Choice of Ober troubles NAACP
The Jennifer Porter uproar is the crux of criticism
now that he is heading a teen death inquiry.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published March 8, 2006
State NAACP leaders are questioning whether
Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober is the right person to
investigate the death of a teen at a North Florida juvenile boot camp.
The criticism was sparked by Ober's handling of
another controversial case: Jennifer Porter, the white teacher involved
in a hit-and-run accident that left two black children dead.
NAACP leaders say they are "gravely concerned"
about Ober's ability to objectively investigate the death of 14-year-old
Martin Lee Anderson, according to a statement released Tuesday.
Beverlye Neal, the state executive director for the
NAACP, said the group was unsatisfied with the Ober's prosecution of
Porter "because we thought that the charges should be much more severe."
Ober charged Porter with leaving the scene of an
accident rather than the more serious charge of vehicular homicide. She
was sentenced to house arrest.
The case outraged many community members, who
accused Ober of racial bias.
NAACP branches throughout the state were encouraged
to attend a rally Monday at the Medical Examiner's Office in Tampa to
show support for a second autopsy of the teen.
Anderson, who was black, died Jan. 6 after he was
forcibly restrained by several guards at a Bay County boot camp. Bay
County Medical Examiner Charles Siebert Jr. ruled the death was the
result of complications of sickle cell trait, a conclusion criticized by
many in the medical community. A videotape of the teen's final moments
at the boot camp shows several guards striking him.
Lawmakers and the boy's family demanded a second
autopsy and an independent investigation.
Bay County State Attorney Steve Meadows asked Gov.
Jeb Bush to appoint a special prosecutor to avoid any appearance of
partiality. Bush appointed Ober.
The body is to be exhumed at 9:30 a.m. Friday in
Panama City and taken to Tampa for another autopsy, set for Monday.
Anderson's body is scheduled to be examined by Dr.
Vern Adams, the Hillsborough medical examiner, and Michael Baden, a
forensic pathologist who reviewed medical evidence in the slaying of
civil rights leader Medgar Evers and was a member of O.J. Simpson's
A representative from Ober's office and the
family's attorney, Benjamin L. Crump, will be present at the autopsy,
Crump said. He said he is aware of the NAACP's concerns about the Porter
case, but he has been working "very cooperatively" with Ober's office.
"We think that Ober moving the autopsy from Bay
County to Hillsborough County so that it could be completely independent
is encouraging," he said.
"People everywhere are demanding justice for what
happened to Martin Anderson," Crump said. "When you watch that
videotape, it's clear that this kid was abused. I think, clearly, that
he was murdered. . . . At the end of the day, we're trying to have faith
in the system."
A spokeswoman for Ober said the office will not
comment until the inquiry is finished.
Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 352 860-7312 or
[Last modified March 8, 2006, 01:41:06]