How Supreme Court fixed a Racial Wrong

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By Stewart Greene May 24, 2016
Justice Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Supreme Court’s lone African-American, provided the lone dissent Monday in the court’s decision to rule in favor of a black man convicted almost 30 years ago of murdering an elderly white woman. A poor, black youth named Timothy Foster was accused of murdering a white woman.
The Supreme Court then reversed and remanded Foster’s conviction, and he shall receive a new trial. It was only in 2006 that his lawyers obtained access to the prosecution’s jury selection notes, which showed that the race of the black potential jurors was highlighted, indicating “an explicit reliance on race”, according to Foster’s lawyers. As to the reasons prosecutors gave for striking black jurors, the court said they “cannot be credited”, because white jurors with the same characteristics were accepted for the jury.
Only conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s sole African American member, dissented. But the prosecution’s own files “plainly belie the state’s claim that it exercised its strikes in a “color-blind” manner”, Roberts wrote. Roberts rightly called the number of references to race in that prosecution file “arresting”. Foster argued that the state’s strikes were racially motivated. Prosecutors also circled the word “black” next to the “race” question on the juror questionnaires of five prospective black jurors, Bright said. The Georgia courts had the opportunity to recognize the discrimination and grant him a new trial, but they didn’t.
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 23: The U.S. Supreme Court is shown as the court meets to issue decisions May 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. This happened just a year after the Supreme Court had declared such actions unconstitutional. In 1987, Foster was sentenced by an all-white jury to death row for the murder of an elderly white teacher, Queen Madge White. The black jurors were rated against each other “in case it comes down to having to pick one”. In a prior interview, Garrett, who is now Marilyn Whitehead, said she felt discriminated against by prosecutors at Foster’s trial. Foster’s case is the rare instance in which the prosecutors’ files contained clear evidence of racial discrimination, Bright said. According to CBS News, the prosecution had highlighted each potential black juror with green highlighter, marked them with a “B”, and added them to a list labeled “Definite Nos”.
Roberts also chastised prosecutors for being “indignant” when they were initially accused of striking prospective black jurors due to their race. Prosecutors work so hard to seat all-white juries because they know what all-white juries mean for trial outcomes. Bright also said Foster’s case is one of many where people have been denied a fair trial because of racial bias in the jury selection. “The new evidence is no excuse for the Court’s reversal of the state court’s credibility determinations”, he wrote. The court has already deadlocked in three cases, including a high-profile dispute over public-sector labor unions. They said that a statement was made by the prosecutor to the jury, stating the death sentence should be imposed to “deter other people out there in the projects from doing the same thing”. The ruling was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida’s death penalty sentencing system gave too much power to judges, and not juries. Black convicts make up a disproportionately high percentage of death row inmates in the United States. Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s lone black justice, wrote a lengthy dissent, agreeing with Alito on jurisdictional grounds but also arguing that the court’s findings on the prosecution’s treatment of the race of the jurors were improper

News Letter

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone!

 

Well, here we are at the top of another year, headed into 2016 with a bang.  Thank you all for all of the hard work and participation that you put in last year.  Last year we started with a film viewing (Fruitvalle Station) where we began to build out our base.  The year was not without challenge as we reengineered our base by providing clarity to our mission and goals and began to develop friendships among our base members.  We reached out to a number of community members in central Vermont and Burlington and were instrumental in participating in the Criminal Justice reform task force that put forward some key legislation that we expect to be on the agenda.  We were also able to open dialogue with various community leaders and police chiefs for the state of Vermont, Burlington and Montpelier.  We also had the opportunity to join in coalition with organizations in forming the One Love Initiative for Racial Justice and Safer Communities enabling us to participate in a number of important issues in the Burlington area.  We closed the year out with a game night where we invited Kesha Ram, a candidate for Lutenant Governor to come out and share her thoughts on the cause   We’ll share some brief Justice for All updates and plans.  You may even will an opportunity to sign up to participate.

 

This year, promises to be challenging and exciting.  As we enter into the year, I look forward to building upon the police research and expanding into research into other parts of the justice system.  We will take the exciting initiative #DecisionPoints to the next level this year.  This work is important because it will identify and systematically provide transparency and accountability into those discretionary points in the justice system that can be informed by implicit and explicit bias.  We will leverage our relationships to continue to build and grow our presence in communities to position us to better facilitate the education, empowerment and healing of our Vermont Communities.  This being an election year, we will also invite elected officials and candidates in to share our positions and hear their visions.

 

Exciting times are ahead and there is lots of work to be done.  Please join us for our 2016 Vision for Justice Encounter,

This will be at the Veterans of Foreign War in Montpelier on January 29, 2016 at 6:00 PM.  Here we will unpack this and more and lay a course for success.

 

Moving forward for Justice

 

Current leading Republican candidates visit to Vermont

After internal discussions on this activity, we have reversed our position on Justice For All participation in any activities surrounding this event.

I am delighted that the current leading Republican candidate has chosen to visit us here in Vermont.  I won’t be there.

