Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Friday, September 28, 2007

Eddie Griffin on Criminal Justice

This is a short personal overview of the criminal justice system based upon the personal experiences of Eddie Griffin, a former black revolutionary outlaw during the 1970s. This essay was written as a prelude to a college classroom discussion.

I. Complexities of Crime

Not all crimes are alike. A bank robber and a pedophile are two different criminal elements, with different motives and different mindsets. There are Economic Crimes, from petty theft to embezzlement, with varying degrees of aggravation. A Crime against Persons is a different category of crime. However, society tends to lump these all categories into one stereotype.

Crimes against persons are made into horror movies, but economic crimes are glamorized and glorified in outlaw culture. The petty thug is idealized and imitated. The cat jewel thief burglar and safecracker and slick bank robbers are ionized. But the truth of crime is never told.

Nobody ever asks from whence come all the billions of dollars to fuel the international drug trade, or where the money goes after sales. Like the Opium War of China, it was a war about distribution and turfs of trade, a criminal enterprise whose money from the trade is “wash” into “legal money”. The setup and fall guy is the so-called drug lord.

The fall guy is the buffer to the top echelon. Although the public suspects it, we never know it for a fact until a scandal erupts. Those at the top of the scandalous criminal enterprise have no resemblance to those at the bottom of the food chain- them that get eaten by the criminal justice system.

II. The Criminal Element

There is Organized Crime and Disorganized Crime, the latter being the impulsive spur-of-the-moment occurrence, such as spontaneous murders and hit-and-run robberies. Then there are the Crimes of Passion, where human impulses go berserk, such as Rape and Battery.

Organized criminals are mastermind planners who design heists and illegal drug trade and human trafficking. Within these ranks is a murderer of a different sort and a different motive- the Hit Man. For a dollar, they will blow a man’s brains out.

The Hit Man is the threat behind the scene of all organized crime. Snitches get whacked. Failure is not tolerated. And, if a man gets greedy or too big for his shoes, he is unceremoniously dethroned, whether by the bullet or through the court.

But Big Fish are hard to fry. They got lawyers and politicians in their pockets. The system operates on payola and graft. Anybody on the food chain that gets out of line gets eliminated.

Organized criminals work from the inside out, whereas the disorganized criminals work from the outside in, like peeping through a window to see if there are any witnesses, or drive-by shooting aimed at revenge. The organized criminal, on the other hand, operates on the basis of knowledge and wit. The disorganized operates out of ignorance and blindness to consequences. The disorganized criminal gets the most time for the most idiotic offenses.

The disorganized moron goes to state prison, picks cotton, and regresses into child mindedness by watching cartoons all day in the dayroom on television. The smart guys isolate themselves with books to read. They go to federal prison where they start scheming all over again.

III. The Criminal Justice System

For a price, there is justice. A good lawyer is worth his weight in gold, but the disorganized criminal cannot afford him or her. He has to throw himself on the mercy of the court and accept whomever they give him. And, who cares if he gets the electric chair. It would be one more criminal off the street and out of this world. For the price of a court-appointed attorney, a man gets what he pays for- Nothing.

Sending men to prison is like making sausage. It is one long continuous stream, unbroken. To expedite the process, there is the silent plea-bargaining process, collaborated between the district attorney and defense counsel. Although a plea may be willfully gained in the process, there is coercion going on in the background, always pressuring the defendant to accept a conviction and lighter sentence.

In recent times, however, district attorneys have been overcharging defendants with crimes as heavy as is legally justifiable, exaggerated if need be. This puts pressure on defendants to cop a plea. If the defendant chooses to waste the court’s time with a trial, clog up the sausage machine, then the DA will prosecute to full extent of the law and the defense attorney will do nothing more than earn his or her court-appointment fee.

IV. The Prison Setting

Most criminals with court-appointed attorneys get “slammed dunked”. The defense rarely calls witnesses because they (officers of the court) have all agreed secretly in their hearts that the defendant is guilty, so why go through the extra expense of a charade? The result is somewhere between 10 years-to-life. Most slam-dunk cases fall within this range. They are simple to prosecute and move through the sausage machine.

The criminal is the thug, not the defendant wearing the Yves Saint Laurent suit with an army of lawyers. These latter are the DAs worse nightmares and sometimes the judges best friend or major contributor to his or her campaign. These are well-known and well-respected clients, though their crimes run secret and deep.

Eddie Griffin did time with the fall guys, not the white-collar country club clientele, no Paris Hilton maid service. But every now and then, a white-color criminal choir boy stubbles into the cages with the lions. Their first thought: Suicide.

I saw an oil swindler come into the maximum security segregation unit and leave out the same night- on a gurney. He hanged himself. No doubt reality sank in, and frankly I cannot remember if I even cared. By the time of his suicide, I was so desensitized and jaded with death in the penitentiary. Another suicide was just another suicide, a once a month occurrence in the lion’s den. Suicide, stabbings, and beatings were routine. Blood on the floor no longer turned my stomach, as long as it was not mine.

I lived in a survivalist pressure cooker with other mastermind criminals who bit the dirt the hard way. I was a professional bank robber, with an inside track. My crew and I covered bank shortages on embezzlement day. My information came from inside the bank, as to where, when, and how to strike. But from whom the information came, I know not where. And, always the newspapers reported more than take.

They called me the Black Robin Hood, and I took a hard fall at point-blank range through the eye of the scope of a Texas Ranger sharpshooter. Surrender is a bitter pill for a man who would be charged with bank robbery, kidnapping, and commandeering a police squad car- with kidnapping being a capital offense. Other desperadoes in my shoes would have put a self-inflicted bullet in their brains and committed suicide-by-cop.

Instead, I did a hard 12 on a 50-year sentence and had a chance to meet all the old outlaws formerly on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, like my chess-playing buddy, Mr. Untouchable. That’s what Time Magazine called Nicky Barnes, who during his day was the biggest drug kingpin in the country. Over a chessboard, I learned a lot about the mind of a criminal, who would later turn rat.

