O.J. Simpson: guilty of stupidity

Standard

Hat Tip: By Linda Deutsch, Associated Press

Las Vegas, NV – O.J. Simpson, who went from American sports idol to celebrity-in-exile after he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and a friend, was found guilty Friday of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The 61-year-old former football star could spend the rest of his life in prison after he is sentenced Dec. 5.

A weary and somber Simpson released a heavy sigh as the charges were read in rapid fire by the clerk in Clark County District Court. He was immediately taken into custody.

The Hall of Fame football star was found guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering up five men a year ago and storming into a room at hotel-casino, where the group seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one of them said he brought a gun at Simpson’s request.

Simpson’s co-defendant, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, also was found guilty on all charges and taken into custody.

Simpson showed little emotion as officers handcuffed him and walked him out of the courtroom.

His sister, Carmelita Durio, sobbed behind him in the arms of Simpson’s friend, Tom Scotto. As spectators left the courtroom, Durio collapsed and paramedics were called, according to court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer.

The jurors made no eye contact with the defendants as the entered and each of them answered firmly when asked if “this was their individual verdict.”

Judge Jackie Glass made no comment other than to thank the jury for its service and to deny motions for the defendants to be released on bail.

She refused to give the lawyers extended time to file a motion for new trial, which under Nevada law must be filed within seven days.

The attorneys said they needed time to submit a voluminous record, but she rejected that.

“I’ve sat through the trial,” Glass said. “If you want a motion for new trial, send me something.”

The verdict came 13 years after Simpson was cleared of murder in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century.

From the beginning, Simpson and lawyers argued the incident in Las Vegas was not a robbery; instead, they said, he was trying to reclaim mementos that had been stolen from him. He said he did not ask anyone to bring a gun and did not see any guns.

The defense portrayed Simpson as a victim of shady characters who wanted to make a buck off his famous name, and police officers who saw his arrest as an opportunity to “get” him and avenge his acquittal.

Prosecutors said Simpson’s ownership of the memorabilia was irrelevant; it was still a crime to try to take things by force.

“When they went into that room and forced the victims to the far side of the room, pulling out guns and yelling, `Don’t let anybody out of here!’ — six very large people detaining these two victims in the room with the intent to take property through force or violence from them — that’s kidnapping,” prosecutor David Roger said.

Kidnapping is punishable by five years to life in prison. Armed robbery carries a mandatory sentence of at least two years behind bars, and could bring as much as 30 years.

Simpson, who now lives in Miami, did not testify, but was heard on a recording of the confrontation, screaming that the dealers had stolen his property.

“Don’t let nobody out of this room,” he declared and told the other men to scoop up his items, which included a photo of Simpson with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Four other men initially charged in the case struck plea bargains that saved them from potential prison sentences in return for their testimony. Some of them had criminal records or were compromised in some way. One, for example, was an alleged pimp who testified he had a revelation from God telling him to take a plea bargain.

Memorabilia dealer Thomas Riccio, who arranged and secretly recorded the confrontation in the hotel room, said he netted $210,000 on the tapes from the media. He received immunity, and his recordings became the heart of the prosecution case.

Similarly, minutes after the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation, one of the alleged victims, sports-memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley, was calling news outlets, and the other, Bruce Fromong, spoke of getting “big money” from the incident.

Simpson’s past haunted the case. Las Vegas police officers were heard in the recordings chuckling over Simpson’s misfortune and crowing that if Los Angeles couldn’t “get” him, they would. And the judge told jurors they had to put aside Simpson’s earlier case.

Simpson’s lawyers also expressed fears during jury selection that people who believed he got away with murder a decade ago might see this case as a chance to right a wrong.

As a result, an usually large pool of 500 potential jurors was called, and they were given a 26-page questionnaire. Half were almost instantly eliminated after expressing strong feelings that he should have been convicted of murder.

 

Officers in Sean Bell case acquitted

Standard

Hat Tip: By Michael Wilson, NY Times

Three detectives were found not guilty Friday on all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens, in November 2006. The verdict prompted calls for calm from the mayor, angry promises of protests by those speaking for the Bell family and expressions of relief by the detectives.

Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 bullets the night of the shooting and faced manslaughter charges, said Justice Arthur J. Cooperman had made a “fair and just decision.”

Justice Cooperman delivered the verdict in State Supreme Court at 9 a.m. Giving his reasoning, he said many of the prosecution’s witnesses, including Mr. Bell’s friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. “At times, the testimony of those witnesses just didn’t make sense,” the judge said.

Several supporters of Mr. Bell stormed out of the courtroom, and a few small scuffles followed outside the courthouse. By midafternoon, there were no suggestions of any broader unrest around the city. Mr. Bell’s family and fiancée left without making any comments and drove to visit his grave at the Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park in Port Washington.

The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom. Mr. Bell’s family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, “Did he just say, ‘Not guilty?’ ” Detective Oliver and the two other defendants, Detectives Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper, were escorted out a side doorway as court adjourned.

The acquittals do not necessarily mean the officers’ legal battles are over. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the three men could still face disciplinary action from the Police Department, but that he had been asked to wait on any internal measures until the United States attorney’s office determines whether or not it would pursue federal charges against them.

The seven-week trial, which ended on April 14, was heard by Justice Cooperman after the defendants waived their right to a jury, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off.

