WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Monday, December 22, 2014

HANDS UP MIAMI- WE CAN'T BREATHE

In light of the tragic assassinations of two innocent NYPD officers this weekend by a deranged man, is there any further proof needed  that we as a nation are being rent by violence, illegal guns, outdated laws, and a failed justice system that engenders distrust, not trust, and anger, not healing? 

Police kill citizens. Secret grand juries refuse to indict. The old racial lines of white cops and black suspects appear again,  49 years after white Alabama State Troopers attacked peaceful white and black protestors on Bloody Sunday during the march from Selma to Montgomery. Social media crackles with all sorts of messages, some peaceful, some threatening. And then some mentally ill man kills two innocent police officers. NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio rushes to the hospital, while NYC police union officials accuse the mayor of having blood on his hands. A thirteen year old boys collapses in grief at the sight of his dead father, while uniformed police officers turn their back when the mayor enters the room for a press conference. 

Where are our leaders? Where are the level headed people who are working to bring our society together, instead of wringing their hands over the deep rifts fracturing this country?

We practice a little civil law, and its always a bloody "if they want it-we don't" scorched earth type of litigation. Never room for compromise, every case replete with accusations and the now common litigation tactic of threatening bar complaints. 

In Congress, each party despises the other. When the president makes courageous moves to end  50 failed years of antagonism with Cuba, the other party calls him a traitor and wants to impeach him. One gets the idea that if in one bold stroke the President somehow removed the dictator of North Korea and instilled a peaceful democracy there, the other party- fearful of the president being successful- would call for his indictment for violating international law. 

Every issue in our society seems to be a zero sum game, where each participant only sees a win or a loss, and can't understand that sometimes playing the game is a loss for both sides. 

So the deaths of these police officers, like the death of citizens at the hands of police officers before, becomes just another move in the chess game. The battle for public opinion and the upper hand. Meanwhile, there are no leaders, there is no healing, problems are not being solved, and a young boy faces the first of the rest of his Christmas's without his father. 

"Hands up. I can't breathe. Where's my dad? "
It seems like it will never end. 

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. Congrats.

Cysco kid

Anonymous said...

One thing that's getting lost (or in the discussions about the recent tragic killing of two police officers in NY (by a mentally-ill man in a country without gun control) is that, since Obama's 2008 election, there has been an escalating pattern of cop-killings by white supremacist/anti-government extremists whose organizations openly promote these killings. Remember when Janet Napolitano first became Secy of DHS, she said the biggest domestic terror threat was from these groups. The right-wing talking heads collectively clutched their pearls and Napolitano soon said she had misspoken. And Cliven Bundy became a hero on FOX news.

The point is that the 'I Can't Breathe' 'Hands-Up' movement is about racially discriminatory police actions. Cop-killing has, for decades, been almost exclusively the province of the (white) right. Brinsley, an impoverished man whose family couldn't help him, had a history of un- or under-treated mental illness. He shot his own girlfriend before killing the cops. Lack of adequate mental health care and a super-abundance of guns is the reason for that tragedy.

It would also be a tragedy if those of us laboring in the "justice" system allow the Brinsley tragedy to stifle our righteous rage at police treatment (protected by prosecutors) of our clients and other people of color.

Anonymous said...

wow... rump got one right... please copy for the ny times... they should run it

Anonymous said...

Great post. Unfortunately the cycle of violence is all too predictable. The police union official is right, there is blood on alot of hands his included. When the killings of unarmed men like Garner are whitewashed by the the "system" and when Missouri officers stand idly by while the businesses of hard working people are looted and burned all of us are placed in danger. Police officers lives are as important and precious as any but I didn't see any of those union officials shedding a tear for the killing of a father of six or any attempts to prevent its repetition. In fact all they did was throw gas on the fire by sayings things like " if he says he can't breathe than he is breathing". Lamentably, we all suffer when the law enforcement arm of the government loses its credibility. However upset the official is he should remember that it was not the mayor of New York who strangled to death an obese man on national television. Those poor officers were killed for no other reason than the uniform they wore. There is indeed a lot of bloody hands to go around and as usual it is the citizenry who will suffer the consequences.

