Lead Story West Edition

Attorney’s book takes on justice system

LOS ANGELES — Acclaimed civil rights attorney, author and advocate for social justice Benjamin Crump was the featured speaker at Loyola Law School Nov. 4, where he discussed his new book, “Open Season: The Legalized Genocide of Colored People.”

Crump said that the often biased justice system continues to incarcerate black and brown people at a disproportionate rate.

“Black people are being attacked from many fronts,” Crump said. “The police are killing us on the streets, but we are also being killed by the judges and they are also killing us in courtrooms all across America,” he said.

Surveying the audience, he added, “We are trying to educate you young future lawyers that you must fight against racist Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, unjust legal treatment and the prison industrial complex.”

Crump, who represented the families of slain victims Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Stephon Clark among others, pulled no punches when he said that the U. S. justice system systematically railroads innocent people of color. He added that police are usually not held accountable for murdering black people and most times walk away without being prosecuted.

“Many times the police shoot first and ask questions later,” he said. “It breaks my heart and it happens every day. Cops are the only people in our society that can legally kill somebody.

“All they have to say are the magic words, ‘I felt threatened,’ even though the video reveals that they ruthlessly shot a black or a brown man to death in broad daylight.”

Actor Jamie Foxx, who portrays an incarcerated man wrongly accused in the movie “Just Mercy” to be released in December, was on hand to ask Crump questions about his work and the justice system.

Foxx said that he was impacted about what was happening to young black men being killed in the streets when the mother of Trayvon Martin approached him at the NAACP Image Awards.

“She had tears running down her face,” Foxx said. “She said, ‘They murdered my boy and they’re going to get away with it.”

Although Foxx was being honored with an award that night, he delivered an impassioned speech about the Trayvon Martin case.

“I think that what Jamie Foxx said at the NAACP Image Awards was phenomenal,” Crump said. “Many people who have Foxx’s influence don’t say a word.”

Foxx, who was born in the southern town of Tyrell, Texas, said, “My grandmother said something to me at a young age that I never forgot: She said ‘A black man can’t make white man mistakes.’”

Crump observed that there continues to be inequities in the justice system when it comes to how blacks and whites are treated.

“Even when white children commit a crime, they get a slap on the wrist, the benefit of the doubt and still get the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Crump said. “Black and brown children get trumped up felony convictions and can be arrested because of the Saggy Pants law. If they say something to an officer or touch an officer as a person of color, they can be convicted of a felony.”

“If you are a black and brown person and you kill a white person, that’s the quickest way to get sentenced to death row,” Crump said. “But the statistics show that if a white person kills a black person, it’s overwhelmingly justified.

“Twenty-three -year-old Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who killed nine innocent black people in a Charleston, South Carolina church in an effort to start a race war, admitted after the murders, ‘I felt bad because they were all so nice.’”

Crump said that police followed Roof across state lines and took him alive.

“Then the police took him to Burger King,” Crump said, shaking his head.

Foxx then quipped, “When white mass murderers kill innocent people, they know nothing will happen to them. It’s like, ‘Oh, they took Dylann Roof to Burger King? Maybe they will take me to McDonalds.”’

“If it’s a white mass murderer, they’ll say, ‘He’s suffering from mental illness — but they don’t say that (about) black people,” Crump said.

Crump pointed to the inequality in sentences when he observed, “You think about all the black and brown people sitting in jail for selling marijuana and they’re serving 10, 20 30 years in prison, while the white officer Amber Guyger who killed Botham Jean, a black man, only got 10 years — and still she gets hugs from the victim’s brother as well as the black female judge.

“I have represented 12 innocent black people on Death Row and believe me, nobody gives them compassion, sympathy or a hug,” Crump said.

“There are 100,000 black and brown people sitting in jail who are completely innocent and haven’t done anything wrong,” said Crump, who added he had two cousins and an uncle who are convicted felons.

He said that black women also face racist treatment in prison.

“When women of color go to prison, they not only lose their constitutional rights, but could lose their reproductive rights. They tell them that ‘We will reduce your prison sentence by 10 years if you agree to be sterilized.’”

Crump was concerned that when a black or brown person receives a felony conviction, it impacts the rest of their lives.

“You have to understand that if you are a convicted felon, it’s hard to find a job in order to keep the lights on and put food on the table for your family. Convicted felons are denied certain licenses. They cannot get a barber or beautician’s license and in some states you can’t even get life insurance. It’s like you’re the walking dead — they just haven’t given you the death certificate yet.”

“My dad, who was an education teacher, got 25 years for possession of a substance,” Foxx said.

“White people sell more drugs than minorities, but they always seem to get a pass,” Crump added.

Foxx said that even though he is a celebrity, he is frequently racially profiled.

“I was driving in my Rolls Royce with a friend and I was feeling good,” Foxx said. “The sun was shining and I had my music on. It was a beautiful day. I’m driving and a white cop gets behind me. I figure he’s chasing somebody, so I stop so that he can pass.

“He gets on the radio and says, “It’s you. Pull it over.

“He was a young cop, about 26- or 27-years old, and he approaches the car and starts talking to me all crazy. My passenger immediately began scowling at him and was getting mad. Here I am, a man 51 years old, and this 26-year-old cop is talking with disrespect to me and my passenger.

“Right away, I knew I had to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand.”

“Institutionalized racism and discrimination is embedded in our institutions,” Crump said. “I wrote this book as a call to action for Americans to begin living up to the promise to protect the rights of its citizens equally and without question.”