fact that so many pretty boys and known homosexuals were allegedly involved. Righteous indignation about child abuse is more easily sustained when it contains a healthy dose of homophobia.

Bruce Rubenstein, May 30, 1984


Corey Gordon, the Does' lawyer, says Minnesota child-abuse investigators have run roughshod over the Constitution. "We've come to the point where allegations put a parent in the position of proving their innocence. The process of justice has been stood on its head by well-meaning people who are willing to forget about due process when faced with possible child abuse."

Patricia Ohmans, May 30, 1984


Walter Mondale's physician is 66, but Dr. Milton M. Hurwitz says that the public has "a right to know" whether President Reagan's stumbling performance last week against his patient is due to degeneration of his brain...."A significant percentage of 73-year-olds," Hurwitz says, "show some indication of mild cerebral changes." ...[S]uch deterioration could, he said, impair a person's ability to respond to critical or crisis situations.

Philip Weiss, October 17, 1984


It begins to become obvious that the [John Marty] campaign has a serious case of split personality--on the one hand trying to appeal to what [campaign manager Bob] Meek likes to call "the real public, [who] so hate government, and have been shit on by Democrats and Republicans alike, that they'll go for someone that's honest." And on the other hand, trying to placate the politicians and party hacks whose main interest is seeing to it that Marty doesn't screw things up for everyone else.

Monika Bauerlein, December 14, 1994


In Iowa, a couple camps out in a tiny café. "We don't want to be home today," the woman says. "We're afraid they're going to serve foreclosure papers." Further south, a farm couple have stripped their home of valuables. There are empty nails on the walls, the good furniture is gone, the microwave the kids bought them last Christmas is back with their daughter for safekeeping. They say they don't trust the bank not to seize everything.  

This is the first time most of them have heard [Jesse] Jackson. He is an inspired speaker, all agree, but often their reactions stop there, further comment cut off, a tension revealed underneath. "The color of his skin is not an issue," one farmer volunteers, his need to make the statement undermining its authority.

Jacqueline White, April 10, 1985


The battle lines are drawn over AIDS, but this time around the combatants aren't gays and homophobes. Homosexual activists and health officials who have always managed to agree on ways to fight the disease are now split over contact tracing...asking people who test positive for the AIDS virus for the names of people they've had sex with, then bringing those contacts in for tests and counseling.

Bruce Rubenstein, February 12, 1986


Not including the two cases prosecuted in other jurisdictions and a couple of murder-suicides that left no suspects, [Hennepin County Attorney Tom] Johnson's office has declined to prosecute eight child homicides during his second term. In at least five of those cases, the evidence appears strong enough to warrant bringing the suspects to a grand jury.

In July 1982 Juvenile Court Judge Allen Oleisky met with Johnson to discuss his failure to issue removal petitions on behalf of high-risk children. Misty's case was one of those discussed in that meeting. A week later she was dead.

Craig Cox, February 26, 1986


Before applying her lipstick, [Barbara] Carlson calls a friend and former colleague who worked for her when she served on the [Minneapolis] City Council. Sixty seconds into their conversation, it's clear the day's busy schedule will have to wait. She slams the door to her bedroom and takes her cordless phone back into the master bathroom, home of the fabled hot tub. The ceramic tile does little in the way of soundproofing. "Look, you arrogant son of a bitch," she yells. "[Minneapolis mayor Sharon Sayles Belton] is a horseshit leader and I want to get together and talk to you about this campaign."

David Schimke, July 16, 1997


When the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approved a permit for the construction of the Hennepin County garbage incinerator two and a half years ago, its computer analysis indicated that any contaminants rising from the burner's smokestack would disperse harmlessly in the air above downtown Minneapolis. Trouble is, they seem to have overlooked all those big buildings....[T]he model the MPCA used has "several limitations," not the least of which is the fact that was designed for use in rural--not urban--areas.

Craig Cox, May 3, 1989


Now, on the cusp of the Nineties, Austin stands as a monument to corporate piggishness. Its residents are living in the aftermath of a prolonged strike that pitted old friends and family members against each other. Scabbing--stealing another worker's livelihood--has been declared morally acceptable, and a solid 50 percent of Hormel's Austin payroll now goes to out-of-towners, many of whom live in Iowa.