Anonymous said...

9:28 is proof of exactly why nothing will come of this national discussion on race and the police.

We can't have a serious discussion because people like 9:28 don't want a serious discussion. That would involve an acknowledgement that there is more to talk about than just racism.

Instead, the race peddlers want the world to put blinders on, ignore their own eyes and ears, and genuflect at the unquestionable victimhood that they sell.

Now this guy is a victim of the abundance of guns and mental illness.

The mental illness? I can buy that. I think that's a fair point. He still assassinated those cops, but I have not doubt he was severely mentally ill. But footnote: it's exactly why people like you and Al Sharpton shouldn't spew such venom and vitriol and give an unstable guy like this any reason to believe that what he did was okay, much less to have implicitly encouraged it.

The no gun control is idiotic. New York has the strictest gun control in the country, by a wide margin. But when you're peddling perpetual victimhood, I suppose facts don't matter. It's everybody and everything else's fault. Always.

If it's not guns, it's white privilege. If it's not fox news, it's the police. If you don't completely agree, you're a racist. And the talking points go on and on.

There is arguably a serious police practices and a serious prosecutorial practices problem in this country.

But, because the race peddlers have to make a living somehow, horrible police practices and a broken justice system are all easily explained away by racism. Oh, and by the way, they are just as easily fixed by rioting, looting, burning and encouraging the killing of cops.

Can't people see all of this garbage is making things worse and more and more people are becoming less and less sympathetic to claims of racism and racial bias.

And it's because no matter what is done, no matter what is said, it will be never be enough. Whenever the first and only explanation for everything is racism, the inevitable outcome of any discussion or any effort is going to be failure. Whenever anything other than the unquestioned acceptance of racism as an explanation for certain things gets you labeled a racist, the desire to talk or to even care starts to go away.

If this all continues, this country will not see a productive conversation about race or police practices or the justice system in my lifetime. And, that's the real shame.

Anonymous said...

hey 4:22, it's 9:28: what do you mean by "race peddler"? You suggest that they are people who sell race "to make a living somehow." If so, that's not me. I'm a white attorne who's made a living for decades representing people of color, mostly indigent, in the justice building. I imagine many people who read this blog have the same work experience. For us, it's hard to deny that police and prosecutors treat people of color differently from white people. Furthermore, actuarial studies are, I believe, unanimous in corroborating our experience. I'd venture a guess that you're not one of us, and haven't read the actuarial studies.

My point was that the recent tragic killing of two police officers in New York should not stifle our belated expressions of rage against the inequitable treatment meted out to our clients. And I don't think the Second Amendment trumps the First.

Anonymous said...

4:22 is correct.

Anonymous said...

great nyt editorial about the shooting of the police officers and the protests against police violence against people of color: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/opinion/mr-de-blasios-call-for-harmony.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Anonymous said...

Hey, 9:28. I'm more one of you, than you are. I'm a criminal defense lawyer, and know what it feels like for a client (particularly black clients) to get railroaded by a grand jury. Which is why I wasn't the hypocrite that many of you were rooting for the cop in Fergsuon to get indicted on something other than the facts and the evidence. How was rooting for that injustice going to further your goal of preventing the very same injustices in your own cases?

There is racism in policing and in our justice system. I don't dispute that at all.

The tragedy of the bandwagon that you're on is that it's drowning out the legitimate discussion with fiery rhetoric. It is placing this ridiculous race hustling narrative over facts.

You know why the Eric Garner case isn't getting the attention it deserves? Because it is being lumped together with Michael Brown. Brown demonstrated, in part on video, that he was a violent thug by robbing a store and then trying to murder a cop. And, some how you equate that with a guy that was choked to death on video over cigarettes. They couldn't be more different. There is nowhere near the moral equivalency you all are shockingly claiming.

