What follows is a preliminary effort to piece together Shamal (aka Jamal) Thompson’s long and troubling journey through Georgia’s broken criminal justice system prior to February 17, 2009, the day he murdered* an innocent cancer researcher named Eugenia Calle. Ten months earlier, a DeKalb County Superior Court Judge named Cynthia J. Becker let Thompson walk free from what should have been a ten-year sentence for burglary. She did so on the grounds that he was a first-time offender.
He was not.
I gathered the records of Thompson’s many other criminal charges and pleas merely through Internet searches and a few phone calls to court clerks in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties in Georgia. These counties and jurisdictions vary quite significantly in their commitment to making public safety information available to the public. Fulton County’s public records system is almost uniquely shameful in comparison to similar courts throughout the country, while DeKalb County’s records are impressively detailed and easy to access on-line.
This information is preliminary, based only on a few phone calls and web searches. If you choose to reproduce or quote this article, please understand that I am unable to guarantee its absolute accuracy at this point. Court records themselves often contain errors, and I can only reproduce what is entered on-line by the courts. However, I include the public records case numbers for every case I cite, and if anyone involved in the justice system (or not) wishes to offer corrections or add to this account, please contact me through this website.
Why Didn’t Judge Cynthia Becker Do What I Did?
I am not a lawyer. I don’t even live in Georgia anymore, though I lived in southeast Atlanta for twenty years. Yet I managed to look up Shamal Thompson’s criminal history while sitting at a computer in Florida. From 500 miles away, with no press credentials or official status or legal secretary or law clerk, I was able to easily discover what several judges in Georgia apparently did not care enough to find out: Shamal Thompson was no “first-time offender,” or mere “troubled kid” when he strolled into courtrooms throughout Metro Atlanta and was repeatedly given a slap on the wrist and a fourth, or tenth, second chance. He was no first-time offender when he strolled into Eugenia Calle’s condominium and beat her to death on Tuesday.
He was clearly no first-time offender in 2006, when he walked away from felony charges of aggravated assault in DeKalb County after the ADA declined to present the case against him to the Grand Jury (DeKalb County on-line Judicial System, #D0170113). He was no first-time offender in 2007, when State Court of Fulton County Judge John Mather let him take a plea on theft-by-taking (State Court of Fulton County #06CR314782). And he was certainly no first-time offender ten months ago, when DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia J. Becker let him walk out of prison with time served on a ten-year sentence for Burglary that she chose to reduce to a six-month “first offender” sentence, and then reduced, even more, to time served (DeKalb County On-Line Judicial System #07CR3936).
How does ten years become six months become time served? How does somebody who has bonded out of several courts and been charged with multiple crimes multiple times keep getting defined as a “first-time offender?” Why do judges keep releasing him, and DAs keep declining to prosecute him? How many innocent people have to die before we acknowledge that our courts are so de-funded and functionally broken that predators have little or nothing to fear from being arrested over and over and over again?
How many people have to die before we say that we’ve had enough?
Here is the burglary sentence delivered to Shamal Jerome Thompson on April 3, 2008 in a courtroom in DeKalb County, Georgia. Think of it as Eugenia Calle’s death sentence:
|Docket Text Details|
|Docket Filing Date||03-APR-2008|
|Associated Party||SHAMAL JEROME THOMPSON|
|AS TO THOMPSON, FIRST OFFENDER SENTENCE, 10 YEARS TO SERVE 6 MONTHS IN JAIL AS TO COUNT 1. CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED FROM 9/30/2006 – 10/4/2006 AND FROM 2/11/2008 TO PRESENT, TIME TO SERVE REDUCED TO TIME SERVED. MUST PAY $32/M PROBATION FEE AND $50 INDIGENT DEFENSE FEE, RESTITUTION IN THE AMOUNT OF $350, RESTITUTION NEEDS TO BE PAID WITHIN 12 MONTHS, IF PROBATION IS DONE CORRECTLY AND RESTITUTION IS PAID CASE MAY CLOSE AFTER 5 YEARS. SIGNED BY JUDGE BECKER ON 4/3/2008|
Why did Judge Becker give Thompson First Offender status? His adult record stretches back virtually to the day he ceased being a juvenile, which certainly suggests that he committed crimes that we, the public, cannot even know about before he turned 18. And why, once again, was I able to find these things on-line, hundreds of miles away, while the courts in Atlanta kept letting Shamal Thompson back onto the streets?
