Paul R. Lehman, No justice from ‘A jury of one’s peers’ in U. S. court system

July 14, 2017 at 11:33 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal activity, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, minority, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, social conditioning, social justice system, The U.S. Constitution, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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Recently in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a judge declared a mistrial, for the third time, in a case involving a European American former police office, Shannon Kepler. The officer acknowledged shooting Jeremey Lake, a 19-year-old African American male who had been dating Keller’s daughter, Lisa. While Kepler claimed that he was defending himself when he shot Lake, no weapon was found on Lake or anywhere near the scene. An article on abcnews.go.com provided the following information: “Kepler, who retired from the force after he was charged, was a 24-year-police veteran who said he was trying to protect his daughter, who had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood.”

Americans in general and African Americans in particular, should not be surprised at the mistrial or even a not guilty decision from this trail and the many others involving African American men and police officers. We should realize by now that the criminal justice system, especially the courts were not meant to serve justice to people of color. We must be constantly reminded of the fact that American is a biased society and that people of color are viewed as objects that cause fear and anxiety to European Americans. Many of our laws, regardless of what they might intend, are meant to keep the concept of two different groups of people separated. That separation is underscored in the court system and especially the jury system in America.

For African Americans as well most Americans in general, the phrase “A jury of one’s peers,” is meaningless, and because it is meaningless, few people ever experience having a member of his or their jury a peer. In an article by Eric Peters (3/23/2012), “A Jury of One’s Peers,” he notes that while this phrase is not found in our Constitution, the concept comes from English Common Law from which our Constitution was based. The phrase was intended to describe a situation where “The men of a community would gather to weigh evidence presented against someone—someone they knew. Unfortunately, what we have today is an altogether different animal. You may find yourself tried in front of a jury—but they will not be your peers.”

Today, in Oklahoma, anyone 18-years-old and older with a valid driver’s license can be randomly selected to serve on a jury. The individuals are not selected from a particular community, but usually from the county in which they live. If members of a jury were selected from specific communities where people of similar social, religious, economic, political, and education tend to live, then individuals facing charges from those communities would have a reasonable chance of being judged by a peer. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work.

In America, three things work against African Americans when they involve European American police officers, and juries—a lack of people of color on the jury, law enforcement bigotry, and systemic cultural bigotry. Most juries will consist of few people of color for any number of reasons, first of which is availability. Fewer people of color are chosen (at random) for jury duty and few are chosen to serve on a jury once reporting for jury duty. The lack of representation of people of color on the jury for an African American can make a difference in the jury’s final decision. Also, the presence of one or two persons of color serving on a jury of predominately European Americans can be intimidating and stressful to them.

In his recently published book (2017), CHOKEHOLD, Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and law professor at Georgetown University, stated that “Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do. Virtually every objective investigation of a U.S. law enforcement agency finds that the police, as policy, treat African Americans with contempt.” He further stated that “The most problematic practices of American criminal justice—excessive force by police, harsh sentencing, the erosion of civil liberties, widespread government surveillance, and mass incarceration—are best understood as measures originally intended for African American men.” The many jury verdicts involving the shooting by law enforcement agents have demonstrated that the repercussions for a European American or an officer killing a person of color are little and none, which underscores Butler’s point. The fact that European American law enforcement agents use the aspect of fear in their defense of their actions is one that does not differ from the fear that European Americans experience generally when coming into contact with an African American male.

European Americans are socially conditioned to view African Americans with fear and dismay unless the African Americans are known to the European Americans. This conditioning is a natural and a normal part of everyday life and not viewed as a bias towards people of color. Butler referenced  in his book a study entitled “Transforming Perceptions: Black Men and Boys,” by the American Values Institute (3/2013), that noted the following: “When people [European Americans] see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more.” He also noted another study that stated: “When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” So, the reference to the fear experienced by European Americans law enforcement as noted is part of the American experience for them and bad news for African Americans. The challenge for all Americans is to replace that fear with reason and understanding, knowing that we all belong to the same family of mankind. We must all work to replace the present criminal justice system or continue to be victims of it.

Consequently, we need to practice justice and respect towards one another because we realize as Peters noted: “Court proceedings should, of course, be impartial—but not to the extent of being obtuse. And obtuse—even evil—is precisely what we have today. Mindless worship of statutes as opposed to the spirit animating them. No harm done (or intended) no longer matters. Just ‘the law’—as interpreted by twelve random strangers.” While we can no longer practice the concept of “a jury of one’s peers,” we can certainly underscore the humanity we all possess. We must be the change we need.