That's why people are starting to tune this shit out. That's why the police unions still have some credibility in this debate -- because you gave it to them by demonstrating that the facts don't matter.

The statistics that you claim I am unfamiliar with demonstrate that black folks are significantly over-represented in our criminal justice system. Is it because of racism? I think that plays a role. I have no doubt. But unlike you, I don't believe that is the only, or even the most prominent explanation. And that is where the discussion breaks down into foolishness. This fantastical notion that, for the first time in your or my life, an incredibly complex problem has a simple solution.

So you keep losing credibility and distracting the discussion and the prosecutors and the police will keep doing as they have been doing and become more militarized, less invested de-escalation, more invested in comply or die, less interested in judicial discretion at sentencing, more invested on sentencing through unreviewable charging decisions, and the list goes on.

Keep it up champ.

The REN (a venue) said...

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Anonymous said...

4:22, you seem to agree that there are "serious police practices and a serious prosecutorial practices problem in this country"
You don't like that people say that it's because of racism.

Doctors will tell you that until you find the cause of the illness, you're just treating symptoms. Until we determine the cause of problems we can't start to fix them.
So what do you think is the cause of these problems?

Anonymous said...

4:22 is absolutely correct....... enough of making excuses.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should start training officers not to kill unarmed misdemeanants. The police are paid by and work for the citizens. They are not a gang and cannot take a position contrary to their employers. If they cannot do their job in a professional manner they need to step aside and get a real job. The public can debate whether the police are being abusive and murdering people whenever. I can't believe the police are seriously telling Americans not to protest or complain.

Anonymous said...

Breathe deep the air is stale
Pain and jam, Pain and jam
Don't wait for an exit
Your invitation is near
Can't be me but it was
rest in peace

Anonymous said...

Great post

Huey Freeman said...

So let me get this straight....you agree that "There is arguably a serious police practices and a serious prosecutorial practices problem in this country", but if Al Sharpton or someone else you don't particularly care to hear from and label a race baiter brings it up then THEY are the problem and you, and others who think like you, will conveniently decide to end the discussion or quest to help find a solution. It must be nice to have that as an option. The people that you are so quick to label and dismiss do not have that option. If race is not the common denominator tell me what is? If it waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it most likely is a duck, and until people who think and speak like you can show that it is something other than a duck (and not just by saying that's not a duck) it will continue to be called a duck.

Anonymous said...

In response to 11:47, what do I think is the cause of the problem? I think there are many.

Although I don't totally agree with rump, I think he hits a big one on the head. We've been trained to think that life is a two team sport and we need to pick a team. We have two political parties and if you agree with just one thing that one says, you must necessrly disagree with everything the other says. You're either pro police or pro black lives. You're either a liberal communist or a right wing nazi.

What gets lost in this two team mentality is decency and common sense.

We don't solve our own personal problems with any success if we think in terms of two diametrically opposed solutions. Why is it okay to tackle our nation and our society's biggest and most complex problems using this two team model.

Cops are disincentiviized to de-escalate. Either comply or die. They are taught to treat us all as enemy combatants and to take control. That's why Eric Garner is dead. Because the crushing of his throat muscles over a pack of cigarettes was an acceptable solution to the problem these cops faced, which was nothing more than a guy who was agitated over being repeatedly harassed. That's how they are trained and it has to stop. You mean to tell me there were only two solutions to that problem: do nothing or choke him to death.

Our courts are another root cause of the problem. They do mental gymnastics to justify any questionable police practice or questionable prosecutorial conduct. I think many judges are hypocrites and charlatans. In a criminal case in the 11th Cir, whether you win or lose depends on which side of the "vs" you fall, the reasons are only an afterthought. Our U.S. Supreme Court has just said that its okay for cops to be ignorant of the law, but are all too happy to make people convicted felons over lesser mistakes. Our courts are the biggest enablers.

I could go on and on and on...

Anonymous said...

