The black community in Greenwood, Miss., is on edge and angry after the death of Frederick Jermaine Carter (pictured) who was 26 years old and found hanging from a tree in what authorities have labeled to be a suicide.
The community, though, isn't buying the police's story and claims that he was actually murdered.
The Final Call is reporting on the death of Carter, and even Michael Pimbleton Jr., the mayor of Sunflower, Miss., said there is more going on than meets the eye:
"This is 2010 and we still have black people hanging from trees? They're saying he hung himself, but I have doubt in my mind that he actually did that. That wasn't his character. This wasn't a suicide, this was a homicide," Mayor Pembleton said to The Final Call.
Carter was found on December 3, with his body hanging from an oak tree in North Greenwood, which is a predominantly white section of Leflore County. He actually lived in nearby Sunflower County, and North Greenwood is known as an area that black people are sometimes afraid to visit. Carter was with his stepfather, who said that he wandered off from an area in which they were both working.
County Sheriff Ricky Banks told the media that a mental condition led to Carter drifting off and hanging himself. He also said that there is no evidence that there was a crime committed, but the community is outraged that the location of Carter's death was never taped off as a crime scene and they also believe that the investigation was inadequate.
"Because there has been no investigation on the part of the local officials in to this as a crime, we're calling on the federal government to conduct an independent investigation. We want the U.S. Justice Department to look in to this," attorney Valerie Hicks Powe said to The Final Call.
Greenwood has a stain on its national reputation when it comes to aggressive behavior toward African Americans.
Just 10 miles north of the town is where Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. Till's alleged killers were acquitted of the crime, even though the boy was shot in the head and had his eyes gouged out. Till's attackers were angry that he'd allegedly whistled at a white woman.
Mississippi is a state that stubbornly hangs on to its racist roots, with the state's governor, Haley Barbour, tossing some of the nastiest, most unprofessional and aggressive insults at President Barack Obama.
- Haley Barbour's Brother: Blacks Aren't 'Listenin' to White People Like They Used To'
- Mississippi Gov. Says Slavery Conversation is Not Important
Carter's family denies that he has a mental problem. They also want an independent autopsy and outside investigation. State Senator David Jordan has offered to help the family, claiming that he doesn't buy the story being presented by authorities either:
"There are a lot of unanswered questions. He reportedly had rope in his pocket but didn't have anything to cut it with? Why wasn't the scene of the crime blocked off? That tree limb is nearly 12 feet high. I'm 6'2" and I can't see how I could maneuver to do that, so how could a boy his height hang himself like that?" said Jordan.
The mysterious death of Frederick Jermaine Carter shows all the classic signs of significant injustice.
Given the history of Mississippi as it pertains to African Americans in the justice system (both as victims and perpetrators), it is quite conceivable that authorities are misleading the public. Small town justice can be fickle, particularly in the South.
I wouldn't be surprised if officers were covering for a family member of a prominent city official or somehow felt that their activities would escape the scrutiny of the broader American public. When we were involved with the case of Heather Ellis, the college student who was nearly sentenced to 15 years in prison after cutting a line at Wal-Mart, I received an enlightening education on how justice is delivered to African Americans in tiny, historically racist towns.
While it is not a foregone conclusion that local authorities are engaged in a cover up, it is abundantly clear that they did not conduct an investigation that is thorough enough to satisfy Carter's family.
Given the lack of credibility of the Mississippi justice system and the questionable nature of this crime, it is fully expected that outside officials engage in further analysis of what happened to this young man. If Carter really did commit suicide, then the sheriff has no reason to be concerned, so he should be the first to support further probing.
Click Here for the Complete Story
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.