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, AND THE POPE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

We blog where others fear to tread (type?...whatever). 

Is there systemic racism in the Court system?  Everyone take a deep breath and relax. We can discuss this without becoming over emotional. 

First we look in the mirror. White male. Raised in an enlightened manner in the 1960s, where marching for civil rights was part of our culture. So far so good. But what do we know about racism? When we walk down the street at night do people cross over to the other side because they are afraid of us? Was it hard to get a cab (before Uber)?  Did judges, clients, opponents make certain judgments about us because of our skin color? NO. So how can we understand racism when we have never walked a mile in the shoes of our colleagues and friends who have experienced  racism?  Have we experienced privilege because of our race? Perhaps.  We are self made. Working multiple jobs and taking classes at night to get into law school, and then working every day since the first day of law school. But did we have opportunities to get ahead economically because of our race? Most likely. 

So we do not understand racism at the gutter or gut level of someone who has experienced it.  It is like being shot at- you cannot truly understand the fear until the bullet whistles by your head and explodes into something behind you. Then comes the  sleepless nights years later, wondering why the bullet missed. Try and make someone understand what it is like  to bite into a lemon, or sip a cold beer on a hot weekend in a frosted glass. You can describe the experience, but not understand it until you have lived it. 

Does that mean we cannot talk about racism and try and help eradicate it? No. But when we say that a particular experience or institution is not racist, some of our colleagues react in anger. "What do you know about racism?" they will say or yell. And we will respond "So you mean to tell me you are singled out for a enhanced search almost every time you walk in (this particular) courthouse?" "Yes". 

Now lets translate that into what we do. The police stopped a car and pulled everyone out and searched them. The occupants were African American. Racism? Aggressive policing? Professional Policing? How can we tell? Should a Judge factor a defendant's race into their decision on a stop or search? 

Two eighteen year old young men are sentenced for fighting with their girlfriend and taking her phone and breaking it. Each defendant has a girlfriend of the opposite race. Wanna bet who gets the higher sentence? If the Judge is sentencing one to a stiffer sentence unconsciously, how do we stop this? How do we look inside ourselves and understand our unconscious prejudices? 

Many years ago we represented a middle aged Hispanic man accused of sexually molesting his girlfriend's niece. He showed up in our office in a white short sleeved dress shirt and black tie. His face was pasty, scarred with acne. He wore thick glasses, was balding with thin greasy hair,  and had a nervous tick and he just LOOKED like a child molester, whatever that means. Our legal assistant and young associate both females, could not stand to be around him. And after investigating the case we realized he was 100% innocent. He just looked guilty. We were able to hire someone to change how he dressed and looked, tried the case, kept him far away from the jury and he was acquitted. But we knew going into the case we were dealing with jurors unconscious perceptions. 

Isn't that the real battle these days? The unconscious perceptions about race. Pick two heart surgeons. Both age 50. Fit. Good looking. Distinguished. Each has an air of confidence. One is a female African American. One is a white male. Based on appearances alone,  who would be selected as the better surgeon? How can we change unconscious perceptions and prejudices that have no bearing on reality? 

So what does that mean for the Chauvin trial? By all appearances he killed George Floyd. And for that he should be convicted and punished. But lets change the facts slightly. Lets say he didn't use excessive force. He knelt on Floyd for ten seconds, called for help, had him cuffed and Floyd died anyway and after a trial Chauvin is acquitted. Is it another example of a justice system devaluing the life of a man because of his race? Or do we fix all the prior inequities of the past on Chauvin's back? That is what really worries us. That two wrongs do not make a right. That is why we are worried about this case. 

And yet... a colleague we very much respect replied to us the other day "Where were you when my family members were being lynched? Did anyone care about those wrongs? All of the sudden you care about  justice when this country has had injustice for as long as it has been in existence?" 

We could go on and on. But you get the point, so have at it. 

11 comments:

James (Jeff) Donnelly said...

A start.

Jeff Donnelly said...

A start.

Anonymous said...

Rump, your scenario is not what happened. No need to guess or speculate. The cop murdered him because the cop is a sadistic fuck who ought to go away forever. Period. Do not pass go.

When multiple people say “stop, you are killing him” and they guy under your knee is saying he can’t breath, and you kill him...that is murder. You want a hypo...two guys fight in the street, and after subduing the other and tying his hands behind his back, the winner does a touchdown kneel on the other guys neck until he is dead. Murder.

Anonymous said...

"We can discuss this without becoming over emotional."

Is it only the people who dispute you that are "over emotional"? Or do you include yourself in this admonition?

In your last post, you were making frantic statements like:

"Can anyone explain to us how Mr. Chauvin will receive a fair trial? There are protests calling for his conviction."