WSB Atlanta offers some truly gut-wrenching insight into what Judge Becker was using her Internet for when she should have been looking into Thompson’s criminal history before sentencing him on those burglary charges. She was looking at the bridal gown website Thompson claimed to have designed. According to WSB (and WSB was the only news station that reported this), “Judge Becker cited the Web site and the ‘beautiful designs’ on the site as part of the reason for the light sentence she gave Thompson in the burglary case.”
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in.
Perhaps because I wasn’t busy looking at bridal gowns, what I found on-line about Shamal Thompson had less to do with taffeta than serial identity theft. And fraud. Little clues that should have led the Judge to ask herself: “Is this guy even telling me the truth when he tells me he’s a bridal fashion designer?” Cynthia Becker needs to resign, out of embarrassment if not some deeper comprehension of the grotesquely ironic lack of judgment she displayed.
Am I the only person who thinks Cynthia Becker needs to quit her day job? Well, here’s a good way for you to decide. Because DeKalb County keeps such stellar on-line records, you can actually go to their website, the Online Judicial System of DeKalb County.
Go to Shamal Thompson’s case, #07CR3936, and you will see a list of documents – a case docket. Some of the documents are on-line, and some, like the court transcripts, aren’t on-line, but you can go to the court and request to see those. Or pick some other offender – someone who has been terrorizing your neighborhood, or someone who has been in and out of the courts, or another of Becker’s cases. Take a look at the dockets and think about all of the money we’re wasting on truly baroque and foolish things, while the crimes themselves – the point of the courts – seem to literally disappear in the endless processing and pleading and not prosecuting, or “nolle prosequi.”
Nolle prosequi can occur because nobody had the resources to even investigate the case, or because there are too many defendants, or too many crimes, or because the public has become so gob-smacked with the idea that they are freeing innocent men that it is practically impossible to get most people put away anymore. Nolle prosequi might as well be translated: we’re losing this game every day.
And don’t expect critical news about the broken court system from the daily paper. They run personality pieces on criminals and mash notes about defense attorneys and never, ever, challenge judges. The AJC hasn’t done a substantive series questioning sentencing in the courts since 1993. They’ll go after the police, and some of the time when they do they should, but the courts get treated with real kid gloves.
So I encourage you to go to the courthouse and see how things work. But please remember, court clerks are busy people. The good ones rank among the un-noticed heroes of our dysfunctional courts. They don’t get the cushy no-show jobs like Juanita Hicks, former Fulton County Clerk of Court, who appointed her crony, Cathelene Robinson, who then turned around and paid Juanita to “write a history of the Clerk’s Office,” which Hicks of course, didn’t get around to writing.
But she did take the money, which is just one reason why Fulton County says it can’t afford to put criminal records on-line, so you can’t go on-line and find information about the dirt-bag who just kicked in your back door.
Just remember that when you’re standing in the hallway of the courthouse with a paper in your hand on which Judge Cynthia Becker prattles on about Shamal Thompson’s design skills: it wasn’t the clerk behind the counter who let Thompson walk out the door you’re about to walk out through. The clerk behind the counter probably would have thrown him in prison, where he belonged.
Who is Shamal Thompson?
I know nothing of Thompson’s life story. For that type of “color coverage,” you’ll have to wait for the AJC to run long, plaintive stories about his difficult youth. Meanwhile, here is what I was able to find out about Shamal Thompson’s crimes and history, so far:
Thompson was born either on 3/11/86 or 11/3/86, and he may well have used different birthdates, as well as different names, to avoid detection of his other crimes. Of course, with technology like the In-ter-net, and fingerprint databases, such simple ploys should not have worked at all. Did they? Interesting question.
On May 18, 2005, a warrant was issued for Thompson in Gwinnett County on the charge of theft by receiving stolen property (#05W-17152). It would be two years before the courts addressed these charges. He also apparently committed an act of theft on December 9, 2005 (#06CR314782). The information I received was confusing, but the State Court of Fulton County wouldn’t address those charges, either, until 2007.
Meanwhile, on September 28, 2005, Thompson was arrested in DeKalb County. He was released on October 5. Charges included felony aggravated assault, fleeing/attempt to elude, and reckless driving. Eight months later, on July 25, 2006, an Assistant District Attorney declined to present the case to a Grand Jury in DeKalb, and Thompson walked (#D0170113, or use the name Shamal Thompson, and be sure to hit the “all” button on the “case status” prompt).
