In this week's feature story, "The Wrong Man," Larry Gossett, chairman of the King County Council, describes a very memorable day he spent in jail with Dawud Malik in 1968. Here's a short video clip of Gossett telling us how he relied on Malik--then on death row after being convicted of two murders he claims he did not commit--to stifle a potential prison riot after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Here's an excerpt from the story with a little background:
On the morning of April 4, 1968, Malik was awaiting sentencing at the King County Jail when a guard escorted a familiar face into the cell across from his: Larry Gossett, his old friend from the Central District. Malik was puzzled. Whereas he was a high-school dropout, Gossett had gone on to become a leader of the Black Student Union at the University of Washington.
"Damn, Larry," said Malik. "What you doing in here?"
Gossett explained that he and seven other students had been arrested for organizing a nonviolent protest at Franklin High School, after the principal had suspended two black female students who dared to wear their curly hair naturally.
Later that afternoon, while Gossett and Malik were catching up, word reached the prisoners that Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. "The blacks in jail wanted to beat up the white prisoners," says Gossett. "We said, 'No, man, that's not how you pay respect to brother King. He'd be concerned about everyone in this jail, because we're all dispossessed.' "
According to Gossett, he and his fellow college students were having a hard time convincing the angry inmates to back down. So he turned to his old friend. "Strategically, I enlisted Dawud, who'd been in the jail for over a year," says Gossett. "He helped cool those guys out."
But while externally Malik could impart enough calm to quell a potential jail riot, internally his blood still boiled at the thought of being wrongfully convicted. "I was full of anger and disappointment," he says. "I was bitter, and it was killing me from the inside."