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Marissa Alexander’s Plight; State Attorney’s Egregious Agenda

17 Oct

marissa alexanderFirstly, I’m embarrassed that it has taken me this long to blog about the plight of Marissa Alexander, but I hope you are following this case. It is, sadly, yet another shameful “WTF?!” moment of institutionalized racial bias in the Florida criminal justice system–my home state.

This time, the victim isn’t a young black male shot dead by a prejudice cop, but rather a victim of domestic violence who’d recently given birth. A black mother who fired a warning shot in an effort to get her abusive husband out of their home. Had she killed him, she’d likely have gotten off thanks to the controversial Stand Your Ground law (read: all too convenient loophole for bigots acting out their ethnic cleansing fantasies). However, her intention was not to kill, but to save a life—her own and/or her husbands.

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey isn’t about that life though. After Alexander refused to accept a guilty plea bargain, maintaining her innocence, Corey successfully prosecuted the victim, and slapped her in the face with a 20-year prison sentence. For black people in Florida reading behind the lines, her message to them appears to be clearly “kill or be killed— or waste away in a prison.” National outcry and protests helped overturn Alexander’s 2012 conviction in September of 2013, although it was officially reported as a case of “jury misinformation.” You’d think the overzealous State Attorney would drop the case after all the national backlash; after all, Alexander is a survivor of domestic violence who was defending herself and no one was hurt.  But nah. Now, a new trial is underway and Ms. Corey is pushing for a 60-year sentence! What’s her agenda here?

Daily Kos reported today that five women have stepped forward as witnesses and victims of Marissa Alexander’s husband’s history of domestic violence. Their show of support will hopefully be the nail in the coffin of this charade of justice, but we will have to stay tuned and stay vigilant.

I echo the thoughts of Daily Kos writer Leslie Salzillo here, and hope you follow her keen reporting on this trial as she’s been a diligent watchdog from the beginning:

“I also hope to see a renewed national discourse, not only about victims of domestic violence, but also about those who survive the abuse defending themselves, and are then prosecuted. Many victims of domestic abuse are taken from their children, incarcerated, and left to rot in prison.”

Read more details of this case here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/17/1337149/-5-More-Women-Accuse-Marissa-Alexander-s-Abusive-Husband-Of-Extreme-Brutality

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Missouri teen shot by police was two days away from starting college

12 Aug

Michael BrownOur hearts go out to Michael Brown’s family, community, and those of us whose souls are broken yet again. We must put our foots on the necks of our government to end these tired consequences of unchecked hate, racial bias, and homicidedly racist unfit cops (read: decidedly prone to homicide when it comes to black men) #WhatWouldTheDashCamSay

(CNN) — Monday was supposed to be Michael Brown’s first day at technical college. Instead, his parents were planning his funeral.

The 18-year-old was shot by a police officer in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday, sparking a federal civil rights inquiry, local protests and national debate.

One side says the African-American teenager was surrendering, his hands in the air to show he was unarmed, when the officer opened fire. Authorities counter that Brown had attacked the officer in his car and tried to take his gun.

His parents and their lawyer say they don’t believe the police account of what happened. They describe Brown as someone who steered clear of violence.

“He was funny, silly. He would make you laugh. Any problems that were going on or any situation, there wasn’t nothing he couldn’t solve. He’d bring people back together,” his father, Michael Brown Sr., told reporters.

Family members nicknamed him the “gentle giant.”

Read more on CNN.com Continue reading

The Central Park Five: Compensation Demanded For Unjustified Imprisonment

1 Feb
Central Park Five
Hello readers!
I encourage you all to go see the documentary The Central Park Five (click to see trailer).  After the viewing I came home heartbroken and angry but decided to channel that anger into action.

I just signed the petition “Mayor Bloomberg: Compensate the Central Park 5 for the unjustified imprisonment.” on Change.org.

It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:

http://www.change.org/petitions/mayor-bloomberg-compensate-the-central-park-5-for-the-unjustified-imprisonment

Thank you,
Taffi Woolward

Principal, TW Advisory
MBA Candidate, NYU Stern Class of 2013
President, SCorp (Stern Student Government)

If someone’s music is too loud, Florida law says ‘kill them’??

28 Nov

FCN via NY Daily News

Florida man shoots and kills 17-year-old teen after argument over loud music at gas station

Michael Dunn, 45, shot and killed teen 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville on Friday, cops said. The shooting happened after an argument over loud music at a gas station. His lawyer said he acted in self-defense, drawing comparisons to the Trayvon Martin case. I really hope that Floridians are actively campaigning against the “stand your ground” law….it puts the burden of proof on the DEAD party….so all you have to do is say you felt threatened (whether they had a weapon or not) and you may be given legal sanction to execute someone in cold blood.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-shoots-teen-loud-music-article-1.1209345#ixzz2DXueq0R5

 

Spotlight: NYPD’s Racially Biased “Stop & Frisk” Program

21 May

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

Last week, Federal District Court judge  Shira A. Scheindlin issued a ruling fiercely criticizing the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics. In a landmark move long awaited by opponents of NYPD’s historically racially-skewed Stop & Frisk program, Judge Scheindlin elevated complaints of racism against the departments tactics to “class action status.”  As noted by NY Times blogger Al Baker, this move “provides possible legal recourse for hundreds of thousands of people who have been caught up in the department’s increasingly vigorous stop-and-frisk practice” which unjustly criminalizes blacks and Latinos, the overwhelming majority of which have done nothing wrong.

