We rejoice with Rep. Larry Womble for his vindication from the misdemeanor death by motor vehicle charge that he faced after he was involved in a fatal car crash a year ago that left David Carmichael dead and Womble severely injured.
Womble is finally able to exhale a sigh of relief, put the legalities of this tragic incident to rest and focus on his recovery from the accident. To this, we are extremely grateful and thankful.
However, there are some issues that have always troubled us about this case and still do.
Why was Rep. Womble charged in the first place? This man is an exemplary leader and activist who has passionately served this city, state and its people for most of his life. Why this true public servant faced criminal charges is a question that many of us have. Where was the solid evidence to substantiate the charge? Is this another case of rush to judgment when the facts are still unclear? Is it all too easy for black leaders (and people) to be found guilty until proven innocent? Let’s examine some points.
The word of eye witnesses has been shown to be unreliable, and even more so when the accident happened at 11:06 p.m. on a pitch black road. Shouldn’t there have been more careful investigation before indicting Womble? Who can determine anything clearly at night with moving vehicles on a pitch black road? Furthermore, given there were no skid marks, how can these witnesses’ claims be substantiated?
Why would law enforcement at the scene of the accident choose to focus on Rep. Womble as the cause of the accident? Toxicology reports later confirmed that he didn’t have any alcohol or any intoxicants in his system. On the other hand, the other driver had a blood alcohol level three-times over the legal limit. It should have appeared more probable to law enforcement that the level of intoxication may have precipitated the accident. We don’t see how they could have proceeded to criminal charges, particularly without resolving that “one” question that continued to trouble everyone else.
Speculations that Rep. Womble fell asleep, got distracted or perhaps had some sort of medical condition causing him to lose control of the car should not have risen above the tested levels of intoxication and criminal records available to law enforcement. Rep. Womble has no criminal record, but records showed that the other driver pleaded guilty to driving with a revoked license and was cited for unlawful use of highways in 2002.
Why would law enforcement focus on the accident victim who had no criminal record as the cause of the crime where more logical evidence was available? Why did the restructure of the accident come only after a criminal charge was made, thereby forcing the surviving accident victim to prove his innocence? As citizens, shouldn’t we expect law enforcement to do its job diligently to protect all of us?
People are rejoicing that justice has prevailed for Rep. Womble. However, we say that justice was not served because he should never have been charged in the first place. Furthermore, the citizens who know Rep. Womble and also those with the ability to think critically and without prejudice never really believed that Womble caused the accident. So, Womble never lived under a cloud of suspicion in his own community and we doubt, even in the broader community. The justice system too quickly and without complete evidence judges and condemns African Americans and is even less cautious when the citizen happens to be poor.
Those charged with the administration of justice in our community should not deflect it to others outside our community. They are charged with the public duty within this community, have taken a pledge to be fair and just and to administer the unbiased hand of justice. Unless the citizen is a family member, close friend or business associate, they should be committed to doing just that and not defer to others. Rarely does the justice system come back to clear up its own errors without being forced to do so by outside circumstances. Thank God that Rep Womble could afford legal counsel. May God have mercy on those who cannot.