12.08.2014

Racism, Justice and Unrest in the USA - Respecting Ourselves – Part II

            In our first article regarding racism, we took a look at media outlets from known and credible sources and with two simple keywords was given access to seven million web pages that contained articles written where situations of color were dominant, featuring a few examples and thoughts on each one about the recent citing of racism in law enforcement as well as other situations, in short showing the inciting rhetoric of divide.  In the specifics, we know that when someone dies from a police officer’s gun and there is some question of power versus color, it comes down to two words when debated, Black and White with the background clutter being facts versus fiction and stories that hit the grape vine and made it all the way out with new and more believable situations.  When our thoughts are influenced by mass media and not with a truth glasses approach (wink) we can hear the echoes of violence all across the country, from New York to Los Angeles and including the town I was born in, protests erupted and yes, violence in some parts that again show barbaric attitudes toward innocent persons and properties.  Whether or not we are being baited by the media and other outlets is also debatable, however, when it comes to the court system and law enforcement in judicial form, procedure and processes can only be confused when we don’t weigh what is happening “behind closed doors” and in this article, we will look into our criminal justice system, which includes a link at the bottom of this article that will take you to a PDF of the handbook for federal grand juries.

            In order to understand the path any person who is accused or charged with a crime must endure, we will briefly look at what happens upon arrest and follow our “perp” through their path.  Scenario:  Our perp is desperate, the holiday’s grip has taken hold and presents are needed for four persons, out of work and little money for gifts let alone food or rent, the perp decides to rob a local gas station.  Although nervous about the situation, manages to gain a nice haul of 125 dollars takes off running down the street, passing a few people.  Our perp has a dark scarf that was used to shield the face to just below the eyes that as they run, slowly drops below the mouth.  Out of breath and about 5 blocks away, decides to rest near a tree where a passerby gets a clear look at the clothing and face of the out of breath thief.  The police arrive on the scene and the shaken store clerk gives a statement about what happened, what the person was wearing, approximate height and as much information as the store clerk could remember about the entire situation, several others come forward about the fleeing suspect each giving information.  The next day the person in the park hears a description of the suspect on the news, some of the information makes sense, some doesn’t due to the details of the face and eyes of the person, however decides to call in the tip anyway.  Video cameras from traffic systems help to identify the person from their direction of travel, an arrest warrant is issued, and the police pick them up.

            From what you just read, can anyone answer the following questions, What race was the perp, what gender was the perp, what gender was the store clerk, what gender was the person in the park and what color was the scarf that our perp was wearing and why would the person who got a clear look wonder if the description was an accurate one and why do these things matter?  I am certain many of you filled in the images easily with what your perception of each may be, our mind’s eye has many abilities and drawing pictures or images to fill in the gaps of our understanding is part of it, in other words, it’s okay, learning is cool stuff.  Now, not that any of it matters, here is what is in store for our perpetrator as they journey through the justice system and in part you are going to participate as mock jurors since I have given you the circumstances regarding this journey, I will try to be as un-objective as possible in writing this from a unknown parameter point of view (i.e., gender, color, race, etc.). 

            When a person is placed under arrest, many of us can associate with being read their Miranda rights.  These rights or warnings (law.cornell.edu/wex/Miranda_Warning) are part of the Fifth Amendment and are crucial in the first steps of prosecution of the crime being charged, the arresting officers are required to warn the suspect that: they have the right to remain silent, they have the right to an attorney present during questioning and they have the right to have that attorney appointed even if they cannot afford one, not a bad set up for our suspect.  This stems from a historic court case known as Miranda vs. Arizona (Miranda vs. Arizona 384 US 436 (1966)), where the right to protect ourselves from self incrimination is guaranteed, no police force, detective or interrogator can question the circumstances of a crime and present it as credible evidence unless they have read us our rights, nor will any evidence be made admissible, regardless of what it is, unless those warnings are in place (for visualization of this, I recommend watching Gideon’s Trumpet, excellent movie).  Presuming our suspect has been read their rights on scene, the next step is the booking process where fingerprinting and a short list of vitals are taken, including a picture of the suspect, preparing paperwork explaining those charges and if necessary a reiteration of the Miranda warning before being assigned a cell; thus is given to a prosecutor (usually the district attorney’s office) to present to a pre-hearing judge, where the suspect can enter a plea, or answer to the charges, being guilty or not guilty and bail or bond will most likely be established.