Before rendering his verdict, Justice Cooperman ran through a narrative of the chilly November evening when Mr. Bell died, and concluded “the police response with respect to each defendant was not found to be criminal.”

“The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that each defendant was not justified in shooting, the judge said, quickly adding that the men were not guilty of all of the eight counts, five felonies and three misdemeanors against them.

Roughly 30 court officers stood by, around the courtroom and in the aisles. At one point as he read, Justice Cooperman paused to insist that a crying baby be taken from the courtroom. Immediately a young woman who appeared to be among the Bell contingent got up and left with a baby.

The Rev. Al Sharpton accompanied Bell family members to the cemetery, and said later that they will join him on Saturday at a rally protesting the verdict. He said he had spoken to the governor and the mayor, and that he believed a federal civil rights prosecution of the officers would be appropriate.

“This verdict is one round down, but the fight is far from over,” Mr. Sharpton said.

He promised protests “to demonstrate to the federal government that New Yorkers will not take this abortion of justice lying down.” He even raised the possibility of taking protests directly to Justice Cooperman’s home.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called for calm. “There are no winners in a trial like this,” he said. “An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father and a mother and a father lost their son.”

The mayor continued: “Judge Cooperman’s responsibility, however, was to decide the case based on the evidence presented in the courtroom. America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority.”

He added: “There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse — those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation. We don’t expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it.”

A subdued Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, whose office prosecuted the case, said at a news conference: “Judge Cooperman discharged his responsibilities fairly and consciously under the law. I accept his verdict, and I urge all fair-minded individuals in this city to do the same.”

Commissioner Kelly, speaking in Brooklyn, would not comment on the verdict itself. But he did say that while there were no reports of unrest in response to the acquittals, the Police Department was ready should it occur.

“We have prepared, we have done some drills and some practice with appropriate units and personnel if there is any violence, but again, we don’t anticipate violence,” Mr. Kelly said. “There have been no problems. Obviously there will be some people who are disappointed with the verdict. We understand that.”

Detectives Isnora and Oliver had faced the most charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison; felony assault, first and second degree; and a misdemeanor, reckless endangerment, with a possible one-year sentence. Detective Oliver also faced a second count of first-degree assault. Detective Cooper was charged only with two counts of reckless endangerment.

All three of the detectives, none of whom took the stand during the trial, spoke at the offices of their union on Friday afternoon. “I’ve just started my life back,” Detective Cooper said.

During the 26 days of testimony, the prosecution sought to show, with an array of 50 witnesses, that the shooting was the act of a frightened group of disorganized police officers who began their shift that night hoping to arrest a prostitute or two and, in suspecting Mr. Bell and his friends of possessing a gun, quickly got in over their heads.

“We ask police to risk their lives to protect ours,” said an assistant district attorney, Charles A. Testagrossa, in his closing arguments. “Not to risk our lives to protect their own.”

The defense, through weeks of often heated cross-examinations, their own witnesses and the words of the detectives themselves, portrayed the shooting as the tragic end to a nonetheless justified confrontation, with Detective Isnora having what it called solid reasons to believe he was the only thing standing between Mr. Bell’s car and a drive-by shooting around the corner.

Several witnesses testified that they heard talk of guns in an argument between Mr. Bell and a stranger, Fabio Coicou, outside Kalua, an argument, the defense claimed, that was fueled by bravado and Mr. Bell’s intoxicated state. Defense lawyers pointed their fingers at Mr. Guzman, who, they said, in shouting for Mr. Bell to drive away when Detective Isnora approached, may have instigated his death.

Today’s Political Developments

Standard

Following the surprise announcement of Senator Trent Lott’s resignation, his successor has been revealed. After much speculation, most of it ludicrous, such as the appointment of an African American, Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour named Congressman Roger Wicker, a north Mississippi Republican, to Trent Lott’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. The White Citizens Council is presumably pleased.

Although the presence of racial discrimination and an undying fealty to the principles of the confederacy and white supremacy remain unabated, Congressman Wicker, in the face of unrefutable evidence that it is still needed, voted to gut the re-extension of the Voting Rights Act of 2006 by voting for a series of GOP amendments designed to make the act unconstitutional and unenforceable.

This follows the time honored tradition of southern white politicians of both parties paying lip service to the cause of voting rights and frustrating its implementation at every opportunity. The African American citizens of Kilmichael, Mississippi, in 2oo1, were treated to disgusting display of segregationist shit when city elections were postponed on the eve of the election, in violation of state and federal law, because it appeared to white city fathers that African American candidates were going to win.

There is no bigoted southern stereotype that Mississippi has not earned. According to the Leadership Council for Civil Rights, “The entire state of Mississippi is required to submit all voting changes to the Department of Justice (DOJ) before enacting them because the state for so long consistently and aggressively denied blacks the right to vote. Since 1969, DOJ has objected 169 times to voting changes in Mississippi–112 of which occurred after the 1982 reauthorization.”

“Many of DOJ’s objections involved efforts to dilute minority voting strength, mostly by creating majority-white districts or changing election procedures to favor white candidates. Because of repeated DOJ objections to these redistricting plans, Mississippi has had at least one black representative in Congress since 1986.”

“McDuff concludes that Mississippi has a long way to go before voters in black-white elections cast their vote based on non-racial factors. For example, in the 2003 State Treasurer election Gary Anderson, the director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, lost the election with 47 percent of the vote to a 29-year-old white candidate with no experience beyond working in a bank. Of the 57 majority-white counties, Anderson won only 18 and lost 39.”

