Jamahl Kersey May 26, 2016 No Comments

Racial Profiling: The Ugly Truth About an Advanced Nation

Though some people choose to not focus on the negative aspects of society, it is impossible to deny their existence. Racial profiling, for example, is a problem experienced each day in the United States. Efforts have been made in an attempt to abolish the morally wrong action, but unfortunately, not many consequences exist for those who racially profile. In 2014, the Obama Administration attempted to restrain the racial profiling so heavily seen in the country, but there is only so much litigation that the justice system can bring against offenders. There are two sides to every story, but an unfavorable party tends to walk away as a result of lack of evidence, witnesses, and the whole he said, she said argument. Racial profiling is a common offense experienced in a multitude of situations. The most common are as followed:

Shopping

It is widely known that retailers in America profile African-Americans, Hispanics, and those of Middle Eastern decent far more than they do Caucasian shoppers. Whether it is Wal-Mart, Target, or the upscale boutiques on Rodeo Drive, a person of color is likely to be followed, stopped, and perhaps even accused of stealing. The general hospitality a store is supposed to give to their shoppers is rarely experienced by minorities. To make matters worse, retailers often admit that they racially profile, but attempt to justify it with statistics that do not even exist.

Traffic Stops

Black drivers are twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Native Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent are the most likely to be stopped during traffic hour. While the Attorney General has attempted to educate officers across the nation that this profiling is unethical, wrong, and unacceptable, it still happens each day.

Investigations

Being at the wrong place at the wrong time is an unfortunate part of life. If you are at a party, for example, and the cops have evidence allowing them to obtain a search warrant under the suspicion of illegal activity taking place at the residence, an innocent white person will be simply patted down. A person of color, however, is likely to be intensively searched and then hauled in for further questioning despite them being innocent.

A Day at the Park

Unfortunately, racial profiling extends to children. Stories have surfaced of black children being arrested and, when asked why, a simple explanation that they fit the description of a criminal is given. Ava Greenwell discusses her nightmare that resulted in the wrongful arrest of her thirteen-year-old African-American son who was riding his bike wearing the wrong outfit that day, apparently. The grounds for arrest? His cargo shorts fit a description of a burglar in the area.

Who Gets Hired?

Have you ever been curious as to why job applications ask for your race? Granted, you understand that they need a background check to discover your criminal history, but the race card seems a little redundant. A white male with a record is far more likely to be hired for a job than a black male with no criminal history. To make matter worse, employers are beginning to assume your race just by reading your name.

Yolanda Spivey is a black woman with an extensive and impressive educational background. Upon trying to find a job, Yolanda realized that she was unable to find employment despite her education and experience. As her suspicions arose, she kept the same education and work history on her application, but changed her name to Bianca White. She applied to the same jobs that rejected her, and to her surprise, she got called in for interviews. There is no denying that certain employers racially profile with these examples.

To conclude, not all retailers, police officers, or employers are racist. Very few of them actually are, in fact. However, racial profiling statistics are far too high for a nation that is supposed to be so advanced and tolerant. Failure to live up to our title of being a tolerant nation will result in the regression of our very society.

For more information on racial profiling, please contact us today.

Jamahl Kersey March 3, 2016 No Comments

A Closer Look at The Innocence Project

Ninety-one exonerations occurred in 2013 and 18 people were proven innocent through DNA evidence according to the National Registry of Exonerations. One organization that helps exonerate American inmates is the Innocence Project.

The litigation and public policy organization was founded in 1922 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld while attending the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. The organization was originally associated with the Cardozo School of Law until it became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2004. The nonprofit is also a founding member of the Innocence Network, a cluster of organizations that are also on a mission to fight injustice within the American legal system and aid people who have been wrongfully convicted.

In addition to exonerating innocent people, Scheck and Neufeld started the Innocence Project to reform the criminal justice system. False confessions, lying police informants, botched forensic evidence and false eyewitness testimonies are just some of the reasons why an innocent person can be sent to prison. To combat this, the Innocence Project works with lawmakers to change certain systemic problems, like requesting additional requirements for forensic evidence to be admissible in court, to prevent additional wrongful convictions in the future.

The non-profit organization uses forensic DNA testing to exonerate innocent people who have otherwise “fallen through the cracks” of the legal system and were wrongly convicted. Thanks to the efforts of their staff and conclusive post-conviction DNA test results, the Innocence Project has exonerated 333 people since 1992 and 20 of them had spent time on death row. More than 70% of the people freed because of the organization’s efforts were of African, Hispanic or Asian descent. On average, the people were convicted at 26 years old and exonerated at 41 years old. The time served by exonerees ranged from five months to 35 years, with the average being 14 years in prison before their release.

Six full-time attorneys, co-directors and students from the Cardozo School of Law volunteer their time to work on cases for the Innocence Project. According to their website, over 3,000 people reach out to their organization for help. Due to this high volume of requests, their staff is constantly evaluating between 6,000 to 8,000 potential cases at any given time.

Their staff determines which cases they should take on by carefully researching each applicant to see if a DNA test can be conducted to prove they were wrongfully convicted. The Innocence Project’s process for identifying and vetting a case is very extensive and labor intensive. They may find a case that they want to pursue only after the volunteers spend hours analyzing the case’s evidence. Then their attorneys will approach the court and request that the prisoner’s case is reopened and a private or public lab conducts DNA testing.

Generous financial contributions from the public and other charitable foundations help fund the Innocence Project. Corporations, fundraising events and the Cardozo School of Law also bring in additional support for the non-profit. The Innocence Project uses the funds that were raised to pay for DNA testing, travel expenses, legislative hearings and other costs associated with reopening a criminal case in court. The non-profit organization also offers several social work services to help their clients successfully transition back into society. For example, when one of their clients is recently released from prison the non-profit can assist them by providing free financial planning resources and job tools that can help train them for a new profession.

Like the Innocence Project, we fight to protect the rights of people accused of crimes. Please contact us to learn more about our criminal defense services and schedule a free consultation. We will work hard to defend your rights.

Defendants’ Rights in California

If you have been formally charged with domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery in the state of California, or if you are suspected of a domestic violence crime, you should know that you have certain rights, often referred to as “defendants’ rights.”

Defendants Rights

Defendants’ rights include the following, under the U.S. Constitution and/or the California Constitution:

  • Representation by an attorney. Defendants are guaranteed the right to have an attorney represent them against criminal charges, paid for by the government if the defendant is unable to pay the attorney’s costs.
  • Adequate representation. In addition to the right to have an attorney, defendants also have the right to have an attorney who will represent the defendant adequately against the charges. Note that “adequate” representation does not mean “perfect” representation, but it does mean that a defendant has the right to a licensed attorney who understands criminal law, court proceedings and will act on the defendant’s behalf.
  • A speedy trial. Both constitutions guarantee the right to a speedy trial that is not delayed without good reason, and a delay may not prejudice the defendant’s position in any way. There are also specific time requirements that govern how long an individual can be under arrest without being formally charged, and during what time frame a trial must start if a defendant enters a “not guilty” plea to charges.
  • A public trial. Defendants have the right to public proceedings, except in some circumstances involving crimes against children.
  • A jury trial. Defendants have the right to have their criminal case tried before a jury of their peers. This may be waived in criminal matters with the consent of both parties.
  • Compel witnesses to testify. Defendants have the right to call their own witnesses to help in their defense. If you have been charged or convicted with a crime, make a list of people who may have seen or heard what happened, and get this list to your attorney as soon as possible.
  • Be present for witness testimony against the defendant. Your accuser may call witnesses (including themselves) to testify about alleged crime. Defendants have the right to be confronted by the testimony of any witnesses, to look them in the eye in court, and to have the defense question the witnesses’ statements on cross-examination.
  • Right not to testify. Defendants have the right to maintain their silence, and the fact that they choose to remain silent cannot be used against them. Remember that criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. No defendant can be compelled under the law to testify. Instead of testifying on their own behalf, defendants have the right to rely on the evidence presented in their case, and may argue that the prosecution failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Understand proceedings. A defendant who does not speak English well is entitled to an interpreter throughout the proceedings.
  • No “double jeopardy.” Defendants have the constitutional right to not be put through a criminal trial more than once for the same crime.
  • Due process. The constitution says that each of us has the right to be protected from attempts that are either wrong, or are not supported by the facts, to deprive us of our lives or our liberty.
  • Appropriate punishment. If found guilty of having committed a crime, a defendant is entitled to punishment that is not cruel or unusual.

Being accused or charged with a crime is not something any of us want to have happen, but if it happens to you or someone you love, having an experienced attorney behind you every step of the way is an important first step. If you have been accused of, or charged with domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery, contact us for more information about how we can help you protect your rights.