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.
According to former New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, the grand jury said that Tawana Brawley’s complaint was a “hoax.” A grand juror filed an affidavit asserting that it was Abrams and not the grand jury that characterized Ms. Brawley’s complaint as a “hoax.” The grand jury believed otherwise.
In fact, Abrams wrote the grand jury report in violation of Article 190 of the Criminal Procedure Law. A grand jury report must be in the words of the grand jury. Abrams was not a member of the grand jury. Moreover, the grand jury lacked a quorum to issue the report. This disclosure is what Gov. David Paterson fears. President Obama preaches transparency in government. The Brawley file is also in possession of the federal government. Former U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani is a part of the conspiracy. President Obama can also release the file.
On Jan.13, 1988, I appeared alone on the doorsteps of the Dutchess County Courthouse to announce that the Brawleys would dishonor grand jury subpoenas because an assistant district attorney, Steven Pagones, was involved in the kidnapping and rape of Tawana Brawley.
Inside the courthouse at the same time, Tim Losee, a white mailman, was fingering four white men who were in a car near the venue where Tawana was dumped on November 28.This was the beginning of the cover-up. Losee was prevented from telling the grand jury about the four white men.
This revelation from Losee would shake up the district attorney’s office. Losee was identifying Harry Crist Jr.’s decommissioned police vehicle and Steven Pagones was in it on that Saturday morning with Scott Patterson, who would become a bodyguard for Gov. George Pataki.
Pagones would later admit that on the morning of November 28,he was in a decommissioned police vehicle with three of his buddies. He claimed that they were headed to Connecticut in Crist’s vehicle to do some Christmas shopping, even though he had no sales receipts and his memory had betrayed him.
In a letter to Gov. Mario Cuomo dated Jan,25,1988, Judge Judith Hillary would name Pagones as a suspect. When Abrams impaneled a grand jury in Dutchess County on Feb.29,1988,he announced that he had no suspect. This was the beginning of Abrams’ covering up for the four white men. Instead, he would later blame the messenger for the message.
Unlike Nifong withholding exculpatory evidence in the Duke rape case, Abrams manufactured false evidence. This is worse. He ignored witnesses with knowledge of the Brawley incident and supplanted them with hypothetical witnesses.
For example, Dr. Alexander Aplasca examined the body of Harry Crist Jr. and concluded that it was a homicide. Abrams kept Dr. Aplasca’s autopsy report from the grand jury and, instead, hired Dr. Michael Baden to testify that Crist’s death was a suicide. Abrams later added a suicide note and a gun near Crist’s body. Like in the Wayne Williams case, Abrams relied on hair and fibers, which are scientifically unreliable to connect a defendant to a crime scene. Abrams urged the grand jury to conclude that pseudo-scientific testimony demonstrated a “hoax.”
He hired Michael Malone, a hit man for the federal government, who testified falsely against former Judge Alcee Hastings. This testimony helped remove Hastings from the bench after his acquittal in the criminal trial. It was later found that Malone had lied. He also lied about hair and fibers in the Brawley grand jury investigation.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa examined Malone’s testimony in state cases from Florida to Alaska and concluded that Malone would “provide testimony on hair and fiber that no one else would.” This was his modus operandi and he nearly sent a person to death in Pennsylvania.
Cong. John Conyers threatened a federal investigation into Malone’s nationwide perjury exploits. His damaging exploits are outlined in “Tainting Evidence” by John F. Kelly and Phillip K.Wearne. This is another reason for dismissing the grand jury report in Brawley. It is replete with known lies.
New York routinely frames Black defendants and any Black attorney who has the guts to challenge a criminal justice system “infested with racism.” The tea leaves predict that a democratic form of government in the United States is now obsolete. This was Dr. Martin L. King’s prediction if this country continued on a course of militarism and materialism.
An economic stimulus package for unemployed whites should take a backseat to a class of wrongfully convicted Black defendants. Under the Constitution, the president of the United States must guarantee justice. Capitalism, on the other hand, only allows for economic opportunity and not a right to a job. Guaranteed employment means slavery. Mr. Obama is putting the cart before the horse.
Feb. 18–UAM Weekly Forum at the Elks Plaza, 1068 Harriet Tubman (Fulton Street) near Classon Avenue in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. Dr. Leonard Jeffries will discuss “Pan-Africanism or Perish: Drumbeats of Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Amos Wilson.” Take the “C” train to Franklin Avenue. Three blocks to Elks Plaza.