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Blacks Go to Jail for Killing Dogs; Whites Stay Out of Jail for Killing Blacks

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Black-Lives

I was on Twitter last night when I found out that Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby had been acquitted for killing Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man.  There have been so many police killings of unarmed Blacks with so few charges brought or guilty verdicts that I have become numb.  But yesterday’s verdict of Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby struck a raw nerve.  As a former prosecutor, I respect law abiding police; I detest those officers who lack the temperament, skills and self-control to wear a police uniform.

 

Terence Crutcher is just the latest unarmed Black victim in a decades long string of Black victims killed at the hands of police without justice.  On September 16, 2016, Betty Shelby stated she fired her gun killing Terence Crutcher out of fear.  That is the standard response by police officers used in these cases.  It’s as if it’s in their police training manual of what to say when you shoot and kill a Black person.  Nine white jurors and three Blacks evidently believed her version.  Crutcher had his hands up when he was shot by Shelby, as evidenced on two videos.

 

After the trial of former police officer Michael Slager, I have come to believe that most police officers can get away with murder of blacks with impunity.  With a video and a bystander filming and watching on, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in Slager’s trial.  Slager was caught on tape shooting Walter Scott in the back as Scott ran away. Slager gave the same verbatim response as Shelby that he feared for his life.  How one fears for his or her own life as the perceived threat is fleeing –defies logic.  A jury trial ended in a mistrial.  Slager later plead guilty to federal civil rights charges, thereby avoiding a re- trial and a state trial. He will be sentenced later this year.

 

And then there’s the other side of the coin.  Blacks receive jail sentences for killing dogs or stupidly and accidently shooting themselves. NFL quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for harming and killing dogs.  And former NFL player Plaxico Burress received a two year sentence for accidently shooting himself while at a night club.  Due to New York’s stringent gun laws, Burress likely pled guilty.  With both being black, Vick and Burress also likely pled guilty due to the likelihood of a guilty verdict against a Black man, if tried.  A jury will more likely render a guilty verdict against a Black man for killing a dog or almost killing himself that against a white police officer for killing an unarmed Black.

 

While I am not a Black man, I fear for all Blacks who encounter a police officer under circumstances that a white police officer can assert his fear.  That’s just about any circumstance imaginable.  Racial disparities exist in the killings of unarmed blacks versus whites.  According to statistics, African Americans killed by police are more likely to be unarmed than whites.  In 2015, 40% of all unarmed persons shot and killed by police were Black men. Yet, Black men make up only 6% of the U.S. population.

 

I would like to end on a positive note. But I am outraged at the constant loss of unarmed Black lives by police officers who cower under the guise of  their own innate racism.

 

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Remembering Barack Obama’s First Inauguration

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

ObamaElectionOn this Inauguration day, I choose to reflect on President Obama’s first inauguration on January 20, 2009 and what it meant to me. It was a blistering cold day with temperature in the 20’s.  I attended with a college friend and sorority sister. We were so excited that we could hardly sleep the night before. My friend wanted to get there very early to make sure we had a good spot. We were not fortunate to have tickets with seats.  We settled on arriving at 7:25 am.—a little later than the original 5:00 am time my friend suggested.  The actual swearing in was not until 12 noon.

 

The time passed by effortlessly. We talked to those in the crowd as though they were old friends. As I looked around the crowd, I saw faces of all races, ethnicities and ages. I recall an older black woman who came from Florida. Her son brought her a ticket and paid for hotel room in November.  When she had to have back surgery, her son assumed she would not be able to attend. She was determined to make it—-walker and all.  She knew it was likely a once in a lifetime experience.

I will never forget Aretha Franklin singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee while clad in her green church going hat.   Her rendition was part gospel, part jazzy and all soul.  It made the words of the song ring clear to me for the first time.

“My country ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty—of thee I sang. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

 

It was the first time I saw my country with new eyes. And as President Obama took the oath of office, tears swelled in my eyes—as they did in those around me. All my emotions of that day and my life as a Black woman in America were wrapped up in that moment. I felt like I was a part of America for the first time.

 

At the end of the swearing in ceremony, flags were given out. People were hoarding flags—taking two, three and four flags as souvenirs.  Unfortunately, I did not get one.  I asked every Black person I saw if could have one of their extra flags. No one wanted to give up one flag.  One small white boy gave me one of his extra flags. I still have that small flag today.  That flag is a reminder to me of what I felt like as a proud Black woman in America on January 20, 2009.  That was a long time  ago from where I stand today.

