Sean Bell:"Where Is Justice?",Asks Leonard Pitts,Miami Herald Columnist


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Winchester 73
April 30, 2008, 06:25 PM
I post this column, not because I agree or disagree with Mr.Pitts ,but for the sake of open discussion.

http://www.miamiherald.com/851/story/514903.html

Where is justice?
Posted on Wed, Apr. 30, 2008
By LEONARD PITTS JR.
lpitts@miamiherald.com

I want you to tell me how I can trust the justice system.

Mister Attorney General, the question is for you. And you too, Ms. Police Officer, Madame District Attorney and Mr. Judge. It is also for you, Mr. and Ms. Average Citizen. I realize this will be an engraved invitation for those crackpots who get their jollies flaunting their hatefulness and ignorance on electronic message boards, and I'm willing to live with that because the question, I assure you, is in earnest.

Somebody tell me: How can I trust the justice system?

You will think this is about Sean Bell, the unarmed black man who died in a fusillade of 50 bullets from New York police on what was to have been his wedding day; the shooters were acquitted last week. But the question isn't about Bell, at least not solely.

Rather, it's about the fact that the justice system so often seems to have less justice in it where black people are concerned.

It's about Amadou Diallo, shot at 41 times -- hit 19 -- by New York police while reaching for his wallet. It's about Rodney King, beaten to pieces by L.A. police for a traffic violation. It's about Arthur McDuffie, beaten to death by Miami police for a traffic violation. It's about Jeffrey Gilbert, bones fractured by police who broke into the Greenbelt, Md., apartment of his girlfriend and pounced on him as he lay nude in bed because they mistakenly thought him a cop killer. It's about L.A. police manufacturing and planting evidence. It's about my son, stopped by police for driving with an ''obstructed'' windshield -- he had an air freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree dangling from his rear view mirror. It's about studies documenting the enduring racial bias in our justice system so that, for example, African Americans account for 13 percent of all regular drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested, 55 percent of those convicted and 74 percent of those imprisoned, for drug possession.

And it's about knowing the foregoing will be greeted with blithe indifference by those who find it convenient to believe the unjust treatment of African Americans is somehow excusable, understandable, merited or required.

I need no lectures to remind me that good people inhabit the system; my cousin is a federal prosecutor. Nor do I need any lectures on the heroism of cops; I've ridden with police, been protected by them and yield to no one in my admiration for those who do that job with honor.

So save the lectures, just give me an answer: How can I trust a system whose biases against people who look like me are simultaneously well-documented, yet happily ignored by those who resemble me not at all.

The question matters because without trust, the system doesn't work. Everybody came down, and justifiably so, on the idiot rapper who said last year that he would not call police even if a serial killer were living next door. Unfortunately, fewer people bothered to ask where such profound distrust comes from. Fewer still bothered to ask what it leads to.

People don't participate in systems they don't trust. They don't come forward, they don't testify. So criminals go uncaptured and crimes, unpunished. Yet some black people apparently find that preferable to participating in a system they believe is rigged against them. I don't agree with them, but before you condemn them, ask yourself: Would you play in a game refereed by someone who hated you? What's the point?

In games as in life, you may not like an outcome, but if you believe it was fairly derived, you can at least live with it. Small wonder black people often find it difficult to live with this system. Last week's acquittal will do nothing to change that.

So I'm serious. Somebody tell me how I can trust American justice. Somebody tell me why I should even try.

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James T Thomas
April 30, 2008, 07:26 PM
I believe that Sean Bell was armed; he got behind the wheel of hundreds of horsepower and thousands of pound of steel, refused to turn the engine off when demanded to, placed the machine in gear and proceded to drive away -brushing and endangering the life of those identified as police at the scene.
Please correct if I have this wrong. The past few years there have been too many policemen, drug by vehicle, lives in imminent danger, and the police are letting the public know that dead or crushed up by vehicle is as seriously dead as by firearms. They could not place their lives at further risk by empathising with Bell because he happened to be under the influence.
That was the incident you describe.

Now please bear with me when I side with you; when I can, on your premise about injustice.

Here in PA, Erie county, there was a young "black" boy named Michael Elerby shot and killed by the state police. He was -was, unarmed. Running away from being chased. He had bailed out of a car he had stolen. This punk kid was a prolific thief and headed, unless something intervened in his life, for a life of increasing severity of crime, most likely. How ever, he was gunned down. One officer mishandled his gun, out of sight of the second officer, and there was a negligent misfire. The second officer presumed that his partner was under fire or had been shot, so when the boy came in his sight, he shot the kid! Execution. No trial, no jury, that was it.
There were no indictments brought by the DA against this state policeman, and now the public in PA knows that a state policeman can execute any one, child, woman, unarmed, it doen't matter, so beware.

