Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Police Brutality Blog Rated 8th Among Top 100 Criminal Justice Blogs by CriminalJusiceCareersGuide.Com

The Police Brutality Blog, started two years ago as a project of various AfroSpear members including myself, has now been recognized by the Criminal Justice Careers Guide the number eight blog among the "Top 100 Criminal Justice Blogs":
This diversity of issues makes criminal justice dynamic but it also makes it dizzyingly complex for someone trying to educate themselves in justice issues. Consequently, we have compiled this list to help anyone involved in the criminal justice field — including academics, practitioners and students — find information and resources about their niche, as well as any other aspect of criminal justice. Criminal Justice Careers Guide
Congratulations to all of the readers and writers at the Police Brutality Blog.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Should Blacks Act in Self Defense When Faced With an Electrocution Device in the Hands of a Police Officer?

Are there any circumstances under which a Black man has a right, derived in law or reason, to defend himself from a police officer who is armed with and threatening to use an electrocution device and intends to use it, regardless of the risk of death or serious injury, and before the intended victims has had the benefit of a trial or even an arraignment? Are police authorized to execute Black people on the street with hand-held portable electric chairs, or are they bound by the requirements of Due Process to see that Blacks defendants have the benefit of a trial before they are executed?

During the era of slavery in the United States, the US Supreme Court announced that "a Black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect." Since Blacks during slavery had no right to self-defense under the law, and could not even testify in court against a white man as to the circumstances under which a Black man had defended himself from a white man, therefore it was a foregone conclusion that a Black man who defended himself from whites by use of force would be convicted of a crime, if not lynched on the spot. When Blacks did offer resistance to white force, they were brutally repressed.

In spite of that, there were always so called "bad niggers" who preferred to lose their lives in a fight than to lose their lives and their dignity in a failure to fight.

Today, US police officers are armed with what Amnesty International has deemed potential instruments of torture, whose use may result in death, particularly if that is what was intended in the first place. Of course, I'm referring to the police's portable hand-held electrocution devices.

We've all seen videotape of police officers sitting or kneeling on top of a Black man, who was handcuffed, while shocking him with a taser. Since the Black man was already immobilized, the use of the electrocution device -- often repeatedly -- constituted torture and arguably attempted murder, that can easily end in death, and sometimes does. Let there be no mistake: That which is called a "taser" is, in fact an electrocution device that, like the devices used in capital punishment, may have to be replied repeatedly in order for the victim to finally die.
If the Black man in that situation somehow gets hold of the officers' gun and shoots the officer dead, should the Black man be tried and convicted of murder, or exonerated because legitimate self-defense is a complete defense to a charge of murder?

I think the Black man should be exonerated by a jury and perhaps even be given an award if, as so often happens, the Black man had done nothing to provoke the police action in the first place, or the police response was with the intention or willingness to kill rather than to merely subdue and arrest.

Am I saying that there are circumstances under which a member of the public should shoot a police officer? Obviously there are! Let us imagine that a police officer is holding his wife and children hostage, threatening to kill his family and then himself. If a member of the public has a clear shot to prevent the deaths of the members of the police officer's family, should he nonetheless allow the police officer to proceed, simply because the officer is wearing a blue suit and a badge at the time?

No, defense of another has long been recognized as a defense to a charge of murder and police officers, like other human beings, sometimes do kill others in a way and under circumstances that constitute murder.
Let us imagine that the police officer's wife is somehow able to wrestle the gun away from him and shoot him dead. Has she committed a crime or defended herself from a crime that was about to be committed against her? The answer should be obvious, and the fact that the murderous husband happens to be a police officer ought not blind us to reason.

The de facto and only rarely rebuttable presumption in American society is that police officers are always acting lawfully, and therefore no one is within his rights to resist the force of a police officer. And yet, as a matter of fact, we know that many police officers exceed that which is necessary to do that which is unnecessary and reprehensible.