They say that he averaged $5 million a month in drug sales. They say he was connected with the New York Mafia underworld, with a street army of thousands in the drug distribution world. He was at the top of the food chain in distribution, but on the bottom of the food chain in terms of race. He was black. His suppliers were billionaire white Italians. For them, Nicky was the fall guy. He was doing a double life sentence, but he would flip and gain early release and a new identity.

I watched him go through the changes from the time he was place in solitary confinement in a unit all by himself. They were working on his mastermind capabilities, undermining his arrogant sense of power and invincibility, terrorizing him in the middle of the night with racist taunts, trying to get him to snap. And, snap he did, but not according to the feds game plans. It was his wife and daughter on the outside, and his number one lieutenant. There were rumors that his main man had taken over his drug empire, and was having an affair with both his wife and teenage daughter. He cracked.

[A Continuum]

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Terrorism Where? Jena or Iraq

House Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Attn: U.S. Representative John Conyers

Dear Mr. Chairman:

In light of what may seem like good news today coming out of Jena, Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco may be too late to mend race relations in that small town. The cat is already out of the bag.

Even though LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters announced that he will not pursue the case against 17-year old Mychal Bell in adult criminal court, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis have crept into the festering situation feeding on racial tension.

The Chicago Tribune reports that “a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and ‘drag them out of the house’”.

It seems almost banal and anticlimactic for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to hold a forum or Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the Jena Six situation in light of these recent public threats made against these black children and their families.

In a town that can manufacture criminal charges out of thin air against local black kids, how can the criminal justice system ignore these terrorist threats? Is there a double standard when such threats are made by people of olive skin color compared to white terrorism? In the case of Middle Eastern terrorists, they can be immediately snatched off the streets, confined without counsel, with no recourse to due process, sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into isolated exile, held incommunicado, and forbidden any human contact, not to mention tortured- not for actually being a terrorist, but simply for being suspected.

Now we have an irreverent verbose barrage of KKK threats and late-night terrorizing phone calls, and somehow nobody in the Justice Department can seem to find an appropriate law to bring charges against these instigators and conspirators. The criminal justice system would rather react after a 9/11 terror incident before they can assert the validity of the threat. But they will not hesitate to throw the book at a suspicious olive skin Arab or a black person who makes an off-the-cuff comment about the president.

The KKK has always been classified by the FBI as a terrorist organization. Therefore, what is the difference between the KKK and Al Qaeda? And, why should we fight terrorism aboard when we are plagued with it at home? It was the same after World War I, in 1918-1919, where black men fought overseas, only to return home and fight against lynch mobs. Likewise in 1945-1946, black men came from war only to have to fight for desegregation and equal rights in the US.

Now, tell me, what does a black soldier coming home from Iraq to Jena have to look forward to?

Terrorism is terrorism. And, these racial terrorist threats against black people of Jena is a national security issue that rises to the level of Homeland Security, which has all the capabilities of tracking down these culprits. Until then, none of us can feel safe until the danger is suppressed and the conspirators apprehended and prosecuted. If we are to put an end to terrorism, we must begin by ending white terrorism here at home.

Eddie Griffin (BASG)

The purpose of the Black Accused Support Groups (BASG) is to publicize cases of unjust treatment of Blacks at the hands of legal systems while building on this advocacy to promote fundamental and systemic change, so that Blacks will, for the first time, be treated equally before the law. Reference Jena 6

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Congressman Burgess Speaks Out Against Racist or Misogyny Speech



Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I agree with you that this is an important discussion that we need to have today. This discussion should be addressed in Congress, in the Boardroom, and within families, and I thank you for bringing this to the forefront of the committee.

The topic of today’s hearing, “the business of stereotypes and degrading images” affects every single community in this country. This past weekend, I had the honor of hosting an economic development summit in my district in Fort Worth, and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to the subject of this hearing today.

A civic leader in Fort Worth and Afrosphere blogger, Eddie Griffin, and I talked about this issue at length and about the real impacts that the alleged art had on his community. Quoting from an email that Mr. Griffin sent to me yesterday, I found this statement to be very profound: “we will use our collective powers to negatively impact the profitability of those companies who cross the line.”

Mr. Chairman, the Constitution wisely limits what we in Congress can legislatively do regarding the objectionable material found in the media, but we as consumers and as a nation hold tremendous power. We can stop buying the degrading music and video games. We all know that if people weren’t making a profit, if people weren’t buying into that line of products, then they would no longer be on the shelf at your local store for purchase As Mr. Griffin said, we—everyone in this room, and everyone watching this hearing on TV—can collectively use our power to no longer make this a profitable business for anyone, including the companies represented in this room, the artists who actually penned the lyrics, or the retailers who sell the depravity disguised as CD’s or games. This is the most powerful recourse that we have.

Mr. Chairman, as Mr. Griffin also said in that email “there is only so much that we, African Americans and other Americans, can take.” End quote. I personally don’t think that we, as Americans, should take this racist or misogyny speech any longer. We must put an end to it.

Mr. Chairman, it is my hope that this hearing will help us do just that. I thank you for your leadership on this essential issue, and I yield back the remainder of my time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dear Mr. Media Executives

Philippe Dauman, Viacom
Doug Morris, Universal Music Group
Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music Group

Dear Mr. Media Executives:

It is becoming increasingly more evident that your thoughts are not our thoughts and neither your ways our ways. Nevertheless, we have been tolerant not to abridge your free speech or freedom of artistic expression, except to insist protecting our children from pornographic obscenities. In light to the continual misogyny of African-American women, however, we must say that you have exceeded our tolerance by this concerted encroachment upon our sense of public decency.

Who is a whore and who is a bitch? Is it not the African-American women featured in your television programming, in musical rap videos, and on movie silver-screen… half-naked, provocative, lewd, vulgar, sensual and devilishly sexy? Shame on you!

And, who are these “ugly nappy-headed ‘hoes” of which you speak?

Shame on you, again! There is only so much that we, African-Americans (and other Americans), can take.