Why did the ADA decline to go forward with the case? Why didn’t the jurisdictions of Gwinnett and DeKalb communicate with each other and deliver Thompson to Gwinnett to face his outstanding warrant there?
In any case, on August 26, 2006 (note, we’re up to 2006 now – the dates get confusing: there’s so many of them), Thompson committed a felony burglary in DeKalb County. He was arrested and spent five days in jail – from September 30 to October 4, 2006. This case wouldn’t reappear until 2008, in Judge Becker’s court.
About ten weeks later, December 5, 2006, Thompson was in trouble again, this time in the State Court of Fulton County. I have little information on this case, and the on-line database from the State Court of Fulton County is ridiculously unusable. The charge was forgery-in-the-first-degree; Thompson was the second defendant in the case, and it is “still open,” according to a helpful clerk on the phone. The case number is #06CP5770.
Next, on or around December 18, 2006, Thompson was either charged with theft-of-services and identity fraud or appeared in court on those charges. Again, the information I have is confusing, but the clerk told me that the case is still open; the “last court date scheduled for it was January 2, 2007; and that the Fulton DA “hasn’t scheduled another court date.” The case number is #06CP60870.
All of this could be made clear to us on-line, of course, if there were any functioning leadership at the Clerk of Court during the expensive and ruinous years of Juanita Hicks and Cathelene Robinson.
The next day, December 19, 2006, Thompson had 11 counts of identity fraud “dismissed at jail.” Whatever that means. It could be that some overworked cop didn’t show up, or didn’t show up the sixth time, after Thompson’s defense attorney managed to spin the date a half-dozen times before. It could mean some paperwork disappeared. Or was disappeared. It could be that the overworked DA’s office couldn’t cope, that the case seemed insignificant compared to the thousands of others they were investigating and preparing. In any case, in case #06CP60926, Thompson walked out the door. Free again.
For forty days, at least. On January 30, 2007, the State Court of Fulton County got around to addressing Thompson’s 12/9/2005 theft charge. Judge John Mather accepted a plea, and Thompson walked. The case number is #06CR314782.
It would be great if somebody in Atlanta would go to the State Court of Fulton County and take a look at Judge Mather’s sentence and any other materials related to the case. For if Thompson accepted a plea, why is it that Judge Becker gave him a first-time offender’s break, and Judge Michael Clark (we’ll get to him next) simply dropped charges against him and let him walk?
Onward and upward. On April 23, 2007, Judge Michael Clark of the Gwinnett Superior Court cut Thompson a deal: in exchange for Thompson pleading guilty to theft by receiving, Clark dropped another charge of theft by taking and gave him five years probation — as a first offender. Case #06-B-02474-4, Gwinnett Courts.
Questions arise. If Thompson pleaded guilty on January 30, 2007, why did he get to plead guilty, again, as a first offender, some seven weeks later? For that matter, had Judge Mather give him a first-offender deal, too, those seven weeks prior to his second first-offender plea, despite his juvenile record, if it exists, and all the other confirmed charges floating around? The head swims. But, then again, I’m sitting here in Florida, getting paid nothing to watch the dolphins cavort, dreaming of crime victims.
I’m not some judge in her chambers in DeKalb County getting paid to enforce the law. Dreaming of wedding gowns.
Some time around February 11, 2008, Shamal Thompson was back in jail again in DeKalb County, where he stayed until April 3, when he convinced Judge Cynthia J. Becker that his bridal gown web design skills entitled him to a third first-offender sentence, a further reduction in that sentence, and immediate release with time served, justice be damned.
And 319 days later it was, wasn’t it?
What Will Happen Now?
What will happen now is that Shamal Thompson has just bought himself (on our tab) a very expensive and high-profile defense team who will use our money to accuse us as a society of failing this talented /troubled/ mentally unstable/ promising/ neglected/ sensitive/ misunderstood young man while using every trick they’ve embedded in the criminal justice system to try to get him off again as they grandstand to enhance their public personas while lining their pockets and wailing that they do all this in order to defend justice from its enemies.
Lapdogs in the daily press will breathlessly report this.
Eugenia Calle’s family and loved ones will bury her body and remember all the good she did while she was alive.
Her colleagues will go back to trying to cure cancer.
Who Was That Who Saw it Coming?
