Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Verdict was what brother expected
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Shanna Flowers is The Roanoke Times' metro columnist.
On one side of the courtroom, family, friends and the system circled the wagons in the case of Timothy Workman, the man on trial for shooting Keith Bailey five years ago in a Roanoke parking lot.
Workman's wife, other relatives and supporters occupied row after row.
A representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office observed the proceedings, presumably not to take sides but to look out for the federal government's interests. A long-haired, undercover guy from Workman's former employer, the Drug Enforcement Administration, also showed up.
On the other side of the courtroom, the Baileys' turnout was weak by comparison.
His wife and other family members occupied one row, with a few spilling over to the next bench. Even with the victim's advocate joining them, the dead man's loved ones couldn't fill two rows.
They were a few working-class people who looked weary, hopeless, outnumbered.
I observed it. Bailey's brother, Michael Patterson, felt it.
"It's what I expected," Patterson, 51, said Monday afternoon, three days after Workman, who is white, was acquitted in the shooting death of Bailey, a black man.
"I saw all these people on Workman's side -- DEA, U.S. attorney."
The defendant's gallery of supporters, Patterson said, was important to the all-white jury.
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He said that kind of support along with Workman's background -- West Point graduate, military veteran, father of four -- could make a jury think, "We can't send this All-American boy to jail."
This was the second trial in the case. The first time, the jury included one black woman. Patterson said he thought she was part of the reason for the conviction. But Workman appealed, and the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial.
This time, three blacks were in the jury pool. But none made it onto the final jury. Their absence was not lost on Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell.
He noted after the trial, "I think it would have been a comfort to the family to see a jury that reflected the racial makeup of the community."
"My brother didn't matter; that feeling was there," Patterson said. "I was not surprised, not because of the evidence presented but because of the jury."
Workman may not be guilty of manslaughter, but he's guilty of poor judgment -- poor judgment that stands in contrast to the "All-American" image the jury might have seen.
There's no question that Bailey shouldn't have gotten out of his car and gotten into a scuffle with Workman. But what, as a married father of four, was Workman doing sitting in a car, legally intoxicated, with a woman at 2 a.m.?