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LegalSpeaks is a progressive blog on legal-political issues with an impact on race and gender. Whether covering politics, court trials, Supreme Court arguments or the latest laws and bills affecting minorities and women, LegalSpeaks blog articulates unique and thought provoking opinions. The blog is not meant to be construed as legal advice.


Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 2017 Trump Era

January 16th, 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

MLKMonumentOn December 31, 2016, I attended a watch night church service where Rev. Dr. William Barber led the service. During the service, I heard a rousing account from singer, activist and song writer Joan Baez about an event with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It bears relevance for today. Baez tells a story from when she was traveling with Dr. King and he fell asleep, making him very late for a speech.  The other ministers and activists could not wake him.  They asked Joan Baez to go in into the bedroom and sing a song to Dr. King.  As Baez finished her song, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, Dr. King raised his voice and said, “Joan, sing another one”.   Today we need to waken the inner voice of Dr. King to fight the battles that lay ahead of us with the new Trump Administration.

 

As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King on his holiday and birthday, we are reminded, as King once wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And we see that even before Donald Trump’s inauguration, there are many new injustices facing the nation and affecting the world.  There are battles once fought that we must now fight again. As we see a new era with justice being dismantled for immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ community, civil rights and civil liberties being taken away, the Voting Rights Act being diminished, health care rights being challenged, religious freedoms at risk, sexism, racism and xenophobia on the rise, we must channel our collective inner Dr. King to rise from a sleeping bed.

 

It is not enough to quote Dr. King’s speeches on his birthday and watch his clips on TV, one day of the year.  Those of us who demand justice must now all rise to the occasion and continue the fight that Dr. King started.  And we must fight not on one day but every day. With the Republicans holding the three branches of government, House, Senate and Executive with the ability to forge a new Supreme Court era, the battle will not be easy.   As President Obama said in his farewell speech, change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

 

And we must think beyond the norm, for the times coming ahead are anything but normal.  Rep. John Lewis, (D. GA.) the only remaining living person who spoke on the stage with Dr. King at the 1963 March on Washington, does not believe that Trump is a “legitimate president” as the Russians illegally engaged in the electoral process of this country.  Despite Donald Trump’s assertions that John Lewis is all talk, John Lewis’ record speaks for itself. And the intelligence data obtained by our various intelligence agencies express a real threat to our Democracy due to Russian hacking affecting the legitimacy of our incoming President.

 

As we go forth to remember Dr. King, we must now more than ever, be reminded that history repeats itself, if we allow it.  Everyone who respects and loves Democracy and justice must wake up from their slumber and stay woke.

 

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor who appears on CBS, MSNBC, PBS, Al Jazeera, Fox 5 DC, BET, among others. Her op-ed articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post and Baltimore Afro.

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The Trump Era and Justice for People of Color

December 5th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »

President Elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as his pick for Attorney General of the U.S. Sessions is a lightning bolt for anything related to civil rights and justice for people of color. Much of the progress seen in the Eric Holder era and now Loretta Lynch era may likely soon be erased with a much darker side taking its place. The prior history of Sessions speaking out in support of the Klu Klux Klan (“KKK”) in the past years, is troubling for civil rights advancement.

Some of the areas at risk are police consent decrees, federal police lawsuits for excessive force and death of unarmed individuals, immigration legislation deferring deportation of “Dreamers”, reduction of mandatory minimums, Voting Rights legislation, federal lawsuits opposing voter disenfranchisement and the Civil rights Division, itself. Sessions favors increasing the prison population. Former Attorney General Eric Holder favored decreasing the prison population by reducing non-violent drug sentences and reducing mandatory minimums. Sessions opposes reducing sentences, even if non-violent. Sessions is in favor of increased surveillance without the need for a search warrant. Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was notoriously known for wiring taping civil rights activists, Martin Luther King and anyone that deemed to speak out in favor of civil rights. And Donald Trump has previously stated he favors stop and frisk laws which were previously held unconstitutional.

