COLUMBIA, SC - Susan Smith, who was sentenced to life in prison for
murdering her two toddler sons, has admitted having sex with a prison guard
at the South Carolina Department of Corrections. In 1994, Smith led the
country on a wild goose chase for nine days by blaming a fictitious black
man for carjacking her Mazda with her sons still in the car. The practice of
unjustly blaming blacks and imprisoning them with alarming racial disparity,
is not fictitious. It is a real national tragedy being revealed in studies
by human rights groups and government agencies.
There is irony in Smith being satisfied by a prison guard. Prosecutors in
her highly publicized trial that devastated a small South Carolina town and
horrified a nation argued that she had viewed her sons as baggage in her
effort to capture her upscale extramarital lover. The newest erotic episode
in the life of Susan Smith was discovered after an investigation into the
Smith's medical records to find if a tabloid story alleging that Smith had
been beaten was true. Her medical records did not reveal a beating but that
she had been treated for a sexually transmitted disease "other than HIV" and
under questioning she admitted having sex with Houston Cagle, a prison
Cagle, a 13-year jailer at the Women's Correctional Institution in Columbia,
appeared before a judge at a bail bond hearing with his wife, Tammy. A
former prison inmate, Tammy sobbingly told the judge,"I feel like I've been
murdered too, just like those two little boys, she took my life from me". It
has not been determined if Tammy and Houston knew each other "biblically"
while she was in the big house, but documents submitted to the S.C.
Senates's Corrections Committee that is holding hearings into the matter
revealed that 10 instances of sexual misconduct have occurred in South
Carolina prisons since January 1999.
It's interesting that Cagle might not have been the first South Carolinian
to have sex with a convicted female killer. According to "Ol' Strom", a
biography of Senator Strom Thurmond by Jack Bass, Randall Johnson, the
driver of a state vehicle transporting a convicted female killer named Sue
Logue to the prison death house in 1943, said then U.S. Army Major Thurmond
got into the back seat with his friend Logue and they were "a huggin' and a
kissin' the whole way". Joe Frank Logue said his Aunt Sue "was the only
person ever seduced on the way to the electric chair".
Headline grabbing hearings about sex with Susan Smith behind bars are
scintillating but scheming Susan's racist attempt to blame a black man in a
knit cap for her horrible deed is a continuing tradition that goes way back
to demonizing blacks to justify enslaving them. Legislative hearings about
sexual wrongdoing in prisons don't deal with the greatest wrongdoing in our
criminal justice system. What will we do about the shocking racial
injustices that appear in the media, but seem to go away before white folk's
consciences become too troubled?
Nationally, black youth are 6 times more likely to be locked up than white
youth charged with similar crimes and having similar criminal records.
Black youth are far more likely to be arrested, detained and sentenced than
white youth according to state and federal juvenile justice officials. In
South Carolina, blacks make up 36% of the juvenile population but comprised
54% of juveniles referred to prosecutors and 62% of youths committed to
facilities or programs in 1999. From 1985 to 1994, blacks accounted for 80%
of the cases of juveniles that prosecutors requested be tried as adults.
Human Rights Watch reports that blacks comprise only 13% of the U. S.
population but are 62% of the drug offenders in our state prisons, although
studies show that whites use 5 times more illegal drugs than blacks. In
South Carolina, with a black population of 30%, 86% of the drug offenders in
prison are blacks.
For the past 5 years, 75% of the cases in which federal prosecutors sought
the death penalty the defendant was a minority and in more than half were
black. For the past 10 years only 40% of murder victims were white in the
Carolinas but with present death row inmates almost 70% of their murder
victims were white.
Odds are if Susan Smith had been successful in" blaming the black", he
wouldn't be alive to have sex in prison.
Tom Turnipseed, former President of the SC Trial Lawyers
Association, is a plaintiff's and civil rights attorney in Columbia, SC. He
was co-counsel for the Macedonia Baptist Church, an African American
congregation in Clarendon County, SC which won a $37,000,000.00 (Thirty
Seven Million Dollar) verdict in 1998 against the Ku Klux Klan for burning
their church. A former SC State Senator, he is active in state politics and
has been the democratic nominee for state Attorney General and Congress. Tom
is President of the Center for Democratic Renewal (formerly the Anti-Klan
Network) a nationally recognized civil rights organization based in Atlanta.
In 1998, he received the Holmes-Weatherly Award, the Unitarian-Universalist
Association's highest honor for the pursuit of social justice. For many
years, Tom has spoken and written on political and human rights. He has
hosted radio and television shows in Columbia, SC and recently appeared on
PBS' American Experience in "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire",
April 23rd and 24th, 2000, MSNBC's "Equal Time" with Oliver North and Paul
Begala, February 18th, 2000, C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" with Brian Lamb,
January 14th, 2000 and Fox Family Network's series "Courage", September 11,
2000. His work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington
Post, The Atlanta Constitution, The Charlotte Observer and other papers.