"There is a spoken belief that an acquittal will cause the state and the country to erupt in flames."

"Talk to us about how Mr. Chauvin has a snowball's chance in the Suez Canal of getting a fair trial? Because we do not see it."

Don't set yourself up as the calm rational white male here to talk sense to the hot blooded masses who don't have your wisdom. You're the one clutching your pearls that Chauvin's trial is somehow the end of due process and that implacable hordes stand ready to burn down the country.

Anonymous said...

He's going down on the lesser 3rd degree murder and he will get maxed out at sentencing for 15.

E a said...

Im not surprised by yoür attitude this case id a slam dunk for thd state period

Rumpole said...

4:57 PM based on the level of racism in this country, the assault on the capitol by white supremacists, the deep-seated anger against concepts like reparations and affirmative action, I was actually speaking to others than you seem to think. But I realize I was not clear and it could be interpreted otherwise, especially since I am so much smarter than everyone else and exceptionally condescending in my overall handling of any issue with people of less intellect than myself- meaning just about anyone of any race, color, or sexual orientation who reads this blog.

Anonymous said...

"based on the level of racism in this country, the assault on the capitol by white supremacists, the deep-seated anger against concepts like reparations and affirmative action, I was actually speaking to others than you seem to think"

In your prior post, you said:

"Can anyone explain to us how Mr. Chauvin will receive a fair trial? There are protests calling for his conviction. The prosecution has every possible lesser included as a charge. There is a spoken belief that an acquittal will cause the state and the country to erupt in flames."

Clearly, your concern was about groups and protests advocating for conviction. You are worried about people "calling for his [Chauvin's] conviction." You are worried about them threatening due process for Chauvin and social stability (however much is left). Racists and white supremacists are not the ones calling for Chauvin's conviction. Racists and white supremacists are not the class of people who would be most outraged by an acquittal of Chauvin. Racists and white supremacists would be cheering and giddy at an acquittal. When you stated your worry about people who would "cause the state and the country to erupt in flames" in response to an acquittal, you were not thinking about or referring to racists and white supremacists. You were thinking of the same class of people that reacted unfavorably to the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King. It's the people that protest for George Floyd and advocate for Chauvin's conviction that now worry you.

Your current post was not addressed to "over emotional" racists and white supremacists. It is an attempt by you to claim awareness and respect for racial issues while expressing your worry and criticism about the progressive protest movements aroused by Floyd's death. In your current post, you say:

"Or do we fix all the prior inequities of the past on Chauvin's back? That is what really worries us. That two wrongs do not make a right. That is why we are worried about this case."

So by your own admission, what "really worries" you now is the possibility that the police officer who killed a black man on video will be wrongfully or excessively blamed for societal racism. That is the potential "wrong" that now fills you with dread. Your colleague was right to upbraid you.

"I am so much smarter than everyone else and exceptionally condescending in my overall handling of any issue with people of less intellect than myself- meaning just about anyone of any race, color, or sexual orientation who reads this blog."

James Watson is/was probably smarter than most people on Earth. That didn't help him much when he made his impertinent statements. And I'm not sure that "I'm just as condescending to white people" is a compelling excuse.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole this time around you messed up. This post has a stench of white privilege all over it. People like you are the problem.
Luckily we have a new generation of youngins who are way ahead of us and will change our country for the better.

Anonymous said...

Floyd had fentanyl in his system. Floyd had methamphetamines in his system. Floyd can cannabis in his system. All at once. There is evidence he swallowed at least some of this immediately upon contact with police officers, shortly before he died.

Floyd was infected with a respiratory virus more deadly than any we have seen in generations, a virus that kills both young and old by making it impossible for their lungs to gather oxygen, a virus so new that scientists still don't know entirely how to predict its behaviors.

Floyd was in a panic, his heart racing, his arms flailing around. Floyd repeatedly refused instructions of police and -- while still thrashing in the police car, no officer on his neck -- was screaming out, "I CANT BREATHE I CANT BREATHE".

All of that is fact.

To be aware of those facts, and write "the cop murdered him because the cop is a sadistic fuck".... and to be, presumably, a Florida lawyer who works in criminal justice.... I have no hope for our system.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the comment, I was not aware of the yelling in the back of the car that he couldn’t breath.

I stand by my comment.

Why not take the guy who is in distress to the er? As they would any injured cop? Because he didn’t view Floyd as human. He places his knee on his neck and ignores the guys plea for his mother because he is a sadistic fuck...expressionless, emotionless, satisfied with his dominion over another human being. Just my opinion. And your right, I don’t have all the facts.

But hey, if the union wanted me to defend him, I would quote a fee and do the best I could. Even sadistic fucks deserve a zealous defense....I think better than the one he has.