“In addition, federal observers have been sent to monitor Mississippi elections on 250 separate occasions since the 1982 reauthorization, the most for any state. Mississippi accounts for 40 percent of the overall elections to which federal observers have been sent since 1982.”


He supported every questionable judicial nomination put forward by the Bush Administration, for example, Judge Charles Pickering, a long time GOP activist opposed unanimously by the Congressional Black Caucus. According to Roger Wicker, “While I was in college, Charles Pickering was one of the bright new faces in the
Mississippi Republican Party, Wicker said. “He’s been so progressive and so courageous in the area of equal rights for all that it is so unfortunate and so unfair that he’s been accused of being otherwise.”


But Pickering, according to Salon.com, “Instead of “trying to
establish better race relations” in the 1960s, Pickering worked to support segregation, attack civil rights advocates who sought to end Jim Crow, and back those who opposed national civil rights legislation, above all the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Or, in the words of a public statement he signed in 1967, Pickering wanted to preserve “our southern way of life,” and he bitterly blamed civil rights workers for stirring up “turmoil and racial hatred” in the South.”

 

Back in the day, when Judge Pickering was a politician, state senator and a lawyer in private practice, he teamed up to practice law with a segregationist, former Lt. Governor Carroll Gartin. As I am sure y’all are aware, I have a low tolerance for bullshit and an even lower tolerance for bastards like Pickering and their enbablers that don’t have the courage to tell the world that they still support white supremacy. Having come from Mississippi stock, I am always a bit touchy about their blatant racism.

Also, the New York Times is reporting that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is fixing to cock block Barack Obama or John Edwards should they be successful in knocking the Queen off her throne. This is a significant development. Bloomberg, a billionaire, is prepared to spend a record shattering billion to claim the imperial throne. He made noise earlier in the year that he would forgo a bid should the Queen and Giuliani make it to the finish line. I guess his high profile meeting with Obama some weeks back ain’t go well despite the favorable publicity it generated. The centrist non-partisan smokescreen his operatives and their willing political hacks are putting forth are not credible in the least. Bloomberg is prepared to make Ross Perot look cheap.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Caucuses are Thursday, nobody has a lead and its all just a sophisticated ground war now. The Washington Post catches us up on the tactics of Obama, and the rest of the pack in these closing days. Brotha has as good a shot as any at this point, contrary to my pessimistic assessments earlier in the year and that is an impressive achievement. Lastly, the fourth quarter ends today and I expect to hear some numbers soon from the candidates although I don’t know if we’ll hear anything before caucus day.

Acquiescing to white supremacy by any means necessary

Standard

Dianne FeinsteinThe Battle Flag of the Confederacy

“We declare our rights on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”   -Malcolm X 

Southern Segregationists always reacted to Malcolm X and those of like mind with alarm and repudiation.   In time, they came to understand the utility of the mantra “by any means necessary” and adopted it as their own. Today, Dixie Dianne Feinstein played her self-assigned role to assist her neo-confederate colleagues Trent Lott and Thad Cochran in preserving white supremacy by any means necessary as they pushed through the nomination of their judicial minion, former Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Leslie Southwick, for a lifetime position on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Judge Leslie H. Southwick

In my Dixie Dianne’s Betrayal post, I wrote that she approved a nomination for a judge who makes light of the fact that he ordered the reinstatement of a white female state employee that called a black female co-worker, “a good ole nigger.”  As I’ve said before, there is no circumstance where it is ever acceptable for a white person to call a black person a nigger in freakin’ Mississippi.  Never.    He also concurred with his collegues homophobia by taking away a woman’s child in a child custody case because he objected to her being a lesbian.

Her reasons for this betrayal were less than convincing.   She said yesterday, In my conversations with Judge Southwick, I have gotten a sense of the type of person that I believe him to be. He is not either insensitive or a racist but one who is thoughtful and analytical and a strong believer in the law. As an appellate court judge, he evaluates the specific legal issues of the case before him, not necessarily the veracity of the parties involved as would a trial judge.  

…While I respect the views of my colleagues who oppose this nomination, I also respectfully disagree. I think Judge Southwick made mistakes by concurring in the two opinions in question, but I don’t think those rulings define his views. I don’t believe they outweigh the other factors that suggest Judge Southwick should be confirmed.”

Southwick’s  record in criminal cases reveals a troubling pattern of racist myopia.  According to the Alliance for Justice, “Judge Southwick has participated in numerous cases involving challenges to the racial makeup of a jury under Batson v. Kentucky, in which the United States Supreme Court held that peremptory challenges to jurors cannot be used in a racially discriminatory manner.

 

“In 59 of the 70 Batson cases reviewed for this report, the defendants challenged their convictions on the ground that the prosecution had used peremptory challenges to strike African-American jurors. Judge Southwick, voting with a majority of the Court in every case, voted to uphold the convictions in all but five of these cases.” 

 

“In 10 of these 70 Batson cases, the defendants challenged their convictions on the ground that the prosecution had unfairly prevented them from using their peremptory challenges to exclude white jurors (in one case the juror whom defendant sought to strike was Asian American). Defendants, with Judge Southwick again joining the majority of the Court in every case, lost all ten of these challenges. In the final case, the defendant challenged his conviction on both grounds and lost on both grounds, with Judge Southwick again in the majority.

