A Right to A Gun

CWR Legal Advisor – By Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.

A Right to A Gun

 

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

The crux of the peace versus violence controversy focuses on gun control versus the right to own a handgun. In the watershed McDonald v. Chicago 2010 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to own a handgun. The court held the Second Amendment right to bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee. The Constitution restrains state and local governments from restricting an individual’s right to bear arms. The ruling overturned Chicago’s law that banned handgun ownership. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion stated, the “Second Amendment right applies equally to the federal government and the states.” The court held the Second Amendment right is “fundamental” to the American scheme of ordered liberty. Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 149 (1968) and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and traditions.” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 721 (1997). Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that “states have substantial latitude and ample authority to impose regulations.” Justice Samuel Alito Jr further stated with respect to current regulations, “We repeat those assurances here.” Neither this decision nor the 2008 decision posed a threat to long-standing restrictions on the sale of firearms to felons and mentally ill people, or to laws that bar guns from “sensitive” venues such as schools and courthouses. In addition, the decision still allows states to impose reasonable regulations, such as requiring handgun owners to take a safety course. In a vehement dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and John Paul Stevens disagreed with the high court’s determination that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to gun ownership. Justice Stevens stated the decision “could prove far more destructive – quite literally- to our nation’s communities and to our constitutional structure.” Hence, one can reasonably infer that violence could increase in urban communities.

 

Prior to 2008, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., a federal city, required handgun owners to register weapons, submit to a multiple-choice test, fingerprinting, and a ballistics test. Owners were also required to demonstrate they had instruction on handling a gun and spent at least an hour on the firing range. In the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. _____ case, the court struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and a trigger lock requirement for other guns. In Heller the court held the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess guns, at least for self-defense in the home. The court reasoned that self-defense is “highly valued”. Furthermore in Heller, the court stated, “Individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right.” Moreover, the need for defense of self, family and property is most acute in the home.”

 

Washington, D.C. prohibited carrying loaded weapons outside the home.

The McDonald decision will have implications for other states. For instance, Massachusetts has a state law that requires gun owners to lock weapons in their homes. Virginia has a law that limits handgun purchases to once per month. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the decision allows cities “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists while at the same time respecting the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens.”

Chicago vigorously defended their handgun ban laws in this case before the court. Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, emphatically stated, “How many more of our citizens must needlessly die because guns are too easily available in our society? “Mayor Daley was accompanied at a news conference by the parents of a Chicago teenager who was shot on a bus as he headed home from school. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence urged the court to afford state and local governments the ability to enact “the reasonable laws they desire and need to protect their families and communities from gun violence.” Conversely, Justice Alito stated that the Second Amendment is fully binding on states and cities “limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values.”

 

 

About Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.:  Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury. Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association.

Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.

 

Do Not Throw Away the Key

CWR Legal Advisor – By Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.

Do Not Throw Away the Key 

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. In a seminal case, Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 367 (1910), the court held, “embodied in the cruel and unusual punishments ban is the precept…that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to the offense.” In Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. (2008), the court held capital punishment is impermissible for non-homicide crimes against individuals.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Terrance Graham, a 23 year old Florida prisoner who committed armed robberies at the age of 16 and 17. In Graham v. Florida, (2010) the court held that minors serving life sentences, for non-homicide crimes, must at least be considered for release. The court reasoned, “Serious non-homicide crimes may be devastating in their harm, but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public…they cannot be compared to murder in their ‘severity and irrevocability’.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion for the court wrote, “The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a non-homicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law.” This decision follows the 2005 decision of Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 that abolished the death penalty for minors. There is a distinction between the punitive measures of the criminal justice system for adults, versus the rehabilitative nature of the justice system for juveniles. Differences are based upon the fact that juveniles are viewed as lacking judgment of adults, and in the words of the court, have “twice diminished moral culpability,” and lack “sufficient psychological maturity and depravity.” The court ruled, “Because age 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood, it is the age below which a defendant may not be sentenced to life without parole for a non-homicide crime.” Id., 574. The court stated, “none of the legitimate goals of penal sanctions – retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation, see Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 25 – is adequate to justify life without parole for juvenile non-homicide offenders, see, e.g. Roper, 543 U.S., at 571, 573.

According to a Florida State University study, there are 129 inmates in the United States that are currently serving life sentences without parole terms for non-homicide crimes in 11 states – Florida, California, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. The decision raises the question of what will be appropriate sentences for juveniles that are convicted of serious crimes. The Graham decision will not affect the State of Michigan, that has a juvenile lifer law only for homicide cases, which allows judges to give minors as young as 14, the maximum adult penalty.

