“I can finally sleep at night,” says Don Hennick, the Seattle sculptor and Good Samaritan who was charged with purse-snatching in the Pike Place Market July 31, 1997—after the victim saw him running after the thief, and even though he had no criminal record and passed two polygraphs. Last Friday, prosecutors dropped the first-degree theft charge because of “new information”: Brad Wakeman, a local architect who also pursued the purse snatcher, came forward to say the thief he chased wasn’t the Hennick pictured in a September 3 Weekly story. Wakeman missed the previous TV coverage and newspaper articles (which didn’t show Hennick anyway). “What frustrates me is the Times [and Post-Intelligencer] did several articles and never showed a photograph,” Hennick recalls. “Every time I talked to a reporter I said, ‘Please, show a photo of me dressed as I was then.'” Glad we obliged. But Hennick still laments that the case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning he could be charged again, and seeks more witnesses “to prove my innocence beyond a doubt.” So here’s his picture, again.
Brushes with death
Hennick’s ordeal points up a much bigger and irreversible injustice: the execution of innocent people. The charges against him were dropped just as 30-plus former death-row inmates whose convictions were reversed met in Chicago to dis- cuss their near-death experiences. A 1987 study—done just as the states’ gallows were cranking up again after the 1970s hiatus—tallied 350 defendants wrongfully convicted of capital murder or rape in this century, 139 sentenced to death, and 23 actually executed. Many were probably convicted on the same sort of shaky eyewitness testimony that got Hennick charged. But execution means never having the chance to say you’re sorry.
Hopeful philosopher seeks strong leader . . .
What did Kwame Ture/Stokely Carmichael, the civil-rights-turned-Black Power leader who died last week, have in common with Plato, Voltaire, Hegel, and Heidegger? Carmichael, a former philosophy student, followed in the long line of philosophers who, attending more to words than deeds, took up with bloody tyrants. Despairing of this country, he immigrated to Guinea in 1969 and, according to the obits, remained close to its president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, an eloquent exponent of liberation rhetoric, until Toure’s death. It was only then, when Toure’s dungeons were opened, that the world saw how he oppressed and tortured his opponents.