 

“In other words, Judge Southwick and a majority of the judges on the Court of Appeals routinely rebuffed allegations of prosecutorial racism against African Americans in jury selection while upholding allegations of anti-white discrimination levied against defendants.” 

Mississippi Senators have an unbroken record of white nominations to the Fifth Circuit and they intend to keep it that way.   Since 1985 when they broke the color barrier to nominate an African American to the Federal District Court, they have adhered to a rigid whites only policy for the Court of Appeals.   They’ve nominated women and a judge with a Turkish background but no African Americans.  As a general rule, nobody has to worry about Trent Lott or Thad Cochran sniffing around their law offices looking for federal judicial nominees unless they have a track record of supporting Republicans and a demonstrated hostility to African Americans.  

Dixie Dianne knew all of this and still chose to confirm him.  She knew and opposed all of the previous troglodytes they’ve nominated to fill this spot. She has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the last 14 years and watched as Republicans filibustered President Clinton’s nominees for this same position until the clock ran out and the Supreme Court selected Bush as President.

Another battle in the war movement conservatives have waged to radically remake the federal judiciary was won tonight and it happened because of the acquiescence of the Senate Majority Leader and the rank cowardice of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.   As I said in August, Dixie Dianne’s betrayal has had one fortuitous consequence.  She has provided the Democratic frontrunners in this contest one more opportunity to prove their progressive fealty or (reveal) their politically expedient treachery.  Judge Southwick’s nomination is coming to the Senate floor whether we like it or not. If the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Majority Leader green light a filibuster, it will happen.” 

“Even if they don’t concur, Hillary and Barack have the power to force one.  …Reading an obligatory statement into the record will not do.  Voting against cloture will not do.   Putting up an aggressive fight and making several lengthy statements on the floor and to the media that make it clear that their opposition is not merely for show; and their active and visible participation in floor strategy that kills this nomination, that’s what we must demand.”

It didn’t happen. Hillary and Obama issued obligatory statements of opposition on their respective websites but neither made much effort.  Even former Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden, who killed the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, took a pass.   No matter what test of progressive political fortitude is given, Hillary and Obama will fail it with flying colors.   Hillary and Obama made a big statement today about what they really stand for: getting elected President and acquiescing to white supremacy by any means necessary.  

Mychal Bell back in jail

Standard

 

Hat Tip: Black America’s Web, Associated Press

JENA, La. – (AP) A judge ordered a black teenager back to jail, deciding the fight that put him in the national spotlight violated terms of his probation for a previous conviction, his attorney said.

Mychal Bell, who along with five other black teenagers in the so-called Jena Six case is accused of beating a white classmate, had gone to juvenile court in Jena on Thursday expecting another routine hearing, said Carol Powell Lexing, one of his attorneys.

Instead, state District Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr. sentenced Bell to 18 months in jail on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property, Lexing said.

“We are definitely going to appeal this,” she said. “We’ll continue to fight.”

Bell had been hit with those charges before the Dec. 4 attack on classmate Justin Barker. Details on the previous charges, which were handled in juvenile court, were unclear.

Mauffrey, reached at his home Thursday night, had no comment.

“He’s locked up again,” Marcus Jones said of his 17-year-old son. “No bail has been set or nothing. He’s a young man who’s been thrown in jail again and again, and he just has to take it.”

After the attack on Barker, Bell was originally charged with attempted murder, but the charges were reduced and he was convicted of battery. An appeals court threw that conviction out, saying Bell should not have been tried as an adult on that charge.

Racial tensions began rising in August 2006 in Jena after a black student sat under a tree known as a gathering spot for white students. Three white students later hung nooses from the tree. They were suspended but not prosecuted.

More than 20,000 demonstrators gathered last month in the small central Louisiana town to protest what they perceive as differences in how black and white suspects are treated. The case has drawn the attention of civil rights activists including the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Sharpton reacted swiftly upon learning Bell was back in jail Thursday.

“We feel this was a cruel and unusual punishment and is a revenge by this judge for the Jena Six movement,” said Sharpton, who helped organize the protest held Sept. 20, the day Bell was originally supposed to be sentenced.

Bell’s parents were also ordered to pay all court costs and witness costs, Sharpton said.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Jones said. “I don’t know how we’re going to pay for any of this. I don’t know how we’re going to get through this.”

Bell and the other five defendants have been charged in the attack on Barker, which left him unconscious and bleeding with facial injuries. According to court testimony, he was repeatedly kicked by a group of students at the high school.

Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw were all initially charged — as adults — with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit the same. A sixth defendant was charged in the case as a juvenile.

Bell, who was 16 at the time, was convicted in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime. LaSalle Parish prosecutor Reed Walters reduced the charges just before the trial. Since then, both of those convictions were dismissed and tossed back to juvenile court, where they now are being tried.

Charges against Bailey, 18, Jones, 19, and Shaw, 18, have been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery. Purvis, 18, has not yet been arraigned.

