By I.K. Cush
On February 20, 2013, U.S. federal judge, Edith Jones, told a group of like-minded Americans that “African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime” and are “prone to commit acts of violence.”
Edith Hollan Jones is a sitting federal judge. From 2006 to 2012, she served as the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She was on the shortlist of former U.S. President, George H.W. Bush, for an appointment as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court.
During her address at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Judge Jones referred to a death penalty case in which she rejected the intellectual disability defence of an African-American man, Elroy Chester. Mr Chester was executed shortly after her ruling.
The views of Judge Jones expose a salient fact about American law and American racism – they are coeval.
The date of birth of America’s evil twins, Law and Racism, was April 10, 1606. On that day, The First Charter of Virginia, an edict issued by King James 1 of England, was promulgated. The Charter read thus, in pertinent part:
‘We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government: DO, by these our Letters Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires;
And do therefore, for Us, our Heirs, and Successors, GRANT and agree, that the said Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, Richard Hackluit, and Edward-Maria Wingfield, Adventurers of and for our City of London, and all such others, as are, or shall be, joined unto them of that Colony, shall be called the first Colony; And they shall and may begin their said first Plantation and Habitation, at any Place upon the said-Coast of Virginia or America, where they shall think fit and convenient, between the said four and thirty and one and forty Degrees of the said Latitude; And that they shall have all the Lands, Woods, Soil, Grounds, Havens, Ports, Rivers, Mines, Minerals, Marshes, Waters, Fishings, Commodities, and Hereditaments, whatsoever, from the said first Seat of their Plantation and Habitation by the Space of fifty Miles of English Statute Measure, all along the said Coast of Virginia and America, towards the West and Southwest, as the Coast lyeth, with all the Islands within one hundred Miles directly over against the same Sea Coast; And also all the Lands, Soil, Grounds, Havens, Ports, Rivers, Mines, Minerals, Woods, Waters, Marshes, Fishings, Commoditites, and Hereditaments, whatsoever, from the said Place of their first Plantation and Habitation for the space of fifty like English Miles, all alongst the said Coasts of Virginia and America, towards the East and Northeast, or towards the North, as the Coast lyeth, together with all the Islands within one hundred Miles, directly over against the said Sea Coast, And also all the Lands, Woods, Soil, Grounds, Havens, Ports, Rivers, Mines, Minerals, Marshes, Waters, Fishings, Commodities, and Hereditaments, whatsoever, from the same fifty Miles every way on the Sea Coast, directly into the main Land by the Space of one hundred like English Miles; And shall and may inhabit and remain there; and shall and may also build and fortify within any the same, for their better Safeguard and Defense, according to their best Discretion, and the Discretion of the Council of that Colony; And that no other of our Subjects shall be permitted, or suffered, to plant or inhabit behind, or on the Backside of them, towards the main Land, without the Express License or Consent of the Council of that Colony, thereunto in Writing; first had and obtained.’
The Charter is a blueprint of American edacity. Note the self-serving promise of the colonists to “bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility.” The “Infidels” and “Savages” to which the colonists referred were the Indigenous people of the Americas. There was nothing “civil” in the relationship between the European colonists and the Indigenous people. This 1606 “Law” unleashed paroxysms of enslavement, mass murder and grand theft as the Europeans enforced their “Law” to control “all the Lands, Woods, Soil, Grounds, Havens, Ports, Rivers, Mines, Minerals, Marshes, Waters, Fishings, Commodities, and Hereditaments,” “granted” them by King James 1 under the Charter.
The Charter legalized the mass murder of the indigenous people of the Americas and the enslavement of African people. Like a meme, it transmitted the idea of white supremacy from generation to generation leading up to today where racism is codified in U.S. law enforcement “from initial law enforcement contact with a suspect to the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in prison,” according to U.S. Congressman, Steve Cohen.
For over 400 years U.S. law has been used to preserve white privilege. American professor, Robert Perkinson, in his book, Texas Tough, explained how the U.S. State of Texas, created “crimes” during the 1800s to target Africans specifically. Laws were enacted so that African people could be arrested for “insulting” a white person.
Laws were enacted prohibiting Africans from building houses of worship and hunting with a dog or gun. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure did not apply to Africans, for their living quarters could be searched at any time. Castration of African men was a common punishment for any infraction.
In 1748 Virginia, Africans who read science books were killed or, as the statute read, suffered “death without benefit of clergy.”
In 1770 Georgia, Africans were “forbidden to buy, sell, trade, traffic, deal or barter for any goods or commodities,” that’s 164 years after the 1606 “law” which permitted Europeans to do the same and more.
After 1705 in New York, any African found travelling alone, 40 miles from Albany, was sentenced to death.
In 1750 Rhode Island, no African could own a pig, cow or livestock.
All of the afore-mentioned laws enjoyed the imprimatur of America’s courts. In 1857, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted…blacks had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” That ruling is known as the Dred Scott decision.
American Judicial Perfidy
But it was not only the U.S. Supreme Court that was infected with scrofulous judges. In 1847, a South Carolina judge ruled that an African “can invoke neither Magna Carta nor common law…In the very nature of things, he is subject to despotism.”
Joseph E. Brown, Chief Justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court from 1865 to 1870, used African men, convicted under America’s racist laws, to work in his coal mines. He amassed a fortune. To motivate his “workers,” Judge Brown employed the water cure torture; “water was poured into the nostrils and lungs of the prisoners – because it allowed miners to ‘go to work right away’ after punishment.” While the CIA perfected waterboarding to torture its prisoners at Guantanamo, Judge Brown created, then practised, that method on African men in his coal mines.
