It still sucks to be a black man in America

It still sucks to be a black man in America

By all teammate and coach accounts, Illini standout, and likely first round NBA draft pick, Terrence Shannon, Jr. (TSJ), knew he could be a target for this kind of thing. So, he avoided the type of public behavior that would make a potential allegation more believable. He kept his alcohol intake to a minimum, he avoided rowdy situations, and he generally surrounded himself with friends.

And he did this because he knew exactly what was at stake.

But none of it mattered. TSJ still somehow found himself sitting at the defense table in a Lawrence, Kansas, courtroom accused of felony rape and aggravated sexual assault against a white woman. It’s a scenario that’s been played out far too many times in southern states.

And I don’t care what anyone says, Kansas is a southern state.

Considering the story’s been covered ad nauseum, for brevity’s sake, I won’t go into all of the graphic details here. If you do need to catch up, there are thousands of media reports that provide the specifics. My greater point is to dissect a case that NEVER should’ve seen the light of courtroom day.

What I want to know is, how does any self-respecting prosecutor pursue a case with as many holes as this one? And that’s a particularly egregious undertaking when you realize that, despite the acquittal, these charges will follow Mr. Shannon for the rest of his natural life, right down to those inevitable media obituaries.

The first and most massive crater in this prosecution was the lack of any DNA evidence that would even mildly corroborate the accuser’s theory. Considering the invasiveness of the purported act, the fact that the State’s labs couldn’t come up with the required nanogram of cellular material calls her entire story into question.

For reference purposes, one nanogram is a billionth of an ounce. To put that in some sort of non-quantum perspective, if you somehow managed to divide a grain of rice into 25 million pieces, each one of those pieces would weigh one nanogram. That basic lack of data means I wouldn’t have touched the case with a ten-foot pole unless the rest of it fell into perfect alignment, which it did not.

There were no witnesses!

You mean to tell me, in the middle of a crowded bar with the accuser’s friend ostensibly watching a potential romantic transaction between this woman and a rather large athlete in a group of rather large athletes, NO ONE saw anything? Even that friend testified that she saw nothing remotely untoward transpire between the two.

The Kansas State athletes who accompanied TSJ to the bar similarly testified they saw nothing approximating the accusation.

Though the lack of DNA is what sank this mockery of justice, the incident that would’ve doomed it in my juror’s eyes was this social media transaction between the accuser and two of her friends:

Friend:         (ESPN article link covering the charges) OMG 

Best friend: You got him 

Accuser:      YUPPP YESSSIRR

Friend:         Got his ass (two money-face emojis)

Yikes! Most women don’t publicly brag about the possibilities of having been raped, particularly when they’re about to go to trial. And just like the lack of DNA, those declarations call the entire case into the kind of question that makes a reasonable person truly wonder how a responsible state’s attorney could’ve possibly proceeded.

But here’s what really frosts my flakes. Two weeks earlier, the Lawrence police investigated another man for allegedly committing the same act in the same bar in the exact location the accuser stood that night, but they refused to pursue this alternate possibility. That incomprehensible lapse creates the requisite reasonable doubt in and of itself.

If we consider the totality of these farcical legal circumstances, they quickly add up to three realities, all of which likely apply.

The first is the Douglas County state’s attorney prosecutors saw this case as a potentially career making endeavor and they were blinded by that light.

The second is a CYA mentality where those same attorneys believed their failure to pursue the charges would turn into a public relations nightmare, so they made it TSJ’s instead.

The last, and most heinous is those prosecutors figured that they could put a star black Illinois athlete in front of an almost all-white Lawrence, Kansas, jury and they’d get a de facto conviction.

Every last one of the prosecutors involved should be disbarred, brought up on charges, or both.

As far as the accuser goes, I still have mixed feelings. I find it hard to believe that anyone would willingly put themselves through the rape kit and public trial process unless they truly believed something happened. But that doesn’t make the lack of DNA evidence any less troubling.

A female friend of mine also took issue with the accuser’s lack of immediate reaction to the digital invasion. She said there should’ve been some sort of serious reflexive retreat response involved.

The only silver lining in this absurd sham prosecution is, had there been no trial, no one would’ve paid much attention to the mountain of evidence supporting TSJ’s innocence. That doesn’t mean this case won’t hound him for the rest of his life, but perhaps that pursuit won’t be nearly as ardent had he not been acquitted. Remember. TSJ wasn’t declared “innocent,” he was found “not guilty,” which is an entirely different proposition.  

All Nikki Haley’s “America’s never been a racist county” insistence aside, per this piece’s title, it still sucks to be a black man in the United States. It’s better than it was, but that’s gotta be a small solace to a basketball player whose career was almost destroyed by a false allegation.

Leave a Reply