I’m excited that the eye of the nation has turned to Vermont in this perfect storm created by an unprecedented sociopolitical paradigm shift and racial justice groundswell.

It is important that that we see and understand clearly our potential trajectory as a people. We can see this in the ideals and values represented by this individual. This candidate represents everything we don’t want as people, a state or a nation.  It’s not enough however for us to say that we don’t want what the candidate represents; we must daily fight for what we represent.

We have an opportunity because the nations attention is being turned to Vermont and this is one of the few times that we as a state (96% white) can send a clear message that there are those who live here that believe that Black Lives matter

Vermont has many racial issues and the work that is being done is slow, painful and frustrating, given the obstacles we face.  There is much more that lies ahead.   Those of us who are really concerned about this visit because of racism should ask ourselves are we regularly doing all we can do to combat racism in this state or is this a knee jerk reaction, hypocritical at best?  If it is truly racism that we stand against then we should make an investment by engaging in ways that impact criminal justice reform, police oversight, and other initiatives that advocate transparency and accountability in the justice system, and commit to stand for racial justice in the justice system in Vermont.  As a person of color, I know that nothing g impacts us harder than racial disparities in the justice system.

 

With one percent of the state being African American, we are 10% of the Vermont prison system.  We are investigated, sentenced, incarcerated at vastly disproportionate rates with much heavier penalties.   You can’t have it both ways by failing to act on these real and present facts while crying foul on this guy for his racist ideals.  I reject the premise of the statement that we are trying to “keep hatred out of Vermont” by standing against this candidate.  It is a trap that conveniently ignores the life altering impact that institutionalized racism in our justice system has on people of color in Vermont.  It gives those who compromise their stand on racial justice in Vermont’s criminal justice system (to preserve our sociopolitical capitol) a privileged safety net wherein which to take refuge until the next public performance.

 

One TIME SENSITIVE thing that you can do to make real change in Vermont is to call for an open and transparent process on the finalization of the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (introduced under Act 134, 2014, Racial Disparities in the Vermont Criminal Justice System).

Did you know that the final version is being quietly completed finalized and is targeted for a January 8, 2016 deadline?  Shouldn’t the process surrounding implementing such an important policy that affects the conduct of every law enforcement officer in the state have transparency and public participation?

This is a policy that impacts all people of color in the state as well as the public safety of everyone in the state.

For those white folks who are really interested in addressing racism in Vermont, how about starting a petition calling on Representative Bill Lippert, Senator Sears, Karen Richards (Executive Director, Human Rights Commission) and Richard Gauthier (Chair, Law Enforcement Advisory Board) to open this process to afford public visibility and participation!  I’d be happy to sign it.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Fair and Impartial Policing Policy called for in Act 193, 2014, (initiated as Act 134, 2012, Racial disparities in the Vermont Criminal Justice System)  

 

Did you know that the deadline for input is January 8th, 2016?  Here is a petition to extend that deadline and provide transparency and open participation in the process.

 

#DecisionPoints

This is an exciting initiative where will research and recommend methods to provide transparency and accountability at the # DecisioPoints in the justice system that can be informed by implicit and explicit bias.  The initial work done here was at the direction of Act 134, 2012 but the report was delayed and fell short of prompting the legislature of taking any further action.

 

JFA

 

About Justice For All

Justice for All is a racial justice organization, which identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism while facilitating healing in our communities.  Our mission is to ensure justice for ALL through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform, and judicial monitoring. We address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and inequities in the criminal justice system.

Updates

“As a person of color, I know that nothing impacts us harder than racial disparities in the justice system. With one percent of the state being African American, we represent 10% of the Vermont prison population. We are investigated, sentenced, incarcerated at vastly disproportionate rates with much heavier penalties”
The Vermont legislature directed an independent study on the impact race has in the criminal justice system in Vermont (2012 deadline). Though the report was released in 2014, it was not made available to the general public until last year (after I repeatedly requested it). It is not posted on the legislature’s site to date. Here is the report, for those who are interested:
http://crgvt.org/…/rep…/reports/racesentencingrpt_files/Race Sent Rpt 2015.pdf
No additional action taken…
Anyone understanding these circumstances and reading this report should be able easily determine the level of commitment in Vermont in addressing racial disparities in the justice system. But somehow we choose to create a narrative that the problem is flying in on Thursday?

Here is something else for those who are really want to stand against racism. A higher calling than your sociopolitical capital – your money.

https://www.gofundme.com/JFARacialJustice

fundraiser

I won’t be in Burlington Thursday Night.

We call for community oversight of all law enforcement agencies in Vermont

https://www.change.org/p/4949730/c/345625374?recruiter=339877787&utm_source=comment_share&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=facebook_link

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The Racial Justice and Safe Communities Initiative (RJSCI) launched this petition yesterday. Read below to see what the Police Chief Magazine (The professional voce of law enforcement) and the Vermont Constitution have to say about community oversight of law enforcement.