Prosecution’s Modern Lynching Case Fraying

Published April 15, 2009

Defense attorneys for two White men accused of a modern-day lynching in the tiny, racially vexed town of Paris, Texas, say that the case against their clients is weak and that the jury will acquit at trial in July.

The two 28-year-old defendants, Shannon Keith Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley, are charged with using Finley’s pickup truck to run over and drag to death 24-year-old Brandon McClelland on a rural road last September. Black leaders have said that the crime was racially motivated. But is the case against the men beginning to fizzle?

Deeper forensic analysis appears to challenge the notion that there was blood on the underside of the pickup or any evidence of human material or DNA under the truck, special prosecutor Toby Shook told The Houston Chronicle.

“Initial scientific analysis of the truck didn’t show anything,” Shook said, noting there was evidence the suspects had washed the truck before it was impounded by investigators. “We are sending it back for further tests.”

And the credibility of a key witness for the prosecution is beginning to look increasingly shaky.

“The witness, James Mitchell Laster, told police Finley had admitted to him he had intentionally run over McClelland and dragged his body beneath his truck for about 40 feet, according to a police affidavit,” the Chronicle reports.

Laster has a long criminal record and in January 2008 he was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating Finley. The Lamar County district attorney later dismissed the charge.

 “Laster almost killed Shannon,” said Ben Massar, Finley’s defense attorney. “This guy is not a credible person. He is a violent person.”

Written by BET.com Staff

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