Reporters have been speculating for some time now as to whether D.C. Mayor Marion Barry will take the stand in his own defense. My unsolicited advice is that he should and that when he does, he should say something like this:
Ladies and gentleman of the jury:
For several weeks, now, you have been hearing testimony from a lot of people -- some of them government agents, some of them former friends of mine, some of them people I still care about -- all telling you that they have seen me use illegal drugs or that they have procured illegal drugs for me or that they have used illegal drugs with me. That testimony has come in support of one part of the prosecution's case against me, which is that I have bought, possessed and used drugs. The other part of the case is that I lied about it.
Now my defense counsel, Kenneth Mundy and his fine colleagues, are asking you not to believe what you've heard and seen on videotape, or else to believe that the government overstepped its bounds in gathering the evidence you've been given. That's their job.
As a defendant in a criminal case, I suppose it's my job too. But as mayor sworn to serve the interests of the citizens of Washington, D.C., as a person to whom a number of people -- especially young people -- look for leadership and guidance in patterning their own lives, and as a creature of God, I have another job. And that is to help and heal and end the bitterness and division that have torn us apart.
My only medicine is the medicine of truth.
This is the truth: I was, for some time, an abuser of drugs. Yes, including cocaine. I was addicted to these drugs. That is the simple truth of the matter, and so is this: when the authorities asked me about it, I lied. It is not something I am proud of, but it is the truth.
Why did I do these things? The honest answer is that while I knew that it was legally wrong to do what I did, I thought it was not that wrong for me. I thought I could handle it. I thought I was handling it. I was functional. The city was being managed. I had my wits about me, and I thought for a long time that I was okay.
And then I was caught and videotaped at the Vista Hotel. I'll be very honest with you: I was angry about the way they did it -- using a friend who was herself in trouble to set me up. I'm still angry about that, and I still have some serious questions about the legality of the government's methods. But that's not what is on my mind today.
Whatever the legality of what happened that Thursday night at the Vista, it made it possible at last for me to seek the treatment I needed. I submitted to that treatment, and I am still in treatment. I am not yet well. Perhaps I never will be as well as if I had never used the drugs. But I am, thank God, in recovery.
So why didn't I say at the time that I was being treated for cocaine abuse and not just alcoholism? Two reasons. First, I was an alcohol abuser, and the treatment for alcohol and other drugs is essentially the same. Second, one of the charges against me was that I had lied to the government about my drug use and to tell the full truth at that time would have been to plead guilty to a felony charge. My lawyers thought that would be a stupid thing to do.
There was one more reason why I didn't. Apart from the jeopardy to me personally, I thought it would be bad for the city. I thought the best thing I could do was to beat the charges against me and get myself well.
Meanwhile, however, something else has happened. It has become clear to me that this trial is bigger than Marion Barry. It is tearing this city apart along lines of race and class. It is having a negative effect on race relations in the entire country. More to the point, it has become clear to me that however this case comes out, whatever verdict you render, it will add to that division.
Accordingly, I have decided to stop fighting this case. I tell you now the truth as best I can. I did use drugs, not in the end because I wanted to but because I couldn't help myself. I did lie about it, not only to avoid legal jeopardy but because I refused to accept the truth. That is the nature of the sickness of drug abuse.
But if lying is part of the sickness, truth is a fundamental part of the cure. I'm telling you the truth now because I want to get well, and I want my city to get well.
I have asked my lawyers to cease their cross examination of witnesses, to end this trial now and let the chips fall where they may.
If you choose to understand what I have been going through, and why, and find me not guilty, I will be grateful beyond words, and I will show that gratitude by being the best private citizen of Washington that I can possibly be.
If you decide that, in conscience, you must find me guilty, I will accept that verdict and the sentence of this court without bitterness. Either way, I intend to get well and get on with my life.