Fifty years ago this week, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s sedan plunged into a pond on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Leslie Leland, foreman of the grand jury that investigated the case, tells the Associated Press that, “If we’d been allowed to do our job, there would have been an indictment and a request to have a jury trial. Justice wasn’t served. There were so many discrepancies, but we weren’t allowed to do our jobs to get to the truth — whatever the truth may have been.”
Now 79, Leland was a young pharmacist on the island when he was swept up in the aftermath. He recalls getting death threats and 24-hour police protection, and says he is still frustrated by a judge’s refusal to subpoena anyone who was at the party or share key investigative documents, stymieing the grand jury’s efforts to determine whether Kennedy had been drinking. Kennedy, 37, survived the crash, but his presidential ambitions did not. The Massachusetts Democrat waited 10 hours to report the accident to police, and the “whys?” dogged him for the rest of his days. Half a century later, what did and didn’t happen on Chappaquiddick Island on July 18, 1969, continues to fascinate and frustrate, AP says. Kennedy was driving after a party when his car flipped into the chilly waters, trapping Kopechne. She had been a campaign worker for Kennedy’s brother, Robert, who was assassinated the previous year in Los Angeles while campaigning in California’s Democratic presidential primary.