I still trust the state police for the most part, but my mistrust of justice lies within the court system because of this incident. There is no accountability here in PA within the various DA offices. I say all, because there has been no outrage or call for justice within neither our courts, legislature, nor police rank and file over this.

I am not familiar with the other instances you mentioned, but wasn't Amadou
Diallo told to remove his hands slowly from his coat pockets, and either refused, or abruptly did so, thus endangering himself?

There is the injustice that you are aware of, but it is not wide spread, and seems to be randomly occuring. I hope.

Blackbeard
April 30, 2008, 07:31 PM
indightments

indictments

ArmedBear
April 30, 2008, 07:37 PM
It's about Rodney King, beaten to pieces by L.A. police for a traffic violation.

I don't know about the other cases, but I know a bit about this one. And "beaten to pieces for a traffic violation" is a lie. Pitts lost his credibility with that line.

Cosmoline
April 30, 2008, 07:38 PM
So I'm serious. Somebody tell me how I can trust American justice.

Simple. With a revolver in your pocket and a rifle over your shoulder. A disarmed citizenry, whether in LA or NY or anywhere else, will never receive justice because the state has nothing to fear from it.

ArmedBear
April 30, 2008, 07:46 PM
As far as justice goes, hell, I don't expect it. Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.

...and what Cosmoline said...

csmkersh
April 30, 2008, 07:47 PM
Seldom will you see justice in an officer involved shooting. The only hope is for juries and judges to look at these shootings in the same light as they would if the shooter were a mere citizen, not a cop. It that had been done in the Sean Bell case, NY would most likely have had 3 new convicts.

Rachen
April 30, 2008, 07:54 PM
When fascism comes to the United States, it wouldn't necessary hold mass torchlight parades, or wear the swastikas on their uniforms.

Evil lurks everywhere. However, our Founding Fathers have given us a protective sphere of light that keeps evil at bay. It is our responsibility to protect this light, ensure that it stays lit and passes from one generation to the next. Sometimes, somehow, it finds a gap within the protective sphere of light, and a little bit of darkness seeps in. Cold and unrelenting, it burns marks everywhere, but it knows that it's victims would forget about it soon, therefore, allowing it to come back again and again, each time stronger and stronger, until one day, our light is put out, and a new reign of terror not unlike the Third Reich begins again.

As Americans, we MUST make sure the lamp that casts this protective light stays lit, and to hell with ANYONE who tries to extinguish it, or even comes near it with the intention of blowing it out.

esq_stu
April 30, 2008, 07:55 PM
The facts and the law were preented to a judge (trial by jury is the defendants' option), a decision was made, and people assume it was not fair because they want a certain result.

Weren't two of the three shooters black? Why is this racial? Because the judge was white? Or was he (I have no idea)?

csmkersh
April 30, 2008, 08:52 PM
Who said it was racial lawyer wannabe? What's been said is that if a cop does the deed, he'll get a free pass.

Nolo
April 30, 2008, 09:11 PM
How about me, an honors student who was arrested for accidentally carrying a knife in his pocket at school and just so happed to be searched the same day by teachers orders?
I would agree with Mr. Pitts, except for the fact that I am not black.
Stuff happens to everyone, so don't whine about it being because you're black, whine about the real causes.
If you were wronged by a hood-wearing Klansman, then you can call it a hate crime. If you were wronged by a swastika-wearing Nazi, you can call it a hate crime. If you were wronged by someone who was known to be racist, you can call it a hate crime. Racists tend to talk a lot, you will know when you are faced with one.
So don't bring race into the equation.
Is there problems with some of our justices and trials? Yes. Is there problems with some of our LEAs? You bet.
But don't blame them on racism if it is not due to them, you merely make yourself look like a fool.

Winchester 73
April 30, 2008, 10:06 PM
Weren't two of the three shooters black? Why is this racial? Because the judge was white? Or was he (I have no idea)?

You are correct.2 of the 3 shooting LEO's were black.
Judge Arthur Cooperman is white,Jewish and is a highly respected veteran of the NY judiciary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Bell
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/18/nyregion/18judge.html
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_justice_arthur_cooperman_black_or_white

divemedic
April 30, 2008, 10:24 PM
Who said it was racial lawyer wannabe?

Pitts himself did:

Rather, it's about the fact that the justice system so often seems to have less justice in it where black people are concerned.

Art Eatman
April 30, 2008, 11:07 PM
Good APS topic. OT for THR.

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