Paul R. Lehman, Fighting a corrupt justice system is a waste of time; replace it.

December 31, 2015 at 1:12 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, criminal activity, Department of Justice, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, tribalism | 2 Comments
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For the past year America has witnessed the spectacle of young, mostly male, unarmed, people of color being killed by law enforcement agents. In all instances the use of deadly force by the officers was employed when other options were available and appropriate. The result of the actions by the law enforcers in these deaths was little or no repercussions for the law officers; in essence, the victims were responsible for their deaths. In most of these cases when video was available and compared with the officers’ written reports of the incidents, they did not correspond. The videos told different stories from the ones in the official reports. Never-the-less, the outcome of these events showed the public that justice and fairness does not look the same when law enforcement views it alongside society in general. What seems justified in the eyes of the law does not reflect fairness and justice to many Americans in general, and to people of color in particular.

Two things can be ascertained from the experiences involving the deaths of people of color at the hands of European American and other law enforcement officers: 1. the present system of jurisprudence is corrupt in dispensing justice to people of color; and 2, the system must be replaced, not revised or re-developed. The reason for these facts can be observed in the reactions of the public and the citizens directly involved with the system. Americans have been conditioned to accept the words and actions of the law enforcement agents without question because of the trust that has been placed in their hands. In the past, records concerning citizens’ deaths were not kept to any appreciable degree by law enforcement agencies and so that information relative to the number of African Americans and other people of color were not available to the public. Furthermore, the public did not seem concerned regarding those deaths because of the mental social conditioning. However, when videos of officer shootings became available to the media and were aired, people began to pay closer attention to and take an interest in what was being presented.

The corruption of the justice system relative to the prosecution of officers can be seen in the method in which the cases are handled. The entire process is handled in the law enforcement community; no one from outside or from an independent agency plays a role in assessing the criminal concerns of the officers. The only possible group of people to play any role in hearing accusations against an officer is a Grand Jury. Unfortunately, the only person to appear before the Grand Jury is a Prosecutor. Since the Prosecutor works closely with the law enforcement agencies which might include many of the officers in question, his or her perspective is generally skewed towards helping the officers. The results, as we have seen, favor no charges being brought against the officers. Because of society’s conditioning of not questioning the findings of an officer-involved proceeding, little thought is given to the fairness and justice of the cases until recently.

We are compelled to question the system of justice when day after day we see and hear contradictory information relative to the deaths of a people of color and no one, except the victim, is held responsible for a crime. A question comes to mind when discussing the occurrence of a European American officer killing a person of color on a force that includes officers that are also people of color. Why do we not hear or see officers of color involved in the killing of European American citizens? If all the law enforcement officers experience the same or similar training, why is it that European Americans are the primary killers of people of color, yet officers of color rarely, if ever kill a European American? One response focuses on the culture of the law enforcement community and its corruption. The nature of the corruption can be seen in the silent code of group unity—backing one another right or wrong. The group identity represents a serious challenge to justice and fairness. What most Americans do not realize or understand is that the ethnic bigotry that sees African Americans as inferior beings and of little social value is normal for European Americans; that bias is also part of their social conditioning. When a European American becomes a member of the law enforcement group, that bigotry is not checked at the door and left out. The fact that society conditions European Americans to see African Americans and dangerous, evil, threatening, etc…, helps to fuel the attitude of these officers not only when they join the group but also when they come into contact with African Americans and other people of color. No question remains about the corruption of the system; we only need to check the records.

The system of social injustice and unfairness exhibited primarily by law enforcement agencies cannot be fought or defeated using the tools of the system. The system must be replaced in order for justice to be available to all citizens of America. Time and again the Federal Government has stepped into the workings of a police department in one or two large cities when a lack of justice and fairness has been documented. A study is usually conducted and after a period of time, all parties gather and review the findings of the study. Certain requirement for change in everything from policies to procedures to training etc…is made and a time frame is given to accomplish these objectives. When we look at the history of success involving these experiences, we realize that little has changed—a new suit might appear on the officer, but the undergarments are the same as before.

What has to change is the culture of bigotry that has long been part of the American psyche, generally without many Americans realizing it. When a European American sees an African American or another person of color and not see that person as a social equal, class concerns aside, that is called bigotry or social conditioning. No amount of training can remove that bigotry; it has to be replaced through education. The law enforcement agencies represent only a part of the cultural structure that promotes, sustains, and defends bigotry. Change is slowly taking place now through the efforts of civil-minded people and groups who recognize that America is not the kind of society they want to live in or have their children and grandchildren inherit. So, they must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST in order to call attention to the injustices being committed. They must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST in order to make the changes that are needed to replace the system. They must PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST until the changes are made. The American Revolution began as a protest, and we see what that got us—Freedom.

