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The Last Week or So Has Been Busy for Justice. The Score? Justice wins 4-1

A Lot of Cases Came to Fruition Almost Simultaneously

By my count, no less than six major legal events happened in the last few days. That alone is worth noting. But the specific outcomes are the important elements here. There are surely times these days when good souls wonder if the country has irretrievably gone to hell in a handbasket. That the forces of hate and prejudice are on the rise everywhere.

But every so often, people manage to do the right thing. This week, we saw a lot of that in courtrooms around the country.

I don’t like to second guess a jury, but the one case that seemed to end so wrongly really did feel like a miscarriage of justice, starting with the jury selection, progressing through the judge’s conduct throughout the trial. I have to think there are grounds for appeal and retrial here, but time will tell.

This is, of course, the Kyle Rittenhouse trail in Wisconsin. That someone could pick up a semi-automatic rifle, cross state lines, walk into a tense public situation, and then claim self-defense is a stretch, at best. For that same person to be acquitted of all five charges boggles the mind. This is a dagger in the heart of the families of those slain and wounded. It is also likely to be taken as a license by people looking to harm others. A shameful outcome is all I can perceive.

Happily, this is the only such case in this list of justice drama this week. All the others bring justice and promise. They are an interesting mix of jury trials, judge’s rulings, and civil suits. Complex thing, this justice stuff.

Here is a brief recap of each case.

Cops and Paramedics in Elijah McClain’s Death Charged with Homicide

The police officers and paramedics who stopped 23-year-old Elijah McClain and administered a fatal dose of ketamine to the unarmed Black man are now charged with homicide, more than two years after his death.

A grand jury indicted all charged in this case -three Aurora, Colorado, police officers and two paramedics – on a total of 32 counts. This was a rare moment of accountability for acts while on duty. Every defendant is facing one count of criminally negligent homicide and a count of manslaughter. Assault charges vary among those involved in McClain’s death.

Police and first responder duty is hard, dangerous, and challenging work. I remain inclined to yield the benefit of doubt to those who serve in these roles – when there is real doubt. As we have come to be painfully aware, too often, there is no such doubt, but a pass is given while people die. People of color mostly who die. This one case said,“no more.” It will be a trial we will all follow closely.

3 Found Guilty of Murder in the Shooting Death of Ahmaud Arbery

A jury in Brunswick, GA jury, almost all white, found three white men guilty of murder and other charges in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, who was Black, early last year. All three convicted murderers face minimum sentences of life in prison for the murder on Feb. 23, 2020. The judge will decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.

The people who committed this crime assumed things would go the way they did in the past, with Good Ol’ Boy justice. And they almost got it. This case only came to trail after a third prosecutor got on the case. One of those earlier prosecutors is being charged with such maleficence in this case that she may be facing prison time. The perpetrators made a souvenir video of their crime. Someone leaked that video to the media, which led to the public outcry that eventually led to prosecution.

This case might never have come to trial had these things not happened. Justice is still a far thing from assured.

The jury found Travis McMichael, who fired the shotgun, guilty on all nine counts, including malice murder and four counts of felony murder. His father, Gregory McMichael, was found not guilty of malice murder but guilty of felony murder and all other charges.

Bryan, who recorded the video of the killing, was found guilty of three counts felony murder, one count aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. He was not convicted of malice murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Charlottesville Jury Awards Over $25 Million in Damages Against “Unite the Right” Defendants

The jury ordered 17 white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay more than $26 million in damages over the violence that erupted during the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

After a nearly monthlong civil trial, the jury in U.S. District Court deadlocked on two key claims but found the white nationalists liable on four other claims in the lawsuit filed by nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the two days of demonstrations and on liable on a state conspiracy claim. The jury could not reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy claims..

The verdict is a rebuke to the white nationalist movement, particularly for the two dozen individuals and organizations accused in a federal lawsuit of orchestrating violence against African Americans, Jews and others in a meticulously planned conspiracy.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn said: “Today’s verdict sends a loud and clear message that facts matter, the law matters, and that the laws of this this country will not tolerate the use of violence to deprive racial and religious minorities of the basic right we all share to live as free and equal citizens.”

Two Pro-Trump Lawyers to Pay $187,000 for Filing Election Lawsuit

A federal judge in Colorado has ordered two attorneys to pay nearly $187,000 to cover the defendants’ legal fees after they filed a class action lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential results.

In his ruling, the Judge ruled that attorneys Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker filed a defamatory lawsuit last December without conducting a proper investigation. He called them out for failing in their duties as officers of the court and for causing damage to the defendants by their misconduct

Not Bad for One Week

So, start your New Year with a grateful recognition that sometimes justice prevails. Perhaps even more importantly, more of us are aware of how this has often not been the case in the past. We still have opportunities to get this right. To not ignore the injustices of the past and to not make those charged with law enforcement and justice outsiders to our society.

I don’t know how or if we will get there, but some days, it seems we may yet find our way..

      Bill Clontz

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