If the Black man in New York who had a billy club stuck up his rectum had somehow gotten hold of the police officer's weapon and shot the police officer dead, would that have been a legitimate self-defense? That would be something for a jury to decide after the the fact.

In fact, what is legitimate self-defense is always a matter for a jury to decide (except when judges refuse to allow defendants to offer evidence about the circumstances and refuse to allow juries to hear evidence that would support a claim of self defense). But many Black men, for failure to act in self-defense, do not live to see their cases go before a judge or jury, and that is a shame for which the Black man himself may be responsible. It is not our fault when we are the targets of color-aroused violence, but it is our responsibility to act to defend ourselves. Whether we have acted in legitimate self-defense is a matter for a judge and jury to decide.

When a Black person is not threatening police but nonetheless believes that the only way to save his own life is by an act of self-defense, I believe the Black man (woman or child) should defend himself, and let a jury subsequently decide whether he has done the right thing, particularly if the alternative is to be killed by police.
In the case of electrocution devices, I once believed that it was useless to study the so-called "use of force continuum", because the police who most violate Blacks' rights are those who least care about such guidance. But, now I perceive a possible use for such official guidance: If Black people are aware of the use of force continuum and conclude that the police have exceeded the force authorized under the circumstances, and/or that the police have demonstrated a willingness or intention to unlawfully kill a Black person rather than merely arrest them (electrocution devices, when used, often electrocute people), then that should certainly be a moment when a Black person (or any person) would consider acting in self-defense. The question will then arise whether the person has acted in legitimate self-defense. I believe that will be a question for a judge and/or jury to decide.

Perhaps, many judges would not permit a defendant to offer statistical evidence that the threatened use of an electrocution device was excessive force that triggered a right to self defense, precisely because the actual use of an electrocution often results in electrocution. Without having reviewed the case law and precedents, I believe that if judges do not allow a defendant to prove that he acted to save his own life (or the life of another), then that is a failure of jurispudence that needs to be addressed, and not a failure on the part of the self-defendant.
How should we behave if we see a police officer coming toward us with a stun gun pointed at us or at someone else? Of course it depends upon the circumstances, but we must consider at that moment the possibility that we may become victims of pre-trial execution. I believe there may be cases in which we are compelled to act in self-defense, and to let a jury decide if we have acted appropriately.
And what should we do if we see seven police officers sitting on top of a woman in the street, shocking her repeatedly with an electrocution device? Again, I believe that Blacks should act "in defense of another" and let a jury decide, if necessary, whether we have done the right thing. If we are fortunate, there will be a videotape to support our testimony, although it may not make any difference if the case is tried to an all-white jury. Nonetheless, we must defend ourselves whenever it is legitimate to do so, and put our faith in the legal system.
The justice system is stacked against Black people, with the very people most likely to be shocked with electrocution devices often lacking the financial wherewithal to mount an effective defense; with juries often all-white; and with all-white juries again presuming that the police are always right. In a state without the death penalty, it may be better to spend one's life in jail than to give one's life to Taser international, as so many Black men have been compelled to do.

And in a state with the death penalty, it may be preferable effectively to take one's torturer to the grave rather than to go there alone. The important thing is to defend oneself first and then, if necessary, let the jury decide.

To say that Blacks should always submit to police violence, no matter how exaggerated and intentionally lethal, is to take us back to the days of Dread Scott, when Blacks had no rights that a white man was bound to respect.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Day of Blogging for Justice: Standing Up Against the Police Pre-Trial Electrocution - April 24, 2009

Hat Tip and Shout Out to the Villager at the blog Electronic Village for his recent blog post. Check out how the afrospear is blogging about the issue of the tasing, beating and electrocution of Black folks in America. He writes about A Day of Blogging for Justice: Standing Up Against the Police Pre-Trial Electrocution

The AfroSpear is calling on all bloggers to join us in a Day of Blogging for Justice: Standing Up Against the Police Pre-Trial Electrocution on Friday, April 24, 2009.