Ain’t No Jury Black Enough

Standard

 

Ain’t No Jury Black Enough

Sung to the tune of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Listen, O.J.
Ain’t no jury black enough (In Las Vegas)
Ain’t no lawyer low enough
Ain’t no legal argument good enough
What you need is, Jesus–Don’t call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far
Don’t call my name
I’ll leave your ass in there
You don’t have to worry

‘Cause O.J. ,
There ain’t no jury black enough (In Las Vegas)
Ain’t no lawyer low enough
Ain’t no legal argument good enough
To get me to do a damn thing for you

Remember the day Johnny Cochran set you free
He told you that you could always count on him
From that day on he made a vow
He’d be there when you need him
Some way,some how, b
ut he dead now

‘Look O.J.,
Ain’t no jury black enough (In Las Vegas)
Ain’t no lawyer low enough
Ain’t no legal argument good enough
No way, no how
Your half ass cover story is a lie
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart
If you ever need a helping hand
Betta call on Jesus
He can do more for your ass than I can

Don’t you know that
There ain’t no jury black enough (In Las Vegas)
Ain’t no lawyer low enough
Ain’t no legal argument good enough
To keep white folks from getting you

Don’t you know that
There ain’t no jury black enough  (In Las Vegas)

A recipe for indifference

Standard

I love cooking shows and the Food Network.  I’ve been bothered by the lack of ethnic diversity on the channel, but I am buoyed by creative and cheerful southern cooks and restaurateurs like Paula Deen.   Miss Paula is probably my favorite. People with her charm and warmth are part of what make living in the south tolerable.   Her recipes are full of rich ingredients and served with love.    It’s more than just cooking for Miss Paula; it’s almost her way of saying thank you to God for the many blessings he’s bestowed, and for the comfort of good food, good friends, and close family.   

Fine dining is a combination of all of those important ingredients and she understands that intuitively.  Like entertaining and fine dining, column writing is an art.  Among the ingredients of good column writing:  a sense of humor, a strong vocabulary, and the ability to tell a story.    George Will, the conservative Washington Post Columnist that also has a gig on ABC’s public affairs program, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” is reputed to be a columnist of legendary prowess.   

He and other conservatives have overplayed the sanctimony in their crocodile tear commentary over the last several years.  We’ve been consistently treated to well coordinated campaigns of right–wing talking points while they’ve been surreptitiously engaged in a long ideological march to remake our courts in their overwhelmingly white, right-wing and indifferent image.   George Will’s latest Sunday column is no different.  However, along with a dash of tasty hypocrisy and indifference, he also adds some special ingredients: fantasy and prevarication. 

Will measured the ingredients in his column to deliberately poison people like me with severe allergies to white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.  Will’s foils this week are liberals, and by extension, Barack Obama.  Obama announced his “opposition” to the Leslie Southwick nomination some time back.  As I’ve said before, he must do a helluva lot more than issue a press release to stop my criticism. He gon’ hafta do some heavy lifting’ instead of going through the motions of opposition as he usually does.  

Anyhoo, Will does a great job of minimizing the racial insensitivity of this nomination and this nominee.  He has the audacity to criticize African American critics of this nomination and dismisses out of hand the fact that only one African American sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and more than 37 percent of Mississippians are African American, Will says, “This “diversity” argument suggests that courts should be considered representative institutions, like legislatures, and that the theory of categorical representation is valid: people of a particular race, ethnicity or gender can be understood and properly represented only by people of that same category.”   

I hate taking mofo’s to school, but I’m forced to in this instance. First, Will’s argument with respect to the courts not being representative institutions, like legislatures, is totally, and completely disingenuous.  We all know that for purposes of ideology, the makeup of the courts are methodically tracked by liberals and conservatives alike and any omission that fails to recognize this constitutes hypocrisy.    

According to the Alliance for Justice,  “Judge Southwick’s views are especially critical because the Fifth Circuit has been subject to extraordinary partisan engineering: during the Clinton administration the Republican Senate blocked two moderate nominees to that court to hold seats open for the next president. For one of the seats, President Clinton first submitted a nominee in mid-1997; for the other he submitted a nominee in early 1999.”   

“Indeed, Judge Southwick’s home state Senator Trent Lott stated about the Senate’s role in confirming Clinton judges: “Do I have any apologies? Only one: I probably moved too many judicial nominations already.” Benefiting from this obstructionism, President Bush exploited the opportunity to appoint deeply conservative judges like Priscilla Owen and Edith Brown Clement to the court.”  

Second, there is the issue of this nominee’s more ominous rulings regarding employment discrimination.  The Richmond v. Mississippi Dep’t of Human Services, case is instructive of Southwick’s views on racial discrimination. Again, the Alliance for Justice, Bonnie Richmond, a social worker for the Mississippi Department of Human Services was fired when, at a meeting that included top agency executives, she used a racial slur, referring to an African American co-worker(who was not present at the meeting) as a “good ole n*****.” The Mississippi Court of Appeals, in a 5-4 decision joined by Judge Southwick, upheld the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board’s decision to reinstate her.   

“The majority found that, taken in context, this slur was an insufficient ground to terminate her employment, because there was no specific rule she violated, because it “was not motivated out of racial hatred or racial animosity directed toward a particular co-worker or toward blacks in general,” and because it did not give rise to workplace problems other than offending the coworker who was called a “n*****.”   

“Two of the dissenters, deeply troubled by the majority’s preoccupation with context and its failure to acknowledge the “inherent offensive [ness]” of the slur, observed: “The … majority opinion seems[s] to suggest that absent evidence of a near race riot, the remark is too inconsequential to serve as a basis of dismissal. Such a view requires a level of myopia inconsistent with facts and reason.”  

