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Jordan Davis: What We’ve Come to Expect

February 18, 2014 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Colorlines:

Still, Michael Dunn’s murder case seemed cut and dry. A white man emptied his semi-automatic into a car full of black teens, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis—then fled the scene and didn’t turn himself in until the following morning. There are, of course, other details, but what happened following Dunn’s arrest speaks volumes to the profound racial preoccupations that the killer holds.

In his letters from jail, Dunn became obsessed with the idea that he was somehow the victim of a system that routinely discriminates against white men. He explained how he was becoming more prejudiced against black people in jail, and proposed killing black people as habit so that “they may take the hint and change their behavior.” Dunn’s letters illustrate that the idea that white men can and should be harsh disciplinarians—and that black people can and should surrender to that power. If black people object, they should be killed as examples, so that others will learn.

On the witness stand, Dunn took what many thought was the unusual position of lacking remorse for killing an unarmed child. He cried, instead, when he talked about his dog. But perhaps more telling are Dunn’s last words to Jordan Davis. He testified that he shouted, “You’re not going to kill me, you son of a bitch.” If Davis is the “son of a bitch,” then we are to understand that Davis mother, Lucia Kay McBath—who was in the courtroom, just a few feet away from her son’s killer—McBath is the “bitch” that Dunn is referring to. She is not a mother who lost the son she gave birth to. She is not a human being who deserves more respect than to be called a dog. She is simply an object of Dunn’s dehumanizing attack.

In the end, Dunn was found guilty not of murdering Jordan Davis, but of the attempted murders of Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson and Tommie Stornes, who were in the SUV along with Davis the evening that Dunn killed him. We can speculate, then, that if all four youth had been killed, then Dunn may have walked a free man. His only mistake, perhaps, was that he didn’t kill enough black teens to get away with it. Dunn held that he was terrified because he had seen Davis holding a weapon—but that weapon never existed. By not finding Dunn guilty of murder, the jury could not unanimously conclude that one white man’s imagination was worth more than one black teen’s life.

Washington state governor declares death penalty moratorium

February 12, 2014 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, White Privilege

From Reuters:

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on Tuesday on carrying out the death penalty in his Pacific Northwest state, citing concerns about unequal application of justice in determining who is executed.

The action marked a victory for opponents of capital punishment who have seen a growing number of U.S. states take steps in recent years to end executions, either by legislation or through suspensions issued by governors or the courts.

“Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” Inslee, a first-term Democrat, told a news conference announcing the suspension of capital punishment. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”

But Inslee stopped short of commuting to life in prison the sentences of the nine inmates currently on death row in Washington state, leaving open the possibility they could still be executed should a future governor lift the moratorium. The next election for governor will be held in 2016.

Eighteen U.S. states have already legally ended executions, with Maryland last year becoming the sixth state in six years to abolish capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A number of others have temporary execution bans in place.

CI: Remembering Trayvon Martin, Special Edition of ProudFlesh

November 27, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World, White Privilege

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Remembering Trayvon Martin, Special Edition of ProudFlesh
by nancy a heitzeg

 CI is thankful for the publication of a Special Travyon Martin Issue of ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics, and Consciousness. Although this journal usually requires a subscription, the editors have made this issue free and available in perpetuity, and are encouraging its’ use in classroom and community education. If you are interested in accessing the entire issue , just go to the link above and create an account for free access.

proud fleshA special issue on Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African-American teenager killed by George Zimmerman, while walking home. May your soul rest in peace (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012). The issue is guest-edited by Azuka Nzegwu, Ph.D.

The issue chronicles the case from the initial petition for prosecution from Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton through the trial and aftermath with the work of artists, musician, scholars, poets, activists. An editorial by Azuka Nzegwu, PhD  opens the journal and is reprinted below. Appropriately, the issue closes with the recent report issued by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the extrajudicial killing of 313 Black people by police, security guards and vigilantes and Let Your Motto Be Resistance (covered here in The War on Black ~ “Color-blindness” and Criminalization, Part 1 and Part 2)

Readers may recognize several pieces that have been published at CI: Am I Next? by Rodney Coates, After Trayvon Martin Revisited by Kay Whitlock with Nancy A. Heitzeg, Of the Verdict, “Whiteness” and Abolition by Nancy A. Heitzeg, and What Would Real Justice for Trayvon Martin Look Like? by Kay Whitlock.

We are so honored to be included here.