In 1978 the base wage at Hormel was $10.69 an hour. Today, with its labor trouble behind it and a balance sheet that shows a record $70 million in earnings in 1989, the base wage at Hormel is $10.70 an hour. The town's richest resident, Richard Knowlton, chairman and CEO of Hormel, is pulling down $1,044,433 annually in salary and deferred compensation; that's 47 times as much as his production workers....Knowlton's annual pay has increased by $705,000 since 1985, the year the infamous P-9 strike began.

Bruce Rubenstein, March 14, 1990


"I've heard 'thanks for your input' before," [Don] Welles said evenly. "The trouble is, our problems aren't just June to November. They're all year round and I don't see anybody doing anything about it."

"Did you see that guy?" Wellstone asked later on the bus. "That was powerful stuff, that he had the nerve to say that to me....I've always felt that's the biggest issue in the campaign--the no-shows. People say I'm too liberal, but I'm not worried about that. What worries me is how to get to people who feel so alienated and so disaffected."

Steve Perry, October 10, 1990


"Contact with the demon level of the spirit world is what New Age is all about," [then-KARE-TV (Channel 11) station manager Linda Rios] Brook tells one crowd, "and I don't care what they tell you about their interest in ecology, and their interest in saving the Earth, and all that stuff....If you are a Christian, then I am here to remind you that you serve a jealous God. And you cannot drink of the cup of the Lord, and the cup of the demons too."  

Suddenly her voice darkens again. "Because of their extreme hatred and fear of Jesus, the Jews had arrested him and brought him in for questioning. The Jews would settle for nothing less than the death of Jesus."

David Brauer, June 26, 1991


"There is a conflict between a program designed to put neighborhoods in charge of their own destiny and problems that have to be dealt with at a citywide level," admits [Neighborhood Revitalization Program] director Earl Craig. The future development of affordable housing is where this problem seems most crucial. Says Katie Trotzky, a lawyer and housing advocate with Minneapolis Legal Aid: "If one neighborhood decides to decrease its stock of low-income rental housing, there is nothing to require another neighborhood to include replacement of that housing in its plan. An overall loss is a distinct possibility."

Bruce Rubenstein, July 10, 1991


[City Pages photographer Dan] Corrigan and I have our backs up against the car, and the group is closing in on us in a tight semicircle. "I'm a Nazi and I'm goddamn proud of it!" bellows a stocky, shirtless guy in his early 20s. Pacer lunges in, tries to grab the recorder. "I don't like your fuckin' paper," he says, pressing his chest up to mine. "I don't like the liberal, faggot-ass attitude it has toward fuckin' white people that want to stay on top." I turn my head, trying to ignore him. "Look at this guy," he says. "Look at this motherfuckin' nigger-lover. Look at me. Can't you look me in the eye?" He peers over his mirror sunglasses. "Don't, man," says a brawny skinhead with a rebel flag draped masklike over his mouth. "You touch him, that's assault."

Jim Walsh, July 31, 1991


Sue Wicklund's daughter remembers the day that the doll, splattered with red paint, was found on her doorstep. "I really didn't know anything about it until later," she recalls. "All my parents told me was that I would be escorted to school in a police car." To get out of the driveway later, her mother had to remove a makeshift banner spread over the family car. It read: NO DEAD BABIES.

Wicklund, 37, is one of the few Minnesota physicians still willing to perform abortions.

David Brauer, November 13, 1991


The first time most Minnesotans were informed about a plan to give money to Northwest Airlines, it was going to cost around $230 million and there would be "no direct state subsidies involved." The price tag for the deal now stands at around $1 billion in subsidized bonds, tax credits, and outright cash gifts to Northwest. Bruce Hendry [is] a Minneapolis financial planner who for the past decade has made his a living by studying struggling companies to see whether they were still worth an investment. "This," he says flatly, "is the worst I've ever seen."