This legal analysis fascinates me because it seeks to minimize the power of the most inflammatory racial epithet in the lexicon.  It is disingenuous in the extreme to rule that the Mississippi Department of Human Services had no legal basis for terminating her.  They damn sure did and the fact that everyone in that room was white should speak volumes.  This remark was reported by high-ranking white executives in the agency and they called Bonnie Richmond on her bullshit.  They fired her ass as they shoulda done.   

Southwick, and a majority on the court of Appeals, ruled, in effect, that whites exercising the prerogatives of state power never have the right to use it to defend the rights of African Americans.  Had Bonnie Richmond made a covert anti-Semitic remark, or had the shoe been on the other foot, and a black used a racial epithet toward a white co-worker, we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion. George Will consciously participates in the misidentification of the victim in this case as a man, which so far has turned up twice, in both the Post and the Wall Street Journal. I suppose calling a woman a N***** behind her back is politically less palatable and mean spirited.   

The post-hearing report by the Alliance for Justice reveals, “In response to a written question posed by Senator Durbin (D-IL), Judge Southwick indicated that he could not find a single non-unanimous case, of the more than 7000 opinions that he wrote or joined, in which he voted in favor of a civil rights plaintiff or wrote a dissent on behalf of a plaintiff.”  

What we have here, in the selection of judges like Southwick, and the failed nominations of Michael Wallace and Charles Pickering for the same seat, is a continuation of the patterns of discriminatory intent and the conscious and deliberate support of white supremacy that Mississippi Senators have engaged in from time immemorial.   

Widener University Law Professor Mary Ellen Maatman, in a stunning article, “Speaking Truth to Memory: Lawyers and resistance to the end of white supremacy,” wrote, “The stark truth is more complicated and unpleasant. Lawyers built the systems of disfranchisement and segregation that rendered Deep South African Americans second-class citizens. When those systems were threatened, lawyers fought to sustain them. From the White primary’s end in 1944 until the overturn of miscegenation laws in 1967, a cadre of elite Deep South lawyers and judges used a remarkably consistent rhetoric to defend White Supremacy by opposing Black suffrage, the Fair Deal, desegregation, federal civil rights legislation, and legalization of interracial marriage.” 

 “For these lawyers, opposition to legally mandated racial equality arose from their knowledge that White Supremacy in the Deep South depended on the twin pillars of de jure disfranchisement and segregation. This understanding, coupled with an undying belief in White Supremacy’s tenets, drove their work before and after they led massive resistance to Brown. Indeed, their resistance to Brown was but one part of a long legal campaign for restoration of the White Supremacy and embedment of supremacist assumptions in “the law of the land.” In short, they wanted to ensure that African American “inferiority”would be inscribed in American “hearts and minds”—and the law—“in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”  

Maatman argues that this bitter history of opposition should be viewed as a whole.  In this way, Judge Southwick’s unwillingness to see discrimination in the jury selection of black defendants, his willingness to punish black defendants for striking hostile white jurors for cause, and his mistreatment of a gay parent in a child custody case-makes perfect sense.  Mississippi’s judiciary clearly has different strokes for different folks and the arbitrary and capricious star-chamber quality of its administration of justice merit the strictest scrutiny.    

Instead of acknowledging the truth, Will stoops to call out Obama for his tepid opposition as if he’s an errant child, and defends the elevation of white supremacy and homophobia to constitutional legal principles fit to defend “Why does Obama think Southwick should have ruled differently in the two Mississippi cases? Because he thinks Southwick applied the law inappropriately? Or because he does not like the result? Obama is seeking the office from which federal judges are nominated.  Southwick explained himself, in writings and testimony to the Senate.  Now Obama has explaining to do.”  

Along with Obama’s explanation of his tepid opposition to the Southwick nomination, George Will needs to explain why he continues to stir the pot of racial indifference and homophobia and willingly serves it up to the public as something wholesome.

 

Dixie Dianne’s Betrayal

Standard

Dianne Feinstein The Battle Flag of the Confederacy 

Some Democratic Senators are lackluster, some are unreliable, and some, like Dianne Feinstein, are unpredictable.  Civil Rights groups like People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice were blindsided Thursday when Feinstein voted for another of Trent Lott’s Brooks Brothers suited racists to assume a lifetime appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

People for the American Way, The Alliance for Justice, and The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights can usually be depended upon to bring their A game and effectively rally folk to block bigots of this caliber.  They failed this time. However, the fight isn’t over.  There is the option to mount a filibuster on the floor; the problem is that once nominations are reported out of committee, they become harder to kill.

 

For unfathomable reasons, Dianne Feinstein has made a deal with the Devil and punched the ticket for one of his malevolent minions to serve for life as a federal judge.  For a San Francisco Democrat, there is nothing liberal about cutting deals with a man who reveres segregationists and longs for the good ole days of massive resistance. 

All of this for a judge who makes light of the fact that he ordered the reinstatement of a white female state employee that called a black female co-worker, “a good ole nigger.”  As I’ve said before, there is no circumstance where it is ever acceptable for a white person to call a black person a nigger in freakin’ Mississippi.  Never.  For this betrayal, I shall resurrect the moniker given to her by local Marxists during a dispute over the confederate flag flying at the civic center in San Francisco: Dixie Dianne.

During her tenure as Mayor of San Francisco, the Marxists had the temerity to oppose the flying of the confederate flag because it is a symbol of hate and white supremacy and they cut down the flagpole rather than allow her to have the flag hoisted up again.  