In 2005, a writer named Coley Ward published a startling article in Atlanta’s Creative Loafing. Called “Case Dismissed: Accused Felons Often Are Released When Officers Fail to Testify,” Ward interviewed Fulton County Magistrate Judge Richard Hicks, who complained that more than half of the felony cases scheduled in his courtroom had to be dismissed, usually when police officers didn’t show up to testify. The police argued back that they didn’t always receive subpoenas in time, or that they were on duty elsewhere or off the clock – working for free. DA Paul Howard (whose own staff is stretched beyond human means) argued that most of those felons eventually got re-arrested for something else and thus indicted, an argument Judge Hicks called statistically untrue. Even if it were true, Coley Ward points out, what type of system lets out half its felons, or more, on the grounds that they’ll be back again soon?
Everybody agreed on one thing, though: the justice system is so broken that the chance of a felon even getting indicted once he has been caught, if he is caught, is so small in Fulton County that it hardly seems worth worrying about.
Now picture Shamal Thompson boldly strolling through Dr. Eugenia Calle’s condominium lobby, trying to get back into her apartment, where he knew her body lay, after killing her and going on a cold-blooded shopping spree with her credit card. No consequences. No fear.
We should have all seen it coming. Thompson appears before Judge Richard Hicks on March 3, four years after Hicks pulled the fire alarm on his own courthouse.
And the Mayor and the Chief of Police continue to say that there’s no problem, that it’s all in people’s heads, that crime is down.
I once had a defense attorney say: “Geez, you take this stuff so personally.” Well, I’m a victim of violent crime, and so is my husband and many, many of my friends in Atlanta. I matriculated from Emory University’s Graduate School, and as a public health worker and lobbyist, I occasionally worked with the epidemiologists, including those involved in seeking the links between hormones and cancer that defined Eugenie Calle’s research (I never met her). My dear friend, Toni, lost her life to cancer two years ago. Another dear friend and mentor, Vicki, has been fighting breast cancer for years. I lost a beloved male friend suddenly to cancer last year. And since Christmas, my mother has been waging a valiant fight against late-stage lung and brain cancer.
So, yeah. As someone who prays daily for those gone to cancer and those fighting it now, I take the loss of a brilliant and dedicated cancer researcher personally. God rest.
As a crime victim, I take crime personally.
As an Emory alum, I take their community’s safety personally, and I would expect all members of the campus, even those faculty of the offender-besotted-ilk, to take the murder of a member of their community seriously.
As a woman, I take the vulnerability of women personally. As a former Atlantan who worked hard to make the city a safer place for women and children, I take crime in Atlanta seriously.
It’s up to us – black and white, neighbor by neighbor by neighbor, to come together to demand that criminals be removed from the streets. Permanently. The only way to break the cycle of violence — to save the younger brothers and sisters of all the Shamal Thompsons out there, is to change what the courts have been doing for the last thirty years.
Stop letting the predators out. All of them.
Start prosecuting crimes. All of them.
Start telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what is happening in our courts. They are the problem. And that is what this blog will be about.
I am so, so sorry for Eugenia Calle and for the people who loved her.
Tomorrow: What citizens in Atlanta are doing to fight crime and monitor the courts.
*Of course, Thompson has not yet been convicted of the crime.
36 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Yet Another Unnecessary Murder: How the Justice System Failed Eugenia Calle and Is Failing Us All”
I’ve seen your name somewhere, can’t recall where. With this article, I hope to see your name attached to many, many, many more articles. As a citizen- victim of many crimes, and a cancer survivor (treated at Emory)- I say, Thank You, Thank You Very Much.
There’s an online forum here in SE ATL where the article was cited (eavBuzz.net); that’s where I found your site. I have been fingered as an “angry man” by being passionate about the accepted way the ‘justice’ system here does it’s business, mainly by a practicing defense attorney 2 years out of law school & his sycophants. I figure they’ll see differently once they are confronted with violence personally; the way things are going, that shouldn’t take long. The attorney thinks I don’t have enough “facts” to judge certain cases that have been brought to the nieghborhood’s attention by local groups and a vigilant member of the DA’s office. It’s like the financial ‘geniuses’ that told us we were stupid, that we ordinary individuals couldn’t possibly understand what they were doing. Attorneys like to make us think that they, too, have some key to understanding that the unwashed can’t possibly posess. Bologna.
I, too, am an ATL resident who is “obsessed” by the crime that has taken hold of the city. I track the blogs looking for info on crimes that have taken place in the areas I frequent – I believe that it is crucial to arm myself with information. The 20 second sound byte news doesn’t give residents an accurate view of what is really going on in this city. In fact, I just happened upon a blip news report of Ms. Calle – otherwise I would not have known about this tragic crime.