In the past, you have portrayed our people as stupid buffoons and minstrel coons, created like courtyard jesters, for the sake of your private pleasure, clowns made for humiliation. We are always made sport of. And, by degrading and humiliating our women, you seem all the more satisfied.

The media has become a play toy to you for mass brainwashing, cloning sick and perverse minds into the image of your own. Through mass psychology via television, radio, and music industry, you have made us a joke to ourselves, as you feed the public-at-large with intoxicating daily doses of sex mania.

Is it no wonder that black women are raped and abused like dogs in such record numbers? No wonder you call her a “bitch”. How can you wash your hand of the blood of the crime when, in fact, it is a Frankenstein of your own making?

Time out for our pleading for more decency and uplifting programming, lest we be further accused of Puritanism. Rather, we endorse the mission of Association of National Advertisers’ Family Friendly Programming Forum to implement more “family friendly programming”. And, we will use our collective powers to negatively impact the profitability of those companies who cross the line.

Gentlemen, assuming that none of you are God, you must be made accountability to the public and brought back to the realization your social responsibility in shaping the minds and values of our youth.

Prepared Statement by Eddie Griffin, Afrosphere Bloggers Association (ABA)

Read into the Congressional Records, this 25th day of September, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

House Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearings On The Jena Six, Reports "Too Sense" AfroSpear Blog

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, September 21, 2007

By Too Sense, Afrosphere Associated Press (AAP) blogger.

House Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearings On The Jena Six

Via Carpetbagger, it looks like the Feds are finally paying attention in Jena. It's amazing really, the effect twenty thousand people demanding justice can have on Congress. The House Judiciary Committee is set to hold hearings on the incidents in Jena, Louisiana. They will led by Chairman John Conyers.

(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) told a crowd gathered on the Capitol grounds that he is holding a forum next week and plans to hold hearings to address the case of six teenagers in Jena, Louisiana who were charged with attempted murder for a schoolyard fight. Conyers spoke during a rally of support for the students, now being called the “Jena Six,” in Washington, in coordination with rallies in Jena and other U.S. cities.
This is bad news for Reed Walters, since evidence of his misconduct in this case is growing. The third district court in Louisiana ordered that Bell's bail hearing be held within 72 hours yesterday, just two days after Walters and a judge failed to show up to a previous bail hearing for Bell.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Yesterday Walters reiterated his commitment to pursuing charges against the Jena Six, insisting that "the victim had been forgotten" in this controversy.

Last week, the same appeals court vacated Bell's June conviction for aggravated second-degree battery, ruling that Walters had improperly prosecuted him as an adult rather a juvenile. Walters has vowed to appeal that ruling and has already initiated juvenile proceedings against Bell. The prosecutor also said Wednesday that he would vigorously pursue his cases against the rest of the teenage defendants, insisting that their white victim had been forgotten amid the controversy.
The only thing that has been forgotten are the charges against Barker for bringing a loaded shotgun to school after the beating. This seems particularly convenient given that Barker was a prop at the press conference Walters held yesterday. Walters has now failed to press charges in every incident involving the aggression of a white student in Jena, including the beating of Theo Shaw at a an all white party. Shaw is one of the Six charged in the beating of Justin Barker.

In her column yesterday Amy Goodman artfully debunked a statement from a member of the Jena school board, who says that the young kids "didn't know the meaning of the noose".
I recently visited Billy “Bulldog” Fowler in his office. He’s a white member of the LaSalle Parish School Board. He says Jena is being unfairly painted as racist. He feels the hanging nooses were blown out of proportion, that in the high school setting it was more of a prank: “This is the Deep South, and [older] black people know the meaning of a noose. Let me tell you something—young people don’t.”
If that seems like a completely unsubstantiated assumption, that's because it is. Robert Bailey, one of the Jena Six, knew clearly what the noose meant when he saw it.
That night, I went to see the Baileys in their mobile home in Ward 10, one of the black neighborhoods in Jena. Two of the Jena Six, Robert Bailey and Theo Shaw, were ironing their clothes. I asked them what they thought when they saw the nooses. Robert immediately said: “The first thing came to mind was the KKK. I don’t know why, but that was the first thing that came to my head. I used to always think the KKK chase black people on horses, and they catch you with rope.”
So much for that argument.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In addition, Goodman revealed in her column yesterday that Walters refused to allow the Jena School Board to review the school's investigation of the noose incident, a proper response to which could have ended the turmoil in Jena just after it began. The white students who hung the nooses were suspended for several days. The principal of the school resigned in disgust. At the School Board meeting, Walters denied the Board access to vital information before they were asked to vote on the expulsion of the Jena Six.

The African-American teens were dealt with differently. They were expelled, but appealed to the school board. The school district had conducted an investigation, but the school board was not allowed to review it. The school board’s lawyer was none other than the prosecuting district attorney, Reed Walters.

Board member Fowler recalls the January meeting: “Our legal authority that night was Mr. Walters.”

I asked, “And he told you, you couldn’t have access to the school proceedings, or the investigation?”

Fowler replied: “That’s right. [Walters said] it was a violation of something.” The board voted, without information. Fowler recalls: “It was unanimous. No, no it wasn’t. There was one board member who voted no, and that was Mr. Worthington.” Melvin Worthington, the only African-American on the school board, voted against upholding the expulsion of the black students.

Clearly, Mr. Walters had a particular outcome in mind. Hopefully, his intentions and conduct will be closely scrutinized by the House Judiciary Committee.

President Bush commented on the events in Louisiana yesterday:
"The events in Louisiana have saddened me," the president said. "And I understand the emotions. The Justice Department and the FBI are monitoring the situation down there. And all of us in America want there to be, you know, fairness when it comes to justice."
How carefully and deliberately ambiguous.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Senator Obama: Call for an End to All White Juries!

