04 May 2009

Luis Ramirez's Murderers Walk

Last August I wrote about the murder of Luis Ramirez. Today I read that his murderers, local football heroes in the small town of Shenandoah Pennsylvania, have been officially deemed not guilty of murder by an all-white jury. Apparently they are merely guilty of "simple assault".

I am sickened, but not surprised.

My original post was called Hate, Murder, and Small Town Football, because it was as much about the particular dynamic between small rural communities and their football heroes as it was about the brutal murder of Luis Ramirez. When I read the details last summer, my first thought was, these boys are going to walk.

Shenandoah is a small town of 5,000 in Pennsylvania. I went to high school in a town of about 6,000 in southern Ohio. When I read the quotes from local police, the histories of the accused boys, and the comments of some of the townspeople, it was familiar territory. Not the murder, but that certain feel within an insulated community of "born 'n raised" folks and the relationship they have with their football team. It's not something that can be found or understood in cities, or even the suburbs. It's not something easily explained. But it is real. Real enough that I knew - and I bet the people of Shenandoah knew - that in the end, these boys would walk.

What message does this verdict send, as our country becomes more and more polarized, the anti-immigration crowd becomes more strident, and Swine Flu is associated with a nationality, a skin color? What message? Will the next drunken mob of high school heroes, amped up on testosterone and hate, take heed from this verdict, or will they feel righteous and invincible?

Last August I hoped justice would win out in the end. I hoped I would be surprised by the verdict. In the end, those boys walked. And I am not surprised.

Photo: Joe Spring, New York Times, Sep-07


  1. Horrible. Both this tragedy and particularly those reader comments in your original post remind me of the shocking, truly incomprehensible nature of racism. It is an inhuman thing. People who can cheer the murder of another person have, at least spiritually, rejected humankind. Why would you do that?

  2. I was sick to my stomach when I read the headline. A miscarriage of justice if there ever was one. So this is what constitutes simple assault in Pennsylvania????

  3. Assault???...how is the world did they come up with that? This is horrible.

  4. I think morally nauseating is the term I'd use. I think this might be the same county that there was a judge that was charged with insane sentencing of minors (like rampant)because he was in cahoots with the private company that ran the juvenile detention center.

  5. horrible, sad, and even sadder....Shenandoah is also spelled Sandpoint, Idaho. The skin heads have returned.

  6. I am sickened, but not surprised. I grew up in a small town where just about anything could be forgiven if some kid who was on one of the sports teams was involved in any criminal activity.

    Not so much any of the "delinquents" they hung around with who always got the blame for any problems the jocks brought on themselves.

    Things like this really make me wonder why people go on about how good team sports are for young people and building moral character.

    My own experience was pretty much that the boys in my high school who were involved in sports could get away with murder, especially if they were local sports heroes.

  7. My family has on more than one occasion been the victim of a legal system biased in favour of the haves...or the righteous...I think it has been these big injustices not even based on race or anything...just on who can afford the legals, or who has the ear of the public..that have mede me into a bit of a crusader...thats what i liked about don, he could not stand injustice...
    you have to hope that there is justice in heaven...because there seems precious little down here...but we must still work towards it even if it seems hopeless.

  8. Dang it, I've been out of High School for 33 years and all my "Jock-Hate" just came flooding back.

    If you're on the football team all of society is your enabler.

    If it was a QB that beaten up by a bunch of Latinos, well, do you suppose the outcome would have been the same or just a teensy bit different?

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