Paul R. Lehman, The jury’s not guilty verdict of the Philando Castile case sent a message to America

June 20, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, Christianity, Civil Rights Ats, Declaration of Independence, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, justice, law, law enforcement agencies, Minnesota, political pressure, Prejudice, protest, Race in America, whites | Leave a comment
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With the jury’s finding of not guilty for the officer who killed Philando Castile comes the implied, but a blatant statement from law enforcement that the justice system overwhelmingly favors their agents—the police. The ruling says that in spite of you forcing us to use dash cams, body cams, and surveillance cams, you, the people, cannot prevail over us because justice is what we say it is. Most people of sound mind can usually tell right from wrong, but somehow lawyers, prosecutors, judges, district attorneys and others in the justice system cannot when a member of law enforcement is involved. We the people cannot continue to allow this miscarriage of justice to take place and assume that all is right with the world because it is not. So, what can the people do to replace his misguided system?

Although a disproportionate number of police victims have been people of color, the corruption is not exclusive to people of color, so, all people who want justice to serve everyone should be concerned and involved in bringing about a system that serves everyone. We know that many people are angry and concerned about the lack of justice simply by looking at the makeup of the protesters. While the protests serve a purpose in bringing the problems to public awareness, it should also serve as an opportunity to organize groups to study and develop plans of actions directed at replacing the system. Nothing will happen to replace the system if the people do not get involved and execute specific plans of actions.  Also, change will not happen overnight.

The first order of business is to organize and develop a plan of approach to addressing the problem. The need for this process is important because it saves time and energy. For example, developing a plan to replace the chief of police, if effective, might bring about some relief, but would not solve the problem because the chief is simply one part of the total organization. Any plan to be effective must understand the system and its organizational structure in order to replace it completely. Some of the tools available to the people include political power—finding suitable candidates for the various offices and supporting them to victory; political pressure—the people putting pressure on current politicians to introduce legislation written to address many of the current problems in the justice system; the law—suing the city, police, Fraternal Order of the Police for as much money as possible so they get the message that injustice also comes with a price. Whatever approach taken must involve all concerned citizens, not just the vocal ones, and it must start at the local level.

We have heard all the excuses offered by law enforcement to justify their actions; excuses like “I felt threatened,” or “I felt my life was in danger,” or “I thought he was going for his gun,” or “I was afraid for my life.” All of these excuses and others have been offered as reasons for using deadly force, and yet, in spite of their fears and feelings of trepidations, many of these officers remain on the force. If they are in a state of constant fear or insecure feelings, they should not be in law enforcement. How can they “serve and protect” when they are under constant stress?

In addition to the individual excuses we hear the all too often references to the “bad apples” in the department or the “need for more training,” or “the need for more officers,” or “our lives are on the line every day.” While all those reasons might be valid in some cases, none of the excuses explains why departments do not do a better job of vetting future officers or explain why some officers think it is fine to knowingly use excessive force, or officers using common sense and a degree of patience before resorting to deadly force, or spend more time educating departments and officers on the meaning of all people living in a diverse society rather than training in military combat tactics. Enough with all the excuses; ways and actions speak louder than words ever will.

We, the people, are tired of the unjust actions of the criminal justice system and its agents as well as the over-used excuses to try to justify and maintain the system. We are not trying to appeal to a sense of Christian fellowship or valuing our common humanity or democratic principles when we protest and ask for fairness for ourselves and fellow citizens, but to human decency and to a simple attempt to know the difference between right and wrong, and to seek to do what is right.

We should not take lightly the necessity for change in the system of justice as it continues to wreak havoc on the lives of people of color in general and show disregard for the rights of many of its citizens. To seek a replacement of the unjust system is not a suggestion, but a responsibility as noted in the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” The founding fathers believed that replacing a corrupt and abusive system was not simply a choice but a “duty” of the people. The focus is not replacing the government, but the abusive system. We should not look to violence as part of a remedy for injustices, but the legal tools that are available and most of all, the people.

Change and replacement of the criminal justice system will not come easy or quickly because of the long years of its entrenchment, but it must come. Any plan for replacement must begin at the local level and involve as many people possible—strength in numbers. People wanting to join in the effort should look for groups and/or organizations already active in the process. Joining efforts with other individuals and organizations does not mean one has to agree with everything the group or organization represents but agreeing on replacing the justice system should be the primary focus.