By the Francis L. Holland Blog.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

AfroSpear's Francis L. Holland Blog

and Electronic Village Blog on MSNBC

Senator Barack Obama says that he is the candidate for president who would be most able to bridge divides of color in America. If so, this would be an excellent time for him to prove it. If he steps forward now with new proposals for addressing and ending the systemic injustices that have led thousands of people, Black and white to protest in Jena, Louisiana today, then Barack Obama might be able to capture the imaginations of Americans and provide leadership, showing the way forward. He could create a new consensus for threshold notions of fairness.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This crucial moment in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement will truly tell us much about Barack Obama's modus operandi. If he were elected president, would he feel compelled to mostly ignore debates about skin color in order to avoid disagreeing with white perspectives and thereby being fatally cast as the "Black candidate." Would be bridge divides or simply be the proponent for a "new denial." Can Barack Obama come forward with substantive alternatives to the status quo that about which Blacks and whites as well as Latinos can endorse and feel good?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For example, the Jena, Louisiana criminal panel that convicted Mychal was an all-white jury.
A court-appointed attorney in Bell’s adult trial did not present any evidence or witnesses in his defense before an all white jury convicted him of guilty of second-degree aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit second-degree aggravated battery. Black America Web

Because Blacks, at one time, were forbidden by law to sit on juries, all white juries are an historical symbol of systemic anachronistic injustice, constituted by prosecutors and the courts precisely because they are more likely to be blind to the guilt or innocence of Black people and to render injustice based on prejudices. All-white juries are not an accident that yield accidental injustice. Instead, they are both a manifestation and factory of prejudice. There is no justification to insist on all-white juries in this day and age.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

March is coming, but Jena mayor requests "smaller numbers."

So, will candidate Barack Obama step forward and propose that every jury be composed of at least one "group juror" who is a representative of the accused's ethnic group? Of course this one juror would still be in the overwhelming minority and would be in no position to single-handedly change or guarantee a fair process or result. The group juror could only act to help review the evidence and pique the conscience, both of the jury and of society.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A new insistence upon ending all-white juries would focus America's attention on the inherent unfairness of a system that so often is so careful NOT to have minority jury participation when convicting and sentencing minorities. In the process of implementing a "group juror" consideration, the new thinking required to end all-white juries would shine a continuous light into an unfair court system and bring constant attention to other forms of injustice, focusing America's attention first on the injustice that is most visible in order to build a political will for a continual effort to end injustices that are more subtle.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

"By the time the Jena Six story came around, there was a group of probably 80, 90 bloggers who would e-mail one another daily."

AfroSpear's Shawn Williams, Dallas South Blog.

The group juror concept is a direct challenge to notions of color-blindness promoted by the Roberts Court in its decision to overturn Brown v. Board of Education. And this proposal would put insistent discriminators on the indefensible defensive.

What, after all, is the great need to maintain the institution of the all-white jury? Would having ONE member of the defendant's color be so injurious to the prospects for justice? In order to make justice truly blind in America, it is time to redefine the term "a jury of one's peers" in the public consciousness to mean a jury that includes at least one member of one's own ethnic group.

Does this mean that an Arab terrorist must have at least one Arab on his jury? Yes it does. And how or why would the presence of one Arab so confound the system that justice could not be served?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Meanwhile, a call by citizens and organizers for an end to all-white juries would be one way of maintaining the public's focus on the most blatantly obvious systemic unfairnesseses. The group juror proposal is a way of asserting the inherent unfairness of a criminal justice process that excludes the participation of Blacks, and this is so even in cases where the defendant's guilt or innocence is unclear, as it always is until a jury has pronounced its sentence.

Of course, many people will insist that this proposal is unconstitutional, that the courts must "ignore the skin color or the defendant" while convicting Black youths at a rate six times higher than whites. These defender of all white juries will insist that maintainance of all-white juries is, in fact, constitutional while the "Group Juror" proposal is not. Yet arguments for that proposition would show the idiocy of all that has transpired in the discussion of skin color since Bakke. Because if all-white juries are truly essential to our Constitution, (and I don't believe they are) then it may explain why there are so many Black people in jail. The group juror proposal is based Constitutional proposition that our society deserves a fair trial to determine each defendant's guilt or innocence.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Constant updates on the Internet and Black radio

have galvanized Black Americans.

Advocating for the group juror proposal challenges the assumption that "justice is blind," and that a system run exclusively by whites can be fair to those who are not. This advocacy challenges Americans to concede the inherent fairness of a "jury of one's peers."

As such, the "Group Juror" proposal subtly and obliquely offer a rationale for Obama's own candidacy, which is predicated on the belief that no person should be excluded from service based exclusively on the color of his skin, while no system should systemically ignore or discount the services to democracy and justice that are offered by those who are not white men.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

"Mychal Bell, the only one of the Jena Six to be found guilty . . . His conviction has been overturned but he's still behind bars . . . " - - MSNBC

As such, the Group Juror proposal would be a direct challenge to America's history of systemic segregation and discrimination, while those who believe that all-white justice is a good thing would be compelled to step forward and defend that proposition. In any case, if Barack Obama cannot step forward now to show America the way out of this Jena morass, then he may effectively be conceding that he cannot and does not offer something to unite us that his opponents do not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Black Neck in a White Noose

Hang a man at the end of a noose, he will remember it forever and his descendants will never forget it.

The era of lynching may be over, but the legacy of the infamous noose lives on.

I am always being told that “slavery is over”, “get over it”, “stop sniveling and crying about the past”, and “move on”. But yet there are some white people teaching their children how to make nooses to dangle before the eyes of Negro children.

What do you think? Do you think that these Jena white children dreamed up this idea of “nooses” out of the abstract air?

It is the invisible hand of the devil, trying to dredge up fears in black people about things that happened in the past- when lynching Negroes was a sport.

As I wrote about the “Hanging Tree” in Jena, Louisiana, someone recalled when it was an innocent twig, planted on the lawn of Jena High School. The so-called prank that white students pulled on black students for requesting to sit under the segregated shade tree was three nooses draped over a limb. By their actions, they declared it a "hanging tree", and then say it was all a joke- then turn around again and smear in the black children’s face everyday at school.