 

Today I feel sadness for my country.  And I mourn the fact that President Obama’s term is finished.  That frigid cold day on January 20, 2009 gave me the spirit to fight for what I want this country to become.  This is my country –and I will fight  to feel what I felt on January 20, 2009 once again.  And just like the words to the gospel song—“ I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal  and political analyst and former prosecutor.  She frequently appears on MSNBC, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera, Fox 5 DC, among others.

The Trump Era and Justice for People of Color

Monday, December 5th, 2016

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.

No Trump, No Way, No How

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropThe presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 now seem like a century ago in terms of where the country is now headed.  In 2008 and 2012, President Obama campaigned on hope and change which resonated with voters.  In 2016, we see an extreme form of racism, xenophobia and misogynist campaigning by Donald Trump appealing to many voters.  And with a little of over a month until the election, there appears to be a growing trend leaning now towards Donald Trump.  In November, we could be calling Donald Trump our next president.

 

In the eight years of President Obama’s two terms, I came to realize that racism is alive and well in the U.S.  In fact, it never really went anywhere. While many persons speak of patriotism towards the U.S. and against protests during the playing of the national anthem, there was often little patriotism shown towards our Commander in Chief with many persons, including Republican members of Congress and the GOP Senate disrespecting President Obama throughout his term in unprecedented ways.  Donald Trump capitalized on that disrespect with his Birther movement theories. He has now broadened his attacks.

 

Now Donald Trump’s comments take on attacking women, Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBT and anyone else that appears to attack him or be a perceived threat against him.  Present polls, at least those this week, show the Presidential race is in a statistical dead heat.

 

Some missteps by Hillary Clinton, including how she handled her pneumonia, only added to the surge by Donald Trump.  After the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton should have been easily able to coast to November and an easy victory.  Her attitude of inevitability is what caused her the Presidential primary in 2008.  This year, Clinton’s attitude of avoiding primary debates along with no press conferences for over 275 days, while Trump commands the airwaves like he owns all of the networks, is working to an extreme disadvantage for her.

 

We are currently on a 24/7 news cycle.  While Clinton and her team may believe that she is better off avoiding press conferences, it is inconsistent with her taunts to Trump to release his tax records.  She avoids transparency albeit in a different way—the result is the same.  The American voter is left without a transparent picture of Clinton or Trump.

 

All is at stake in the November election for Millennials, women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, working families, single parents, LGBT community, unions and even the working and poor white folks who believe their country must be taken back.   Trump regularly spreads vicious stereotypes about communities of color.

 

Trump thinks all black people live in ghettoes with nothing to lose by voting for him. Trump’s appeal to African Americans includes describing   Blacks as having no jobs and living in poverty. His pitch was: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.” “What the hell do you have to lose?”  Trump has threatened to change the U.S. Constitution to get rid of birthright citizenship which grants citizenship to all persons born in the U.S.  Birthright citizenship in the 14th amendment is what made all African Americans born into slavery U.S. citizens.  And he still thinks President Obama is not an American citizen—although his campaign representatives differ. So what do African Americans have to lose with Trump? Everything for starters.

 

And remember Trump kicked off his campaign by calling those of Mexican heritage criminals and rapists.  He stated a Muslim judge was not capable of handling a lawsuit against him—due to the judge’s religion. And the centerpiece of his campaign is building a wall on our southern border and making Mexico pay for it. He proposes to ban Muslims along with Mexicans. Trump has suggested appointing judges to turn back LGBT same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights and supports legislation discriminating against transgender people.

 

Polls show Trump and Clinton are not trustworthy in the eyes of voters. The choice between an untrustworthy and aloof Hillary Clinton and a downright racist, ignorant Donald Trump is not a good choice for me.  But it is the only choice I have. Yes, I have discounted out the third party candidates, Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

 

After eight years of President Obama, it’s difficult to realize that our only choices boil down to these two candidates.  I recall Hillary Clinton saying to her supporters who might have wanted to stay home and not vote back in 2008, “No Way, No How, No McCain” in supporting then Senator Barack Obama.  And now we’ve got to say to those voters who might want to stay home in November, 2016, Dump Trump, Ditch Trump and Drop Trump and support Hillary Clinton.  There is no other way.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former prosecutor often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, Fox 5 DC, PBS, MSNBC, NPR among others. She also writes opinion pieces for the Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.