Wednesday, November 26, 2014


On July 12, 1967, Newark, New Jersey erupted into flames and rioting when two white police officers stopped and beat a black cabbie for "passing by them"  in his cab. By July 17, 26 people were dead and more than 725 were injured. 

On December 17, 1979, four City Of Miami police officers beat Arthur McDuffie to death, after he was seen speeding on a motorcycle.  In May, 1980, after an all white, all male jury acquitted the officers in Tampa (Judge Lenore Nesbitt acquitted one of the four on a rule 29 motion), residents of Overtown and Liberty City rioted,  after a protest at our courthouse- then known as the Metro Justice Building, turned ugly.  By the end of that week, as Miami burned, lawyers and litigants were walking into a  Justice Building guarded by armed national guard soldiers. 

The LA Watts riots. The Rodney King riots. Two more riots in the 1980's in Miami over race and the police. 

The meta-data strongly suggests that when white police officers are acquitted after killing black suspects, people riot. 

So why are people rioting? 
Because the Justice System is broken. 
When you think of the American Justice System, what do you think of?  Exceptional cases where people are vindicated? Or horror stories of innocent people plea bargaining in the face of overwhelming government  coercion? Innocent people spending decades on death row until exonerated by DNA. And this includes people who "confessed" even though innocent. 

If the Justice system doesn't provide justice, are we surprised that angry and disenfranchised people take to the streets? The people who are arrested for petty crimes like disorderly conduct or resisting arrest without violence or failure to obey the lawful order of a police officer and are processed through a system designed to wear them down and beat them down to the point where they eventually take a plea, with the promise all they have to do is pay a small fine. Until they realize  that the arrest follows them for the rest of their life and they can't get a decent job, they can't qualify for  government housing or benefits, and all they have left is their anger, and rage and the streets. 

That's why people flip police  cars and loot and burn the stores of innocent store owners. 

We stood with our friend in the Liberty City riots while his family butcher store, which had served the neighborhood for over thirty years, was burned to the ground. He cried, not for the loss of the store, but because he recognized the children of people he had done business with for decades, looting his shop- rage in their eyes, blinded by anger and hatred and with no other way to express those feelings. 

Race matters. It always has. It always will. We may someday become a society where a man or woman is judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. But how do we judge the content of the character of man or woman with a string of petty arrests for which they had no way to fight back?

Close your eyes? Imagine Rumpole, a middle aged lawyer of some renown, writing this blog. 

Did you see a black man or a white man? Be honest. 

Race will always matter. It's what we see when we see someone. 

But race does not have to mean rage. It can mean the same kind of wonderful differences that make all humans special and unique. 

But until we have a justice system that dispenses justice, race will always have a component of rage. Until we stop rewarding judges for the total number of cases they close out every year, and instead reward them for their fairness and honesty and their ability to see a wrong and make it right, race will matter to the black child who sees her father in jail, again, powerless to fight back, incarcerated  by  a system geared not to giving him justice, but to closing out his case as quickly as possible. 

This is why Ferguson is burning. Whether the officer was right or wrong, it doesn't matter. What matters is the perception that when it comes to court, race matters and the game is tilted in favor of the white police officers. This is why Newark burned, and why Miami burned and why Los Angeles burned, and this is why our cities will continue to burn. 

Because race matters in country where justice doesn't. 

See you in court unless the damn building is burned down before Monday. 


Juan Gonzalez said...

In his I have a dream speech, Martin luther King spoke of the "security of justice". A just system for addressing grievances and meting out punishment fairly is the only thing that keeps riots, vendettas and all other kinds of retribution from occuring everyday. If you can't trust your legal system you take care of civil and police problems yourself whichever way your desperation and means allow. Notice that in cities where police forces reflect the racial makeup of the population you rarely have these type of reactions. Whatever way you view these events, we can all agree that just and transparent law enforcement and justice systems protects all of us.

Just Another Intern said...

I got an email yesterday saying there was to be a "vigil" and a press conference by one of the Brown family's lawyers (in Miami?) at the Gerstein last night. Did this happen?