African Americans are a beleaguered but cohesive minority in California and it is time for the progressives in our community to let Dianne know how we feel about her collusion with the enemy.  If you live in California, you can call her Senate Offices at 202 224 2841.  This should be Dixie Dianne’s last term given her advanced age, but if she runs one mo’gin in 2012, somebody should primary her.

Yard Sign Only

 Obama Logo Window Sign (blue)

Dixie Dianne’s betrayal has had one fortuitous consequence.  She has provided the Democratic frontrunners in this contest one more opportunity to prove their progressive fealty or their politically expedient treachery.  Judge Southwick’s nomination is coming to the Senate floor whether we like it or not. If the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Majority Leader green light a filibuster, it will happen.  Even if they don’t concur, Hillary and Barack have the power to force one.  We will see if they oppose this bastard because they have too or because his nomination is an offensive stench in the nostrils of freedom loving people everywhere.

Reading an obligatory statement into the record will not do.  Voting against cloture will not do.   Putting up an aggressive fight and making several lengthy statements on the floor and to the media that make it clear that their opposition is not merely for show; and their active and visible participation in floor strategy that kills this nomination, that’s what we must demand. 

I’ve had family in Mississippi since about 1840.  My mother’s family was enslaved on the Watkins and Dove plantations near Newton and Jasper counties.  This fight is personal for me.  Upon entering Mississippi, one notices the distinct smell of oppression in the air.  It is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced if you weren’t raised in the south.  Just a few days in Mississippi changed me in ways I still can’t explain.  What black people have endured over the course of the state’s history is really mind blowing.  Elevating another instrument and facilitator of that same oppression will not be tolerated.  Enough is enough. 

   

New Orleans Cop acquitted of police brutality in beating of black senior citizen

Standard

Hat Tip: Associated Press, NPR’s News andViews blog. 

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) – A former police officer accused in the videotaped beating of a man in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina was acquitted Tuesday by a judge who heard the case without a jury.

“I didn’t even find this a close call,” said District Judge Frank Marullo.

Robert Evangelist, 37, had been charged with beating Robert Davis, 66, during an arrest videotaped by an Associated Press Television News crew the night of October 8, 2005, about six weeks after Katrina.

Evangelist, who elected to have his case heard by Marullo without a jury, pleaded not guilty to second-degree battery and false imprisonment. Marullo acquitted him of both counts.

Marullo watched videotapes of the beating and its aftermath and he noted that Davis could be seen struggling on the tape for several minutes.

“This event could have ended at any time if the man had put his hands behind his back,” the judge said.

Evangelist and Lance Schilling were fired after being accused of the beating. Schilling killed himself June 10.

A third officer, Stuart Smith, was accused of a misdemeanor charge of simple battery against Associated Press producer Richard Matthews. Marullo threw out that charge because prosecutors improperly used a statement he made to police, said Smith’s attorney, Eric Hessler.

Smith served a 120-day suspension and remains on the force.

The officers said Davis, who had returned to New Orleans to check his property, started a confrontation after they stopped him on suspicion of being drunk. Davis, who was booked with public intoxication but never charged, said he hadn’t been drinking.

Davis testified Tuesday that he was headed to buy cigarettes in the French Quarter when he asked a police officer what time a curfew took effect that night. Before the officer could answer, a different officer cut him off, Davis said.

“Those were ignorant, unprofessional and rude officers,” Davis recalled saying as he walked away from the policemen.

Moments later, an officer grabbed him from behind, threw him against a wall and punched his face, Davis testified. His assailant uttered a racial epithet during the attack, he said.

“I don’t remember very much after that point,” Davis said.

Franz Zibilich, one of Evangelist’s attorneys, said his client “acted appropriately and well within police standards.”

Dr. Frances Smith, who treated Davis at an emergency room, testified that he suffered facial fractures. Davis said he still feels lingering physical effects from the attack.

I suppose Lance Shilling killed himself because he knew that some Klansman on the bench would acquit him.

Roberts court overturns Brown v. Board of Education

Standard

 

The racial reactionaries on the Roberts Court, the ones neither Hillary or Obama could be bothered to aggressively filibuster, have overturned Brown V. Board of Education without tacitly acknowledging that fact.  And have, once again, used the equal protection clause of the constitution, placed there to protect the rights of black folk, to defend white privilege.

The opinion and dissents are here.

The U.S. Senate, in another development, also killed Immigration reform for the year.

New York City pays family of Timothy Stansbury $2million

Standard

Timothy Stansbury, Jr

HAT TIP: Herald Tribune NEW YORK: The city has agreed to pay $2 million (€1.48 million) to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of an unarmed teenager who was shot by police while atop a housing project.

The death of 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury in 2004 “was a tragedy, and we offer our condolences to the family,” city lawyer Ken Sasmor said Wednesday. “We believe the settlement is in the best interests of all parties and hope it will provide some small measure of comfort.”

A telephone call to the family’s attorney was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The shooting occurred while Officer Richard Neri and his partner were patrolling atop a housing project in Brooklyn. Stansbury and two friends had decided to use a roof as a shortcut to another building.

Neri’s partner pulled open a rooftop door so that Neri, his gun drawn, could peer inside for any drug suspects, police said. Stansbury startled the officers by appearing at the door and moving toward Neri, who responded with one shot he claimed he fired by accident.

Though Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the shooting appeared to be unjustified, a grand jury declined to indict Neri.

Kelly later suspended Neri for 30 days without pay and permanently stripped him of his weapon. The victim’s mother said the 30-day suspension was too light a punishment.

