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Archive for March, 2012

Why We Can’t Let Trayvon Martin’s Killer Get Away With Murder

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The Trayvon Martin case reminds me of so many other cases that I’ve seen of unequal treatment of the law in the criminal justice system. We are a society built on laws that are often unequally and unjustly applied depending on the color of one’s skin. Racism exists in the criminal justice system from an arrest of the accused, or in the case of Trayvon Martin, a non-arrest, to a final verdict.  As a former prosecutor, I sought a fair trial and an impartial verdict based on the evidence in cases that I tried. But fairness and impartiality apparently means different things to different people.

Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, was allowed to give a statement to the Sanford, FL police and then was free to leave based on his statement. If the tables were turned and Zimmerman, the shooter, was black and Trayvon Martin, the victim, was white, he would have been arrested so fast his head would have been spinning. The police will usually arrest a black suspect and ask questions later, under the same set of circumstances.  It would have been up to a jury or a judge to determine if his defense under the Stand Your Ground Law or any other defense was valid, meriting his release.

Zimmerman, clothed in white privilege, was allowed to leave and go into hiding.  According to his attorney, his whereabouts are known.  But fleeing under some state laws and circumstances is a sign of guilt.  Remember when O.J.  Simpson went on his slow ride down the freeway; it was presumed by many that he was guilty based on this act.  And yet in the case of Zimmerman, his act of hiding appears acceptable to many.  I was always taught that if you are hiding, you have something to hide. And hiding often involves cover up, deceit or lying.

Zimmerman sees a black male teenager in a hoodie in his gated community and assumes suspicious activity. As for the evidence, Zimmerman is told by a 911 operator to refrain from following Trayvon Martin and meet police at a set location.  On the 911 audio tape of Zimmerman, he is heard saying that Trayvon is running- presumably away from Zimmerman. After his  911 call, the next 911 calls by neighbors report hearing “help”, one gun shot and screaming. Under these set of facts, Zimmerman  follows after Trayvon Martin, confronts him and shoots him instead of waiting for the police to come, as he was instructed.  While all the facts may not be known, the audio tape is clear—just as clear as the video tape was in the Rodney King police beating case.  And just like in the Rodney King case, the hearing and seeing what is in plain sight or hearing is in the eye or ear of the beholder, depending on their race.

Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin as a dangerous and suspicious black male walking in a hoodie  on the streets of his gated community.   In the past, it was whistling, winking or looking allegedly inappropriately at a white woman that could get a black man killed by a white man.  That’s how Emmitt Till met his death in 1955. In the mind of George Zimmerman, the scenario was the same—being a black male teenager in the wrong place at the wrong time was a crime.  Trayvon Martin’s suspicious activity was being black.

For young black males like Trayvon   Martin, walking on the streets of America is still a dangerous place to be.  Trayvon Martin and all other blacks in hoodies or hoodless have a right to walk the streets in broad daylight and at night without being gunned down by a vigilante looking for trouble.

We can’t let Trayvon Martin’s killer get away with murder or else our laws become meaningless, depending on skin color. We need to stand our ground and demand justice for Trayvon Martin.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates,  NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Dorothy I. Height’s Centennial Birthday Celebration

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Dorothy I. Height didn’t live to see her 100th birthday but that didn’t stop the National Council of Negro Women “(NCNW”) from celebrating it. NCNW called for a week of service in honor of Dorothy I. Height’s birthday beginning on March 17, a week in advance of her birthday.She would have turned 100 on March 24, 2012. NCNW celebrated  Dr. Height’s centennial birthday at historic Shiloh Baptist Church on March 17 by calling for a week of service in the US and abroad. A special note was for women to engage in some of the following activities to honor Dr. Height:

  • Visiting a shelter for the homeless or battered and abused;
  • Mentor to a young girl or boy;
  • Spend time with a senior citizen
  • Take someone to a health professional appointment

Women are particularly encouraged to add additional service acts in the Dorothy I. Height Foundation web site and and to take photos of their service.

Dr. Height chaired the NCNW for 50 years, served in the public sector for many years in civil rights, voting rights and women’s rights. Dr. Height believed that “the role of leadership is to release that potential in all that you work with.” In her last book, Living With Purpose, written at age 97, she wrote:

“Women who have made a great contribution have done so through their service, their awareness and their determination to be contributors to the empowerment of all.”

Dr. Height’s 2nd edition of Living With Purpose is available on Kindle and through Amazon.  It is a must read for all. May we all be fortunate to lead a long life filled with service.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer  and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates,  NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Who is Beating Pres. Obama in Fundraising?

Monday, March 19th, 2012

President Obama

President Obama raised $45 million with 348,000 people donating in February.  Pres. Obama boasts 105,000 of those donating in February lent their support for the first time.  Almost 98% of February’s contributors were $250 or less. On average each donor gave less than $60.

Since April, 2011, 1.64 million people have given to the Obama for President campaign.  Even Bill Maher jumped on the band wagon and  gave $1 million. But President Obama lags behind GOP front runner Mitt Romney in large donors giving $2,000 or more.  President Obama  is struggling to draw in big-dollar donations, with half as many people writing large checks to his campaign than at this point four years. This could be a problem down the road. Hollywood has contributed in ways other than fundraising.  Clint Eastwood’s Super Bowl commercial showing America is at half time and President Obama is deserving of a second term.  Tom Hank narrates a 17 minute documentary making the case for a second term for President Obama.

So who’s beating President Obama in fundraising? Right now, no one on the GOP field can boast the amount and numbers of people giving to President Obama. And if you want to add your name to the rolls, go to Obama for America . Remember to give early and often.


Does Mitt Romney Hate Women?

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Mitt Romney, in his latest attack on women now says he would eliminate all funding to Planned Parenthood. Romney, in his most recent attempt to woo conservative Republican voters and the ultra- conservative Tea Party faction, has decided to show his growing distaste for women and women’s issues.  This will not help him with Independent women voters. While Mitt Romney prefers to throw his dog on top of the car and ride for hours, he prefers to throw women under the bus.  Quite frankly, both are despicable acts. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)  responded by saying  “It’s not just about Planned Parenthood. This disregard for women’s health has been [a] growing theme for Mr. Romney and his campaign.  Schakowsky said that Romney has “become the most extreme candidate on issues affecting women” as a result of “just trying to woo Tea Party voters.”

Democrats have produced a  new Web video highlighting GOP front-runner Mitt Romney’s recent statement that he plans to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood.  From failing to lash out against Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke  a “slut” to wanting to eliminate health care for women,  Mitt Romney has become a desperate candidate in his quest to fight for the conservative right. And after losing big to Rick Santorum, in the latest southern primary states of Alabama and Mississippi, Mitt’s attack on women will only get worse.  It shows he either doesn’t care what women think or he thinks women don’t vote.  Either way, he’s misinformed.

I will keep you updated as Mitt Romney further tries to throw women under the bus and attempts to drive over them with his vicious attacks. And  strong independent women will show him who’s the real driver of the bus.