Anonymous said...

A riot is the language of the unheard. Martin Luther King

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comment, but it's an overly simplistic view of a complicated problem. Blaming society and the justice system is easy............but we all know that there are many other factors in play here.

We live in a society that glorifies violence, gangs, athletes, etc. Basically everything but hard work and independence. Parents expect teachers, cops, etc. to do their jobs for them. Kids are abandoned and learn the wrong lessons. We have a long way to go and must address racial prejudice, but it's about a lot more than race.


Anonymous said...

Rioting, looting and burning down your own people's businesses and property is not a way of protesting. It's just taking advantage of the opportunity to commit crimes and let go of basal predatory insticts with the likelyhood of getting away with it. Whatever the perception, real or imagined, of injustice, it does not justify the criminal and destructive behavior of the rioters. Decent people protest peacefully, they don't attack others, use violence, or destroy their lives and property. Rioters do not care for the victim of the police or the system, they just care about what they can steal or destroy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, BTDT it's alot more than a society that glorifies violence, gangs, athletes. It's a history of a country that overtly excluded African-Americans from jobs, a political voice, and a decent education until the early '70's. Yes, the high school I attended wasn't fully integrated until 1970, 16 years after Brown v. Board of Education. And finally, when African Americans were allowed to join unions and full entry into the economic system, most of the middle class manufacturing jobs, that allowed previous generations a means in which to lift themselves from their previous economic state with steady paying jobs with health benefits, paid vacations and sick leave, were starting to be outsourced to other countries. Unfortunately, as David Simon commented, the only company job in a company town now is that of drug dealer and trafficker.

Anonymous said...

10:02 am stop drinking the Kool-Aid

Seth Sklarey said...

Jack Griffith, a murder defendant made famous for the Whisky Creek murders with co-defendant Jack "Murph the Surf" Murphy once commented that the way to completely shut down the "justice system" would be for every lawyer and every defendant to demand a trial by jury and refuse to plea bargain.
Have always felt it was a denial of the equal protection clause to receive a harsher sentence if you opt to go to trial and lose, but no one will take the fight for this idea.

Judge Ben Willard, our once upon a time Criminal Court Judge who preferred hunting or fishing in the afternoon to listening to an unnecessary trial admonished defendants: "Son, if you plead not guilty and ask for a jury trial, bring a toothbrush because if you're found guilty you will do jail time." It was his not so subtle coercion to get the Defendant to accept a plea bargain.

When Judge Murray Z. Klein first got elected on the slogan "Fight crime, elect Murray Klein," he began sentencing a lot of miscreants to deserved jail time. The jailers came pleading to him that there was not enough jail space on the overcrowded Dade County jail and he would have to figure out some other punishment.
They had to invent some new ideas like house arrest and community service.
Murray Klein volunteered himself for bond court because he knew many of the Judges didn't care for that assignment which were on a rotating basis. He also volunteered to work that assignment for Chistmas and Easter so his Chistian brethren could spend time with their families for the holidays. When retired Judge Gerald Klein also became the other semi-official full time bond court Judge, they made their slogan "Two Kleins, no waiting."

Anonymous said...

1019.........I agree that past discrimination and racism have contributed (and continue to contribute) mightily to the problem. But, again, it's far more complex than most are saying. Acknowledging that fact doesn't undo the past or trivialize current racism.


Anonymous said...

Shumie time for Turkeys. Gobble. Gobble. Shumaroo.

Anonymous said...

Murray Klein authored the greatest opinion in the history of the Justice Building. "the motion is denied. " powerful in its brevity stunning in its legal acumen. The original is framed and hanging in every chief judges chambers since Weatherington.

Anonymous said...

What the above commentator left out was that at the time it was considered stunning that Murray k left out the word "hereby".

Fake former judge said...

I saw Kenny w at Morimotos in so be eating a ton of sushi. Must of cost a geezel.

Anonymous said...