Justice is at risk in the Trump era.

On the Bill Press show on December 1, I elaborate on the ways a Trump era Department of Justice may be a major setback for justice and civil rights for people of color.

Listen and Watch Here:

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She often appears on MSNBC, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera, BET and Fox 5 DC.


Why Walter Scott’s Killer May be Re-Tried–Even if Found Guilty

December 3rd, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »


 

 

 
Debbie Hines on MSNBC explains the Michael Slager trial and the implications of the lone juror holdout.

Former Charleston, SC police officer Michael Slager, who is on trial for the murder of Walter Scott, after firing 5 shots into Scott’s back, while fleeing from the officer, may get an early Christmas present—his freedom. As of Friday, a jury of 11 white persons and one lone black juror failed to reach an unanimous verdict. Eleven of the jurors support a conviction of either first degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. One lone hold-out states in a letter given to the judge that he or she is unable to come to a guilty verdict and won’t come to a verdict (paraphrased). Judge Newman did not order a mistrial on Friday, December 2. Instead, Judge Newman instructed the jury to go home over the weekend and continue deliberations on Monday, December 5. Michael Slager may have already won his freedom and the right to a new trial with the help of the one lone dissenting juror.

The video taken by a bystander witness showed Slager firing shots into the back of Walter Scott as he ran away 17 feet from the officer, after being stopped for a busted tail light on his car. The video further shows Slager attempting to plant a Taser gun at the feet of Scott following the shooting. No evidence in the trial showed that Scott ever had possession of the Taser. Slager’s testimony stated that he was in fear of Scott. No case is ever a slam dunk. However, this case is a classic example of a first degree murder case. Nonetheless, the jury is deadlocked.

In a case where a jury becomes what it feels is deadlocked, most judges will give or read what is called the “Allen charge” which tells the jurors to continue to deliberate and to keep an open mind. The Allen charge does not allow the other 11 jurors, as in the case of Slager, to coerce the lone juror into changing his or her mind. That would be sufficient grounds for an appeal.

There are several points that are interesting in the Slager trial. In all jury trials, whether criminal or civil, the judge instructs that the foreperson should send notes to the judge whenever there is a question or issue with deliberations. The foreperson speaks for the jury through written notes. So, it is interesting that the lone juror chose to write a separate note to the presiding judge. And it is even more interesting that the note possessed all of the appropriate legal buzz language needed to assist the defendant, in the event the lone juror changes his or her mind and votes with the other eleven for a conviction.

While I hate suggesting conspiracy theories, I do find it strange, for lack of a better word, that this one lone juror has almost made it his cause to declare the defendant not guilty. While that is the right of any particular juror to vote his or her conscience, it seems that there might be more here with this lone juror. The note suggests almost some form of legal training to state the appropriate buzz word language to give a new trial to the defendant, even if a guilty verdict is reached.

Unless a juror later speaks to the media, which often does occur in many high profile cases, the public does not know any information about the juror such as education, occupation, age or other material information. That information is solely known to the lawyers, judge, parties and court room clerks. This lone hold-out appears to be going above and beyond what a hold out juror usually does by letting the foreperson advise the judge of the circumstances.

As the days and perhaps weeks go on, we may come to learn more about the lone hold-out juror. For now, that juror has given Michael Slager his freedom whether through a mistrial, if declared, or a guilty verdict, if rendered. The tone for grounds for appeal are clearly already set by this lone hold-out juror, if he/she has a change of mind to convict Slager.

Judge Newman has indicated if a mistrial is declared, the case will be re-tried. While it is important for closure to the family of Walter Scott that a verdict be rendered, declaring a mistrial now will save the family more heartache down the road. If a guilty verdict is rendered next week, the defendant will undoubtedly appeal.   It is better to declare a mistrial now that having to redo a trial several years later.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She can be seen on MSNBC, CBS, PBS, Al Jazeera, BET, Fox 5 DC and other news outlets.