Paul R. Lehman, Fairness in the criminal justice system and society is the focus of the protest.

December 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, Ferguson, grand jury, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Michael Brown, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, one thing has become crystal clear—many European Americans have no clue as to why African Americans do not trust law enforcement in general, and the justice system in particular. Many European Americans do not take the time to get the facts relative to incidents involving European American police officers and African Americans; they simply side with the police. In addition, since the majority of law enforcement officers reflect the majority society, the relationship between these two groups is generally good. No so with respect to law enforcement agencies and African Americans and other people of color. The element of distrust of the justice system regarding African Americans and people of color has proven to be correct in far too many cases. Whenever a conflict arise involving justice for an African American victim and a European American law officer, the officer is usually exonerated. When African Americans protest a decision and the lack of justice, as they see it, from the justice system, many European Americans take the side of the law establishment, regardless of the actual situation, evidence, and facts.
No amount to evidence, facts, and data will convince a bigot that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, have a Constitutional right to protest against the justice system as to what they perceive as an injustice. Rather than sticking to a specific issue or concern presented by the protesters, the bigots will try to bring in other issues to try and weaken the objective of the protest. For example, when protesters talk about the number of killings of unarmed African American males by European American law officers, the bigots want to bring into the discussion the number of “black on black” murders. The problem with this inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the problem of unequal justice. The African Americans who commit murder against other African Americans are generally apprehended, tried, and if found guilty, sent to prison. History shows that most European American police officers who shoot and kill young African American males rarely go to trial, and if they do, are usually set free. Michael Brown’s case is only one of the most recent examples.
One of the problems with the difference between how African Americans see the criminal justice system and the way European Americans see it is how some, usually bigoted, European Americans perceive African Americans in generally. In many instances, European Americans see African Americans at extremes—either well-to-do, educated, and professional or poor, ignorant, prone to violence, dishonest, collect food stamps, and criminal. Little room is ever given to seeing African American as ordinary human beings as they, European Americans see themselves. Because of these perceptions and bigoted attitudes, fear and hate can be easily generated by people who want to polarize each side. For example, an article in The Oklahoma (11/29/14)by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley entitled “A discussion no one wants,” does just that, whether deliberate or not. Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.
Using language and information that cast a dark shadow on the character of Michael Brown, Riley tries to build an argument justifying Brown’s death. He added that “Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can’t be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior—yet such discussion remains taboo.” This reference is a good example of mixing several different concerns and trying to blend them into one—the black problem. First, racial profiling and tensions exists among African Americans and police regardless of the communities; the focus of the police is usually on the skin color. The “black on black crime” is a problem that is being addressed even by the President, so that concern should not be included in the discussion. African Americans want to have the discussion, however, they must have it with people willing to listen and act positively.
Riley offered some unsubstantiated information that serves to underscore his bigotry:”But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.”The statement suggest that all young black men are criminals and are responsible for committing a large portion of violent crimes. Where are the facts, stats, evidence? By now Riley should know that human being belong to one race, not many.
Riley wants his readers to think that the entire problem in Ferguson is simple to assess: “Pretending that police behavior is the root of the problem is not only a dodge but also foolish…Ferguson’s problem isn’t white cops or white prosecutors; it’s the thug behavior exhibited by individuals like Michael Brown, which puts a target on the backs of other young black men. Romanticizing such behavior instead of condemning it only makes matters worse.”There we have it; all that needs to be done to solve the problem is to get rid of the young black thugs.
What Riley does not understand in his bigoted perspective, is that Michael Brown and Ferguson are not what is being protested, per se, but the injustice of the American criminal justice system. Responsible Americans of all ethnicities are involved in protests all across America and some foreign countries in an effort to get America’s attention regarding the years of injustice perpetrated against African Americans and people of color. These protestors are not causing violent disruptions, but civil unrest and civil disobedience. The American Psychological Association defined violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”Some extreme and small elements of some protest groups have destroyed property and burned buildings, cars and businesses. These acts are reprehensible and have no places in the protests and are never condoned. With respect to violence, however, the violence in most cases is not committed by the protestors. When we look at the definition of the word violence, we certainly cannot describe the protestors as violent; they do not assault, abuse or murder the police or law enforcers.
We certainly thank Riley for his article because he gave us a picture of the problems American society faces regarding valuing all citizens and insuring that we all receive justice and fairness regardless of what we look like or where we live.

