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Marion Brothers

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jermaine Darden Taser Death Lawsuit to Court

RE: Darden Family Lawsuit


Dear Councilwoman Gyna Bivens,


I read in the newspaper where the Darden family is suing the City and the Fort Worth Police Department over the death of Jermaine. I also saw the horrific footage of the police raid that led to his death.


As you know, I spoke on behalf of the Darden family before the city council, and you were gracious enough to meet with me and Angela Tyson, the sister of Jermaine. She expressed to you her family’s grievance and hardships of his death. And, you also know that she and I met with Chief Jeff Halstead.


Frankly speaking, I do not know if there was anything that could have been done to prevent this lawsuit. But I do wish to remind you also, as a matter of record, of my extensive correspondence with the former chief about the use of force and excessive tasering. My correspondence led to the Chief going to TASER International, and convincing the company to modify its taser design, because we found in the tasering death of Michael Jacobs Jr that the continuous discharge of 50,000 volts of electricity to the body will indeed kill a person, contrary to the company’s previous non-lethal claim.


The City should have learned from the $2 million settlement with the Jacobs family that tasers can become excessive force, if it exceeds the 5-second safety shutoff that was built in. And, there are only rare exceptions where an officer is allowed to redeploy beyond that limit.


After reading the police report and seeing the body camera videos, it is evident that the officer fired his taser into Darden body on two occasions, which meant that he overrode the shutoff. Coupled with that fact, this just so happened to be the very same officer who had turned his body camera off before the raid, while the other four officers kept recording their involvement.


The shutoff and body cameras were created, designed and intended to be safeguards against excessive force, whether intentional or accidental. To exceed those constraints is the very definition of “excessive”.


I also noted that the cause of death in Jermaine Darden’s case was attributed to cardiac arrest and “application of restraint” by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, instead of electrocution from tasing. Historically, medical examiners avoid attributing the cause of death to tasers, because TASER International has sued every ME who has, and the company has won every case.


But when I look at the video again, I cannot determine if death was caused by taser of chokehold, the same technique that killed Eric Garner in New York. We see that Darden was obese and asthmatic, and we hear people in the house screaming that the man could not breathe. Again, like Eric Garner’s I CAN’T BREATHE plead.


But the most unnerving thing about the body cam tapes was that this was not a drug house, but the home of a poor family, with no lavish amount of money, no drugs, and no alcohol strewn about in front of small children. The man that the officers sought, Jermaine Darden, was sickly and disabled, and on a ventilator, when the officers battered through the door in SWAT gear. It was physically impossible for Darden to comply to roll over on his stomach. That would be like asking a man to suffocate himself. The human body would not allow it, but the officer’s knee in the back forced him into this fatal position.


Of course, it is too late to fix the unfixable and rectify mistakes. And I am sure Jeff Halstead will attest to those mistakes, especially the negligence of having a comprehensive policy to govern the use of policy body cameras.


But let me remind you that the Obama administration chose Fort Worth as a test site for community policing, based upon the Fort Worth Police Officers Association endorsement of the use of body cameras. At issue is how much disclosure constitutes sufficient transparency. The FWPOA wants less, the public wants more. This federal grant may provide a forum whereby we can reach an agreeable medium. But, in the meantime, we have what we have, and the tapes do not lie. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you and other council members to redress this terrible grievance done upon the Darden family.



Eddie Griffin
P. S. The response from the Fort Worth city councilwoman came as expected.
​​Thank you Eddie.  As you are aware, with litigation underway, I have no remarks to offer, but do acknowledge receipt of your email... Gyna M. Bivens, City Council Member, District 5

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What black man holds a steady job for four years?


This rhetorical question was raised by a Ferguson official, insinuating that the presidency of Barack Obama would be short-lived. Though the 2012 election would prove otherwise, that a black man can hold down the job of President for more than four years, it makes me wonder why anyone would say such a thing to begin with. The answer might be found in a stereotypical forgone conclusion.


Black men are incapable of holding down a steady job. Everybody should know that, right? Maybe this hypothetical situation can explain.


HYPOTHESIS: If the boss were an alumnus of Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and he had the discretionary power to hire, fire, and promote, because the Right to Work laws allows him to do business without being unimpeded by the federal overreach of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, a black man would have no guarantee of a job. The At-Will doctrine means that he can be terminated at any time, for any reason or no reason at all. And everybody knows, from recent news reports, that the above fraternity on OU’s campus disfavors blacks, right?


Now if a black man were tardy for work because he was targeted by the Ferguson police, stopped repeatedly, removed from his car, searched, and cited, wouldn’t his work record suffer? Of course, even the detaining officer would know that.


And suppose every time he gets a paycheck, he has to pay blood money to the municipal courts in Ferguson, Missouri for traffic fines and fees. If the citations pile up unpaid, he would be arrested and probably lose his job, another fact not lost on court officials. Now suppose again that the judge is also an alumnus of Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, with the same racial sentiments shared on videotape. What chance does a black man have in holding down a steady job for more than four years?