In response, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly unveiled new measures on Thursday intended to reduce the frequency of illegitimate stops. Read more about his efforts here:

Soledad O’Brien’s ‘Beyond Trayvon’ CNN Special Hits At The Core Of Martin Case

31 Mar

We love Soledad. This was a very smart dissection of an all too familiar deadly case of American bigotry.

Trayvon Martin

After almost two weeks as a national news story, the Trayvon Martin case has elevated many tempers and flared up more than a few political wars– so yesterday’s Beyond Trayvon special on CNN, hosted by Soledad O’Brien, was a welcome change of pace to the story. Rather than the brief and punchy 5-minute debates on other networks over the story or its politicization, or the extended humiliations of weak witnesses and lawyers (and sometimes empty chairs) that characterized the week, O’Brien and her panel took an hour to debate the cultural impact of every detail, the place the story has in our national historical narrative, and what exactly led so many to care so deeply about the Florida teen and the fate of his shooter.

See more here at Mediaite.com.

Welcome to ColorofLaw.Org

29 Mar

Police are the entry point, the gate keepers, of the criminal justice system. They make discretionary decisions everyday about who is likely to commit a crime and who should be targeted by the criminal justice system; about who should be stopped, questioned, searched and arrested. These decisions are made on the basis of individual police officers life experiences—their training, their instincts, their prejudices and biases. And all too often, they are decisions informed by race. 

Maya Harris, Former Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California

Why is police brutality still such a hot topic? Are black men specifically targeted by the criminal justice system? Why should you care? What is the truth and what is fiction? And what are communities doing to change the status quo? This website aims to shed light on these questions. We also intend to provide resources to those who need assistance in fighting cases of racially biased excessive policing that affects their families and communities.

  • From 1995 to 2000, there were almost 10,000 cases of police use of excessive force reported in the U.S.; Black Americans made up 47.5% of them
  • 1 out of every 9 Black men aged 20-34 is currently serving time behind bars. Nationwide, 1 out of every 100 adults is currently serving time.
  • The National Urban League‘s 2005 study found that the average Black male convicted of aggravated assault serves 48 months in prison, one-third longer than a comparable white man.

Statistics never lie.  Twisted, turned and spun as they often are, the simple truths they represent will ultimately leap up at us from their pages (or computer screens) and cry out for our attention.  These numbers scream at us that true “equality,” in its myriad of forms (social, economic, judicial, legislative, political, etc), is not yet a true reality for Blacks and other minorities living in the US.

Battles we’ve won (led by the Harriet Tubman’s of our nations slavery era to President Barack Obama) have given hope. But recent unnatural and undeserved deaths in the national spotlight — the murder of Trayvon Martin, the death of Anna Brown, the shooting death of unarmed driver Travis McNeil and six other African-American men shot by Hispanic police officers in Miami in 2011 , the deaths of Oscar Grant Sean Bell and police officer Omar Edwards — as well as the racist practices that have led to targeting, assaulting, arresting, excessive discriminatory charges, false convictions, and wrongful imprisonment brought against black men and boys like the Jena 6 and countless others across the U.S. — all support a deeply disturbing fact: our nation is still halfheartedly fighting a civil war for racial equality. And all too often, the critical battles in this war are fought on the grounds of police brutality and racial bias in the criminal justice system.

I was born in Miami, FL, only a couple of years following the infamous McDuffie “Race” Riot which took place there in 1980. My uncle, Clarence Page Jr., was shot and killed, unarmed, by a police officer’s bullets when I was three months old. My father is a retired police Captain who served with the City of Miami for 23 years. Hence, my relationship with the criminal justice system has always been complex.  I have met and loved many wonderful men and women who happened to be law enforcement officers. However, my family also suffered a senseless loss at the hands of that very community. As such, I join tens of thousands of nieces, nephews, daughters, wives, fathers and mothers, like me, who have asked “what went wrong?” at the oft times deadly intersection of race, class and authority.

We cannot afford to sit by silently while this nation continues its largely unchecked oppression of people of color.  It’s a degradation to the moral fiber, prosperity, spirit and beauty of this country. Whether you live in a small town in Southern Mississippi, or a low-income housing project in Brooklyn, you have as much right to life, freedom, respect, lawful policing and opportunities as anyone else.  And if you have any doubts about this, or your ability to stand-up and defend these rights, simply browse the pages of our work-in-progress site and empower yourself with the resources we have provided.

We look forward to connecting with you,

Noelle & The Team at ColorofLaw.org