4:22, this is 9:28 - what is the bandwagon you say that I'm on? What is the race hustling you're talking about. You and I agree that police and prosecutors treat people of color in a discriminatory manner. I have never equated the killing of Brown with the killing of Garner. I have never said racism was the only reason for the over-representation in prisons of people of color. Who is this Sharpton-like effigy you're railing at? It isn't me.

And I in turn was wrong about you: you are a criminal defense lawyer who has observed, studied, and disapproves of the disproportionate arrest and prosecution of people of color. Is it the Hands-Up slogan you dislike, because it suggests to you that Michael Brown was murdered, contrary to the grand jury's findings in that case? I can understand your point of view. One way to look at it is that, whatever the grand jury decided, the case activated lots of people around the country to engage in non-violent protest against pernicious patterns about which we have all been silent for too long.

What I can't understand is your rage. But it does illustrate Rumpole's point.

Anonymous said...

1123---best post I've seen on this issue anywhere. The police are a reflection of our society, but represent a higher ideal and need to be held to (and perform at) a higher standard. Still, this is a complex issue that begs for a serious, fact based, rational, and realistic discussion. That will never happen when the rhetoric is so heated.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

hey 4;22, Brinsley's gun was purchased in an Atlanta pawnshop "bristling with guns," not in NY, with what you call "the strictest gun control in the country." http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/nyregion/tracing-the-gun-used-to-kill-2-new-york-city-police-officers.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Lack of gun control is part of the NY tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Rage? Re-read your first post. A little angry and a whole lot of silly excuses for the murder of two cops. You're the one who was a little hyped up.

I'm not angry. Exasperated. Yes. Angry. No.

I'm only expressing a different view point, one that I know gets shouted down because it doesn't fit in with the narrative you all create and desperately hope against hope the facts will catch up with.


Sort of like the CNN reporter in Ferguson who couldn't spare a second without talking about peaceful protesters, just as she was getting hit in the head with a brick, against the back drop of burning buildings.

There's a comic book character that has now chimed in and proven my point. (Comic book, how apropo). From the little I can understand, Huey claims that because Garner and Brown were both black, what more proof do you need of why they were killed. Has to be because they were black. Oh, and I only get to say differently because I have an "option," which is read: privilege.

Then there's the guy who says that guns from Atlanta are the reason those cops were murdered. Yes. Yes, sir. Those guns are the reason. Why would anyone have ever thought that it might because a mentally ill thug was persuaded that what he was doing was just by the fiery rhetoric of people that have no regard for decency or the truth. Nah, that would just be silly. It's those guns from Atlanta. Let's ban them, because then and only then would this mentally ill career criminal have followed the law and not dared touch one.

We're presumably all on the same team. I'm interested in Justice for all my clients, black, blue, yellow and pink. I don't want to see an injustice visited on anyone, I don't care who, because it only further erodes our justice system and makes our jobs harder. I can't say I'm getting the same vibe from some of you,

Anonymous said...

4:22 - The point of the 9:28 post was simply this: in the immediate aftermath of the killing of the two New York police officers, conservative commentators, like former mayor Guiliani and former governor Pataki, exploited that tragedy to attempt to shut down nation-wide peaceful protests against racially-discriminatory police actions, saying that the peaceful protests were the cause of the NY police killings. It was a fallacious argument: the man who killed the police had a history of mental illness, he was nevertheless able to buy a gun, then shot his girlfriend before killing the police officers. It appeared that the fallacious argument nevertheless had legs, as happens so often in our cable-driven intellectually-undernourished culture. It seemed important to note that the vast majority of police killings in the last few decades have not been committed by people of color animated by rage against the police, but rather by white supremacists animated by rage against the government, particularly once it was headed by a black man.

I view the recent wide-spread peaceful protests against racially discriminatory treatment by local police and prosecutors as a very healthy development in a country in which racism remains a terrible problem, particularly in the criminal justice system.

What precise part of this position do you disagree with.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post & comments. This is what biting down hard on the tough issues is all about.

