MANY CAUTIONARY lessons should be taken from the just-concluded trial of Curtis Aden Jamison for the murder of Tara Allison Gladden. However, the many people who watched in abject horror as this trial unfolded in the news media, should not come away with the wrong lesson. The last thing the Jamison verdict should do is exacerbate prejudice.
Jamison, who faces sentencing for the murder next month, is black. Miss Gladden was white. But those facts were insignificant compared to the other issues involved. This was foremost the case of a predatory adult male who carried on affairs with young girls and then killed one of them to save himself from prison. The story was laced with elements that would unsettle the most diligent and loving parents.
The trial in Howard County Circuit Court this past week exposed a level of moral bankruptcy that is difficult to comprehend. Among the examples was a 16-year-old girl who testified that she was aware of the murder of her friend, but kept it secret for nearly a month. A week after the 1993 slaying, the girl testified that she went to the culvert where Miss Gladden's body was later found and saw Miss Gladden's shoe in a stream. Still, she did not step forward. The girl also testified that prior to Miss Gladden's death, she went to the Gladdens' Columbia townhouse three times at Jamison's request to check if Miss Gladden was alone.
Already serving a 20-year-sentence for his relations with two other underaged girls, the 30-year-old Jamison admitted having a relationship with Miss Gladden even though he earlier denied it to investigators. He mounted the stand in his own defense and denied murdering her. But his testimony was so riddled with inconsistencies, Judge James Dudley labeled him a "manipulative, pathological liar."
Like so much today, this case was colored by the O.J. Simpson trial. The defendant waived his right to a jury trial because he feared that the Simpson case would bias jurors against him. But except for the defendant's own maneuvers, race did not arise as an issue. Judge Dudley and the community should be commended for not allowing bias and emotion to infect what is already one of the more tragic tales Howard County has suffered through of late.