The Fuller murder trial has ended. Finally. Eight of the 10 defendants who stood trial for beating a lone woman to death were found guilty of randomly selecting their victim, Catherine Fuller, as the one who should render her wares (money, jewelry and personhood) to them upon demand because it was the first of the month (when government checks are received). It was their pay day for having had no steady work, earned no money, nor used any of their God-given talents to be productive.
Armed with cultivated brute force -- some practice a little amateur boxing -- they have expertise in what has become their special art form: terrorizing women, alone on the streets, alone in cars and alone in their homes. The intent is not to kill, but to diarm, disable and destroy any dignity displayed by their prey. Mrs. Fuller fought back.
And they almost got away with it. The odds, always in their favor, ran out, when, after more than 400 interviews of people who live in the area, three teen-agers testified that they saw a pretty terrible thing in that alley on that bone-chilling rainy afternoon.
The first blow, loud enough to be heard several yards away by a 13-year-old boy (Maurice Turner), knocked Fuller to the ground. And in a split second, a group of young men pounced, each demanding equal time, kicking and stomping their heels into her abdomen, chest and face, until her 99-pound body was crushed.
But the eight who have been convicted are not quite what they appear to be. The stereotypes, hurriedly put forth in cases involving troubled black youth, do not fit. The eight are not all poor -- poor as in receiving welfare, poor as in living in the slums, or poor as in being without material possessions.
Some have lived the relatively good life. Home is a warm and protected environment provided by the women in their lives. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters and girlfriends who work, pay their bills, cook their meals, buy their clothes and in some cases support their nicotine and marijuana habits. It is the women in their lives who stepped forth, took the stand pledged to tell the truth, and provided alibis. (And in one instance the alibi was vehemently denied by the son when he took the stand.) It is the women in their lives who believe they should continue to protect, provide, support, corroborate, uphold, sustain, back up, maintain, help, comfort, tolerate, endure and, when necessary, bear full responsibility for the acts and deeds of their manchildren.
Nine of the 10 who were on trial have lived in the 8th and H streets NE area most of their lives and -- what will surprise many -- most of them in the same houses that whole time. Five or six of the familes own their own homes. Eight of the defendants lived with mothers and/or grandmothers who are employed productive citizens or retired employees. Most of the mothers would arrive at the trial in the afternoon after work. There was hardly a sign of a father, grandfather or brother during this trial.
The belief long held by blacks that the woman has been the savior of the race needs some fresh exploration, because there is a pile of evidence collecting out there, largely ignored -- that says it ain't necessarily so. The women are in desperate need of help.
Another fact being ignored is that this Northeast neighborhood, contrary to many reports, is a working-class community with a large number of homeowners, many of whom are now elderly and retired. They are entrenched in every block of the rows of six-room brick rowhouses that line the streets between Florida Avenue on the north, Maryland Avenue on the south, 3rd Street on the west boundary and 15th Street on the east.
Not long ago, I lived in this neighborhood, on the corner of 10th and H, one city block from the garage where the body of Catherine Fuller was found. I know it well. Directly across from my front door was the Park at 8th and H,ring with some of his work.