The Professor says:

I think Brown's mother and father would have more credibility in their complaints, if they would just recognize and admit what their son was. Their denials that their son never used violence or bullied anyone, let alone never used curse words is either naive or an out and out fabrication.

The evidence indicates that he was no "gentle giant" and, if he was perceived that way, it was because he had bullied others so much, that no one would "mess" with him.

The video in the store clearly indicates that Brown stole merchandise, and then roughed up the owner when he tried to stop him. I don't know a jurisdiction in the country that does not call that a robbery.

Now does that justify excessive force by an officer? No. But it does lend credence to Wilson's account that Brown battered him. Does that justify deadly force? Maybe, maybe not. (Tennessee v. Garner) But a review of the evidence released online shows, if the immediate witnesses had told the truth to the police, the media and the grand jury, it might have been enough to charge Wilson.

This no true bill is just another example of why it is important for witnesses to tell the truth from the beginning. The witnesses who told the truth seem to corroborate substantial portions of Wilson's testimony and the physical evidence. No lynch mob will overcome that.

In recent years two media lead lynch mobs have resulted in premature charges or overcharging in high profile cases. (Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman. Both resulted in acquittals because the evidence was just not there in either case, or because of a cry for "justice", without recognizing that justice is the system not a result. In both these instances prosecutors sought indictments or filed informations they could not prove just to satisfy the mob.

We don't advance the cause of justice for all, by making sacrificial lambs of someone just to satisfy the bloodlust on a particular segment of society. We advance the cause by working to apply the law equally to all, not by reducing it down to the level it is being improperly applied to one group or the other.

After I have been called a racist (which everyone who know me, knows I am not) and sufficiently castigated for this comment, I will comment on the grand jury process and the duty of a prosecutor to look beyond PC to whether he/she can prove their case BARD before charging.

Happy Thanksgiving. Hug those you love and be grateful for what you have, your love ones with you.

Shumie time said...

Save the drama for Obama.

Old Guy. said...

This holiday sucks. My kids are with my ex wife who is bleeding me dry. Didn't even get a phone call. No stores are open. No bars. No restaurants. My dinner was from Boston market and it sucked. I hate this day.

Mitt Romney said...

Wishing the 1% among you - the producers / the earners - a well deserved half day break of thanksgiving for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

OG you shoulda come to key west. Bars open. Drinking rum runners eating fried shrimp and s Buncha drunk college girls from Texas are running around here. Could be worse.

Anonymous said...

The REN (a venue) will be open for Black Friday.

Anonymous said...

Holidays suck for divorced dads.

Anonymous said...

Act like you've been there. This is relevant for the PDs and ASAs. I don't feel you need to opine on Facebook and social media about your win unless you will post something when you lose.

Happy Divorced Dad said...

My kids were with their Mom's family and it was a pleasure not to have their whiny, lazy asses in my face and watch them looking at their cel phones all night. I was with my new hot girlfriend's family who served me first and treated me like a prince. Couldn't be happier.

Claude Ersline - Browne said...

In the Last Week alone in South Florida, 3 Afro-Americans have been killed and 2 Other Afro - Americans send to the hospital w gun shot wounds.
ALL shot by angry Young Black Men.
Maybe patents need to teach that doing bad, evil.or violent acts are wrong and makes you into Bad or Evil person.
Enough , he is a / was a good child. Good people, don't shot and kill others for selfish stupidity.

Anonymous said...

The REN (a venue) will feature $1 Old Milwaukee beers until midnight to celebrate Black Friday.

Anonymous said...

6:50 am your kids are a reflection of you.

Anonymous said...

6:35 a.m., what 6:50 a.m. writes is just wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to keep posting about my trial victories on social media until I am on retainer for a Colombia cartel.

Then, once I am rich, I will ascribe to your notion of "discretion".

Happy Divorced Dad said...

6:35 - My kids are a reflection of ex-wife. And the fact that i let her raise them this way. For that, I'm guilty.

10:59 - No, that's exactly how it was.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please post the new judge assignments for Jan 2015.? Please!