One of the reasons given for the dismissal of a murder charge against a Steubenville man is troubling, to say the least. Unfortunately, it is nothing new.
Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Jane Hanlin dismissed the charge against Jerek Q. Wesley, 23. He had been accused in a shooting that occurred last March outside a Steubenville bar. Two men were hit; one died two days later.
A trial in Wesley's case had been scheduled to start April 2, but Hanlin's office dismissed the charge - at least for now. The prosecutor explained an expert witness was scheduled to be on vacation during the trial. She added that eyewitnesses to the shooting could not be located.
Wesley did not go free, however. He is under a federal indictment, accused of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Hanlin noted her dismissal allowed that case to be pursued by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Wesley has not been convicted of any of the charges, of course. Unless that happens, he is presumed to be innocent.
Hanlin has said she intends to re-file the murder charge against Wesley. She has added her office needs cooperation from "a lot of people in the community."
Again, pleas from law enforcement authorities for such cooperation are far from unusual. Sometimes they know of eyewitnesses to crimes - but cannot convince them to cooperate, either because they are afraid of retribution or just don't want to get involved.
As long as that attitude is common, some of the streets in our communities will be controlled by violent criminals.
Anyone who can help Hanlin in this case or any other violent crime should be eager to do so. Otherwise, police and prosecutors working to take a bite out of crime will be able only to nibble around the edges.