Sometimes the most important stories are hidden in plain view.
In February 1965, during an assault on civil rights demonstrators, an Alabama state trooper shot a young black man named Jimmy Lee Jackson. Jackson died a few days later, and his killing was a catalyst for the march from Selma to Montgomery.
The trooper who shot Jimmy Lee Jackson had never been named. But late last summer, journalist John Fleming found the trooper, James Bonard Fowler, who agreed to talk. (For whatever reason, the Justice Department had apparently never sought out Fowler.) Fleming noted when he pitched the story, "He's never spoken to anyone before and fully admits shooting Jackson, although he insists it was self defense."
Fleming introduces us to a complex, but remorseless, old man who doesn't fear legal action, confident in his version of events - and who never had to be in hiding because authorities didn't seem to look for him.
A longer version of this article appears on www.sojo.net, and related material will be published in The Anniston (Ala.) Star - where Fleming serves as editor at large - on March 6 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the first attempt at a Selma to Montgomery march, which ended in a brutal attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by state and local law authorities.
Taxes are a less dramatic subject than a killer's confession, but the deficit of moral values and equity in the current administration's tax agenda is also a vital story that doesn't get enough play. In our cover story New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston clarifies some of the ways President Bush's proposals and strategies stray far from traditional principles of fair taxation - and even from the bedrock values of democracy.
- The Editors