ANALSYS: Although we may not find this exact scenario in any given situation, the general features of its elements can be found in today’s headlines. Putting forth this hypothesis makes it sound like an overt conspiracy against black people. And everybody knows that is not true, right?


But that is how subtle racism works, and also why someone could snidely remark with confidence: “What black man holds a steady job for four years?” Overall, it does not look like racism, just a simple case of racial bigotry, smattered here and there, but nothing conspiratorial. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity students just look like the average Joe college kid saying and doing some stupid things, like college kids do. But the frightening reality is that Old Joe will grow up to become tomorrow’s captain of industry, a judge sitting on the bench, or a police officer patrolling the streets. And, according to this fraternity’s current attributes, these kids will become like those already in power, insofar as “the apple does not fall too far from the tree”.


Why are the parents of these college kids not outraged? Why aren’t they condemning their children as hoodlums and thugs? And who is going to say these wayward kids are the product of poor parenting and a troubled childhood? It’s not their fault, like father, like son.


No, it is not simply a matter of double standard. College kids don’t make this stuff up out of the sky blue. It is a tradition handed down, from generation to generation, and taken as a given. They are taught this way, that black men are lazy and cannot hold down a steady job. The empirical proof of their inferiority is their high unemployment numbers. They are taught that the employment rate is an unbiased operation of the job market, rather than a factor of who does the hiring, firing, and promoting. No, to see it this way would be to recognize their privileged status, as opposed to their merits.


They do not see justice meted out in partial ways. The same drunken revelling that they and their peers engage in, as part of their rite of passage, for which they receive only a slap on the wrist, is turned upside down when the same behaviour is observed by African-American youth of the same age.


Racism is more than simply racial bigotry using the N-word. It is about power and privilege. The singing and chanting of the videotaped OU students is merely an outward expression of jubilation celebrating the reign of white supremacy, as evidence by the use of the racist slur. This is nothing new, and neither am I overly appalled at it, because I have seen it before, and every day of my life since.


EXPRERIENCE: In 1966, some Zeta Tau Alpha sorority pledgees on the campus of Arlington State College painted themselves up in blackface and celebrated the tradition of Old South Week. The men dressed up in their gray Confederate regalia, hung nooses around the necks of their blackface school pals, and paraded them around campus on leashes. It was an innocuous mockery of the Emancipation and an affront to black students on campus.


In the fourth year of desegregation, we took on Johnny Reb and his Confederate tradition, in a battle to Drive Old Dixie Down. The first referendum to abolish the Rebel theme failed in May 1965 by an overwhelming majority vote of the student body.


Only two months earlier, Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed in Selma, Alabama for leading a voter registration drive. Other than the University of Alabama where Governor George Wallace had vowed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever”, Arlington State was the only other campus where the Confederate flag flew at the top of the staff.


The first march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, spurred by the martyrdom of Jimmie Lee, culminated on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. The second march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began on March 9, but was prevented from completion by a federal injunction. The third march reached the Alabama State Capitol on March 25. But the victory was short lived because the same day, civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo was murdered on the back roads of Alabama. And later, on August 20, 1965, Jonathan Daniel was martyred in Hayneville, Alabama.


On August 11, 1965, the Watts riot broke out in Los Angeles, California, after a racially profiled traffic stop. The Watts riot was dubbed Alabama on Avalon, probably because Police Chief William Parker described the protesters as being like “monkeys in a zoo.”


In October 1965, a group of 8 or 9 black students staged a demonstration around the flagpole on ASC campus, supported by 15-20 white students and one college professor. Political Science professor Dr. Alan Saxe boldly removed the Confederate battle flag from its pole. In so doing, white students became infuriated and want to turn to violence. There were counter-demonstrations in the small town of Arlington, Texas.


After a series of student referendums, on September 1, 1965, Arlington State College became a part of the University of Texas System and by 1967 the school’s name changed to the University of Texas at Arlington. In 1968, almost three years after the first protest, alas, the Student Congress decided to remove the Confederate flag from the student center.


CONCLUSION: The 50th anniversary of the Selma march and the recent events of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma bring us full circle back to where we began, without so much as even touching the underlying issue of racism. Yet, we see it alive in brief glimpses of clean-cut college kids singing and chanting racial slurs on a bus. We see it in recent emails of Ferguson officials and discriminatory law enforcement against minorities in cities across the country, and disparities in employment.


Then someone has the gall to say “race has nothing to do with it”, while someone else has the audacity to ask “What black man holds a steady job for four years?”


But anger waxes old. And even if it were possible to get incensed again after 50 years non-stop, the same people in denial would accuse a black man like me of being a racist, although I am in control of nothing but my being.