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Growing into the void



Well, I certainly hope you had a better Memorial Day than I. Being a stateless commie during a popular sanitized "bloodless" war is no picnic.

What’s worse, the weather was so lovely it was hard for me to get out to the boneyard to desecrate the graves of our honored war dead.

Now that I have lived down to all your expectations, let’s tackle a few burning issues – first of all, the efforts to recall his imperial majesty, Mayor Dennis W. Archer, sometimes of Detroit. I have been, to put it mildly, not always a fan of hizzoner’s style. He is often pompous, essentially humorless, and could use some advice from, say, Marie Antoinette, on having the common touch.

However – he has been, in many ways, a reasonably decent mayor. And even if you disagree with his policies, he has done absolutely nothing to merit recall, which is a drastic remedy best kept for cases of extreme corruption or incompetence.

Yet – it looks as if we may have to endure the time and expense of a recall election, thanks to the divisive efforts of the Black Slate and a group misnamed the Community Coalition. Reasons for the recall effort are murky, but apparently stem back to Archer’s refusal to grant a casino license to Don Barden, one-time local cable czar.

Now it was easy to be somewhat sympathetic to the Don back when, two days after the 1997 election, Archer granted all three franchises to mostly out-of-town, big money interests. But Barden fought back and got a fair hearing before the best court of all: the voters. He shamelessly dragged Michael Jackson in, and promised to build the world’s most special theme park if he got his casino. Voters smiled, and decisively said no.

That should have been that. But Barden seems intent on being a sore loser; he is now suing the city over his casino dysfunction. Give it up. What he should do, if he feels so strongly about this, is run for mayor two years from now.

The mayor won an amazing 83 percent landslide last time. That was partly a vote of confidence, but even more an indication of no credible opposition. Yet anyone who gets that kind of support deserves to serve out his or her full term. Those who loathe him, or his politics, ought to put themselves up – or shut up.

Kevorkian: A New Trial? Jack Kevorkian, disenfranchised doc, is, as I write, walking the exercise yard in the Oaks Correctional Facility, a state-run hotel with bars 250 miles northwest of Detroit. According to Hemlock of Michigan, he is expected to be transferred to a federal pen out of state soon, to do the rest of his 10 to 25 years.

Unless, that is, the verdict is overturned. Two weeks ago, the distinguished attorney Mayer Morganroth filed a most unusual appeal, claiming Kevo merited a new trial because he had incompetent and ineffective counsel.

According to the brief, and supporting statements from another defense lawyer and a well-respected jury consultant, the rookie lawyer, David Gorosh, made faces, rolled his eyes, and completely ignored many of his client’s requests.

Now that is not to say that Kevorkian did not deserve to be sent to jail. He certainly acted like he wanted a conviction. Technically, Gorosh was not even his lawyer, but his "legal advisor," and that may turn out to be grounds for rejecting the new trial plea.

Yet I think he does deserve another hearing. While the jury was deliberating, the prosecution offered to let him plead guilty to manslaughter. Kevo rolled the dice and lost, but I think manslaughter – what he himself said he was guilty of, on the famous "60 Minutes" broadcast – would have been a more fitting verdict.

Consider: Jonathan Schmitz was found guilty of second-degree murder after he blew Scott Amedure away with a shotgun, simply because Amedure had the hots for him. Kevorkian lethally injected a dying man who sought him out and begged him for help killing himself. These are not crimes of the same kind.

Incidentally, Schmitz is getting retried because of an error in the way one potential juror was "bumped" at the start of proceedings. Kevorkian, it seems to me, has at least as much reason to merit a new trial, one in which he actually listens to a real lawyer.

Our Honored Dead, Take Two: Next time we have a patriotic holiday, there is one grave you might consider visiting: the amazing James Robinson’s. He was a Maryland slave who fought in the American Revolution, hoping to win his freedom. He was so courageous that Lafayette personally decorated him. But his master broke his promise and kept him enslaved. When the War of 1812 broke out he was 59. Nevertheless, he fought at the Battle of New Orleans. Guess what? He stayed enslaved until he was 112 years old, when the Civil War ended. He lit out for Detroit, where he lived a free man for three years, dying at age 115. Never heard of him? Whose fault do you suppose that is? Elmwood Cemetery, Section F. Keep your powder dry.

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