Chief Justice John Roberts, while concurring, opposed applying the court’s ruling to all young offenders who are incarcerated for crimes other than murder. Justice Samuel Alito dissented. Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent, criticized the majority opinion for imposing, “its own sense of morality and retributive justice,” on state lawmakers and voters who chose to give state judges the option of life-without parole sentences. Justice Thomas stated, “I am unwilling to assume that we, as members of this court, are any more capable of making such moral judgments than our fellow citizens.”

Conversely, the majority opinion considered “objective indicia of society’s standards, as expressed in legislative enactments and state practice to determine whether there is a national consensus against the sentencing practice at issue. Roper, supra, at 563.” Furthermore, “the court determines in the exercise of its own independent judgment whether the punishment in question violates the Constitution, Roper, supra, at 564.” Therefore, locking up juveniles to “throw away the key” constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Now they will be afforded the opportunity to rehabilitate in order to become productive members of society, law-abiding citizens.

About Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.: Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury. Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association.

Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.

A Jury Of Your Peers

CWR Legal Advisor – By Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.

A Jury Of Your Peers

 

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Ideally, a jury is comprised of a group of an individual’s peers, coming together in unity of purpose in judging a case.  Indeed, a jury represents, “the conscience of the community,” as the late great President Abraham Lincoln said.  Problems arise, however, when  the jury is comprised of individuals who are not peers, and have drastically different socioeconomic backgrounds from the parties involved in a dispute.  For instance, in 1993, Diapolis Smith, an African-American was convicted of second-degree murder by an all-white jury in Kent County, Michigan for a 1991 barroom brawl shooting and killing.  On appeal, Mr. Smith argued that his conviction should be reversed because African Americans were excluded from the jury pool.  Jurisprudence on the issue of race in jury selection is historical and comprehensive.  In Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1879) the United States Supreme Court held the 14th Amendment afforded Equal Protection to individuals based upon race.  Specifically, Strauder held a state denies a black defendant equal protection when it puts him on trial before a jury from which members of his race have been purposefully excluded.  The Equal Protection Clause guarantees the defendant that the state will not exclude members of his race from the jury venire on account of race, or on the false assumption that members of his race as a group are not qualified to serve as jurors.

In Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965), the court held a defendant alleging lack of a fair cross-section must demonstrate systematic exclusion of a group of jurors from the venire.  The court stated, that a “State’s purposeful or deliberate denial of Negroes on account of race or participation as jurors in the administration of justice violates the Equal Protection Clause.”  A black defendant could make out a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination on proof that the peremptory challenge system as a whole was being perverted.

In Batson v. Kentucky, (1986), the United States Supreme Court forbade prosecutors from using race as a factor in making peremptory challenges to excuse jurors.  Factually, in Batson, the prosecutor used his peremptory challenges to strike all four black persons from the jury.

The defendant does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected pursuant to nondiscriminatory criteria.  Martin v. Texas, 200 US 316, 200 US 321 (1906).  “The very idea of a jury is a body … composed of the peers or equals of the person whose rights it is selected or summoned to determine; that is, of his neighbors, fellows, associates, persons having the same legal status in society as that which he holds.”  Strauder, supra, at 100 US 308; see Carter v. Jury Comm’n of Greene County, 396 US 320, 396 US 330 (1970).

Criminal defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to a trial by an impartial jury drawn from a fair cross section of the community.  Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 US 522 (1975).  Factually, Taylor, was a seminal case in the area of women’s rights because it prevented women from being excluded from a jury pool on the basis of having to register for jury duty.    To establish a prima facie violation of the fair cross-section requirement, a defendant must prove that :  (1)  a group qualifying as “distinctive” (2) is not fairly and reasonably represented in jury venires, and (3) “systematic exclusion” in the jury-selection process accounts for the underrepresentation.  Duren v. Missouri, 439 US. 357, 364 (1979).

Recently in Berghuis, Warden v. Smith, 08-1402 (2010) the United States Supreme Court held that Mr. Smith did not prove that a fair cross section of the community was systematically excluded from the all white jury that convicted him.  This case implores the importance of serving on a jury to insure that justice is fairly and reasonably administered.

About Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.:  Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury. Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association.

Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.

 

Silence Is Golden

CWR Legal Advisor – By Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.

Silence Is Golden

 

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

The Constitution affords the right against self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment provides that, “no person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Consequently, in the groundbreaking case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) the United States Supreme Court held police must inform individuals who are in custody of their right to an attorney before interrogation. The Supreme Court has called the Miranda rules, “prophylactic,” meaning they are designed to protect the Constitution.

