Justice Sotomayor Rejects Dred Scott Principle as Supreme Court Okays Police Brutality

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The loathsome Judge Taney--his legacy lives.

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Monday Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denounced the American judicial system's tendency to protect prejudiced police who brutalize and murder Blacks and Latinos something routinely done by police officials, prosecutors and politicians.

Justice Sotomayor chastised The Court for its "failure to correct the error made by the courts below" which "leaves in place a judgment that accepts the word of one party over the word of another." She then lamented the "disturbing trend regarding the use of this court's resources," apparently referencing how courts regularly intervene to protect police and "wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity."

If only Capitol Hill would speak as honestly about police brutality as Justice Sotomayor did. Instead, we get provocative "law and order," rhetoric from President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions who have given police a green light to attack Blacks and Latinos with the knowledge that their actions will be covered-up. Justice Sotomayor's dissent came after the Supreme Court refused to review an appellate court's decision in the Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston case, which revolved around events occurring on Oct. 30, 2010, in Houston Texas.

That night, Houston Police Officer Chris Thompson shot Ricardo Salazar-Limon in the back severing his spine and paralyzing him from the waist down, during a traffic stop. According to Officer Thompson, he thought Mr. Salazar-Limon was reaching for a gun. No gun was found. Reportedly, Thompson first saw Salazar-Limon driving down a highway 10 miles above the speed limit and pulled him over. Salazar-Limon was accompanied by three friends with him in the car. After being pulled over, Officer Thompson asked for his license and insurance card.

Mr. Salazar-Limon complied. However, the problem seems to have started when Salazar-Limon gave Thompson his Mexican driver's license. Allegedly, Thompson's response was "What's this?" Salazar-Limon responded it was his license then said to Thompson "Excuse me, sir. Can I ask you something?" Thompson replied: "No. Quiet. Calm down." Curiously, after running Salazar-Limon's license plate, which came up clean, Officer Thompson decided he was going to arrest him anyway. Mr. Salazar-Limon consumed some drinks earlier but was not drinking while driving, and, showed no signs of being drunk. What happened next is disputed.

According to Salazar-Limon, Thompson attempted to grab his hand, and he pulled away, and attempted to walk away. He says Thompson then yelled "stop." Salazar-Limon maintains he was then shot in the back. Officer Thompson's version is one we've heard before. He claims Salazar-Limon engaged with him in a brief struggle. He says he shot Salazar-Limon when he supposedly reached into his waistband for a gun that wasn't there. In other words we are to believe that rather than reach for a weapon while facing the officer he would do so while his back was turned. How many times have we heard this same story from cops? In South Carolina, Walter Scott was shot, by Officer Michael Slager, in the back as he ran away. In Chicago, Laquan McDonald was shot, by Officer Jason Van Dyke, in the back as he walked away.

In Tulsa, Terence Crutcher was shot, by Officer Betty Shelby in the back as he walked away. Repeatedly, these sorts of atrocious acts are committed by police against Blacks and Latinos and the legal and political establishment protects these perpetrators from punishment. The American justice system is a farce. Justice Sotomayor's chastisement here only begins to address the judicial system's hypocrisy. On April 2, 2016, I wrote an article, here in the Black Star News, entitled "Innocence Project Shows for Most Blacks: Guilty Until proven Innocent."

The article's highlight was a report done by the Innocence Project documenting that prosecutors, just like police, have shady ways of manipulating the system to conceal their wrongdoings and pervert true justice. The Innocence Project report noted that "in a substantial number of wrongful conviction cases, the exculpatory material that prosecutors did not disclose at trial would have provided important leads to the true perpetrator of the crime. As a result, justice was denied to the crime victims in these cases, not just the wrongfully convicted defendants, and public safety was compromised." Although this report was about prosecutorial misconduct, it also tarnishes those wearing black robes. Prosecutors become judges.

American judges just like police, prosecutors and politician-friends are all guilty of gross duplicity when it comes to administering anything remotely resembling justice whenever it come to police brutality and murder against Blacks and Latinos. How many cases have we seen where prosecutors and judges have fixed the outcome of cases? Let's quickly review a few.

In the Eric Garner case, then Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, now a congressman, seemed to have finagled the grand jury's non-indictment of Garner's killer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo who remains on the NYPD collecting a salary. Conveniently for Donovan, the secret grand jury proceedings allowed him to tell us nothing about the grand jury deliberations. Where is the transparency? Some have said the Garner case was not a factor in the congressional election of Mr. Donovan. This assumption fails to grasp that Staten Island is a borough where many NYPD officers live.

Therefore, the question is could Congressman Donovan have been elected without the votes of these officers? In the Michael Brown and Tamir Rice cases, prosecutors Bob McCullough and Timothy McGinty, respectively, no doubt used similar tactics to affect the desired outcomes of not indicting Michael Brown's killer, Officer Darren Wilson; and, Tamir Rice's killer, Officer Timothy Loehmann. In the horrific Sean Bell case the officers who killed him opted for a bench trial and were acquitted by Justice Arthur Cooperman. Bell was killed in a hail of 50 bullets eerily reminiscent of the Amadou Diallo shooting when he was felled with 41 bullets.

Part of Justice Cooperman's reasoning for finding these reckless killers innocent was the notion that some victims couldn't be believed because they had an "interest in the outcome of the case." Here he was alluding to the fact that Bell's fiancée Nicole Paultre-Bell, along with Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield who were shot with Bell, had filed lawsuits. Judge Cooperman also made this statement: "It was necessary to consider the mind-set of each defendant at the time and place of the occurrence and not the mind-set of the victims." Here he definitely gives more weight to the defendants' feelings. He next said "carelessness and incompetence are not standards to be applied here..."

This reasoning is bizarre, since people are convicted, daily, for their careless acts that take other people's lives. Yet, we shouldn't consider the carelessness of police who are given the "license to kill?" Since Black lives don't matter we get these kinds of specious speeches regularly. Also troubling were comments by the less than zealous prosecutor in this case indeed it seems there may have been conspiratorial collusion not to convict these killer cops here.

Consider these comments by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown: "I accept his verdict and I urge all fair-minded individuals in this city to do the same." Mr. Brown praised Judge Cooperman as "one of this county's most respected and learned jurists." Does this sound like a prosecutor who is trying to win? If a cop-killer was exonerated, with reasoning that were given in this case, would this prosecutor have been equally accepting?

These cases show us that: the courts, with their judges and prosecutors, are all parties in perverting justice and in protecting police who kill Black and Latinos. Justice Sotomayor's criticism should remind us that even the Supreme Court has been just as racist as any other American institution. In the infamous Dred Scott decision then Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, a slaveholder, said what many White Americans, including those in law enforcement and the judiciary still believe of Black Americans -- that we are "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the White race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the White man was bound to respect."

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