            The suspect enters a “not guilty” plea to the pre-hearing judge, is assigned a public defender as the attorney to help out and decides to wait it out seeing what kind of deals can be made or if the charges will even stick at all, this determination will come from a Grand Jury, the first of many steps that are already taking place in our suspects life, all of which happen while the suspect is locked up in jail waiting.  The Grand Jury has a very important job, they have to decide if there is enough evidence to indict the suspect based on the evidence presented, this jury is going to help uphold the Federal Rules and Regulations regarding Criminal Procedure, wherein all courts uphold this rule of law.  The Sixth Amendment (law.cornell.edu) guarantees that whenever a jury is called, they must be of impartial stance, disregarding all outside influences not associated with the facts being presented to them and no challenge to any jury member can be because of their gender or race (Baston vs. Kentucky 476 US 79 (1986)), this is part of due process, or receiving a fair trial.  Back to the Grand Jury, during this procedure, the jury acts as an investigative body literally as they are in charge of reviewing all the details of the case and may ask the prosecutor for subpoena’s or documents to further compel them to indict the accused, they are free from the influence of judge or particular prosecutor and may range from 16 to 23 in total with alternates and can serve for up to one year.  In the recent uprising of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garvin, each of these grand juries had remained sequestered for several months before revealing their decision, each listened to the prosecutors in each case, was presented evidence in support of the indictment process of the accused and both acquitted with no charges against each of the officers, the crowds went nuts, burning, looting, breaking, shouting and challenging an already stressed police force, with debate and resolve unfounded prior, or was it, few will remember the violence that erupted after the Rodney King beating and almost no one will remember details of the case unless they were there or read it themselves without having the media be the presenter.  In our case scenario, the suspect is handed back an indictment to go ahead and formally charge them with the crime and to start the trial process.

            Next up, comes the other jury of our suspects peers, the ones who get to listen to not just the prosecutor, but also the cross examinations of the defense attorney, who during the trial points out the inconsistencies of clothing, descriptions, eye color and even the amount of time between the eye witness from the park’s call to the police and what that can do to memory and details in a busy world.  In some of the eye witness’s statements there are a few falsehoods that are proven by supporting evidence from the defense but  the circumstances and places of the suspects locations and why don’t add up to a complete night as described nor explain the added items and cash on hand upon arrest.  These are the things that prosecutors and defenses do, not just in criminal court but in civil court as well, one side must present the more convincing case and a jury of peers decides who is telling the truth.  Although the trial jury is a bit smaller containing only about 9-12 persons, they are also bound by the same standards as a Grand Jury, where there can be no bias at all and each objective promise to be fair.  Now that we have an idea of what a jury does and why they are important, we also need to know how they are given jury duty in the first place, Nolo’s Plain English Law Dictionary, defines Jury Duty as a list of people summoned to jury duty, from which particular jurors may be chosen.  That selection is from a pool of persons (uscourts.gov) who are registered voters or combined lists of registered voters with drivers licenses, in most cases some will not serve any jury duty at all while summoned, but must call in or check with the provided information to determine if eligible, usually a day in advance.  Consider this, if the majority of driver’s license holders do not register to vote and they live in a district where this combo is necessary in order to serve on a jury, then those who do qualify will be the voice for those who don’t because of this one little detail which may present a majority of persons being of one particular gender or race within that judicial district, thus proving that voting power is also acclimated by jury decisions where the public can have influence, real influence on real court cases and who helps to make and govern those laws, a hidden rights benefit.

            Our suspect has now gone through trial, evidence both for and against them has been presented by qualified attorneys and the decision is in your hands, what you know: A crime was committed, a robbery that intimidated and scared the store clerk allowing 125 dollars to be stolen, several descriptions of the suspect, each somewhat similar but key details that were argued do bring some doubt about whether or not this particular person was the person of interest, cash found on the suspect as well as enough items to add up to the amount of expected money with a 5 dollar error of margin, an alibi of events that makes sense but doesn’t add up to the time stamps on the camera’s point of view and no one can decide whether the suspect had a mask on or if they had time to take out or put in contacts that could have changed the tint of color, also debated by defense.  So, in relation to our first article and how the media bias’s writing styles look very discerning, in this scenario, gender, race were deliberately obscured and what did your own mind see, probably persons of sinister stature, frightened faces, a generic jury with you sitting in the midst of them all, but can you tell me what color or gender do you see, why does that make it easier to visualize and how sure are you.  In our series of looks, in Part III, we will examine some points of unrest in our USA, what happened as a result and hope to open our eyes even further that we are UNITED STATES Citizens, one nation, one people who should never seek out our vengeance upon the innocent, but more importantly, be more involved in the decisions necessary to insure we have a more perfect union, a union that will include more peace than unrest and more voices where once there weren’t any.



            

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