Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Not-Just Not-Legal System

I just finished watching "The Trials of Darryl Hunt" and I'm ready to stick my head out the window and scream. Darryl Hunt, for those of you who may not know, is a a 46-year-old man who did twenty years in prison for a crime of which he was "wrongfully convicted" in 1984. The crime was the brutal rape and stabbing murder of a young White newspaper woman. The location was Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And Darryl Hunt, of course, is Black.

What makes the story so gut-wrenching, is that Darryl Hunt was originally offered $12,000 to say somebody else (who was also innocent) did the crime. When he said he wouldn't, he was charged with the crime himself, convicted by an all-White jury, and sentenced to natural life in prison -- at nineteen. When an appeal resulted in a second trial, he was offered a second degree murder plea bargain by the prosecution in exchange for the five years he had already served, but he said he wouldn't say he committed the crime any quicker than he would "lie on" somebody else, so another all-White jury (why am I not surprised?) convicted and sent him to prison a second time.

In 1994, DNA testing (which could have been done at any time, but wasn't) proved he could not have committed the rape, but one judge after another in subsequent appeals -- all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court found no reason to release him. Until, of course, the real killer was identified and arrested after Hunt's lawyers finally managed to get a judge to order a DNA manhunt.

The guilty man confessed as soon as the handcuffs hit his wrists. And Hunt was subsequently exonerated and paid $1.6 million by the city of Winston-Salem for multiple miscarriages of justice in the usual parade of illegalities it's so easy for law enforcement and persecutors prosecutors to perpetrate against people of color and Black males, in particular. So that means everything's okay in the end, right? I mean, that represents a big fat 226 dollars for every day Hunt spent dodging the White Supremacist skinheads the guards were paying to threaten his life on a daily basis while he wondered if he'd ever be free again before they carried out their stated intentions. That's more than he would have been making as a Black man on the street.

It's important to understand about this case, by the way, that during the entire process, Darryl Hunt had a truly remarkable support network first in the Black community and eventually, in the whole community. Yet, the police and District Attorney were fighting to keep this not-dangerous not-criminal locked behind bars in a private hell. That is to say, he wasn't just one more unfortunate Black man somehow free-falling through a bureaucratic maze because nobody realized he was there. There were Black and White people doing everything in their power to get him free and the police and District Attorney were committed to preventing it, even when they knew they couldn't prove he did it, even while they were fabricating evidence or hiding what didn't fit their purposes.

At some point, these stories would become ridiculous, if they weren't so horrific. Read The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther" by Jeffrey Haas or watch "The Murder of Fred Hampton" on YouTube. Read Killing Time: An 18 Year Odyssey From Death Row to Freedom by John Hollway and Robert Gauthier. Read From the Bottom of the Heap: the Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King or watch "Passin' It On". Read Slavery By Another Name: the Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas Blackmon or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (see below). Watch "USA vs Al-Arian". Then visit The Innocence Project, Resurrection After Exoneration, Angola 3 News, and Solitary Watch. And that will barely get you started.

Then, after you've digested a bellyful of roiling worms of truth, ask yourself how many men and women you figure are buried under the collective jails of this not-just not-legal system. I'm through calling it the criminal "just-us" system because if it's not based on justice for all, then it's not just at all.

Here's a YouTube video of Michelle Alexander talking for an hour about the ideas in her book, The New Jim Crow. It's well worth the time.

1 comment:

Brotha Wolf said...

I've known that the U.S. "justice" system has been intensely corrupted, but after reading this, there isn't a word to describe how screwed up it is. It's frightening to know there are scored of innocent people within the prison system. Yet, it proves that the world "justice" is a word that holds little weight in today's society. Most people don't know what it actually means, and those at the top use it as a means to maintain power.