Shaquanda Cotton Released!!!!!!

Standard

241004625

Hat Tip: Vev Speaks, Chicago Tribune 

By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent

March 31, 2007

HOUSTON — Shaquanda Cotton, the black teenager in the small east Texas town of Paris whose prison sentence of up to 7 years for shoving a teacher’s aide sparked nationwide controversy, was released Saturday.

Her release, ordered by a special conservator appointed to overhaul the state’s scandal-ridden juvenile prison system, was the first of what could be hundreds as a panel of civil rights leaders begins reviewing the sentences of every youth incarcerated by the Texas Youth Commission to weed out those being held arbitrarily.

“We have no confidence in the system that was in place,” said Jim Hurley, spokesman for the conservator, Jay Kimbrough. “And this case is an example of what we expect to happen if something wrong has been done to youths being held inside that system.”

Cotton, who is 15, had no prior criminal record when she was incarcerated a year ago under an indeterminate sentence that could have lasted until her 21st birthday. Her case rose to national prominence and became the focus of ongoing civil rights protests after a March 12 Tribune story detailed how a 14-year-old white girl convicted of the more serious crime of arson was sentenced to probation by the same judge.

Cotton’s case occurred against a backdrop of persistent allegations of racial discrimination inside the Paris public schools — allegations that are the subject of a continuing probe by the U.S. Department of Education to determine whether black students in the district are disciplined more harshly than whites.

“When I learned about this case, I thought, this just looks so bad and smells so bad it made me hurt,” said state Rep. Harold Dutton, the influential chairman of the Texas Legislature’s juvenile justice committee. “I told [prison officials] I wanted her out of there immediately.”

The superintendent of the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood, Texas, where Shaquanda Cotton is being held, called the girl’s mother, Creola Cotton, Friday afternoon and told her she could come pick up the youth, Creola Cotton said.

But because it is a five-hour drive from Paris to Brownwood, and the weather in the area on Friday was severe, Creola Cotton said she couldn’t reach the prison until Saturday morning.

Later Friday, prison officials, who had not told Shaquanda of her impending release, allowed her to call her mother.

‘She nearly fell on the floor’

“She thought they were bringing her to the office to tell her I was not going to be able to visit this weekend like I was planning because of the bad weather, so she was already crying,” Creola Cotton said. “I said, ‘Oh, I’m still gonna come see you tomorrow. But you’re going to be coming home with me.’ She nearly fell on the floor.”

Officials said Shaquanda Cotton was being released on 60 days’ probation to allow her to access state health and counseling services. But after that, she would be completely free, they said. Creola Cotton said her daughter would not return to the Paris public schools but would pursue her GED at home.

What effect her release might have on the pending legal appeal of the youth’s case was unclear.

Since she has been in prison, Shaquanda Cotton said that she had grown despondent surrounded by other youths who were hardened criminals, and that she had tried to commit suicide. Her sentence, which ultimately was up to the discretion of prison officials, had twice been extended, first because she would not admit her guilt as required by prison regulations and then because she was found with “contraband” in her cell — an extra pair of socks.

Those sentence extensions drew the attention of Kimbrough, who was confirmed by the state Senate on Thursday as conservator of the youth prison system, which has been rocked by a sex scandal over allegations that guards and administrators coerced inmates for sex.

Kimbrough, a former deputy attorney general, said last week that he was convening a special committee to examine the sentences of all 4,700 youths in Texas juvenile prisons to determine how many might have had their sentences unfairly extended by prison authorities — and that Shaquanda Cotton’s was the first case he intended to review.

Prison officials said it was Kimbrough who personally ordered the girl’s release on Friday.

Since the Tribune’s first account of Shaquanda Cotton’s case, her story has been circulated on more than 400 Internet blogs and featured in newspapers and radio and TV reports across the country. Two protests demanding her release were held in Paris and a third, to be led by Rev. Al Sharpton, was scheduled for Tuesday.

Even before news of her impending release broke Friday, the Lamar County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted her and pressed for her to be sent to prison for up to 7 years, made an abrupt turnaround and said the youth had served enough time and ought to be freed.

Court discrepancy revealed

“Let her out of TYC,” said Allan Hubbard, spokesman for Lamar County District Atty. Gary Young. “Hell, she’s done a year for pushing a teacher. That’s too long.”

Hubbard also backed away from claims he and Young made this week in numerous media interviews that the judge in the case, Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, had had no choice but to send the youth to prison because her mother had testified that she would not cooperate with probation officials had the judge sentenced the teen to probation.

On Thursday, Young’s official Web site contained this assertion: “This juvenile’s mother (Creola Cotton) told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation.”

But a review of the full court transcript shows no such testimony. In fact, Creola Cotton repeatedly answered “yes” when asked in court whether she would comply with any conditions of probation that the judge might impose.

On Friday morning, after an inquiry about this discrepancy by the Tribune, the district attorney’s Web site was altered to read: “Through her actions of non-cooperation, Ms. Cotton told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation.”

To be young, gifted, black, and locked up

Standard

 

Prometheus 6 tipped me off to the situation involving Shaquanda Cotton.  Steady yourself before you read this.  Take your blood pressure pill and your nitro glycerin, have a drink, a smoke, a massage, or whatever you have to do to relax because after you read it, you’ll want some answers and won’t be quite up to hearing about, “The Audacity of Hope.”