But in all candor to those who claim that Rev. Al spews "vitriol" -- do you REALLY believe that? Are you talking about sound bites or the substance of his programs?
I ask in honest curiosity b/c I don't see that...

Huey Freeman said...

"From the little I can understand..." Since there is a need for a serious conversation I would invite you to have just that. I have never said that the only reason Garner or Brown are dead is because of the color of their skin. Nor did I say that racism (cop killed a black guy he has to be racist) was the cops motivation. I have only pointed out that they, like many others, are dead, black, unarmed, and killed at the hands of cops. The narrative for Brown is similar to many others (big black guy attacked me and I was afraid for my life), and still questionable. Yes questionable. You have simply chosen to believe facts different from what others believe, just as jurors are told they can do. And yes there are facts that are different from those that Darren Wilson said. The narrative for Garner is not questionable since it was captured on video. A black man was choked to death for allegedly selling a cigarette. I presume that you have the same disgust for any person being choked to death for selling a cigarette that I do, and his race is inconsequential. I have yet to hear of a similar story about a white person being choked to death over selling a cigarette though.
What you read as "privilege" is in fact a privilege that you clearly stated you have. Black's do not have the privilege to leave a conversation about race when they hear something they do not agree with. They have to live in a world that sees their race/color before it learns of their individual character. Blacks do not have the privilege of "becoming less and less sympathetic to claims of racism and racial bias" as if 1) the more its talked about the less it occurs, or 2) the more it is talked about the less I care. I grew up in the south, not South Florida, but the real South. I have witnessed people change their disposition when they realized that my hispanic friend who looked white was actually hispanic; Then they assumed he had to be Mexican because that's where all hispanics come from right? I have witnessed people change their disposition when they realized that my jewish friend was "A Jew" and not white like them (I put "A Jew" in quotes because when you hear it in that southern drawl it sounds more like a slur than something else). I have witnessed my black friends get a totally different treatment than my white friends by total strangers who knew neither of them, and met them both at the same time. I have witnessed hispanic police officers use mental wizardry to take the side of the hispanic person over the person of the other race despite the evidence saying otherwise. And YES I have witnessed blacks doing the same thing. I have also witnessed this outside of the south. So if you say its not race, what is it?
You say that there is a problem with police and prosecutor practices. One of the common factors I see in this problem is race, and it permeates more than just the criminal justice system. It's in fair housing, education, and other government programs that feed into the criminal justice system. Is it the only problem that I see? NO, of course not, but it is one of them, a very prevalent one, and the most horrid of them all because it is the one that cannot be changed. It is also one that has a very long history in this country. If you say its not racism, I ask you again to tell me what it is. I've reread all of your posts and you seem to say that you agree racism is a factor, but not the only one, without giving any of the other ones. You speak negatively about what I perceive you would call "liberal talking points," while only giving "conservative talking points." If this is to be a "serious conversation" it must be one had from both sides, so here is my invitation to you for such a conversation. In a totally lighthearted joking spirit I sign off: "I'm a graphic novelist dammit, but thanks for googling me!"

Anonymous said...

4:22 - You say you are expressing a "different point of view, one that gets shouted down. . ." What is your point of view? So far all you've done is attack the plainly-stated views (racism remains a horrible problem and we shouldn't be distracted from non-violently protesting it by the tragic but irrelevant Brinsley police killings) through arguments ad hominem (I'm Al Sharpton and Huey Freeman is a cartoon character). Do you have a logically sound viewpoint to the contrary?

Anonymous said...