Steve Perry and Monika Bauerlein, December 4, 1991


[MPD officer Kris Arneson] and [Charlie] Adams had been through the mill together. When they used to patrol the northside housing projects, there had been rumors--false, says Arneson--that the two were having an affair. Since Adams is black, that set Arneson on the wrong side of the norm. Friends told her of locker-room talk to the effect that the men weren't going to back her up if she needed it. She got hung with the police-department epithet for white women suspected of dating black men: gray bitch.

Jennifer Vogel, May 27, 1992


Even the sponsors [of bovine growth hormone] admit that the economics--producing more milk when there's already a 500-million-pound surplus--don't make much sense. But that, they say, isn't the point--and besides, we'll be turning milk into plastic soon.

Monika Bauerlein, February 23, 1994


They say by the time guards entered Gregory Stampley's cell to check on him, his body was already turning cold and hard. No one had actually seen him alive for three hours or more, Stillwater warden Dennis Benson admitted later--this despite the fact that Stampley, a man with a history of serious mental illness, had been housed in a special observation cell for the past five days. He'd spent most of the last week of his life naked, eating little if anything, passing in and out of cogency. The running water had been shut off in his cell, and at least once he was observed drinking from the toilet.

Jennifer Vogel, January 26, 1994


[MPD Chief John] Laux admitted in court that Sauro was near the top of the department in complaints with 32, most of them for excessive force.  

None has been sustained. He also conceded that other officers had warned him of Sauro's "volatile" nature and tendency to overreact in arrest situations. Yes, he'd ordered conflict-resolution counseling for the high-profile lieutenant. No, he couldn't recall if it was ever carried out.

Though Laux had long possessed statements from two independent witnesses--not allied with the plaintiff or defendant--alleging that Sauro brutalized Mische, he said in court that he hadn't even mentioned the case to Sauro. Nor had he instigated an Internal Affairs Unit investigation. The only concrete action the chief seems to have taken regarding Sauro--who has been a party to nearly a million dollars worth of brutality settlements--has been to promote him from sergeant to lieutenant.

Jennifer Vogel, July 6, 1994


The dealer at the top of the chain may want to take his profit by breaking the kilos into ounces and selling them for $2,000 to $3,000 apiece before they are mixed with baking powder and water and cooked into crack. At this point, it is up to the person who invested two or three grand for his ounce of coke to determine how much baking powder he wants to add to create ounces of crack he can sell for $700-$1,200 apiece to the next connection on the chain. "The money is the root of all evil," says a man who has been in a Chicago-based gang since 1976 and gives himself the pseudonym TMT. "When you've got four or five thousand dollars in your pocket, you think you can do anything. With the money comes the power. But with the power comes the killing. Sooner or later, you've got to kill to keep the money coming in."

Britt Robson, July 27, 1994


[D]espite being ranked 59th on the [Minneapolis Fire Department's] exam process, [Roger] Champagne was able to take advantage of the affirmative action guidelines to become a Minneapolis firefighter. But in 1988, Champagne twice ignored written requests from the city affirmative action department asking him to document his Native American status. Finally Champagne changed his racial designation to white.

Britt Robson, August 31, 1994


City Pages spent five months reviewing the Haaf murder investigation: reading trial transcripts and police reports, interviewing investigators and attorneys. Among the highlights:

* All of the state's key witnesses were offered considerations, money or deals on pending charges, or both, for their cooperation.

* According to defense attorneys, police "protection" of state-friendly witnesses went as far as obstructing the defense's access to them.

* There were witnesses who directly contradicted the state's version of events, some of whom disappeared, allegedly under pressure from police.

* The physical evidence in the case was not only scant; it did little if anything to connect the alleged killers to the murder scene. The shoes Pepi McKenzie was supposed to have worn on the night of the killing, for instance, were three sizes smaller than his feet.

* There were substantial leads that police disregarded, apparently because they didn't fit the theory--and the suspects--investigators had decided to stake their case on.

The Haaf case was fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies; in the end, if it was abundantly clear that someone had to pay for the death of Jerry Haaf, it's not at all clear that the right people--or at least all of the right people--did.

