A case that came to symbolize injustice in Britain has finally witnessed some semblance of closure for the victim’s family.
On Tuesday in London, two white men were found guilty of the stabbing and murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993.
Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were teenagers like Lawrence at the time, when they were members of a gang of whites who attacked Lawrence as he waited for a bus in a predominantly white neighborhood of South London. Lawrence was on his way home from a youth club.
International furor over the travesty of justice in the case is the only reason it has finally culminated in the guilty charges, and no legal reform was more decisive in the case than the ending of the long-standing “double jeopardy” rule, which prohibited a person from being tried twice for the same crime.
New evidence was recently found in microscopic traces of clothing fiber and blood on Lawrence’s clothing and that of his attackers. It emerged because of advances in laboratory and other scientific techniques.
For many years, the police and Scotland Yard had been assailed by Lawrence’s supporters’ claims of racism for its failure to pursue the case with any sense of urgency and completion.
After the verdict was read against Dobson and Norris, police officials apologized for failing to arrest or interrogate suspects in the case or to thoroughly investigate the clothing and other pieces of evidence that might have led to faster and wider convictions.
“We pay tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence for the courage and dignity they showed,” said Cressida Dick, an assistant deputy commissioner at Scotland Yard. “They have contributed to major changes in policing, the law and, indeed, in society as a whole.”
But this was hardly satisfactory for Doreen Lawrence, Lawrence’s mother, who currently runs a trust for underprivileged urban youths.
“The verdict is not a call for celebration,” she said. “How can I celebrate when my son lies buried-when I can’t see him or speak to him and can’t see him grow up, get married and have children or go to university?”
She expressed some relief that at least two of her son’s assailants-and there may have been more than a half-dozen-had been convicted, but said she felt it was still a matter of years before “full justice” is realized.
With these two convictions, there is hope that they will point to the others involved in the murder.
“This is just part of closure,” said Duwayne Brooks, who was with Lawrence the night of the attack. “I wish we both had run for our lives, to be honest-I wish we both had ran, but only I ran and Stephen stuck in his position and was attacked by the group of white boys. Stabbed and died. All I could think about was why? Why Steve? [He] never did anything to anybody; no fights, no arguments, yet he’s been murdered because he’s Black.”