When The U.S. "Justice" System Plays With Lives of Black People

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King's County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson knows what justice means

[Comment: Speaking Truth To Power]

Once again we hear another familiar story of Black males being targeted and arrested by crooked, prejudiced police—and then being tried and convicted by unscrupulous prosecutors.

Recently, we heard of the manner in which police and prosecutors, in North Carolina, railroaded half-brothers Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown—in a miscarriage of justice eerily similar to the case of the Central Park, here in New York.

Now, we hear a panel of New York State appellate judges decided to reverse the convictions of two men citing the “burying” of key documents by the prosecution and the “credibility” of “investigating detectives.”

Why isn’t there “zero tolerance” for police and prosecutors who engage in such egregious acts of injustice? Why are these acts not punishable?

This latest case is that of Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor. Both men were arrested and convicted for the Jan 1, 1992 kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Negron in the East New York section of Brooklyn. The incident occurred in the high murder-rate jurisdiction of the NYPD’s 75 Precinct.

The unraveling of the conviction of Mr. Wagstaffe and Mr. Connor is part of the consequence of King's County (Brooklyn) District Attorney Ken Thompson’s review of conviction cases in Brooklyn, especially in light of the serious travesties allegedly perpetrated by retired Brooklyn Detective Louis Scarcella, during the regime of now thoroughly-discredited previous DA Charles Hynes.

Earlier this year, the shenanigans of Scarella, who worked out of the 77 Precinct, started to be exposed after months of investigations into around 70 cases he handled. Damning notes revealed Detective Scarcella apparently withheld vital exculpatory evidence leading to the murder convictions of Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin—both African Americans.

They were eventually convicted for the Sep. 10, 1985 killing of 34-year-old Ronnie Durant, who was murdered in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Besides suppressing evidence, Detective Scarcella seems to have also procured perjured testimony from the sole testifying “eyewitness” in the case—a witness he used on several occasions to convict Black men in other cases.

On Wednesday, this disgraced detective faced a grueling cross-examination in a case focusing on the case of two other Black men who were arrested and convicted by the very tactics Scarcella used to convict Jennette and Austin. In this case, Rosean Hargrave and John Bunn were convicted for the killing of corrections Officer Rolando Neischer, in Crown Heights. Their convictions were secured by the same “eyewitness” who testified against Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin.

A shockingly similar pattern—including an “eyewitness” with serious credibility issues—was at play in the case of Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor.

These cases also raises questions about defense attorneys, including presumably court-appointed lawyers and even the judges on these cases. No one was ever able to note anything suspicious?

Enter former NYPD Sergeant Michael Race—who worked out of the East New York 75 Precinct. In recent years some have praised Sergeant Race for his work as a private detective in the exoneration of Anthony Faison and Charles Shepherd—two more Black men wrongfully convicted; in their cases, for the murder of cab-driver Jean Ulysses, in Brooklyn.

Ironically however, Sergeant Race is now being accused of sending innocent men, just like Faison and Shepard to prison. Sergeant Race, like Detective Scarella, used a compromised lone “eyewitness” to testify against Black suspects. And two of those men are Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor. And now an appellate court has lent maximum credence to that sentiment by overturning the convictions of Mr. Wagstaffe and Mr.

In fact, the court ruled that the convictions should be rescinded “Given the lack of any other evidence tying the defendants to the crime, the credibility of Capella [the so-called “eyewitness”] and the investigating detectives was of primary importance in this case, so that the burying of the subject documents by the prosecution” prejudiced the defendants.

It’s indeed a despicable disgrace to see case after case being exposed where police and prosecutors engaged in the perversion of justice. When police procure perjured testimony and prosecutors conceal evidence so they can secure convictions, what kind of integrity and trust can any citizen have in this “justice" system?

Why isn’t this wretched state of affairs being denounced by politicians?

Over the last few months, we’ve seen a multitude of stories that have exposed the system.

Imagine, in Ferguson, Officer Darren Wilson remains free while the grand jury claims it needs more time to decide whether to indict him; he was shot unarmed, by several accounts with his hands up, at least six times including two bullets in the head. One struck the apex of his head likely as he was already falling down.

In Utah, cops who shot Darrien Hunt six times in the back, as he was running away from them, remain free too.

America’s criminal justice system has much to answer for, in regards to the corrupt manner in which their police and “officers of the court” victimize and criminalize Black people.

Where are the criminal indictments for cops like Detective Scarcella and Sergeant Race? Imagine this as well, Sergeant Race was quoted as saying, in a 2001 interview, that only one of his 750 cases was “done the correct way, from A to Z.”

If America’s criminal justice system had any integrity, cops who deprive citizens of life and liberty would be prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law.”

But if these paragons of “law and order” can’t prosecute those who murder Black men, by shooting them in the back and such as we've seen this past summer, should we expect them to willingly prosecute those who trump charges up and conceal evidence to convict Black people and send them to prison?

The behavior of the prosecutors in these travesties, also, deserve much more scrutiny. Shouldn’t we hear more about these legal shysters who are destroying the lives of so many people and their families? Is the American legal justice system based really on “justice,” or, by numbers that drive economic exploitation—especially against ancestors of enslaved Africans, currently ensnared at the bottom of America’s social ladder?

Why isn’t the media giving these stories the major attention they deserve?

With stunning regularity we are witnessing incidents that speak to the outrageous conduct of these “law enforcement” folks. This week’s news, that the Ohio cop who killed John Crawford, inside a Walmart, will not be indicted, is now followed by video news of a South Carolina state trooper shown shooting Levar Jones outside a gas station, for no damn reason—except that he is Black.

Periodically, we hear talk about the “fear” White America has for Black men—and some have done their best to perpetuate a false notion that Black people are a criminal class that White people must be wary of and not concerned about even when they are abused by police.

Frederick Douglass once said that America’s crimes “would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Ever since the time of segregation, the police forces, the prosecutors and judges—have functioned as arms of oppression against Black people.

This must no longer be tolerated.

 

 

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