[To Be Continued]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jena Black-Out Day: September 20

The defendants are known collectively as the Jena Six, and in the four months since their story broke to a broader public, the youths have emerged as an international cause celebre, latter-day Scottsboro Boys exciting outrage and organizing on their behalf and trying Jena itself in the court of public opinion…

"We're standing strong. We're not going to hand our kids over to them"- father of one of the Jena Six defendants

First came CNN report: “A Louisiana appeals court Friday vacated the remaining conviction of a teenager accused in a violent, racially charged incident in Jena, Louisiana” (“Louisiana judge tosses conviction against teen tried as adult”, 09/15/07).

It is too little, too late. 17-year old Mychal Bell has already been in jail since December, 2006, over a racially instigated schoolyard fight. It’s too late to give him back life as he once knew, full of prospects and hopes. Bell’s father, Marcus Jones, laments, “I want his credibility back, his eligibility, like this never happened. That’s the way it should be.”

It’s too late to turn back the hands of time to a time when this never happened.

It’s too little, because (as of this writing) Bell is still incarcerated. La Salle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters still has a sleuth of devilish options. He can harden his heart and appeal to the State Supreme Court. After his being humiliated in lower criminal court, this route would be impeachable in spirit and integrity of the law. At worse, it will be a juvenile court case, and the conspiracy theory to commit a “spontaneous” school fight will not stand the light of day. Only in Jena, Louisiana with an all-white jury would such racial injustice would be justified in a so-call kangaroo court of law.

African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites, and Hispanics nearly double the rate. Louisiana has a higher rate of black incarceration than the national average or that of nearby states such as Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. But it has a lower rate than Texas, Florida and others. [source: Bureau of Justice Statistics]

Attorney Reed Walters has one of two options: Drop the case or Re-file it in Juvenile Court.

It’s too late to stop the caravan to Jena. People have already gone through the expense of organizing and filling up buses with demonstrators. D-Day is Jena 6 Black-Out Day: September 20.

The day has been dubbed “blackout day”, because supporters of the Jena youth who cannot make the trip to Louisiana will show their support by wearing black on that day.


Newsweek National Week reported that “Civil rights protestors are still planning to converge on tiny Jena, Louisiana”. (“The Jena Six”, 09/15/07).

The ongoing controversy has thrown Jena, population about 3,000, into an uncomfortable spotlight that isn’t likely to dim with the latest court decision. Civil rights activists, bloggers and black radio hosts helped spread the word about the case, demanding an end to what they see as unequal justice. On Saturday, some of the Jena Six and their relatives and lawyers joined the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Chicago at his Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters. “We will not rest” until all charges are dropped against the Jena Six, Jackson said. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is reviewing data from the La Salle Parish district attorney’s office for evidence of racial disparities or violation of civil rights. The district attorney has declined to comment on the case, citing a gag order.

“What’s happened in Jena is indicative of the new Jim Crow racism that inflicts many parts of the country. There is a misuse of the criminal justice system as a kind of poverty control,” says Alan Bean, an activist with the civil rights group Friends of Justice. “We have basically criminalized poor people … I think Jena is a particularly egregious example of business as usual in the American criminal justice system.”

Billy Fowler, a white school board member, says most people in his hometown agree that the Jena Six were dealt with too harshly. But he bristles at the charges of racism. “They want to see our town as being the most racist town in the world. That’s what’s being painted of Jena. Obviously this is the Deep South. If we went back in time 50 years, maybe what they’re saying would have been true. But today we have come a 1,000 miles from that.”

Francis Holland reports: More than 200,000 people have signed's online petition calling on District Attorney Reed Walters to drop the charges against the Jena 6, and have called on Governor Kathleen Blanco to intervene in the case. [UPDATE COUNT: 212,905]

Briefs & Commentary by Eddie Griffin

Over 200,000 people are allied in this one and same cause: To Free the Jena 6. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of votes. Presidential Candidate Barak Obama came out early in a statement supportive of the accused Jena youth. And after the courts overturned the second conviction of Mychal Bell, candidate Hillary Clinton applauded the appeal courts decision.

Clinton applauded the Friday decision by an appeals court in Louisiana tossing out the aggravated battery conviction that could have sent a black teenager to prison for 15 years in last year's beating of a white classmate in the racially tense town of Jena… "There is no excuse for the way the legal system treated those young people," she said. "We have had an attorney general who doesn't respect the rule of law or enforce the civil rights laws on the books"- Hillary Clinton speaking to a crowd of about 900 people at the annual Freedom Fund Banquet of the Charleston National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

FAMILY & Friends

"Everybody around the world -- China, France -- everybody knows about this," John Jenkins, the father of Carwin Jones, another of the six, recently told black students at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

Caseptla Bailey, mother of Robert Bailey, Jr. asked Dr. Alan Bean of University of Texas-Arlington, founder and director of Friends of Justice, a faith-based organization that works on criminal justice reform -- to come to Jena.

Bean, who is white, did what many black people do all the time when it comes to race: He connected the dots to reveal a pattern. But white people often look at the same scenario and see someone drawing lines in thin air.

“I realized if no one intervened, these kids were going to end up with felony convictions that they would be dragging with them through their lives,” Bean said. “I didn't really think they were going to get 80 years in prison, but I thought they might end up with a decade or two. . . .Young black males are going to prison in bizarre numbers.”

Friday, September 14, 2007

Beyond Jena

By now, we should be three miles down the road past Jena, with contingency planning as to where do we go from here. The role of the vanguard is frontline strategic planning.

There are two roads ahead from Jena:

Either Mychal Bell will be set free or we will be force to escalate to stage 2- the legal battle ahead and defense fund-raising. Then, on the other hand, we must weigh the punitive consequences upon the State of Louisiana, for the loss of good will and fairness under the law.

The public response to the Jena 6 has been nothing less than overwhelming. The planned September 20 demonstration has magnified the issue: Racism and the misuse and abuse of legal powers for the purpose of malicious prosecution.

