Proceed with caution

Proposed lawsuit could give mother closure -- but what else?

We’re not sure what harm can come from a potential lawsuit over the April 13 drowning of 8-year-old Jon Stevens of Hephzibah. It’s highly unlikely to change things.

But given the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office conclusion, confirmed by the state medical examiner, that it was an accident and nothing else, we’re not sure what good can come from it either.

Perhaps closure for his mother, Jeanette Stevens, if nothing else.

We’re not sure the department can even be sued for how it performs an investigation. Law enforcement agencies have, and must have, broad discretion in their investigative work. And for the most part, they’re immune from lawsuits.

Nor do we know what remedy the courts, if so disposed, could even prescribe. A review of the sheriff’s closed investigation by another agency, perhaps. Absent some gaping hole in the investigation, or evidence of law enforcement malpractice, it’s hard to see how the department’s conclusion could be objectively argued with.

For what it’s worth, we’ve made our own repeated inquiries to our sources at the sheriff’s office, and each time we’ve had all our questions answered to a very reasonable degree of satisfaction.

We understand that might never be good enough for a grieving parent, and we would never criticize one for seeking the highest level of certainty possible.

But the fact remains, there is not one iota of evidence of a crime. Not one thing that points to foul play. A very young boy, a nonswimmer, who was watching older kids cleaning a friend’s opaquely murky swimming pool – and who the other youths thought had left – ended up drowning in it.

Again, we would never begrudge a distraught mother from doggedly pursuing the truth. But what if we’ve already bumped up against it, as all available facts would seem to indicate?

We also appreciate the fact that her supporters want to encourage her. But we pray that it’s not merely filling her with the false hope of a made-for-television ending – a clear answer to what happened, and perhaps someone, other than uncaring fate, to be held accountable.

It couldn’t have helped that the Southern Chris­tian Leadership Conference came to Augusta May 16 and, armed only with the suspicions of a mourning mother, declared in her presence that her son had been “murdered.” The organization threatened to bring a “national movement” to Augusta, complete with demonstrations, hell raising and arrests.

At that point, they hadn’t even met with the sheriff.

After the state medical examiner proclaimed the boy’s death an accidental drowning, the organization said simply that it’s “no longer involved in the case.”

As Ms. Stevens continues her quest, we would only hope those around her will be more cautious in their assessment of the facts.

More

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 23:05

And the award begrudgingly goes to …

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 23:03

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon