Friday, January 30, 2015

The First Trial; "Injustice in the justice system", "What happened after November 3, 1979?"

"...A public that had watched news footage of the shootings was left surprised and confused by the acquittal of the Klan and Nazi members charged with murder in the Nov. 3, 1979, violence. all-white jury was convened in the trial of Klansmen and Nazis.

...In a capital case involving multiple defendants, each defendant has 14 peremptory challenges while the State has only a total of fourteen challenges. As a result, where six defendants are on trial, the defense team has 84 peremptory challenges, which provide a better opportunity to reject those jurors who are found to be most objectionable by the defendants.

...In this case, jury selection information tends to show that a large number of African Americans were included in the original jury panel. Those who were not excused by the court for cause were accepted by the State, but the defendants were able to use their large number of peremptory challenges and challenges for cause to effectively select an all-white jury. As stated above, in 1979, this racial discrimination in jury selection was entirely legal. However, it was clearly morally wrong, as further evidenced by the fact that this practice was prohibited in 1986.

...Former members of the CWP have told the GTRC that the hostile and distrustful relationship between the CWP and the justice system led to their decision not to testify in the state murder trial.  They said they did not have confidence in the District Attorney’s good faith to win the case and felt that if they took the stand they would suffer more attacks on their politics, which could ultimately land them or their comrades in jail for rioting.

...prosecutors did not call government intelligence sources Eddie Dawson or Bernard Butkovich as witnesses, which the CWP saw as evidence of collusion to cover up any government involvement in the shootings.  ...When Dawson met with prosecutors to ask them to quash his subpoena, he threatened to “blow the lid off the GPD” if he took the stand.

...Questions linger about the existence of an adequate investigation into potential criminal charges relating to police involvement.

...CWP members and their allies wanted the trial to investigate the wider role of institutions other than the Klan and Nazis, but that information was not relevant to the murder case against the five Klan and Nazi defendants indicted for murder.

...Juror Robert A. Williams told the press that ultimately, their decision turned on the question of self-defense. “From the very beginning, it was the Communists who did the attacking,” Williams said. “It was the Communists who started beating the cars with sticks. From then on, it was a case of self-defense.”

...Upon seeing the bodies of his dead and wounded friends at the intersection of Carver and Everitt streets on Nov. 3, 1979, Nelson Johnson began to make an angry speech to the assembled
Morningside residents, “We declare war on the Police Department, war on Jim Melvin, war on the city of Greensboro …”

Officer Bell, one of the officers on the scene, recalled Johnson’s words this way, "(A) black male (was) waving his arms and yelling to the crowd in front of us to, ‘Kill the Police. Mayor Melvin and the Police set this up. They told the Klan where we were so they could gun us down. They let them slaughter us on purpose. Declare war on the Police. Kill the pigs. Arm yourself."

...Another officer on the scene, Lt. Daughtry (the officer with his foot on Johnson’s neck), recalled Johnson’s words as, “Go home and get your guns and attack the police.”

Lt. Spoon recalled, I can’t remember exact words but he was talking in terms of the police allowed them to get shot. So ‘You all go home and get you’all’s guns and come back and we’ll kill us some police officers.’

...The footage of Johnson’s speech, however, shows no such statements. Nevertheless, Johnson was arrested for incitement to riot. No riot in fact occurred as a result of Johnson’s speech, making any charge for incitement against him unfounded and the charge was later dropped.

...In May of 1980 a Grand Jury issued indictments for Johnson and four other CWP members...

Assistant District Attorney James Knight asked the court to raise Johnson’s bail from $15,000 to
$100,000 because of Johnson’s actions after Nov. 3, 1979, to disrupt City Council meetings, hold
demonstrations in front of the police department, disrupt a press conference by Gov. Jim Hunt in July 1980 and cause a disruption on the first day of the murder trial.

...Flaws in the system, which amounted to institutional racism, undoubtedly affected the jury
makeup by allowing potential jurors to be removed on the basis of their race and drawing
potential jurors from sources that under-represent the poor and people of color: tax rolls, voter
registration and driver’s license records.

...the fact that four of the five demonstrators shot to death (one of whom was shot in the back) were unarmed seems to us to make the defendants’ argument and the jury’s decision of self-defense that much more difficult for the community to understand.

...we do find that inconsistencies in the GPD’s own reporting, the flawed Internal Affairs Division
report, and the false statements by the city manger (see Police Investigations), appear to indicate reluctance to vigorously investigate the government’s role in the tragedy.

Certainly there was a deliberate attempt by the city manager to mislead the public."