12-13-2019  3:10 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

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McMenamins
Meera Selva the Associated Press


Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris

LONDON (AP) -- A British judge sentenced two men Wednesday to at least 14 years in prison for stabbing a black teenager to death in London almost two decades ago - a crime that exposed racism within the police and set the victim's family on a long quest for justice.

The murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence in 1993 shocked the country and came to be seen as a festering racial injustice. It took 19 years before anyone was convicted, and three other suspects remain at large.

Judge Colman Treacy called the murder an evil crime motivated by racial hatred. He sentenced Gary Dobson to a minimum of 15 years and 2 months in jail, and David Norris to 14 years and 3 months.

Dobson's father shouted out "shame on you" from the public gallery after the sentence was announced at London's Central Criminal Court. As the judge stood up to leave after delivering his sentence, a few people began to clap.

Norris gave a thumbs up sign to his supporters in the public gallery as he was led from court. Both men maintain they are innocent.

Treacy said the sentences were shorter than many would have expected as both men were teenagers when the crime took place.

Treacy said that an adult today convicted of a racist knife murder would get a minimum of 30 years in jail, but as Dobson was 17 and Norris just 16 at the time of the crime, he only had to give them a minimum of 12 years.

He added extra time because of the racist nature of their attack and because neither had shown any remorse.

Outside court, Lawrence's mother Doreen Lawrence said the killers had received short sentences but "the judge's hands were tied."

She said the sentences were "the beginning of starting a new life because we've been in limbo for so long."

"So today we're going to start moving on, and it's time to take control of my life once more," she said.

While sentencing Dobson and Norris, Treacy said the two belonged to a "racist, thuggish gang."

He said the evidence in the trial could not prove who wielded the knife that killed Lawrence, but he said that whoever used it had done so with Dobson and Norris's "knowledge and approval."

Another three men had been initially arrested after Lawrence's murder but have never been convicted of the crime.

Outside court, Stephen's father Neville Lawrence said he hoped Dobson and Norris would now identify other members of the gang.

He said they should "go and lay down in their bed and think that they weren't the only ones who were responsible for the death of my son."

Doreen and Neville Lawrence divorced six years after their son's murder - Doreen said she felt "alone and unsupported" in the years following her son's murder.

London police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said the force would not give up trying to prosecute the other killers.

"The other people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence should not rest easy in their beds," he said.

Lawrence was killed in April 1993 by five youths who shouted racial insults and then stabbed him in the arm and chest as he waited at a bus stop with a friend.

Police arrested five young men including Norris and Dobson and charged two with murder. But the state abandoned the case, saying there was insufficient evidence.

Lawrence's family won permission in 1994 to mount a private prosecution, and the same five men were named as defendants. But two were released before the trial, and the case collapsed in April 1996 when a judge ruled that testimony identifying the remaining defendants was inadmissible.

The inquiry headed by former judge William MacPherson issued a report in 1999, accusing London's police force of "professional incompetence and institutional racism."

It detailed a litany of flaws in the police response to the crime, concluding that bungling and racist attitudes - including condescending treatment of Lawrence's family and failure to quickly take statements from black witnesses - had hobbled the investigation.

Afterwards the government passed a law requiring the police and other public bodies to work against racism and promote equality.

It also prompted the scrapping of the ancient "double jeopardy" rule, which said a defendant acquitted of a crime could not be tried again for the same offense.

The police looked again at the case, and scientists using techniques not available in 1993 found new DNA evidence, including a tiny speck of Lawrence's blood on Dobson's jacket.

The jury was not told during the trial that Dobson is already in jail for a drugs conviction.

Norris has been in and out of prison for other convictions. In 2002, he was jailed after shouting a racist insult at a police officer and was later jailed again for stealing a car

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Associated Press writer Jill Lawless contributed to this report.

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