Many African-American parents are concerned about how their children will be treated in similar circumstances. Therefore, we have exceeded the bounds of Jena, Louisiana to look at the greater issue of why black boys are punished more frequently and more harshly than their peers, both in school and in the courtroom.

Of all the people who are going to Jena, there is one authentic voice of this movement. Mos Def has it all, including the real history of the struggle. He also has a profound passion in his advocacy that might bring America back to its collective sanity, without compromising the voice of black people everywhere. We must hear more of what Mos Def has to say. In fact, Mos Def would be the man that I would chose to speak about this outcry. He will not hee-haw with words.

Also, what some people may not see will be the thousands upon thousands of people who will be wearing black. They will be wearing black, not only in solidarity with the six African-American youth, but in mourning all of our forefathers who were lynched in American history. Forever lives the memory of Emmit Till, lynched at age 14.

Everybody in Texas will be wearing black. It is the biggest non-kept secret in my home state. We will mourn to loss of every black children lynched by the legal system, including Genarlow Wilson and SheQuanda Cotton. And even better, we will have no need to debate the flak behind the Jena 6 Movement. For the first time in over 40 years, we have a viable movement for social justice.

Here in Texas, the dominoes of injustice are falling. Another man, condemned under the law of parties like Kenneth Foster, Jr., was spared execution by the intervention of the new Dallas black district attorney, Craig Watkins, who has also initiated an innocence project that resulted in the release of over 25 innocent men. Runaway justice runs amok in Texas and Louisiana, and Georgia.

The Jena 6 are about the same age as the young Black Panthers were when they first came together to defend the community against racist attacks. Herman Bell, one of the NY 3 (otherwise known as the Black Liberation Army) went to prison over 30 years ago in the COINTELPRO Wars against the Panthers and remains in prison today, almost forgotten. He, too, is a political prisoner and one of my best friends, the same as the Jena Six are a new breed of political prisoners.

They did what they thought they had to do, in order to preserve their dignity and gain some respect. God forbid, they can receive 20 years or more for a schoolyard fight.

Will we fight for them forever? Then how did we forget about Herman Bell who, after all these years of incarceration, is now going to be tried all over again in a different state, just to prolong his incarceration. Thanks to Mos Def, he reminded me of Bell’s current status.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Obama Demands Fairness in Jena 6 Case

Senator Barack Obama made the following statement a few days ago in response to the Jena 6 case:

"When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn’t just Jena’s problem; it’s America’s problem."

"There are a number of signs that the system is not working in this case. It’s a problem when criminal charges are brought against some students for fighting, but not others. It’s a problem when a public defender doesn’t call any witnesses. And it’s a problem when a prosecutor decides to try teenagers as adults for a school fight, a charge that could leave them in jail for the majority of their lives. That is why I join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on the judge to consider all the relevant factors and calling on the District Attorney to drop the excessive charges brought in this case. And I, along with other members of the CBC, will continue to monitor this case closely."

"Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena 6 or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for us to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair. We must ensure that both victims and defendants can receive equal justice under the law, regardless of race, wealth, or other circumstances."

Hillary Clinton has not yet responded. Does she or does she not support the Defense of the Jena 6?

[This video expresses the majority of African-American sentiments]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why Jena, Why Now?

Why did the black kids at Jena High School feel it necessary to ask permission to sit under a schoolyard shade tree that traditionally had been reserved and enjoyed by white students? Why couldn’t they just sit under the tree with any questions asked (since, here in 2007, all things are supposed to be fair and equal)? Did the black kids perceive a differential in treatment- that the white students had a privilege that black students could not enjoy?

Why did the white students drape three nooses over the tree? Considering the fact that these white kids were too young to remember how blacks were once lynched throughout the south, who reminded them this practice of dangling ropes with nooses before the eyes of black people? What was the intended affect?

Racism begins with the older generation and is passed down to the children, and to the children’s children, and so on. In the shadows of a shade tree, the black children in Jena, Louisiana must have grown up with a sense of insecurity, such that they felt the need to “ask permission” for a privilege that should have been taken for granted and enjoyed by all.

The nooses represented race hatred and open bigotry. Who would even challenge white supremacy in this little town of 3,000 where whites outnumbered blacks ten-to-one? Who would even care enough to pull back the covers of America and peer into her vile biles?

The privilege of supremacy is preserved and protected by the local police establishment. The Jena school administration turned a blind eye to the open display of bigotry but the minute black students protested the discrimination school officials call in the police. And here, the school system and the police force worked hand-in-hand to perpetuate the disparity in treatment.

Lackeys, like Jason Whitlock of, would dig up as much dirt as possible on one of the black youths in order to spread the blame among all the parents. However, it seems that the only way black parents could have prevented their children from falling into this trap and getting in trouble would have been to advise their children to acquiesce to white supremacy and to go along to get along, and not rock the boat in race relations. With no such warning (neither from parent nor from black leaders who know how racism works), these six young men had no guidance but instincts. Would Mr. Whitlock like to give black teenage boys a lesson in turning the other cheek after they had been insulted and assaulted? What did Mr. Whitlock say of the First Law of Nature? Don’t strike back? Or does the “irresponsible” parent miss something in this sports jock’s critique?

Racism is not racism unless it is back by authority, police powers, and the institution of justice. White supremacy means that blacks can legally be punished if they refuse to go along with the program. And, blacks can be assured of punishment from the courts (disguised under the cloak of the "criminal justice system")if they buck the tradition in race relations in Jena.

Clearly, all things are not fair and equal in race relations in Jena, and probably never have been. But the civilized world and the American public seems so appalled that such atrocities are still being carried out in the 21st century. Young African-Americans are baffled because, growing up in an integrate world and going through a desegregated public school system, they have been brainwashed into believing that racism was dead. Had not the spotlight been put on the Jena, they would probably still be going through life, living a fairytale in Cookie Land, dismissing the fact that they, as blacks, are always targets of suppression.