Jennifer Vogel, March 29, 1995

Six and a half years ago, Vynnette Hamanne began seeing a psychiatrist to deal with her anxieties over a move. Three years later she left therapy with a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder caused by child sexual abuse that was purported to include rape by her relatives, ritual murder, forced child breeding, and cannibalism. She had fantastic, unspeakable nightmares that kept her awake at night and a debilitating medical condition that had grown worse; she lost her job and spent almost $150,000 on an intensifying course of therapy punctuated by psychiatric hospital stays. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Diane Humenansky, is the object of six lawsuits filed by former patients who claim that she helped them to remember spectacular incidents of abuse that never occurred.

It was an enactment of one of the biggest controversies of the decade--about good and evil, sex and violence, childhood and memory. By the time it was over, a jury decided that Hamanne and her family were entitled to $2.6 million for suffering incurred at the hands of her healer.

Monika Bauerlein, August 23, 1995


Since 1980, a long line of auditors has noted the [bus] company's chronic troubles in matters of purchasing and inventory control. Through the years, employees have stepped forward with warnings that their coworkers were blatantly stealing company property and that managers knew about it and did nothing to stop it; the likely cost to bus riders and other taxpayers runs into the millions of dollars.  

Britt Robson, October 25, 1995


The 770 units of public housing poised for the wrecking ball occupy 73 acres of geographically--if not geologically--prime real estate on the edge of downtown Minneapolis; proposals for its use range from parkland to expensive homes.

As few as one-tenth of the demolished units will be rebuilt in Minneapolis, depleting an already scant supply of affordable housing. And even those that will be rebuilt--the city hopes most will be in the suburbs--don't have to be completed for six years. It's hard to know exactly what public-housing residents think about the possibility of being "deconcentrated." Their voices have been mostly absent from the discussions; at one point they were surveyed, but the MPHA has refused to release the results.

Jennifer Vogel, November 15, 1995


Frogs are generally considered biogenetic canaries in the coal mine--indicators of ecological trouble to come. The shorthand explanation is that humans "have many of the same enzyme systems as frogs," according to [University of Minnesota scientist Robert] McKinnell.

"Funny frogs," as McKinnell calls them, first appeared en masse last fall in Le Sueur county near Henderson, about 50 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. Deformities have now surfaced at more than 20 confirmed sites in 7 counties all over the state. There are many more unconfirmed sites, with new calls coming in every day.

Jennifer Vogel, July 31, 1996


Dioxin is a fat-soluble chemical, meaning it bioaccumulates up the food chain. For example, fish from Lake Michigan show levels of dioxin more than 100,000 times higher than the surrounding water, plants, and sediment. Two-thirds of the average American's exposure to dioxin comes from milk, cheese, and beef, a result of cows eating contaminated food crops. ...The second leading source of dioxin in the Great Lakes region [is waste incineration]. Minnesota burns three million tons of waste a year. Only New York incinerates more trash.

Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn, September 18, 1996


[Dr. Keith] Henry was initially skeptical of protease inhibitors, explaining that "when you do this a long time, you get disappointed a lot. [But then] Bill, who was ready to die, and then comes into the clinic in a wheelchair one day and says, 'Dr. Henry, I want to show you something,' then shakes my hand with a hand that was paralyzed and stands up, where he couldn't walk before. The issue is no longer can he survive with any quality of life; it is how much can we rehabilitate him. It was unbelievable; I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. For the next five minutes I ran around grabbing other docs who don't even deal with HIV, and said, 'You've got to come see this.'"

Britt Robson, October 16, 1996


When they loaded the men into squad cars, the one-legged man protested that the police had made a mistake. They didn't know who they had. He was the "star witness" in some big trials under way downtown. As it turns out, he was right. Johnny Edwards is a star witness, one so vital to police and prosecutors that local defense attorneys say he has a virtual "walk on water" pass. Prosecutors won't comment on his status as an informant, but [Ofcr. Jeff] Werner remembers the arrest. "We didn't want to charge him," he confirms, "because it would have made him look like a bad witness."

Beth Hawkins, January 22, 1997


Two years after being appointed to fix Minnesota's most notorious police force, [Minneapolis Police Chief Robert] Olson is presiding over a department in the throes of a mutiny. Crises under his watch have included the near-breakdown of the homicide unit; the continuing walkout of the [Emergency Response Unit]; and the threat of a lawsuit from minority officers. Not to mention the growing bitterness on the streets, where new policing initiatives have disproportionately targeted the young, poor, and black. Olson has been sailing along, powered by a winning public persona, a sympathetic political establishment, and a city's desperate need for reassurance. It's only recently that the Teflon has begun to crack. And the funny thing is that right now, no one seems to know what lies beneath.

