PRESS: Activist: You Won’t Find Justice in an Unjust System

By Adam Jackson | Press

Jun 25

Source: The Real News Network | Author: Jaisal Noor | Original publication date: June 25, 2016

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: After Officer Caesar Goodson was acquitted of all charges, including murder, for the death of Freddie Gray, we spoke to Adam Jackson, CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, one of the groups who helped lead protests after Gray’s death last year that culminated with the historic indictment of six officers.

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NOOR: Were you surprised by the verdict at all?

ADAM JACKSON, CEO, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: I mean, no. I mean, I mean, like I’ve said before, I don’t think I’d be surprised if all six of them walked not guilty on all counts.

What I does–think it does fuel the idea that Marilyn Mosby’s initial filing of the charges was politically motivated and that the goal or the motivation was to actually stop an uprising instead of focusing on prosecuting the officers and making sure that the charges were adequate and that she could complete an adequate investigation in that timeframe. And so that’s what people are saying. That’s what I’ve heard people say.

But my general reaction is that we need to be focusing on the institutional arrangements that brought us to this point, particularly one that keeps police from being accountable to the public, and how insular the process is. That’s what brought us here in the first place.

NOOR: And so talk a little bit more about that. And in his ruling, Judge Barry Williams said that if the evidence existed that Caesar Goodson carried out a rough ride, had intent to hurt Freddie Gray by not getting him medical care, by not seatbelting him in, it just wasn’t presented. And a lot of those witnesses were other officers that didn’t testify, or their testimony helped Caesar Goodson instead of hurting him.

JACKSON: Yeah. I mean, the problem is is that if the state cannot prove that in a reasonable situation that another officer would have reacted the same, then there’s no way that they can win the argument. Fundamentally, throughout the cases, throughout the different court cases, it doesn’t seem that the state is willing to prove that burden. And I feel like what they’re relying on at this point is a bunch of theories.

And my thing is, I mean, personally, I believe that each and every one of those officers is culpable and that each one of them should be held accountable for Freddie Gray’s death. Somebody should. One of those officers should. Caesar Goodson was one of those folks that I definitely thought, like you said, that should’ve gotten some type for something.

But I think ultimately what happened is that the state in a courtroom has not been able to prove its case on a reasonable officer standard. And so in that world, there’s no way that any of these officers will probably go to jail. And especially in a bench trial with a judge who was a civil rights attorney, you have–all the pieces are there. It’s just that they’re not proving it in court.

NOOR: And so some experts say the law is stacked to always favor police–the whole reasonable officer standard, right? If it’s a different standard than if you and me committed the same act, right, we’d be getting locked up for decades.

JACKSON: Right. Exactly. Exactly. And I think that–I mean, like, again, like, that’s a legal strategy. But ultimately the fundamental question for me is in the death of a young man in the back of a police van where 80 percent of his spine was severed, is that because he knocked his head against a wall? Like, some one of those officers had something to do with it, and the question is: in what degree and in what facet?

And I think that the state is doing a really bad job of proving who, what, and where, and with these half-baked theories. And so I think the burden lies on them to prove it in court and they’re just not proving it in court, because I feel like the national exposure this case has gotten, the amount of time and effort that folks have put into analyzing the case, the legal analysis, to me there should be no reason why there shouldn’t be some officer held accountable to any degree at all.

But it looks like that’s the train we are moving on. Like, I mean, I believe if William Porter had a bench trial, he probably would have been found not guilty the first time instead of in this trial. I think that’s why–I think the defense’s strategy at this point is probably to move towards a lot of bench trials because the state isn’t making the right arguments.

NOOR: And so some people we’ve talked to have said justice isn’t necessarily a guilty conviction; justice is making sure everything brought out in his trial, the routine abuse, the routine not following of laws, and how the law protects officers, that should be the focus. We should be changing those things. That’s all been brought to light now in a court of law, and the effort should be to change those issues. And of course, like, groups like LBS for a long time have said, we need to change inequality, we need empowered communities. Do you think–that was kind of brought to the forefront, in the media, at least, a year ago. Where has that message gone? Do you think that is still resonating with people, if not in the media?

JACKSON: I think that each and every verdict is making that message resonate louder, because people are seeking justice from an injust system. Like you said earlier, when the dust settles, if the institutional arrangement that brought us to the point of having police officers not be accountable to the public is not changed and altered, if those institutional and structural barriers are not destroyed, then that means we’ll always be caught up in a court case, caught up in a courtroom looking at legalese and legal standards that may not apply in certain situations.

And so at this point what are we going to be doing moving forward? And I think that that message of the institutional and structural barriers that need to change, people understand that necessity now. And I think as we continue with these trials, by the end of the year, I believe, if most of these officers end up not getting any time in jail, then it’s going to make people–it’s going to force everyone to reevaluate where we put our energy in terms of transforming the police practices in the city and some of the public policies that have affected folks in regards to law enforcement.

Read Full article at The Real News Network.

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About the Author

Adam J. Jackson is the CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS). Adam is a West Baltimore native, and Towson University graduate.