Paul R. Lehman, Judge’s comments to convicted man appear biased

February 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Disrespect, equality, fairness, justice, Oklahoma, Prejudice, The Oklahoman | 4 Comments
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Tim Willert, a writer for The Oklahoman, reported on a case involving the shooting of an off-duty Oklahoma County sheriff deputy (2/22/13). At the sentencing of the man convicted of the offence, the judge made several questionable comments in additional to the sentencing that indicate a bias, a lack of information or a lack of fairness.
The first statement uttered by District Judge Kenneth C. Watson, according to Willert’s article was “You are a disgrace to your family.” Unless the judge knows the convicted man, Christopher Travis Baker, and his family, his comments appear biased and focused on the individual rather than the crime committed. If he does not know Baker and his family, his comments, although well-intended, should not be uttered unless they are uttered to all persons convicted of the same or similar crimes. If the comment was made to impress the family, chances are the family was already aware of the social affects the crime had on the family. If the comment was meant for Baker, what was the purpose? He could not undo the crime; he could only apologize to his family if that was his desire. The comment should have not been uttered for whatever reason the judge might offer; it served no useful purpose.
The next comment made by Judge Watson was “You are a disgrace to our race.” Again, if the judge is having Baker serve as a representative of the human race and he makes the same assessment to all the individuals who appear before him, then his comments are well-taken. However, if he singled out Baker for this comment, then he was not being fair. The judge also showed a lack of current information if his reference to “our race” was meant to be interpreted as “African American people.” The only race of human beings is the human race—Homo sapiens. One wonders why the judge would place on one individual the reputation of an entire ethnic group. Evidently, if the judge sees Baker as a member of a separate race, then he must also see each person from his or her ethnic group as representatives of a separate race. If this is the case, the judge need to be better informed about the changes in society regarding the concept of race.
Before we get to the Judge’s last comment, we want to underscore the point that we understand the rights of a judge to make whatever comments or statements he or she feel important to the convicted person, their family and the courtroom audience at the time. Our concern is that the comments be made without a biased or unfair undertone that somehow makes an example of the convicted in addition to what the law provides. If the Judge uses his or her comments and statements on a regular basis to all individuals without prejudice, then we have no compliant; however, when a person is singled out for criticism based simply on so-called race, then the Judge owes the convict, the family, and the court an apology. The Judge’s job is to administer justice. The convicted are punished for the crimes they commit, not defects in their character or stereotypes associated with their ethnic group identity.
The third comment made by Judge Watson was “You are a disgrace to the African American race.” This statement has a number of problems because it assumes a number of things that are not accurate. The first is that Baker does not represent anyone but himself. Yes, he is a member of the human race, but that does not make him a representative of all human beings. Yes, he committed a crime for which he is going to be punished, but he is not the crime, so the actions should be condemned, not the person. The person can change, the crime cannot be undone. If no hope exists for change, why waste the people’s money by sending him to prison?
The reference to “disgrace” seems to suggest that a certain show of behavior is expected by Baker, in effect, he is to be viewed as a discredit or a humiliation not only to the human race but also to the African American group. Unlike some Asian and non-western cultures, the individual members of a family do not carry the reputation of the family with them. In America, we look to the individual to represent him or herself, that is why we respect the rights of each individual. The reputation of the family does not take preference over the individual.
When the Judge uses the phrase “African American race” he is showing a lack of information. Science has shown since the results of the Human Genome Project that all human beings belong to the same race. Individuals can pick and choose their culture, but not their ancestry. So, an individual of Asian ancestry can be identified as an Asian, American or Asian American, but not a member of the Asian race. Likewise, a person of European ancestry can use his or her culture as a form of identity, but not white race or Caucasian race; biologically, it does not exist. So, when the Judge uses the phrase “African American race,” he is misinformed. Chances are he meant African American ethnic group, not race.
We know that changes come slowly, especially social changes. However, we expect our judges to be better informed than the average citizen regarding changes in our society. After all, they are the guardians of our system of justice; we are reminded that justice is blind. If that is the case regarding Baker’s trial, then Judge Watson owes an apology to Baker, his family and the court for his biased comments.

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