Drug War Martyr

Kathryn JohnstonOne this day in 1817, Branwell Bronte was born. He was the underachieving brother of the Bronte sisters. But he was accomplished in his way. He was apparently addicted to alcohol and opium at various times and had a bit of a gambling habit. All of that hard living is usually said to be responsible for his death at the age of 31. But there are a couple of things to think about. First, he outlived both Anne and Emily; Charlotte only beat him by 7 years, as did his mother. His father, for whatever reasons, lived to be 84 years old. As Charlotte might have said, “He was tenacious of life.”[1] The second thing to consider is that Bronte died of tuberculosis.

His painting is not at all bad for an amatuer; he clearly had the talent to become a fine artist if he had focused on it and lived longer. And I rather prefer his poetry to that of his sisters. It combines lyricism with great clarity that is not at all typical of the poetry of the period. It’s sad that he is now thought of as nothing more than the drug addicted brother of his famous sisters. He is much more than that.

The author of The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck was born in 1892. Peter Lorre was born in 1904. He is one of my favorite actors. He’s always interesting—regardless of what he does. Here he is in his breakout roll as Hans Beckert, the pediophile serial killer in the film M. This is his confession scene:

The Black Stallion author Walter Farley was born in 1915. Composer Jacob Druckman was born in 1928. Here is bassist Lisa Dowling performing Valentine. It is quite interesting, with a sound that owes a lot to prepared piano. I’m afraid that only more serious listeners and those with open minds will enjoy it:

Mick Jones of The Class is 58 today. Chris Isaak is 57. Basketball player I always reminded for his work ethic, Jerome Kersey is 51. Star of one of my very favorite films, My Best Friend, Dany Boon is 47. And dog fighter Michael Vick is 33.

The day, however, belongs to Kathryn Johnston who was born in 1914. Rather than explain myself, I’ll just provide the Wikipedia description:

Kathryn Johnston was an elderly Atlanta, Georgia woman who was shot by undercover police officers in her home on Neal Street in northwest Atlanta on November 21, 2006, where she had lived for 17 years. Three officers had entered her home in what was later described as a ‘botched’ drug raid. Officers cut off burglar bars and broke down her door using a no-knock warrant. Police said Johnston fired at them and they fired in response; she fired one shot out the door over the officers’ heads and they fired 39 shots, five or six of which hit her. None of the officers were injured by her gunfire, but Johnston was killed by the officers. Police injuries were later attributed to “friendly fire” from each other’s weapons.

One of the officers planted marijuana in Johnston’s house after the shooting. Later investigations found that the paperwork stating that drugs were present at Johnston’s house, which had been the basis for the raid, had been falsified. The officers later admitted to having lied when they submitted cocaine as evidence claiming that they had bought it at Johnston’s house. Three officers were tried for manslaughter and other charges surrounding falsification and were sentenced to ten, six, and five years.

She is a symbol for everything that is wrong in our Drug War. She is a martyr in the name of the philosophy that there really isn’t anything worse that consensual drug use. She could be alive today if it weren’t for the corruption, incompetence, and vilainy of our “justice” system.

Happy birthday, Kathryn Johnston!


[1] That is a quote from Jane Eyre. Rochester says:

Eight years! you must be tenacious of life. I thought half the time in such a place would have done up any constitution! No wonder you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled where you had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.

That’s brilliant dialog because without being explicit he has said that he loves her.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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