So as we approach a day of thanks giving, CI would like to thank ProudFlesh for creating this issue and making it available for all. Thank you to Azuka Nzegwu, PhD  for allowing us to reprint the introductory editorial. Thank you to everyone, everywhere who helped create awareness around the Martin case and the too many that resemble it. And special thanks to @princss6 and a Twitter storm that keeps on bringing the news, even now.  Thanks to so many others, too many to name.

No Justice/No Peace.

Never Forget.

Trayvon – Jasiri X


CI: This Week in the War on Black ~ Repression Builds Resistance

November 06, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, White Privilege

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

This Week in the War on Black ~ Repression Builds Resistance
by nancy a heitzeg

“Our country’s national crime is lynching.” ~ Ida B. Wells

This week’s CI was going to continue the discussion of what seems to be an uptick in the move towards prison privatization. There are many implications here, not the least of which concerns race – recent research suggests that Black and Latino/a prisoners are more likely than whites to be housed in private facilities that offer fewer programs that help prisoners: psychological interventions, drug and alcohol counseling, coursework towards high school or college diplomas, job training, etc.

But more on that later.

The-Red-Record-Wells-Barnett-Ida-9781409916031For now, a few words on the ruthless Anti-Blackness that shaped the week. Florida prosecutor  Corey decided to retry Marissa Alexander for firing a warning shot in the ceiling  to protect herself/her children against her abusive husband. The family of deceased Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson had to apply public pressure for nearly a year (and seek 2 autopsies) in order to get  proper investigation of the case. Shopping While Black is still heavily criminalized, even when paying for expensive merchandise at high end stores. A Federal Appeals Court said NYPD is free to continue its’ racist policy of stop and frisk. Because it was Halloween,  Clueless and/or Hateful White People™ donned Blackface yet again as high fashion accessorizing, prison inmate portrayals, and even the murdered Trayvon Martin were deemed by them to be “acceptable” costumes.

And because it is any given week, at least 6 Black men, women or children were killed by someone employed or protected by the US government, while untold numbers more were brutalized, arrested and incarcerated.

But we are not here today to say all that. We are here to say what is already known:

Repression Builds Resistance.

Marissa Alexander’s name/case is known, she is in fact getting a chance at freedom at all because of relentless activism. There will be a federal investigation into Kendrick Johnson’s death. Barney’s is getting sued. Dream Defenders have forced Stand Your Ground hearings in Florida and called for National Action. NYPD stop and frisk will be over one way or another, perhaps as soon as the next NYC Mayoral election.

And More.

So we are here today to say simply, with the theologian James Cone, one more thing that is also known:

The Lynchers will Never have the Last Word.

The Cross and The Lynching Tree, James Cone

De Blasio Is Elected New York City Mayor

November 05, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World, White Privilege

Bill de Blasio shared a laugh with the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, right, at a campaign stop on Tuesday. | Damon Winter/The New York Times

From NYT:

Bill de Blasio, who transformed himself from a little-known occupant of an obscure office into the fiery voice of New York’s disillusionment with a new gilded age, was elected the city’s 109th mayor on Tuesday, according to exit polls.

His overwhelming victory, stretching from the working-class precincts of central Brooklyn to the suburban streets of northwest Queens, amounted to a forceful rejection of the hard-nosed, business-minded style of governance that reigned at City Hall for the past two decades and a sharp leftward turn for the nation’s largest metropolis.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who is the city’s public advocate, defeated his Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, by a wide margin.

Exit polls conducted by Edison Research suggested that the sweep of his victory cut across all of New York’s traditional divides. He won support from voters regardless of race, gender, age, education, religion or income, according to the exit poll.

The lopsided outcome represented the triumph of a populist message over a formidable résumé in a campaign that became a referendum on an entire era, starting with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and ending with the incumbent mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Throughout the race, Mr. de Blasio overshadowed his opponent by giving voice to New Yorkers’ rising frustrations with income inequality, aggressive policing tactics and lack of affordable housing, and by declaring that the ever-improving city need not leave so many behind.

Get Out the Vote NYC: Give Bill de Blasio Decisive Mandate

November 05, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, on the R train in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on Monday. He says a big margin of victory could help him as he tries to get his policy initiatives put into effect. | Damon Winter/The New York Times

From NYT:

Concerned that his overwhelming lead in the race to be New York mayor could depress voter turnout, Bill de Blasio on Monday warned supporters against complacency as he sought to win with a decisive mandate that could propel his liberal agenda.

“By definition, in the political process, the more support you get in an election, the more ability you have to achieve your goals,” Mr. de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, told reporters after a visit to a senior center in the Bronx. “If we get a strong result, it will help us get our work done.”

