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President Obama must protect Blacks

Alton H.Maddox | , Jr. | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

Virtually every Black inmate in the United States has heard of the Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland, which prohibits a prosecutor from withholding evidence favorable to the defense. For Black defendants, this constitutional rule is generally honored in the breach and, therefore, it is not beneficial to them. In 2007, Sen. Barack Hussein Obama broke new ground. White supremacists were hunting for Durham District Attorney Michael Nifong's scalp for withholding exculpatory evidence in the Duke rape case. Vice presidential candidate John Edwards and Cong. David Prince of Durham were not biting. They feared the Black vote. Mr.Obama came to their rescue.

Mr. Obama demanded that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales initiate a federal civil rights investigation against Nifong. It is a felony for any state official to willfully subject any person in any state to the deprivation of his or her constitutional rights or to conspire to do so. Before the federal government could get in the starting gate, North Carolina had disbarred Nifong.

It is unusual for a state to discipline a prosecutor for withholding evidence in a state prosecution. Of course, the victims are usually Black defendants. The adversarial war against Blacks in the criminal justice system continues unabated, even with the presence of a Black person in the White House.

The withholding of exculpatory evidence usually fails to cause a court to dismiss an indictment. In the Duke rape case, North Carolina still feared that sufficient evidence existed to send these privileged white defendants to prison for raping a Black woman, especially in Durham County with a significant Black population. Using the approach employed by North Carolina in the Duke rape case and endorsed by President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder should be investigating an avalanche of grievances from wrongfully convicted Black inmates. The Justice Department must prosecute overzealous prosecutors and protect Black defendants. Even though DNA results cleared the Black and Latino youth in the Central Park jogger case, New York, nonetheless, convicted all of them and sent them to prison. Years later, the true culprit would admit his guilt. This belated admission was of no surprise to Manhattan prosecutors.

New York reluctantly released them from prison and the New York City Council is fighting their claim of compensation in federal court. According to the City Council, these young men should be lucky to have been freed from prison. Compensation is out of the question. If Blacks are not entitled to reparations, I suppose it is farfetched for these young men to expect compensation for false imprisonment, even if nearly half of the members of City Council are from historically oppressed groups.

The problem is that these members can be seen but not heard. This was my problem in New York. I dared to go toe to toe with white supremacy. Quiet as it is kept, it is illegal for Blacks to enjoy legal and political representation.

In an Oct.7, 1988, New York Times article, the Brooklyn Grievance Committee asserted that it would be improper to commence a disciplinary investigation against an attorney by violating the attorney-client privilege. This would be pushing the envelope. When New York advised the grievance committee that the complaint was buttressed by a bogus grand jury report and the disciplinary investigation was political, the committee changed its tune. The decision to prosecute six innocent young men in the Central Park jogger case was also political.