 

Cases are based upon the Fifth Amendment. Factually in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477(1981), a man was arrested, read his Miranda rights, and stated he wanted an attorney. The next day, officers went to the jail to re-read the Miranda rights, began questioning/interrogation again, and he confessed. The United States Supreme Court established in Edwards v. Arizona, that once an individual asserts the right to an attorney, all questioning by law enforcement must cease until counsel is present or the suspect voluntarily initiates further conversation. Thus the police have to stop interviewing the individual and cannot re-initiate questioning once that individual invokes his right to an attorney. Hence, the police cannot try to cajole, intimidate, manipulate, or persuade an individual to change his mind. The goal of Edwards was to prevent police from badgering a suspect into waiving his 5th Amendment/Miranda rights in order to make coerced statements. Moreover, Edwards prevents the police from “wearing down” an in custody suspect through repeated interrogation efforts.

 

In Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675(1988), the Supreme Court held the invocation of the right to counsel by a suspect that is in custody prevents any officer from approaching the defendant about any crime unless the suspect has a lawyer present. Factually, Roberson involved a man who was arrested at the scene of a burglary, given his Miranda rights, and invoked his right to counsel. Three days later, while in custody, without an attorney, a different officer interviewed him about a different crime.

 

Factually in Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146 (1990), Minnick made incriminating statements to a deputy, three days after he consulted with a lawyer that he had previously requested. The Supreme Court held that, “when counsel is requested, interrogation must cease, and officials may not re-initiate interrogation without counsel present, whether or not the accused has consulted with his attorney.”

 

In a recent case, Maryland v. Shatzer, (2010), the crux of the controversy was how long does the 5th Amendment/Miranda invocation of the right to counsel last. Factually, in August 2003, the police interviewed Michael Shatzer, Sr., regarding allegations that he sexually abused his 3 year old son. Shatzer invoked his right to counsel, the interrogation was ended, and investigation subsequently closed. In March 2006, a new investigation commenced over the same sexual abuse allegations. Shatzer, who was incarcerated on a different charge, waived his Miranda rights, and made incriminating statements. The court held that a fourteen (14)-day break in custodial interrogation ends the Edwards presumption that a Miranda waiver at a subsequent interrogation is the result of coercion. The court reasoned that a suspect who has been released for at least two weeks following the custodial interrogation, in which he initially asserted a right to counsel, will have sufficient time to re-acclimate to his normal life, consult with counsel, family, and/or friends, and rebound from any lingering coercive effects of the prior custody. Furthermore, the court reasoned Shatzer’s return to his normal pre-interrogation life in the general prison population for a period of 2½ years before re-interrogation constituted a sufficient “break in custody” to end the Edwards presumption and enable him to voluntarily waive his Miranda rights. Specifically, the court stated the release of a suspect who has been previously incarcerated back into the general prison population is a release to the suspects’ “accustomed surroundings and daily routine,” in which the suspect regains the same control over his life as he possessed prior to the interrogation.

 

 

About Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.: Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury. Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association.

Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.

 

THURGOOD MARSHALL: UNSUNG HERO?

CWR Legal Advisor – By Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.

THURGOOD MARSHALL:  UNSUNG HERO?

 

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

In 1991, when the late great Thurgood Marshall retired from the Supreme Court, a reporter asked him how he wanted to be remembered, he exclaimed, “He did what he could with what he had!”  For his monumental accomplishments, it is proper to pay homage to one of the greatest American citizens who had the greatest impact on law in the 20th century.

Early in his civil rights legal career, Attorney Thurgood Marshall advocated in school desegregation cases.  In 1935, Thurgood Marshall filed suit on behalf of 20-year old Donald Murray against the University of Maryland Law School, charging the university with violation of the 14th Amendment/Equal Protection, by rejecting Murray’s application for admission.  Thurgood Marshall prevailed on behalf of Donald Murray.  In 1939, as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Thurgood Marshall led a team of victorious lawyers who won a case on behalf of 28 year old Lloyd Gaines for his admission to the University of Missouri Law School.  For his enormous, breakthrough accomplishments, in 1946, Thurgood Marshall received the NAACP’s top award, the Springarn Medal.

Thurgood Marshall successfully combated racism and litigated cases in other areas besides education.  In 1946, for instance, at the United States Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall argued in the case of Morgan v. Virginia, to ban segregated seating on buses that traveled between states no matter what local segregation laws were in place.  Thurgood Marshall prevailed when the Supreme Court held that state segregation placed an “unfair burden” on interstate commerce.  In 1948, in a housing discrimination case, Shelley v. Kraemer, Thurgood Marshall led a team of lawyers that argued racial covenants violated the 14th Amendment, which gave equal protection to all Americans.   In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court outlawed the use of restrictive covenants.