Amazing that Judge Hicks argues about the crime stats. I’ve heard many attorneys discuss his ineptitude and I’ve witnessed it first hand:I applied to his bench for a restraining order, which he denied. (I was told to simply ignore the offender)
Crime is taking a toll on this city. Home invasions are the new crime du jour for young ramapaging teens…and why not? No security cameras, police don’t show up, residents sitting at home watching tv are easy marks. And if caught, these jerks know that they will walk. Im looking to buy a home and I am quickly ruling out the city of Atl as a location – why would I want to pay obscenely high taxes with no guarantee of fire/police services? Even a resident of a security controlled million $$ building was not safe. Maybe instead of touting a trolley system, Shirley should use that $$ to replace the 200 officers who have gone elsewhere.
Thank you for taking the time to research and expose the sorry state of DeKalb/Fulton court affairs re the Calle case. You are so right in your conclusions. Our numbers need to increase and our voices need to be louder in order to keep up citizen pressure for real reform in metro Atlanta.
While I’m not a criminal attorney it really amazes me that guys like this (the true bad apples) can hustle their way through the system.
People need to pay the price for violent crimes or they will just become emboldened and “graduate” to even more violent crimes. This woman was truly cheated. She was a true asset to our community and human-kind, but this thug, dirt-bag, and convicted felon killed her to get money to shop at Phipps and/or Lenox.
We need to eliminate these elements from the population or segregate them until they learn that there are real consequences for their actions after actually paying for them. This wasn’t his first violent crime and would have been far from his last if he was not caught; thank goodness he was an idiot by using her cards and returning to the scene.
Thanks for your thorough assessment. More people should learn the background of how something like this was really allowed to happen. I wish people like you would stay around to fight the crime here. Atlanta has so much potential.
Thank you for your comments, and I will be adding much more to this story in the coming week. The sad thing is that I come across case histories like this virtually every time I research an inmate’s history. I literally have filing cabinets tracking offenders — sex offenders, mainly — through decades-long careers, and they never get put away until they finally kill someone in the process. If then.
When I lived in Atlanta, I was actually able to track my own rapist’s more recent crimes in Florida using the internet, and once he was apprehended for the fifth time, it turned out that some of my educated guesses were, tragically, spot-on. There’s something very wrong when a person who cannot figure out face-book can track a serial offender through Lexis-Nexus from a state away.
It’s time for us to fight back at every level — funding the police, fighting back against City Hall and the police brass (I am sure the beat cops are with us), and, especially, demanding transparency and accountability from the courts. I also think the time is unusually right for activism in Atlanta, right now, and the members of Atlantans Together Against Crime are doing some of the best anti-crime advocacy I’ve seen anywhere in the country. Phil Kent is absolutely right — it’s time to get organized. I am thinking about looking to the model created by City Journal in New York, which is funded by the Manhattan Institute and provides media push-back and policy research. Atlanta’s movement is growing in a more grassroots way, and that is vital — but we’ll need a centralized forum for sharing data, planning strategy, and promoting legislation and policies and candidates that can help.
Tina, this is a remarkable achievement. I hope you’ll guide us through the steps that must be taken to ensure that this stops happening.
I just googled Cynthia Becker. It seems she’s made a lot of people in her courtroom unhappy.
Good job, Tina.
Tina, Thanks for your work on this, hopefully some good will come of your efforts. I hope you and Paul are doing well.
amazing work! thank you! ….has anyone sent this to AJC? fulton county court?
The criminal proclivities of
Shamal Thompson can only be
enhanced through the liberal
mindset of judges like ms. Becker. If Mr. Thompson had come
to my residence and tried to do to me what he did to Ms. Calle
he would not need a court date,
He would only need a autopsy.
Marcia directed the i-neighbors listserv to your site. We miss you around the ‘hood!
This is wonderful work you’ve done. We miss you in Boulevard Heights.
