12.01.2008

Paris, Texas Dragging Updated Report: Autopsy Report, Rally & Townhall Meeting



Written by Jesse Muhammad

(Blogger's Note: Below is an excerpt from my latest report on the dragging death of Brandon McClelland in Paris, Texas. Please read the full article in the upcoming edition of the Final Call Newspaper)

PARIS, TEXAS—Driven by a hurting mother’s call for justice, nearly three hundred protestors from across the state and country converged on the lawn of the Lamar County courthouse to speak out against what they see as a corrupted judicial system aimed at covering up the fatal dragging of 24-year-old Brandon McClelland.

Mr. McClelland’s death has drawn stirring parallels to the case of James Byrd Jr. who was brutally killed in Jasper, Texas ten years ago after being chained to a truck by three white men and hauled over three miles.

Suspects Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley remain in the Lamar County Jail on murder charges and have not been indicted. A grand jury is scheduled to convene on December 11 and a trial is not expected to take place until Spring of next year.

“Based upon the stand that has been taken by the family and others to bring attention to this case don’t be surprised if the defenders now try to file for a change of venue”, said Attorney Daryl Washington to the Final Call. He serves as counsel for the McClelland family.

According to a Texas crime report released in 2007 by the department of public safety, there were a total of 243 hate crimes in the state. Whites made up 44 percent of the hate crime offenders compared to 14 percent for Blacks. Highways, roads, streets, and alleys accounted for 22 percent of hate crime locations, second only to residential homes at 40 percent.

“Because the eyes of the nation are on this case, they [defenders] may say their clients now can’t get a fair trial in Paris, Texas”, said Mr. Washington. “My job is to make sure this entire process is transparent and that all charges against the suspects are pursued.”

According to an autopsy report signed by ten medical examiners of the Dallas Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science, the “initial investigation suggested that the blunt force injuries sustained were the result of an accidental hit-and-run, However, additional investigation and developments in the case indicate that the decedent was intentionally ran over with a truck.”

The report further states “therefore based upon the autopsy findings and the history available to us, it is our opinion that Brandon Demon McClelland, a 24-year-old black male, died as a result of blunt force injuries.” Also, the manner of death declared by the examiners is a homicide.

Rally at courthouse draws hundreds

The November 17 rally was led by members of the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam and a lone standing Paris based pastor who challenged other local preachers on their decision to not attend the rally.

“Don’t sit up and talk about me in your churches because I am here with groups you don’t like”, said Rev. Fred Stovall III of Kingdom Harvest church. “The death of Brandon McClelland was the catalyst for this, but there are a lot of issues in Lamar County and Red River County that must be addressed.”



An ailing Jacqueline McClelland said to the chanting crowd “like I have said before, this is not just about my son. I just want justice to be done right for my child and for everybody's child.”

Among the rally onlookers from an adjacent parking lot were several dozen White people, including a Bible waving heckler who attempted to drown out the speakers with words of scripture and disagreement. “This is not a racist town!”, he yelled.

“To the white people that are here, don’t get angry with us”, said Hashim Nzinga of the NBPP. “If you do get angry, go home and look at yourself in the mirror. We are here because on some highway in Texas a body of a Black man was found with blood dripping from it. Bones dripping from it.”

Deric Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam in Houston, warned prosecutors that “if you want to rewrite some of the history of Paris and Lamar County, handle this case properly.”

Local activist Brenda Cherry, co-founder of Citizens for Racial Equality, and Jim Blackwell, of the Tarrant County Local Organizing Committee, were among the other speakers.