Monika Bauerlein, February 26, 1997



Before applying her lipstick, [Barbara] Carlson calls a friend and former colleague who worked for her when she served on the [Minneapolis] City Council. Sixty seconds into their conversation, it's clear the day's busy schedule will have to wait. She slams the door to her bedroom and takes her cordless phone back into the master bathroom, home of the fabled hot tub. The ceramic tile does little in the way of soundproofing. "Look, you arrogant son of a bitch," she yells. "[Minneapolis mayor Sharon Sayles Belton] is a horseshit leader and I want to get together and talk to you about this campaign."  

David Schimke, July 16, 1997



Even for a city that raised publicly financed development to a high art, the Lawson deal--approved by the [St. Paul] City Council last week--sets a new standard. Never before, it seems, has any city built, owned, and operated a whole building for a company. Unless, of course, the company was a sports team. "This is what we've been warning about for years," says Art Rolnick, an economist at the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis. "Sports franchises are just the most visible example" of footloose companies squeezing cities for ever sweeter deals, "but any mobile business can play the game."

Monika Bauerlein, August 6, 1997


[Andre] Madison was lucky. At least ten Minneapolis police officers pumped hundreds of rounds into his northside apartment last November 7, yet he was only hit twice. No crack and only a minute amount of marijuana was found during the raid, and no drug charges of any sort were filed. As for the shotgun Madison allegedly discharged at the officers, evidence would later show that it had never been fired that night.

Britt Robson, September 17, 1997

It all started innocently enough: a jury-duty summons, a quick calculation that now was as good a time as any to get the experience over with; a selection process in which I was sure, I was sure, that no prosecutor would ever let a City Pages reporter into the jury room; a brief trial that seemed remarkable mostly for its lack of evidence; and then the deliberations, which I imagined would take 15 minutes but actually dragged into 4 days of madness, at the conclusion of which we condemned a man who in my opinion is probably innocent to at least 10 years of prison.

This is the story of the conviction of Keevin Hinton, but it's also the story of contemporary justice in Hennepin County. It's a story full of holes, elisions, intuitions, gaps, and maybe even delusions. But that's what being a juror is like: You start with ragged webs of stories that you learn to pretend are whole cloth, you start with a roomful of strangers and end up with a social hierarchy as intricate as any family's, you start out naive and learn to hate yourself.

Dara Moskowitz, December 24, 1997


Minneapolis killed its last zero-tolerance policing program when it sparked too many citizen complaints for cops' comfort. This time around they've simply eliminated the complaint process.... Any first-year cadet could tell you that CODEFOR looks an awful lot like a computer-assisted version of its controversial predecessor, Operation Safe Streets. The basic idea is to snare as many people as possible, no matter how small the infraction, more often than not in neighborhoods populated by people of color and poor people.

Keke Zulu, April 1, 1998


"I don't like myself," Cheryl confesses, fidgeting in front of a blank piece of paper. "I have mean thoughts. I want to hurt people." In no time, she's engaged in a monologue about her family. The paper is still blank, but the story she tells is arresting. "I haven't seen my dad in a couple of weeks. He usually visits on Saturday. But we moved to a different motel, so maybe he couldn't find us. Or maybe he's dead. He's in the army so he could've been killed. But I've been watching the news every night and they don't say he's dead."

David Schimke, June 17, 1998


"When I stepped out I had five or six of them up on the steps--all with weapons. They're all saying, 'Get those niggers out here, we're gonna kill 'em.' One of them is asking, am I a nigger lover? One of them said they're gonna kick my ass." Next thing he knew, [Andover resident Scott] Paulson says, he was forced to the ground as one of the kids whipped his head with a chain. A baseball bat crashed into the back of his thighs. After that, he says, the kids just kept swinging while he kept listening for sirens.

