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Heee-rrre's Johnnie

Posted 11/27/2002

The event was so horrible that it garnered national media attention, even in the midst of the sniper killings: the arson murders of Angela and Carnell Dawson and their five children. Their neighbor, 21-year-old Darrell Brooks, allegedly broke in their front door in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, poured gasoline on the living-room floor and set it ablaze. The motive for the family's gruesome murders, police say, was that Angela Dawson was aggressively fighting back against the neighborhood's drug dealers, calling in complaints, confronting them, and even being tough enough to testify against them in court.Now, the Nose has learned, the city will likely be receiving even more national and international headlines over the Dawson murders. The surviving members of the Dawson family have hired one of the most famous lawyer in America to investigate suing the city over their deaths.

Right now, Johnnie Cochran's law firm (along with another firm) is looking into the deaths to see if the city can be held accountable. "We're looking into the facts to get our best understanding of what happened," says Janell Byrd-Chichester, an attorney in Cochran's Washington office.

Cochran's firm is trying to determine whether city police were negligent in not providing protection to Angela Dawson and her family; Dawson often spoke out against and reported to police the activities of drug dealers in her neighborhood. They also have to determine if Maryland law will allow for a lawsuit against the city for any such failure on the part of the police department, as, Byrd-Chichester says, the laws on these matters vary from state to state.

If a lawsuit finds its way into the courts, expect the streets outside the Mitchell Courthouse to be jammed with satellite trucks and reporters making the country painfully aware of the price paid by a single family in the never-ending drug war. If that happens, City Councilwoman Catherine Pugh won't have to worry about whether David Simon's HBO series The Wire portrays the city in a negative light. Pugh, who recently held a public hearing that called for more positive portrayals of the city as an anecdote to Simon's and others' thinly fictionalized works, can count on the national media to shine a light on the real thing.

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