Sacramento, CA

Rittenhouse verdict reminds us how far America is from criminal justice reform

Robert J Hansen

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Judge Bruce Schroeder watches an evidence video with Kyle Rittenhouse and his attorney, Mark Richards, at the Kenosha Courthouse Nov. 12,.(Sean Krajacic / Pool via Reuters file)

Sacramento, Calif. - by Robert J Hansen

America still has a long way to go reforming its criminal justice system and the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict reminds us of that.

I wasn’t surprised when the all-white, hand-picked jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on the charges he faced for shooting three men in August last year.

Neither was Myron “Pauly” Jackson, Jacob Blake’s brother.

"I was mentally prepared for this verdict. Emotionally, I'm never prepared, it's always going to hit me hard but now, it's time to step up the gears" Jackson, president, and co-founder of Edifye said via social media.

Founded by Pauly, Jacob, and their family after last summer's protest movement for Jake, Edifye looks to help produce tangible wins, both in folks’ daily lives and at a community organizing level.

“It shouldn’t take a violent tragedy to bring us together and charge our fight,” Jackson says on Edifye’s website.

Pauly and Edifye were leading an athlete-activist training via zoom with the California Abolition Act Coalition (ACA 3) & NBA veteran and activist Etan Thomas when the news broke.  

While fascists and racists celebrated this verdict, Pauly and Edifye were advocating for reparative legislation and the abolition of legalized slavery in California & the country the post said.

If it becomes California law, ACA 3 would be a giant step towards ending mass incarceration. But it would still be just one step.

The Rittenhouse verdict is a prime example of how the spirit of the law is applied to some and the letter of the law to others, too often decided by the color of one's skin or how the size of our bank account.

White people with privilege or involved in high profile cases often are shown lower levels of jurisprudence in sentencing and bail hearings while their poor counterparts and people of color are held to the absolute letter of the law, and much more strict sentences. 

Elijah Johnson was given life without the possibility of parole for his part in a killing organized by co-defendant David Nguyen, who personally shot and killed three victims during a robbery gone bad in 2016.

Attorney Stephen Greenberg argued in a recent appellant hearing that Johnson was along for the initial crime, “but was as shocked as everyone else by its brutal results,” the Davis Vanguard reported.

Nonetheless, like Nguyen, he was convicted of special circumstance murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole (LWOP).

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Henry Ortiz (left), activist Allegra Taylor (center), Tina Perry (right) and other demonstrators at the California Capital building.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

This despite a 2018 change in California law, SB 1437, says a person can be convicted of felony murder only if they directly assisted with the homicide or if they were “a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.”

Similarly, Harvest Davidson is in El Dorado County jail fighting murder charges for a 2016 incident

In January 2016, the victim brought 100 pounds of marijuana to a South Lake Tahoe hotel with plans to sell it. When the buyer pulled out, two men attempted to rob them in the parking lot, and the victim was shot and killed.

The police ended up arresting a host of people, including Harvest Davidson.

According to his mother, Tina Perry, not only has the district attorney offered unreasonable offers, her son has been abused and harassed by deputies while in going to court as he has no bail, therefore, must sit in jail while he fights his case.

Not only was Kyle Rittenhouse able to raise around $2 million for Rittenhouse's legal defense in the first few weeks after he was charged. Rittenhouse also posted bail after he was transferred to Kenosha County Jail from juvenile detention.

Why does Rittenhouse receive less harsh treatment for actually killing two men and wounding another while two men, one on trial and the other in prison sentenced to LWOP never having killed anyone?

I wouldn’t be as upset with the verdict if Johnson and Davidson were shown the same level of jurisprudence and treatment within the criminal justice system.

If the spirit of the law is used on Rittenhouse then it also should for Davidson and Johnson.

Indentured servitude needs to be abolished but there also needs to be equal treatment under the law. Because if justice is blind, then why do we see a disproportionate amount of people of color in prison?

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento, CA
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