But Mr. de Blasio’s Republican rival, Joseph J. Lhota, was not giving up the fight, urging New Yorkers to remember faulty predictions of the past, and comparing himself to Harry S. Truman on the eve of his unexpected victory against Thomas E. Dewey in 1948. “You’re going to be pleasantly surprised,” he said in an interview on WOR-AM (710).

Despite a highly publicized campaign, and predictions of a temperate, partly sunny day, experts are expecting only a modest turnout Tuesday, given Mr. de Blasio’s lopsided lead in the polls.

Jerry Skurnik, a Democratic political consultant, predicted that turnout would be around 1.2 million — about what it was in 2009, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was widely expected to win a third term. Another Democratic consultant, Bruce D. Gyory, predicted turnout between 1.1 and 1.25 million. There are 4.3 million active registered voters in New York City.

Mr. de Blasio, who leads by more than 40 points in some polls, is hoping to ride the wave of populist momentum that has sustained him since September, when he emerged from a crowded field to win the Democratic nomination for mayor. An overwhelming victory might help him win support for his long list of policy ideas, including his signature proposal — a plan to raise taxes on wealthy residents to pay for an expansion of prekindergarten and after-school programs.

“We need Bill de Blasio to have a mandate,” Rubén Díaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said during Mr. de Blasio’s appearance in the Bronx. “We need to make sure his numbers are so high that no one can ever question his message.”

The Preposterous Removal of Judge Scheindlin

November 01, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From New Yorker:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit just chastised Shira Scheindlin, the trial judge in the case challenging the constitutionality of the N.Y.P.D.’s stop-and-frisk policy, for speaking out about the issue while the trial was going on. In a ruling today, the appeals court said Scheindlin’s statements suggested that her “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” As a result, all further proceedings in the case, in which Scheindlin found that that city residents’ rights had been violated, will be transferred to another trial judge. The appeals court, in a footnote, in particular cited Scheindlin’s statements to me in a piece for The New Yorker, as well as to the AP and the New York Law Journal. (I have some familiarity with this sort of thing. )

This is preposterous. The Second Circuit took this action on its own, without even a request from the city (the defendant in the case). Apparently, it took the view that there had been such an egregious violation of the rules of judicial conduct that the court had to act on its own—sua sponte, as the lawyers say. It also stayed Scheindlin’s rulings aimed at reforming stop-and-frisk.

Scheindlin did nothing wrong. She talked about her judicial career and her history on the bench in a way that illuminated the work that all judges do. In my experience, it’s a common complaint from judges that the public doesn’t understand their work, and doesn’t care about what they do. Scheindlin’s conduct in this case exemplified the independent tradition of the judiciary. She should be honored for it, not scolded.

“Too many judges, especially because so many of our judges come out of that office, become government judges,” Scheindlin told me—one of the quotations that appeared in the piece. “I don’t think I’m the favorite of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District. Because I’m independent. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Bill of Rights. These issues come up, and I take them quite seriously. I’m not afraid to rule against the government.”

From Center for Constitutional Rights:

The Court of Appeals granted the City of New York’s request for a stay of the joint remedial process ordered in CCR’s stop-and-frisk lawsuit pending the resolution of the appeal and, without a request by the City, ordered that the case be reassigned to a new district court judge. We are dismayed that the Court of Appeals saw fit to delay the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices, and we are shocked that they cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary and reassigned the case. The City carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals. That, unprompted, they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years, who gave the City every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation, is troubling and unprecedented. We will keep you updated on next steps.

Court Blocks Stop-and-Frisk Changes for New York Police

October 31, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From NYT:

A federal appeals court on Thursday halted a sweeping set of changes to the New York Police Department’s policy of stopping and frisking people on the street, and, in strikingly personal terms, criticized the trial judge’s conduct in the litigation and removed her from the case.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008.

The ruling effectively puts off a battery of changes that Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had ordered for the Police Department. It postpones the operations of the monitor who was asked to oversee reforms to the department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which Judge Scheindlin found violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

In a two-page order, the panel of three judges also criticized Judge Scheindlin for granting media interviews and for making public statements while the case was pending before her.

The use of police stops has been widely cited by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a crucial tool in helping drive the number of murders and major crimes in the city to historic lows. The police say the practice has saved the lives of thousands of young black and Hispanic men by removing thousands of guns from the streets.

The lawsuit claimed that blacks and Hispanics were singled out by the police for street stops even when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Judge Scheindlin’s decision, issued in August, found that the stop-and-frisk tactics violated the rights of minorities in the city. With that decision, which came at the conclusion of a lengthy trial that began in the spring, she repudiated a major element of the crime-fighting legacy of Mr. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.