Paul R. Lehman, Lessons of the Ferguson grand jury finding

November 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil Rights Ats, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, grand jury, justice, Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, socioeconomics, whites | 5 Comments
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The finding of no indictment by the grand jury in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson should have come as no surprise to people who are familiar with the history of America’s justice system and its relationship to people of color. The grand jury’s finding underscores the primary reason why African Americans and other people of color have problems of trust with the justice system in America and the law enforcement arm of that system. Even more to the Brown case and the lack of trust in the County prosecutor Bob McCulloch as a representative of the justice system is his recent record of no convictions of police officers involved in shootings.
One of the legitimate concerns of the people of Ferguson at the beginning of the case was the decision to take it to a grand jury. What that decision did was to remove from involvement the citizens of Ferguson from the final outcome of the case in that the grand jury reflected the demographics of the state and not the city of Ferguson. European Americans represent seventy percent of the state of Missouri, but only about thirty percent of Ferguson. A total of twelve members made-up the grand jury with nine European Americans and three African Americans. A total of nine votes were required to decide the outcome of the case. To increase the control of the justice system in this case, everything was kept secret even after the finding—no information on who voted for what or why. Some citizens of Ferguson stated that they believed McCulloch elected to go with the grand jury to shield him from having to take any responsibility for the finding. That self-protection tactic was apparent during his report to the nation when he deferred many of the questions asked by the reporters as being part of the secrecy of the grand jury process.
Although many questions remain to be answered relative to this case, the grand jury’s finding of no indictment indicates a need to address some serious concerns, namely, the state of the criminal justice system in America as it applies to African Americans and other people of color; the need to address the value of African Americans and people of color in American society; the protection of the police force over and above the protection and rights of the citizens of color; the need for the involvement and support of the European Americans in addressing the problem of bigotry.
From the very beginning of his address, McCulloch’s comments were focused on the rights of the police officer Darren Wilson and how the evidence underscored his report of what actually happened during his confrontation with Michael Brown. The problem with that approach was that Wilson was not the victim, Brown was, but no comments or evidence was offered for Brown by McCulloch. What that says to the public is that the value of the police officer’s life is considerably more than that of the citizen. Why? If Americans are to feel and believe that the justice system works for everyone equally, then some attention must be paid to how the daily operations of that system is informed and functions relative to all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.
Looking nationwide at the frequency of occurrences of police shootings of unarmed African Americans and other people of color, one is faced with the question of human value in American society. If all Americans regardless of their identity and social status are not treated equally with respect and dignity by the justice system and more specially, the law enforcement agencies, then changes must be made to educate them to meet that standard. One problem in the past regarding pronounced bigotry in crimes against people of color by law enforcement agencies is that no serious repercussions are suffered by the law enforcement agencies; the individuals or the agency is usually exonerated; for example, simply look at Ferguson. Regardless of what the grand jury’s finding was, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead, Darren Wilson who fired twelve shots at him (not all hit him) and killed him is free of any charge. The public is left with the suggestion that nothing of consequence really happened. We can all forget about the incident because of the grand jury’s findings and go on about our lives and businesses. We need to be reminded that regardless of the circumstances, a human being was killed and that life was valued.
Another lesson we can take from the grand jury’s findings is that if changes of a positive nature are to come to Ferguson and America, then the involvement of European American citizens must be forthcoming. We may try and pretend that bigotry is on the decline in society, but all we need to counter that notion is to look at President Obama and how he has been treated because of his ethnicity. The grand jury’s findings give us an opportunity for soul searching and pause regarding the kind of society we want to become. We know that bigotry is alive and well now, but we also know that the demographic of society is also changing. By the year 2050 many professional social scientists predict that the majority citizens will be brown or non-European. One wonders how the European Americans would want a society to treat them where they represent the minority population.
Society is changing and part of the problems we are experiencing can be seen as growing pains. The old guard that includes bigoted attitudes is trying to maintain the status quo because it represents power and control in most areas of society, but as society changes that power will shift. So, it would behoove the involvement of all citizens to make society what we want it to be based on our democratic government. The Michael Brown case in Ferguson shows us where we are as a society as well as where we need to go. The choice is ours to make and in the words of the late Dr. King, we can “either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”

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