By Chuck Armsbury, Senior Editor
Kudos to writer Brooks Egerton of the Dallas Morning News for his feature story, "Scales Of Justice Can Swing Wildly," Sunday, April 23, 2006. Egerton read the unbelievable story of Tyrone Brown from The WALL and turned it into an expose' of judicial race-and-social-class bias.
Brown, 17 years of age and black, took part in a $2 stickup in which no one got hurt. He pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was put on 10 years of probation. When Brown broke probation by smoking marijuana, the Dallas judge resentenced him to life behind bars. Tyrone is suffering through his 16th year of confinement in a maximum-security Texas prison.
From the same Judge Keith Dean's courtroom, wrote Egerton, a well-connected white man "pleaded guilty to murder -- for shooting an unarmed prostitute in the back -- and also got 10 years of probation.
The killer proceeded to break the rules by, among other things, smoking crack cocaine. He repeatedly failed drug tests. He was arrested for cocaine possession in Waco while driving a congressman's car, but prosecutors there didn't press charges.
Judge Dean has let this man stay free and, last year, exempted him from most of the usual conditions of probation. John Alexander 'Alex' Wood no longer must submit to drug tests or refrain from owning a gun or even meet with a probation officer. He's simply supposed to obey the law and mail the court a postcard once a year that gives his current address."
One man well-connected and white, the other broke and black -- mercy and a free pass for the coker incorrigible who raises show dogs, hell to pay forever for the youth who smoked a joint.
Talk to me, O valiant members of the bar. I'll be checking my mail every day (firstname.lastname@example.org) hoping to hear from a volunteer attorney who can't abide this putrid judicial hypocrisy and will work to free Tyrone Brown from a terribly unjust drug-war sentence.
I had a long phone conversation recently with Elbert "Big Man" Howard, 1966 founding member and first newspaper editor of the Black Panther Party in Oakland (CA). We're making plans to co-host a workshop at the BPP's 40th Reunion in Oakland this coming October 13-15, something we did together for the 35th Reunion in Washington DC. The workshop highlights experience building solidarity across ethnic and social class lines, with emphasis on the importance of rank and file in the Party.
A Giant in BPP History, Big Man, though slowed by age and health concerns, continues to make Panther theory and practice relevant to today, including how war on drugs politics contributed to the demise of the Party by mid-1970s.
In May, Nora and I shared lunch and spoke to Kootenai County (ID) Democratic Party loyalists about the drug war. The 40 or so people at this regular meeting in Coeur d'Alene (30 miles east of Spokane) included members of a jail commission, a parent of a local police officer, a reformed heroin addict and a mining executive who thought our government should execute drug traffickers, following the practices in southeast Asian countries he's visited. No choir preaching here, and tense after angry parent of cop cussed and walked out.
Within 45 minutes after lunch we showed a ten-minute drug-war video, stirred up a dust devil of dialogue and gave out much free literature. Following the meeting, small clusters of Dems continued to debate and sort out the dissonance aroused by one, brief discussion of this divisive war on drugs.
There's definitely more talk and activity going around about drug-war informant practices. In last winter 2005 Razor Wire we printed a public lecture about snitching by Nora Callahan and portions of law professor Alexandra Natapoff's research on the social impacts of widespread informing. Is there renewed critical awareness of difference between witnessing a crime -- and getting off after participating in one?
Looks like November Coalition member Euka Wadlington is getting closer to a US Supreme Court hearing. Euka got two concurrent life sentences from words alone, the testimony of others seeking leniency. His attorney, Leonard Goodman of Chicago, is preparing Euka's appeal and using Natapoff's research to emphasize communal damages caused by US government's unbridled reliance on coercion and paid informants.
The WALL story Egerton could hardly believe: www.november.org/thewall/cases/brown-ty/brown-ty.html
Here's Egerton with others in follow-up talk about Tyrone Brown's case: www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/discusslive/news/stories/042606dnjusticechat.732e86d7.html
To read more about Euka and his case: www.november.org/thewall/cases/wadlington-e/wadlington-e.html
To access Big Man's writing online: www.itsabouttimebpp.com/Big_Man/Big_Man_index.html
To read a summary of Natapoff's research: www.november.org/razorwire/2005-02/Natapoff.html
And to read or hear Nora Callahan's talk on snitching: www.november.org/razorwire/2005-02/Snitch.html