In the 30 years since I came to Miami I have seen very little change. An assembly line of poor minorities funneled through the criminal justice system, most with two things in common. They were male and allowed to drop out of school. Most have no father figure help raise them. I have seen no concerted effort by the bar, judiciary, sao & pd working together, community leaders to try to reduce the crime rate and social conditions which lead to rampant crime in Miami. No money for recreation centers, no programs, that I can tell, encouraged or instituted by our State Attorney of 20 years now, KFR. It could be argued that too many have vested interests in the status quo. Do the 30 circuit judges making 150k a year want to see felony and juvenile crime go down. Then they have to do divorce and car accidents. And it is the same in most metropolitan areas. And now let's attack and blame white police for the occasional shooting when the black community is silent when there are 50 shootings every weekend in Chicago in the summer. WHAT THIS COUNTRY NEEDS IS AN AGENCY OF GOVERNMENT CREATED TO ENFORCE AND MANDATE THAT PARENTS PARENT THEIR CHILDREN, MEN RAISE AND PARTICIPATE IN THE LIVES OF THE CHILDREN THEY BRING IN THE WORLD, AND THIS NATION NO LONGER TOLERATES 1.3 MILLION CHILDREN A YEAR ALLOWED TO DROP OUT OF SCHOOL AND ROAM THE STREETS LIKE PACKS OF WILD ANIMALS. OTHER COUNTRIES WOULD NOT TOLERATE THIS. P.S. For several decades we as a society have had no problem apprehending, prosecuting, and incarcerating children who are victims of parental abandonment and neglect and all we have to show for it is out of control violence in all our major metropolitan areas and more people incarcerated than any nation in the world. Perhaps we should start prosecuting neglectful and abusive parents who abandon these children to fend for themselves as criminals.

Anonymous said...

11:12: tragic, but irrelevant police killings? Irrelevant? Really?

Anonymous said...

12:40 - we HAVE prosecuted the parents of these children, mostly for drug crimes or property crimes related to acquisition of drugs. do you really think prosecuting them for parental abandonment/neglect, in addition to the other offenses for which we're already sending them to prison, will improve their children's prospects? it's like playing hot potato.

If you visit inner city schools and housing projects, and look at the real job prospects today of impoverished under-educated minority parents, you may be less quick to blame their children's offenses on them. It's fucking dickensian out there.

If you have familiarized yourself with these conditions, sorry for the implication.

Anonymous said...

9:26 - brinsley's killing of the two police officers is irrelevant to the issue of protesting racist police and prosecutorial practices. the reason i said it was irrelevant to this issue is because right-wing commentators were insisting that the non-violent protests were the reason for brinsley's killings. in fact, they were irrelevant to brinsley's killings, and his killings were irrelevant to the question whether to protest. the original post was published on 12/22, the date Rumpole had suggested that justice building defense attorneys adopt the "hands-up" gesture in court. I understand why you recoiled from the word "irrelevant" but it may be because you came late to the discussion and didn't understand the context. Hope this explains it.

Anonymous said...

reply to 10:16. You missed entirely the point I was trying to make and yes I am very familiar with the poverty in inner cities. If biological fathers were required to participate in the lives of and raise their children, not just pay child support if able to, the crime rate in this country we be cut in half. I have no problem putting parents in jail when their kid drops out of school and does an armed robbery. Start holding parents accountable for the felonies of their children and the crime rate will drop as fast as a kardasian's pants in the company of a wealthy nba player.

Eric C. Padron said...

Mr. Rumpole:

Your statement that President Obama made "...courageous moves to end 50 years of antagonism towards Cuba..." is ignorant and absurd. It doesn't take courage to unilaterally change an American foreign policy that has been supported by presidents of both parties only AFTER you run for re-election for the last time and AFTER your party gets resoundingly defeated two years later. Just like the president all of sudden "discovered" that he had the power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, President Obama has demonstrated that he is feckless and conflicted about our American exceptionalism. While he is willing to kill persons he has designated as enemies in foreign lands with drones despite the deaths of innocents, without disclosing the legal basis for doing so, he has crumbled in the face of Putin's aggression in the Ukraine, Chinese aggression in Asia, and of course his illusory red line in Syria. Courage is certainly not the word that would be used to describe a community activist who became president and uses his executive powers only after citizens can no longer hold him responsible at the ballot box.

Eric C. Padron