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Trump, Kim Kardashian and White Women Voters Who Love Them

November 16th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »
Kim Kardashian via Instagram

Kim Kardashian via Instagram

In the one week since the historic election of Donald Trump, I like many others have been left wondering why or how the era of Donald Trump arrived.  And just one way to look at it is from the face of the most popular reality show—Keeping Up with the Kardashians and white women voters.  At least 53% of white women voters voted for President-elect Trump; whereas 94% of African American women voted for Hillary Clinton.  And 68% of Latino women voted for Clinton. This begs the question as to why there is such a great disparity between white women and women of color voters.

 

For white women voters, it is not so easy just to analyze them solely on the theory of the economy and the rural areas of the country—middle America doing poorly in relation to other parts of the country. One factor, not addressed before, is the Kim Kardashian reality show factor.  Kim Kardashian and the Kardashians are followed by many white women.  I don’t honestly know many black women who look up to Kim Kardashian or keep up with any of the Kardashians. There is a large segment of white women who follow the Kardashians. By way of background, the Kardashian factor came into popularity upon a 2003 leaked sex tape with Kim Kardashian and singer Ray J in 2007. It propelled her and her family members into almost instant success when their reality show began later in 2007—and hasn’t stopped since then.

 

 

Hillary Clinton and Democrats spoke of Donald Trump’s lewd 2005 sexist statements with Billy Bush, those about grabbing pu- –y anytime he wanted, his comments about Rosie O’Donnell being fat and ugly, ditto about a former Ms. Universe, in an attempt to resonate with women voters.   Some online supporters of Hillary Clinton posted nude modeling photographs of Melania Trump posing with nude women before her marriage. The obvious attempt was to compare Melania Trump’s image to that of Michelle Obama.  And another reason was to malign Melania Trump as a potential First Lady.

 

And here’s where the Kim Kardashian effect comes into play.  Any attempt at shaming Donald Trump  on his sexist remarks  or body shaming his wife  failed with some white women voters.  There was an overall  disconnect with the segment of white women voters who faithfully follow Kim Kardashian either on air, on Twitter with  her 47 million followers,  Instagram with 78 million followers or Snapchat. Kim Kardashian, a married mother of two children, constantly posts selfies of her almost and sometimes naked body in an attempt to “break the Internet”.

 

Reality shows have become a way of life for many TV watching persons.  I would surmise that more people faithfully watch reality shows that the news driven media.  Next time, a reality star runs for any office, national or local, or for that matter any political candidate, it would make sense for candidates, pollsters and political scientists to research reality shows and their effect on the population. It will give a glimpse into how our reality show driven nation and its voters will vote and why.  Those Kim Kardashian supporters could likely care less about Trump’s sexist remarks or nude photos of Melania  Trump as  many voted for Donald Trump.

 

 

Unfortunately, there is no reality in Trump’s Apprentice show or Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  There are only real life consequences for actions taken by the future President. If Hillary Clinton had appeared on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and been endorsed by Kim Kardashian, she might have won the white women vote—and maybe the election.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She frequently appears on air on MSNBC, Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, Fox 5 DC, PBS among others. Her op-ed articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Baltimore Sun.


How Will Hillary Clinton New Emails Impact Election?

October 29th, 2016 | Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Legal | 3 Comments »

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropThis election has more twists and turns than any novel could ever imagine. And now with 11 days before the election, FBI Director Comey claims to have found new emails as a result of a search involving Anthony Weiner and Clinton aide, Huma Abeden.  No information is really known except for a short 2 paragraph letter from  Director Comey to Republican leaders.   Everything in Washington, DC is political.  And I  have to admit the revelation of any “pertinent” emails at this timing is likely politically motivated.  Despite what many people might say otherwise, everything is really political.