The rules are simple:

  1. Share a post on your blog focused on your concerns about the tasering of Blacks folks.
  2. Send an email to so that we may document everyone's participation.

He gives examples of what bloggers have been reporting on the police pre-trial electrocution:

I like the villager, and so many other bloggers hope that you will participate. Please read villager's complete post on A Day of Blogging for Justice: Standing Up Against the Police Pre-Trial Electrocution

Related Blog Posts

Fort Worth Police Tasered a Mentally Ill Black Man To Death

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Black U.S. Actress Trina Johnson Jailed in Suriname, South America

Without having personally reviewed the facts in the case below, it does seem to me appropriate that US Congressional Staff use their good offices to investigate. Members of the public and news media can call the telephone number listed below for additional documents and the press packet:

Black Woman Entertainer Wrongly Imprisoned in Suriname, Northern South America. Please help liberate Trina Johnson!

Dr. E. Faye Williams is asking BWFO4Change to call Senator Harry Reid's office in Nevada, at 702/388-5020, to ask him to help liberate Nevada resident and entertainer Trina Johnson, who is imprisoned in Suriname, South America.

Trina is wrongly imprisoned for something her promoter did. She's a professional impersonator and her contract explains that she was an impersonator. Yet, the promoter sold her as the real "Toni Braxton" and later skipped out with the money from the sale of show tickets, and left her in the country. Trina was arrested and has been in jail for 2 months. And, we have learned a South American prison is a cold, lonely and awful place!

Trina is a resident of Nevada--entertainment capital of the world and that's why Senator Reid should lead the effort to get her--a U.S. Citizen out!.

Please send this to the media. Ask them to talk about the case and raise questions about what the U.S. is doing to help bring Trina home. See attached info. Her contract clearly says she is an "Impersonator"--not Toni Braxton herself.

Whenever anything happens with White girls or women, it's all over the media, as it should be, and the country's resources are delivered to do everything possible to resolve the matter. Let's make it happen for our little sister. Dr. E. Faye Williams has read all of the documents and determined that Trina is not the crook--it's the person who set her up and skipped out on her. Please make the call. Remember, it's West Coast time (3 hours different from ET.)

Share this with friends and ask them to help in any way they can. If you personally know a Congressional Black Caucus Member or staffer, call them, too. If you have ideas on what we can do, share with Dr. Williams--contact information below.

Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.
National Chair
National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
1251 4th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Color of Change Requests Support for US Sen. Jim Webb's Equal Justice Prison Reforms

We're all looking for leadership toward equal justice for Blacks in America and Color of Change is both advocating and requesting support for an elected advocate, saying that US Sen. Jim Webb from Virginia is providing some of that sorely needed leadership on prison incarceration reform. CoC is asking us to raise our voices in support of equal criminal justice:
Our prison system is broken.

behind bars

We know it and so does Senator Webb.

Can you take a moment and support his call for reform?

Click here

Dear Francis,

When it comes to issues plaguing Black and low-income communities, a White senator from the South is the last person we'd expect to go out on a limb and sound the alarm.Senator Jim Webb from Virginia just did exactly that when he boldly called out the over-imprisonment of Black folks and the serious problems with our prison system. Most importantly, he's demanding big changes.1

Now it's up to us to seize the moment and create the pressure necessary to achieve true reform.

The first step is publicly thanking Senator Webb. Our praise will show other politicians that when they take risks and step out on critical issues like prison reform, we will have their backs. It will also show that everyday people stand with Webb and are serious about this issue. Please join us, and ask your friends and family to do the same:

In recent years, politicians have lacked the courage to create meaningful prison reform. They've been paralyzed by the fear of being branded as "soft on crime." They've been held hostage by prison guard unions and industry lobbies. And the communities most affected--Black and low-income communities--have had a hard time getting a seat at the table and making our voices heard.

