written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Interview/Analysis With Earl Ofari Hutchinson, 213-296-6331

Born To Kill?: The Murder of Sherrice Iverson/Pt.4 Dr Earl Ofari Hutchinson

He feels terrible remorse, guilt and pain over what happened. Leslie Abramson, Court TV Interview, August 24, 1998.

Jury selection in the trial of 19-year-old Jeremy Strohmeyer for the gruesome murder of 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson on May 25, 1997 at the Primadonna Casino near Las Vegas officially began in Las Vegas, August 31. His attorney, Leslie Abramson, claims that he did not know what he was doing when he killed. She successfully used the victimizer as victim defense to get a hung jury in the Menendez Brothers case. Abramson is banking that she can do it again. Strohmeyer is middle-class, and white. Iverson is African-American, and her parents are working class. This virtually guarantees that it will be a highly charged trial in which race, income and public attitudes often determine legal fairness. This also makes it more than plausible that some jurors may be swayed by a 'state of mind' defense for Strohmeyer.

Attorneys for killers, and would be killers such as the Son of Sam, and attempted Reagan assassin, John V. Hinckley, and Capitol shooter, Russell Weston, all white-middle class men, have used, or will use, the mental suffering defense to try to win juror sympathy. Abramson will dig into a storehouse of tactics to try and get the empathy of the jurors.

Play for Time. She sought and got several delays in the trial. The purpose was to buy time in the hope that public memories of the barbarous murder will fade, and hostility toward Strohmeyer will cool.

State of mind. She insists that Strohmeyer suffers from one or more of the following: schizophrenia, fetal alcohol syndome, attention deficit disorder, low level of the chemical serotonin, and drug addiction. She has got the state in part to pay for expert medical and legal witnesses to back up her contention that he is brain damaged.

Discredit the confession. Although his confession was ruled admissible, she claims that it was made under extreme police duress, without an attorney present, and never should have been admitted.

Downplay race. She argued, and the presiding judge agreed for the time being not to admit statements purportedly made by the defendant, and other evidence that indicate that Iverson was targeted in part because she was an African- American.

Massage the jury. She sought and got the use of a detailed pre-trial questionnaire that probed jurors attitudes toward the case. She will battle hard to bump any juror even faintly suspected of pro-prosecution bias. Orchestrate the press. She has been on talk shows, and made speeches blasting the prosecution, and police for mishandling of the case, and violating her client's rights.

Leroy Iverson. During his testimony she will depict him as the derelict father who left his daughter, Sherrice, in the casino's arcade unattended while he gambled. The attempt is to make jurors believe that he shares some of the blame for the murder. At first glance, it seems unlikely that any of this can work. But in a case loaded with the volatile issues of class, race, child abuse, and sexual exploitation and a legal spinmaster determined to show that some people are natural born killers who can't help themselves anything is possible.

Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the co-director of the Sherrice Iverson Justice Fund, and an official spokesperson for Yolanda Manuel, the mother of Sherrice Iverson.

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