"We're not looking at this as a hate-crime thing," says [Anoka County] Sheriff's Department Capt. Len Christ. "We're looking at it as youth acting up in a very inappropriate and disturbing manner."

Beth Hawkins, June 24, 1998


Down in the basement, the officers discovered the third boy and eight-year-old Nali, both with black material around their necks, both "still warm." The last victim to be found was five-year-old Tang Kee. She was on the floor in the bathroom, black strip around her neck, her body warm to the touch.

An officer later noted that "each child was in a separate room on each floor level, away from the others." That detail, along with the St. Paul medical examiner's finding that "the bodies of the children were in different stages of rigor," suggests they were killed at different times, and possibly out of sight of each other.  

As a paramedic treated [the children's mother, Khoua Her] on the front steps, a crowd began to gather. Watching Her sitting there in the red dress, head lolling from side to side, one neighbor recalls, "I didn't know she was the parent. I thought she was the kid. She's so small."

Mary Ellen Egan, November 18, 1998


When Wesley and Schendel enter the store, Gallup is napping. He gets up and comes to the service window, then invites the two men into the back room....For 20 minutes, the three exchange small talk, mostly about a stack of CDs sitting nearby. Wesley is agitated. The threshold is crossed.

"Gregg got up to get a CD. I'm behind him, to his right. Whenever Kenny and I made contact, he's communicating with his eyes: 'Do it. What are you waiting on?' I pulled the switchblade out of my pocket. Once the knife was in my right hand and open, there was an urgency to try and get this thing over with.

"I didn't get into position to do the old Wesley Snipes move. I was probably three or four feet away as Gregg was leaning over to put the CD in the stereo. At that point, the movie only came into play as far as the neck seemed to be my target. I made my first lunge and struck him in the neck. Gregg let out a yell and moved to the back door. The first thing he said was, 'I'll split it with you.'

"From that point, he went on to repeatedly beg me not to do it. 'No, Carl. No.' He's moving to the back door. I'm in pursuit. Now I'm trying to silence him. I'm sure I could've stopped after 20 blows. But he was still vocal, which was a clear indication that he wasn't done with."

David Schimke, November 25, 1998


It had taken [Dennis Williams] five applications, a discrimination complaint, and a lawsuit to get a menial job; he'd watched dozens of less persistent white applicants land the well-paid union positions while city staffers lost his paperwork, made mistakes that cost him interviews, and--after he had the temerity to complain--put a "problem applicant" flag in his file. By the time the city finally notified him that he had been hired, Williams had checked himself into the psychiatric ward of the Veterans Medical Center, more angry and depressed than he'd ever been in his life. And for the seven weeks preceding the court hearing, he had been sitting in the Hennepin County Jail because a psychiatrist had told the city that Williams, in treatment, had spoken of his thoughts about "messing some people up."

Beth Hawkins, February 10, 1999


"You hear lawyers talk about going down South to do these death-row cases, and what a moving emotional experience it is. But you try walking into a courtroom with a dying woman who should be in the hospital getting treatment. She didn't murder anybody. Her crime was that she bought an insurance policy that turned out to be a lottery ticket.

"You get to the point where you don't even celebrate winning. I remember one, the family was ecstatic, and I walked out of the courtroom and got in the car just dreading it, knowing that we had two more cases in the file. Because sooner or later"--Minnesota's attorney general labors to hold back the tears--"you know you are going to lose."

Britt Robson, March 3, 1999

"I have a question to put to you," says [retired police officer and doorknob expert Arthur] Paholke. "You're walking through a shabby neighborhood and you see a doorknob and say, 'I don't have one of those.' You look around and there are a couple of people around, doesn't look like a squad car's gone through here for the last 20 years. Would you steal it?"

Katy Reckdahl, March 31, 1999


[John] Wodele checks his watch and abruptly announces, "Chris, I gotta go. Do you need anything else? I can call you from the car." He pulls on his gray sportcoat and speedwalks out of his office, down into the bowels of the Capitol and the tunnels below. Mid-trek he takes a hard right into the men's room.

As he pauses at a urinal, the First Flack offers, "The governor doesn't have time to bleed. I don't have time to pee."

Burl Gilyard, June 9, 1999

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