Just to mention of this fact of life will get a commentator branded as a “race hater”. So, what do we do, Mr. Whitlock? Keep silent and let it happen? Let the Jena authorities devour our kids like a ham samich?

Living under the shadow of racism for so long, some things seem to just come naturally. An inferiority complex is one. Adopting an alien white value system is another.

Black people point the finger at each other and find every fault that white society has pegged to them. They develop the Pogo Syndrome: “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

But what if it is not we? Suppose it is “the system”?

God forbid! That would mean our distorted euro-concept of civil rights, which disguises itself as measuring up to white supremacist standards, would all be in vain. Oh no! The system has got to be perfect. It’s got to be the people who do not measure up. It’s got to be the Negroes’ fault.

From the perspective of a pious nose from a court bench, the judge can only see young black men charged with a serious crime. Never mind what happened before the December 4th assault. It’s irrelevant to the case.

The prosecutor, on the other hand, only wants an all-white jury to see one thing: A young black thug punching and kicking an innocent young white boy. White speaking to whiteness, it could have been their son or daughter. Oh horrors! But black speaking to blackness, it could have been our son or daughter. And, it usually is.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Reducing the Charge to the Highest Crime

Jena Prosecutor Breaches Stratosphere of Irrationality

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Star-Telegram caption reads: “Another charge reduced in 'Jena 6' case” (09/11/07). It appears that LaSalle Parish, Louisiana is rapidly gaining becoming the Idiot Capitol of America.

Think about it. It is not enough to charge six African-American high school youths with “attempted second degree murder” for a school yard fight, but to reduce the charges to “aggravate battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery” is proof positive that District Attorney Reed Walters is out of his mind if he thinks that he can mix and match contrived criminal charges to his own likings.

If “attempted second degree murder” don’t fly and he can’t try the kids as adults and give each of them up to 50 years, then Walters simply does the next best stupid thing: Charge them with “aggravated battery and conspiracy” and give them up to 15 years.

I wonder how many district attorneys around the country think the same way. Exactly! Too many! And, this is exactly why we have such a disparity in justice along racial lines.

There is something about a southern small town mindset. Maybe it comes from inbreeding. But obviously the DA is totally oblivious to public opinion, not only from around the country, but also around the world. While the world is screaming “Injustice”, this knucklehead is nitpicking which charges he can rationalize prosecuting.

Walters charges Robert Bailey, Jr., one of the six youth, with “aggravate battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery”, even after the judge threw out the “conspiracy” conviction on Mychal Bell, another one of the youths. If the conspiracy charge does not stick to one, how can it stick to another?

Now don’t try to confuse me with the facts. The whole world knows who did what. Sure, six black students ganged up on one white student at school. But that was not where the whole thing started. It started when a group of white students draped three nooses over a tree in front of the school to intimidate black students who wished to integrate the segregated sitting area. School officials called it a “prank” rather than a “hate crime”. Then white students assaulted a black student and nothing was done. Again, a white student pulls a shotgun on a group of black students and no charges were brought, except against the black student who seized the weapon from the would-be assailant.

Can there be any wonder why one of the young white pranksters got jumped?

Two wrongs don’t make a right, I've always been taught. And, three wrongs only make matters worse. This is why thousands of people are boarding up, headed for Jena, Louisiana, to protest the goings-on. It’s like the 1960s Freedom Riders all over again. Jena must have never learned her lesson.

Will the governess intervene? Or, will Kathleen Blanco find her favorite hiding spot under a tree somewhere?

Something tells me that Louisiana is backwood and retarded when it comes to problem-solving. Either that or this is a case of malicious prosecution.

Al Sharpton has called upon Governor Blanco to investigate the prosecution being waged by DA Walters. He, and Jesse Jackson, plans to join the throng of thousands of protesters from across the country on September 20, the day Mychal Bell is scheduled to be sentenced. Bell, who was convicted by an all-white jury, could receive up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine, while none of the white students who started the racial instigation will be charged with anything.

How obvious the injustice! Reed Walters must think that the rest of the world is stupid, or even worse, if he thinks that this type of unjust justice can go on forever without decent people saying anything.

The State of Louisiana is losing love as fast as it found it when Katrina blew through.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

HAT TIP to Alan Bean at Friends of Justice

This comes to us Live from Jena

Posted: 05 Sep 2007 03:46 PM CDT

CNN Reporting on the Jena 6 Case

An enormous CNN truck was parked at the LaSalle Parish courthouse all day yesterday and it’s still there today. You can imagine how surreal it feels to walk into the lobby of the Townsmen Inn in Jena, or sit down with an Egg McMuffin at the Jena McDonalds and see the Jena story broadcasting live on CNN. The coverage hasn’t always been accurate, but the response has been immediate (my cell phone has been ringing every five minutes).

I will have more to say about developments in Jena when I get home. The big news is that Mychal Bell now faces a maximum of 15 years in prison after the conspiracy conviction was vacated by judge JP Mauffray. That is still unacceptable, of course, but it is a baby step in the right direction.

The courtroom was crammed throughout the day–at times it was difficult to get a seat. Half of the people in attendance appeared to be attorneys, many of them recent recruits to the legal fight. When a story gets the kind of round-the-clock coverage the Jena 6 has been receiving from CNN it is on the verge of becoming a national story. I was on a Pacifica radio program from Washington, DC this morning with Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School (who has agreed to lend his prestige and expertise to the legal struggle). Dr. Ogletree told the host that Jena was the most important civil rights legal case since the Tulia drug sting (the case that created Friends of Justice). I think he’s right.

More when I return to Arlington.

Alan Bean
Friends of Justice
3415 Ainsworth Court
Arlington, TX 76016
806-729-7889 or 817-457-0025

Grandpa Day at School could be Freaky Experience

Tomorrow is a very important day for me. It’s Grandparent Day in the Crowley ISD.

Yep! Grandpa is on the hook.

I will be with my first grade granddaughter, Dee Dee, during the first lunch period, and with my second grade grandson, Little Ed, during the second lunch break. As you can see, this is a first for me.