Outstanding independent research and reporting, this is the kind of story that needs to be told, and it seems papers like the AJC aren’t doing it.
im so sorry to hear about the doctor…it really saddens me…i knew the accussed killer not personally but i was in gwinnett jail when he was there ..he was only there a short time always played basketball…you have to give your life to god in order to change your ways ..i did i was a pety theft but im getting too old and i know o needed help..jail dont help people you have to wanna change i did so i prayed to god for me to stop my ways and now so many doors are opening up for me..jail can actually make you worse if you let it cause you may go in there for stealing but in the cell with robbers murderers and gang and drug deales who all talk about there crimes jail has no help or support system to get you help it only take you off the streets some people go back even worser..i pray to god and i thank him for giving me a break as far as shemal he is crazy! i could never take a person life..ever!! im 33 never held a gun and dont want to or i would never beat anyone to death i couldnt i pray for her friends and family shemal will get his justice yes the system failed dr.calle.she didnt deserve that. jail need to help people so they wont get out and commit more crimes im done with crimes i love myself and my freedom if you truly wanna change you can with the help from god.
also thanks to the person who wrote this story
I commend you for your out-standing article. Seems that we could benefit from have astute citizens as yourself in our judicial system.
Thanks so much for doing the work others should have.
this article was well written…very informative..and tells the truth of it all..thanks for writing..
From the law enforcement side, I thank you for this article. I can not tell you how many times we as police officers and detectives sit in disbelief when we see this first hand. When I arrest someone and run their criminal history and they have 13 felony convictions and each time I see they were given probation and were arrested again while on probation it sometimes makes me aske myself, “Why am I bothering?”. I know why I chose this job and plan on continuing it until I retire. I was there for the incident when this person was arrested and the charges later dropped because the primary arresting officers had been fired for an off duty fight. I have no idea why the DA’s office dropped the charges, all they would have had to do is give notice to those officers to be in court. I think that is called a subpoena. Again thank you for calling attention to these incidents and hopefully it will cause enough people to band together. Believe me, the police are here to help, that’s why we do our job, and we get sick and tired of seeing the same offenders over and over again. When I have arrested a person steadily from the time he was 15 years old until he is now an adult, I think that is unacceptable.
Thank you, Helen, I am beginning to regret dropping out of law school again. And alienating all those people running the courts and City Hall by demanding stuff like accountability. Julius: I sometimes hear from prisoners, and ex-prisoners, I sincerely, sincerely hope you get your life together. I will be thinking good thoughts for you. I recently heard from an old co-worker at the Congress Center who told me that being in prison saved his life because it got him off the streets for a long time. I’d be curious to hear your opinions on that. Nate: I respect what cops do every single day, and if I weren’t 43-years old, I would join the academy myself. Of course there are a few bad cops. There are a few bad priests, and a few bad teachers, and lots of bad politicians and appointed officials and university presidents and criminologists. But the cops are the ones who take it in the nose every time, and they do practically the hardest job in the world. Changing that perception is one of the main goals of this blog. If you have any suggestions for linking with the community of police, please e-mail me.
I was in the courtroom this morning with this case and am totally discussed with how Thompson’s attorneys handled the situation and how smug Thompson and his attorneys are. I understand we need a judicial system, however, in situations like this when EVERYTHING points to Thompson being guilty, why are we wasting time and money. Put him in solitary confinement with one hour of daylight a day for the rest of his life.
Care to chime in, Cynthia?
This story is tragic and unfortunate. My sorrow goes out to the victim’s family. I am an Emory Alum (Goizueta) and feel sort of a connection to this as well. The system has failed society in the case of Shamal Thompson but I think the system does get the majority of criminals off the street as Georgia has a high inmate population in relationship to other states. I think the system is flawed nonetheless and needs to be reworked so that those who deserve jail are sent to jail and those wrongly convicted are set free. Those with violent past and pose a threat to the daily lives of citizens need to be put in jail for purposes of rehabilation. In this case he should have been incarcerated earlier but as a result of the system trying to give someone a “fair” chance it didn’t give her a fair chance at life. On the other hand you see a plethora of questionable convictions to those who were put in the vicious cycle of the criminal system. I believe the system needs to make sense and those who have a history of prior wrongdoings and pose a threat to society need to be put in jail. Nevertheless I think the answer is not just in criminalizing these youth. At any point Shamal Thompson could have changed his ways with proper rehabilation treatment, which is the purpose of the CORRECTION system. The system is failing us all and until we realize all the shortcomings it brings than we wont have substantive results from the penal system.