WUSA 9 anchor Bruce Johnson interviewed legal analyst Debbie Hines on Friday, October 29, 2016 on the Clinton new emails and their significance to the 2016 election.  Watch here:  Legal analyst Debbie Hines examines what this latest email probe could mean for Hillary Clinton’s campaign:

http://www.wusa9.com/mb/opinion/editorials/off-script/how-do-new-clinton-emails-impact-campaign-/343991838

 

 

 

 

 


Dear Black and Hispanic Folks: We Must Prove Trump Wrong

September 29th, 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal | No Comments »
Photo Courtesy of Color Lines- 2012 Early voters

Photo Courtesy of Color Lines- 2012 Early voters

 

Donald Trump is casting himself as seeking the African American vote. He even put Omarosa Manigault, formerly of his Apprentice show, in charge of reaching out to African American voters. Many African American voters, that voted at the highest rate of every single group in 2012 to re-elect President Obama, are not feeling Hillary Clinton. To say that many blacks are not feeling the burn or energized by Clinton is an understatement. And by watching a few focus group reports, there are actually some young undecided black voters who appear wavering over Trump versus Clinton. And I understand the lack of excitement for Clinton. Let’s face it, Clinton is not an exciting political candidate. And her many years of baggage which amounts to distrust for many voters doesn’t help her either.

 

Donald Trump made clear his intentions in the first debate. As Maya Angelou once stated, when people show you who they are, believe them. His intentions are to keep blacks and Hispanics in their place—not to help uplift them but to trounce them. In reality, Donald Trump’s promise to go back to unconstitutional stop and frisk laws makes clear that he intends to use racist tactics that were outlawed by the federal courts to reign in blacks. Stop and frisk laws disproportionately targeted blacks and Hispanic persons, mostly men. Statistics show that from 2002 until August, 2013 when stop and frisk tactics were ruled unconstitutional, over 5 million persons were subject to it. Nine out of ten persons stopped committed no crimes. The overwhelming number of the 5 million stopped and frisked in New York City were Black and Latino men.

 

And Trump’s statements of failing to pay workers and small businesses who did work for him, failing to pay taxes and filing for bankruptcy 4-6 times shows he is not going to help the economy. His only help will be putting the U.S. into bankruptcy.

 

Trump is not targeting black or Hispanic voters. He intends to show that Hillary Clinton is not a good candidate so minorities will stay at home. This is where blacks and Hispanics must prove him wrong. It’s not going to be a love fest this election. Mitt Romney felt that blacks would stay home and not vote. And as I said then, we needed to prove him wrong. There is a reason why Romney and Trump want blacks and Hispanics to stay home. Neither can win a Presidential election if minorities stays home. That’s why Republicans have passed restrictive voter laws to help assist in lowering the minority voting base—under the ill-conceived and bogus guise of protecting the election laws. People stand a better chance of getting hit by a lightning bolt than voter fraud occurring.

 

I am not a Hillary Clinton surrogate. I supported Bernie Sanders during the primary. I have issues still with Hillary Clinton—mostly in the category of trust. But I cannot be silent anymore. I must do all that I can do to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t take us backwards, figuratively and literally. For Hispanics, his efforts to build a wall and deport everyone who he deems to be a non-citizen entering the U.S. without papers should be enough to get out the vote against him. But I understand that Clinton’s issues also weigh on voters’ minds.   For African Americans and Hispanics, with the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, loss of Pell college grants, re-instituting the unconstitutional racist stop and frisk practices, self-describing himself as the law and order candidate –which code means putting blacks and Hispanics in jail or worse, this is no time to be complacent.

 

This is the time to prove Trump wrong by voting at the highest possible levels we can muster. Failure is not an option. Our lives and our children’s lives depend on it—figuratively and literally. We must take away Trump’s “trump” card. He is counting on blacks and Hispanics to stay home in November. We must prove him wrong.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst, speaker and former Baltimore City prosecutor. She is frequently seen as a legal/political commentator on MSNBC, BET, CBS, PBS, Al Jazeera and Fox 5 DC to name a few.

 

 

 


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