The ‘law’ in America is, therefore, a sine qua non for a racist superstructure of values. That is why the constitutional rights and freedoms promised to Americans elude Africans in America. To fully understand the racist nature of American law one must separate the subjective ratiocinations of American politicians and their shills from the objective realities with which Africans live daily in the United States.
American judges “use value to resolve cases,” explained Burt Neuborne, professor of constitutional law at New York University. When a judge looks down at an African defendant in his courtroom, his judgment is informed by a panoply of political and social conditioning, compelling him/her to sentence African defendants to long terms in prison. Professor Neuborne was correct when he observed that, for American judges “the line between politics and the U.S. Constitution is an imaginary one.”
The American media universe, academic universe and judicial universe locate crime in Africans. Crimes of whites are either ignored or rendered insignificant. Africans in America are therefore perpetual victims of ‘constitutive’ racist violence – violence inscribed into the very institutional framework of American society. The result: Disparate treatment of African Americans by U.S. judges with its concomitant disparate impact.
Lawrence M. Friedman, in his book, A History of American Law, explained that American ‘criminal law is a vehicle for economic and social planning.’ To underscore that fact, Texas’s Huntsville prison was built by Africans in 1848. It was then forged into an ‘instrument of Southern industrialization,’ according to Professor Perkinson. Judges such as Joseph E. Brown of Georgia abused prisoners for precisely that purpose – advancing his, and his state’s, economic interest.
What is clear is that, historically, American law was formulated to advance social, political and economic agenda. High incarceration of Africans contributed to the industrialization of America’s Southern states. Today, the African prison population helps inflate the local population in prison zones for the purpose of social spending. In other words, African men and women are extracted from their communities, transported to white communities, as prisoners, where their presence attracts government funding, to the white community, for infrastructure and other services.
Because of their congenital racism, American judges, such as Edith Jones, routinely violate statutes and the U.S Constitution in their mulish fidelity to racist judicial precedents. This recalcitrance has resulted in the disparate impact of U.S. law on the lives of African Americans. Consider the following.
In 1985, Timothy Cole, an African American student at Texas Tech University, was ‘convicted’ and sentenced to 25 years in prison for rape. Ten years after his “conviction” the real rapist, Jerry Johnson, wrote several letters to Texas prosecutors confessing to the crime. Prosecutors ignored the letters. In 1999, Timothy Cole died in prison from an asthmatic attack.
During Mr. Cole’s trial, all exculpatory evidence was ignored by prosecutors. The rape victim described her attacker as a chain-smoking, African-American man. Mr. Cole was asthmatic. Although the rapist drove the victim’s car, Mr. Cole’s fingerprints were not found in her vehicle. And, Mr. Cole had a solid alibi. At the time of the rape, Mr. Cole was studying in his apartment. Several students testified at his trial that Cole was in his apartment with them all evening.
In 2007, prosecutors finally agreed to run DNA tests. When the results came back, it was Jerry Johnson’s DNA that was found on the swabs in the rape kit.
Timothy Cole’s ‘conviction’ was overturned in 2009 – ten years after he had died in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Jamel Dossie was a low-level drug dealer. In 2012 he was sentenced to five years in prison for selling $140.00 worth of drugs. His sentencing judge, John Gleeson, complained about the sentence: “The only reason for the five-year sentence imposed on Dossie is that the law invoked by the prosecutor required it. It was not a just sentence.” If he was sincere in his belief that the sentence was unjust, Gleeson could have downgraded Mr Dossie’s charge and set him free.
There is a precedent for that. In 1997, 19-year-old Nancy Louise Woodward was convicted of second-degree murder for the killing of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. Facing 15 years in prison, her judge, Hiller Zobel, downgraded her charge to manslaughter. She served 279 days in prison. Zobel explained away Woodward’s murder of the baby thusly: she acted “out of confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice in the legal sense.”
No such consideration is ever given to African defendants in American courts! African Americans are never beneficiaries of the spirit of American law, they are, instead, always victims of the letter of American law, as Judge Gleeson’s sentencing of Jamel Dossie underscored.
Compare Dossie’s case to that of Edward Christensen, a white attorney. Mr. Christensen stole $327,000 from his clients. He jumped bail and was a fugitive for three years. When captured, he was sentenced to one year in jail by Judge Meryl Berkowitz. Mr. Christensen benefited from the spirit of American law.
Such disparate treatment of African Americans is routine in American courts as judges consistently display evident partiality to the ideology of white supremacy.
Cases of disparate impact were revealed in a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University. The study found that half of those falsely convicted for “crimes” in the United States are African American. African Americans comprise 12% of the U.S. population.
Some of the names to the numbers are Kenneth Adams who was sentenced to 75 years in prison for rape. He was cleared after spending 17 years in prison. Philip Biven was freed after serving 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Marvin Anderson and Bobby Ray Dixon were sentenced to 210 years in prison for rape. After spending 15 years in prison, they were exonerated.
All of those men are victims of American judicial perfidy. There are hundreds of Africans who have been exonerated and freed from America’s gulags. Tens of thousands more are languishing in prison for crimes they did not commit proving to the world that American democracy is a fiction constructed to obfuscate its racist superstructure.