Chris: In twenty-five years, thousands of volunteer lawyers and well-paid activist attorneys have identified merely 233 people, nationwide, who have had their sentences reversed. The rest is confabulations by activists and the press. And many of these people were not “actually innocent,” including the two in Savannah, Georgia, who were denied compensation from the state because it is clear that they were guilty of gang rape. Their case was reversed on a technicality that shows the real weakness of our system — convicting criminals and keeping them off the streets. Others in the 233 are serial rapists busted for the wrong crime because they were operating in the area, and there are people like Ronald Cotton, whose prior rape conviction is probably not mentioned when he collects speaker fees for lectures about “wrongful identification” on his recent book tour (acknowledging his reason for being in a mug shot book takes the shine off such “theories” of systematic inequity arising from a handful of atypical cases). Others are “non-contributing” members of gang rapes, with plenty of other evidence against them. Some are genuinely innocent, but their numbers are so small — less than 233 men, in 25 of the bloodiest years on America’s streets (we’re talking millions of violent crimes) — tragic but utterly statistically irrelevant.
You might ask why statistics matter when we’re talking, emotionally, about individual lives. I’m not saying that I want to see innocent men imprisoned: nobody wants that. But if we were to be honest, arguments based on the individual value of every human life and the justice system wouldn’t exclude the millions of individuals who have lost their lives or were horribly violated by criminals because it’s far too easy for the defense to game the system.
I wish I had your faith in rehabilitation, and I support rehab for people who don’t victimize others (burglary is not a victimless or non-violent crime) and are not recidivists. But in most cases it is overused and hasn’t proven to take.
The lenience built into our criminal justice system is the problem, not the fact that we imprison high numbers of people: there are high numbers of crimes, as anyone can see. But the notion that there is some type of systematic problem with imprisoning innocent men is simply not true, no matter how much traction Barry Scheck and his thousands of volunteer lawyers gain in the press. It’s hysteria; it’s inaccurate; and it is horribly insulting to the millions of people who have watched their victimizer walk free because of the way the system works, favoring defendants over justice itself — sometimes many, many times. It’s time to have a new conversation about wrongful convictions — this time with facts and real numbers.
Yes, it’s called corrections. It’s also called the justice system, and there is little of that — for victims, that is.
Great work ! I think after reading this that you may have single-handedly made a huge difference in how this case is viewed. It is unfortunate that the legal counsel and the judge did not extend the same level of focus. That would have truly impacted the outcome ! Thanks for the article and the work!
Great article, thank you.
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Very nice information, thanks a lot.
I was he person who Jamaal burglarized in around 2005-2006. Basically he was frequent visitor and possibly a former tenant of an apt in Lenox Park, and either he or his friend stole a TV, my cell phone, and some checks from my apt. I received a call from a check cashing company that had already cashed 1 check from him and was attempting to cash a second, I alerted them that it was stolen checks and drove over there immediately. When I arrived, the police had also arrived and he started running out of the facility, i tripped him in an attempt to help the cops catch up but he dropped his cell phone and kept on running and fled the scene. Then apparently they got smart and started printing their own checks with another name using my bank acct and routing # and were using them all over town. Those would be the charges in Fulton county. Eventually they caught him, he payed some very minor restitution, and was apparently released and then this incident happened. I didn’t find out about it until a reporter tried to contact me regarding the matter a few years ago.
I knew shamal from high school he was my best friends i didn’t know he could do something like this it wasn’t in his character. It alot i can say in this box but im not i just cant believe he would do something like this.
I know (knew) Shamal as well. He was my first kiss. I, ironically, know Martell who was the last comment as well. We all hung out together. No, I’m not a thug or hoodlum either for hanging out with him, before you assume that too. I’m working on my second degree in Systems Engineering, but that’s neither here nor there. Like Martell said, Shamal wasn’t a bad guy growing up, so all your assumptions about his life are false. I don’t know what happened to him. We lost touch around 2004. He was a good guy, and a very smooth talker. I guess that’s how he talked his way out of jail all those times. It is surprising the judges were taken in by his “charm.” I feel bad for the victim’s family. Her murder was senseless and I’m glad he got life in prison. However, don’t create a troubled, bad child scenario for him that didn’t exist. Oh, and if you know so “many, many” people who have been victims of violent crimes, maybe y’all need to get together and take some self defense classes. That’s ridiculous.
B. Washington, telling victims of violent crime to just “take some self defense classes” is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Whether he had a bad upbringing or not, he still fucking killed an innocent woman and was so cold and callous while doing so. No one cares about your second degree in Systems Engineering, and no one definitely cares that he did or did not have a troubled childhood. Something happened between 2004 and 2009 and it happened for the worst.