How in the world did Eddie Griffin survive long enough to become a grandpa? A bank robbing Black Panther, kidnapper who cheated death in the electric chair, who cheated death in prison in hand-to-hand combat, only to survive another day?

I think I’m going to cry on Grandparent Day, and none of the teachers will know why. I only hope the kids will understand.

You see, my grandkids are by mix marriage, but they look more white than black. Lately, Dee Dee has been letting all the Negro come out of her. So, Grandparent Day will be the day that grandpa meets little Dee Dee’s teacher.

I have already instructed Dee Dee to apologize to the teacher. But she has a terrible speech impediment. Even I can barely comprehend her and she is six years old. All four grandkids have the same speech problem and all are supposed to be in speech therapy… the damages caused by boom box parents that love blast their babies’ ears with loud vibrating music… damaged eardrums… damaged babies… frustrated babies… imagine “crack babies” coming of age.

The Crowley ISD was once a predominantly white school district. More and more, it’s becoming interracial.

When my son went to school here in 1990s, I was one of the few black parents in the PTA. With more integration came “white flight”, depreciating property value, and lower income residents and renters.

My daughter-in-law is a white welfare mom, struggling to raise three children, after divorcing my son while he was in prison… tough life… tough consequences. But grandpa is grandpa, and grandpa doesn’t play the race card, hate card, or political card. Grandpa loves his babies. Damn the mama and the daddy for their sins.

Okay, Grandpa is nervous about his first day of grandparent school. Some kids are going to freak when they find out my grandchildren are not white. The teacher is going to freak when my grandson boast about my being a Black Panther bank robber and kidnapper, who took a police squad car. Damn! I think grandpa might panic. Y’all pray for grandpa.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Justice or Mercy

Sean-Paul Kelley’s friend was shot and killed in a 1996 robbery. In December 2006, he wrote an article entitled, “Justice or Mercy” (reprinted below).

“Whenever people ask me about the death penalty I always reply: when you make it to the Pearly Gates, and Saint Peter asks, “justice or mercy”? Which will you choose?”

Usually they sputter or blurt something out like, “the death penalty doesn't have anything to do with that.” I reply, "The death penalty has everything to do with that. You just can't see it.”

Then they say, “what if it happened to someone you know.” And I reply, “In 1996 one of my best friends, Michael LaHood was murdered. And I don't want his killer to die. I want his killer to repent. And then spend the rest of his life in prison helping other prisoners with less onerous sentences to see the light.”

That's when they say, "you're a softy, wishy-washy feel-good, self-helping liberal wimp." By that time its too late to ask them, "what requires more courage: revenge or forgiveness?"

At the time of the writing, the State of California was preparing to execute Stanley Tookie Williams, founder of the Crips gang, for capital murder. It just so happen that the writer Sean-Paul Kelley was one of the best friends of Michael LaHood, the man shot and killed by Mauriceo Brown in that fatal robbery.

Brown was an acquaintance and later co-defendant of Kenneth Foster, Jr. Foster, who was simultaneously convicted with Brown and sentenced to die by lethal injection. The triggerman Brown was executed in 2006 and Foster was scheduled to die on August 30, 2007. However, six hours from execution, he received a stay of execution from Texas Governor Rick Perry, and his death sentence commuted to life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

To Kenneth Foster, Jr. from Eddie Griffin

All praises be to God, you have received mercy. Forgiveness, however, is another issue.

“This is not justice for the only real victim here, who was my brother,” said Nico LaHood, a criminal defense attorney.

However, even if the law requires “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, revenge cannot be camouflaged as justice. The Michael LaHood’s killer, Mauriceo Brown, was put to death in 2006. What more could be asked of Justice?

Nico LaHood asserts: “The bottom line is that I believe the governor folded due to political pressure.” But clearly Texas Governor Rick Perry had a more substantial reason to commute Foster’s sentence to life.

In his released statement, Perry said, “After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment.”

It is the “right and just” decision. In the words of Kenneth’s grandfather, Lawrence Foster, “This was justice.”

There are many rumors as to how and why young Foster was granted a reprieve, not the least of which is the fact that the case attracted international attention. According to this Los Angeles Times report: Using the Internet, Foster's supporters launched a campaign that garnered sympathy from all over the world -- especially in Europe. Newspaper editorials in Italy and France condemned Texas for barbarism.

Walidah Imarisha reports: Supporters attribute this almost unprecedented decision to the national and international support he has gotten. Last minute media this morning including The New York Times, The LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and several news stations only join with Court TV, BET News, NBC, ABC and hundreds of others, not only here but in Venezuela, Dubai, Italy, France, England and elsewhere.

But the Governor said: "I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."

The New York Times reports:

Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International USA’s Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, hailed the reprieve. "Given the obvious — that it would have been virtually impossible to predict the murder of Michael LaHood — Foster was sentenced to death under the broadest and most appalling interpretation of the Law of Parties," she said “We commend Governor Perry for preventing this miscarriage of justice. We also share the governor’s concerns about Texas death penalty law and urge him to examine all injustices plaguing the capital punishment system in his state.”

Norma LaHood, the murder victim’s mother, said she took the news of the commutation as divine will. “I’m filled with peace,” Mrs. LaHood said by telephone from San Antonio. “I will mourn my son till I die, but I’m not forced any more to relive his death.”

Eddie Griffin writes:

Here is justice, not revenge. Here also is mercy. Can forgiveness and redemption be far behind?

Michael LaHood’s friend, Sean-Paul Kelley wrote “I don't want his killer to die. I want his killer to repent. And then spend the rest of his life in prison helping other prisoners with less onerous sentences to see the light.”

Has Kenneth Foster, Jr. seen the light?

Jesus said, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Today, Kenneth will see the light of a new day- a day never promised to him nor expected by him. He is, as it were, living “on borrowed time”.

Can he show others the light? How many can he lead out of darkness into the light? Only time will tell. Seeing that he now has a lifetime over to help others, maybe in saving others, he may also save himself.