Does the “request” by the special Louisiana House of Representatives Committee to have Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards appear to testify about his actions relating to the aftermath of the May, 2019 death of black motorist Ronald Greene signal real business or face-saving?
Wednesday, Republican Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee, the chairman of the Special Committee to Inquire Into the Circumstances and Investigation of the Death of Ronald Greene, announced that the panel would hear from Edwards on Jun. 16. Ostensibly, the reason given was to probe more into when Edwards viewed Louisiana State Police body camera recordings that showed the complete incident and what he did with that information; Greene died subsequent to forceful mistreatment by troopers after a high-speed chase followed by a low-speed crash.
The Associated Press reported that Edwards viewed the most complete recording, which included Greene’s expiry in Oct., 2020 after audio leaks of the incident to the media. However, he and his staff didn’t immediately forward that information to federal prosecutors who had taken over the investigation a year earlier, who didn’t find out about this information until months later. The LSP apparently released this kind of evidence in bits and pieces as a struggle internal to the agency occurred with some elements attempting to suppress knowledge of damaging evidence. Edwards never intervened to assure a comprehensive internal investigation and, despite close staff monitoring of the federal government investigation, seemed to make no effort to ensure as evidence was uncovered that it would come into the hands of the federal reviewers.
Nor did he, according to the Greene family who had
filed suit against the state for LSP treatment of Greene, forward this evidence
to it. The Edwards Administration disputes this, alleging that family members
viewed it as well, although it would seem very odd that the family would deny
this if in fact true, and the LSP cannot confirm Greene’s family did view it.
All of this Magee indicated the committee would vet once it got Edwards and his lawyers under oath, especially the timing. That is important, because Edwards didn’t publicly condemn LSP actions, even as the recordings unambiguously laid these bare, until about nine months later, in addition to failing to pass along the evidence with expressed incuriosity as to whether the federal authorities had it. Nor did he discontinue both privately and publicly articulating that Greene died in a wreck – the story promulgated by the LSP in the period after his death after an initial news release omitting that assertion – up to a year after the complete recording surfaced.
It's a line of questioning the committee must
pursue, for it could confirm a pattern of deception on Edwards’ part – not as
an active coverup, but as one through inaction. His incuriosity from the start –
it strains credulity that he didn’t know something was amiss when Monroe-area media
were reporting on discrepancies almost from the start – his failure to intervene
for an honest and speedy accounting at the LSP, his lack of enthusiasm in
ensuring the federal team looking into the matter had all the evidence despite
knowing of LSP obstructionism, his seeming ignorance that the Greene family had
and didn’t get to review all the evidence as it became known, his
delayed admission of LSP activities and condemnation of these (using as excuse that
it would interfere with the federal probe, although how that could is anybody’s
guess), and his persistent misleading of both legislative leaders and the
public about Greene’s death when he apparently knew better, all of these are
questions which must be asked and answers to which demanded.
Whether the panel, comprised of four Republicans and four Democrats, will do so is uncertain. Magee didn’t mention anything beyond the scope of the latest AP revelations, but for this to be a serious, credible effort in discovering the truth it must ask for the motivations and reasoning behind all of the above (in)actions, and more. That Magee said he hoped this to be the last meeting of the panel doesn’t seem encouraging on this account, as such a complete reckoning would seem to require following up beyond a single meeting.
Deception that misleads from the truth of who knew and did what cultivated by inaction is just as pernicious as an active conspiracy to obstruct justice. The committee must be committed to pursuing this possibility or it wastes the people’s resources and forfeits their trust – just as Edwards, it increasingly appears, forfeited it as a result of his behavior on this matter. It is an impeachable offense, and how the committee handles and whether it persists in parsing the evidence obtained from Edwards’ testimony will determine whether it functions as a valuable part of a democratic system to deter conduct contrary to the best interests of the people, or if it merely serves as a dog-and-pony show to provide certain politicians with a chance to burnish their images.