Our country has a clear problem. With just 5% of the world's population, America holds nearly 25% of the world's reported prison population. Our prison population has quadrupled since 1984, and most of the increase comes from people being imprisoned for drug offenses--mostly minor and nonviolent.2

Despite the fact that there is no statistical difference in drug use between different racial groups, harsh drug laws have had a devastating, disproportionate effect on Black communities. While only 12% of the U.S. population is African-American, Black people make up 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.3

It's surprising and encouraging that someone like Senator Webb is speaking out in this way. Webb is a White politician from Virginia, a Southern "law-and-order" state that has abolished parole and executed more people than any state besides Texas.4 He has nothing to gain politically from this--it's an act of true conviction.

By eloquently making the case for reform and calling for a National Criminal Justice Commission, Webb has created a major opening to address these issues. And it comes at a time when there are increasing signs the country is ready for reform. New York's governor and state legislature just struck a deal to reform the state's "Rockefeller drug laws"--some of the harshest laws in the country, and a great example of the failed status quo.5 A panel of federal judges has just told California it must reduce its prison population by a third to alleviate the torturous conditions stemming from overcrowding.6 And at the same time that more people are recognizing the deep injustices in our system, the economic crisis is forcing elected officials at all levels of government to realize they can't afford to keep directing so many taxpayer dollars toward law enforcement, jails, and prisons.7

We need to make the most of this moment. Take a minute to thank Senator Jim Webb for his courageous stand and support his call for a meaningful commission. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, William, Dani and the rest of the team
April 9th, 2009

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1. "Senator Jim Webb's Floor Speech to Introduce 'The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009'," 3-26-2009

2. "Why we must fix our prisons," Parade, 3-29-2009

3. See reference 2

4. "Webb Sets His Sights On Prison Reform," Washington Post, 12-29-2008

5. "More on Albany's Rockefeller Drug Law Reform," Village Voice, 3-27-2009

6. "Court Orders California to Cut Prison Population," New York Times, 2-9-2009

7. "A Different Drug Czar Signals Shift Away From Emphasis On Punishment," Hartford Courant, 3-22-2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New Black FaceBook Group Reports Houston-Area Strategy to End Color-Aroused Traffic Stop Police Persecution

There is a new Black-led Facebook group, called "Slow Down Police Color Aroused Traffic Stops and Brutality," Seventy-two FaceBook members Have joined the group in its first twenty-hour Tewhe group encourages drivers in Houston, TX, particularly, and elsewhere, to scrupulously follow all traffic laws intended for public safety, even if doing so to the satisfaction of color-aroused police causes traffic to slow to a standstill in Houston, TX and elsewhere.

Phil Pierre-Paul, a young Black college student and writer for New Jersey Institute of Tecnhology Stute College Newspaper, who started the group to follow this movement, says,
Black people are tired of constantly being regarded as [traffic] law violators . . . In response, some have started a campaign to protest police color aroused traffic stops and brutality.
The campaign is intended to raise awareness of driving carefully and to show participants determination to be law-abiding citizens. [even if the effect of such scrupulous obedience to each and every traffic law is that streets and highways slow to a crawl, or become entirely impassible.

. . . As a young black blogger, I have created this group to follow this new initiative of driving carefully. Facebook Group
This new Facebook blogs is repleat with Texas laws citations and advocacy links that suggest
strategies for driving slowly while following the applicable Houston Texas traffic laws, to avoid being stopped by police and also to demonstrate the enormous commercial, tourist, and shopping dislocations that will result from Black drivers exhibiting the level of Hoston ,TX police and elsewhere.
I certainly hope these efforts are succesful, since the only proven way to make whites concerned about Black civil rights issues is to demonstrate how they effect whites as well. The scrupulous driving that will be required t stop traffic stops of Blacks will inevitably slow down Houston, TX highways and elsewhere, making Blacks and white drivers allles in this effort to reduce unwarranted police stops and free the highways for dricing once again.