In the landmark, 1954 United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall successfully argued that segregated schools violated the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause and won the case that legally ended racial segregation in schools.  United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren stated in the opinion, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall to serve as the nation’s first Black Solicitor General.  Two years later, 1967, President Johnson selected Attorney Marshall to serve as the nation’s first Black Supreme Court Justice.

Justice Marshall was a strong advocate for individual rights.  In the Stanley v. Georgia case, Justice Marshall wrote for a unanimous court that police were wrong to prosecute a man for owning a pornographic film.  Justice Marshall stated, “If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.  Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”  In 1969, Justice Marshall wrote the opinion for the Benton v. Maryland case, which gave defendants protection against double jeopardy in state courts.  In 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, Justice Marshall voted with the majority of the court to outlaw the death penalty.  Justice Marshall quipped, “How are you going to not kill a person after he has been executed if you find out he is innocent?”  In 1984, Ake v. Oklahoma, Justice Marshall opined that the state has an obligation to make sure every suspect got the fullest possible defense.  In 1986, in Ford v. Wainwright, Justice Marshall opined that the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment precluded the death penalty for the insane.

Last year, for the landmark inauguration of President Barack Obama, I proudly flew into the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Baltimore, Maryland, Justice Marshall’s hometown.  Shortly after taking office, President Obama named Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina Justice.  Neither of these monumental moments would have been possible without the racial progress accomplished by the great Thurgood Marshall in his struggle for equal rights.

 

About Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.:  Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury.  Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association.

Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.

The Mother’s Milk?

CWR Legal Advisor – By Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.

The Mother’s Milk?

 

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

A wise man, Jesse Marvin Unruh aptly stated, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Recently, the monumental United States Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC (Federal Election Commission) drastically changed the law on how corporations and unions can use money to influence federal campaigns.  The decision changes campaign finance regulations.  The Supreme Court struck down a provision of federal election law that forbade corporations and unions from spending their general treasury funds to support or oppose candidates for federal office.  Factually, the case began when a conservative group, Citizens United, made a 90 minute movie, entitled, Hillary, the Movie, which criticized the Democratic presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Since funds for the film came from corporate donations, the FEC forbid distribution of the proposed video on-demand.

The rationale of the Citizens United v. FEC decision was premised on the basis that corporations and unions have the same First Amendment free speech rights as citizens.  In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated emphatically, “The censorship we now confront is vast in its’ reach.”  Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the campaign finance limits restrained, “the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy.”  Justice Kennedy stated, “No sufficient government interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”  Interestingly, Senator Mitch McConnell, the senate Republican leader who initiated the first lawsuit challenging the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions bill, lauded the court for “restoring the First Amendment rights” of corporations and unions.

The decision repealed the provision of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union and corporate paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.  However, the decision does not affect the provision of the McCain-Feingold law that bans direct contributions by corporate and union donations to candidates and political parties.

There are several ramifications to this watershed decision.  First, it could lead to the same type of corruption of a century ago when corporations and unions gave money directly to candidates which led to the robber-baron bribery scandals.  In 1907, Congress astutely passed and President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Tillman Act which banned corporations from donating money directly to federal candidates.    The Supreme Court majority opinion doubted that election-time ads could lead to the corruption of politicians and that in any case, proponents of the ban had not provided any evidence of corruption.  Justice John Paul Stevens stated vehemently in his dissent, however, that “the court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.”  Second, the decision could lead to a flood of corporate and union donations to federal campaigns in this year’s congressional elections.  Third, the decision allows corporate and/or union sponsored political advertisements to air up to the time of the election.  Fourth, the advertisements can advocate for or against a particular candidate.  Fifth, it will lead to a sharp increase in political advertising.   Sixth, the decision overturned precedent, prior case law.  The 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, established the modern framework for campaign finance regulations.  The 1990 case of Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, upheld a Michigan law that forbade corporations from using general corporate treasury funds for independent expenditures for or against candidates for office.  The rationale of the 1990 Supreme Court was that corporations could, if left unregulated, use wealth to distort politics.  Seventh, President Barack Obama is concerned that the decision is a green light for a new stampede of special interest money in politics that allows corporations to spend freely in federal elections, giving their lobbyists more clout in Washington, and could lead to attacks from corporate special interests such as big oil, health insurance companies, and Wall Street banks.  Eighth, and most importantly, corporate interests could overtake and overwhelm the important voices of ordinary citizens in our democracy.  In summation, now that corporations will be allowed to provide more money to politicians to cultivate and nurture their candidacies, will the politicians be beholden to the corporations if successfully elected?  More likely than not, politicians will not bite the hand that feeds them the mother’s milk.

About Jermaine A. Wyrick, J.D.:  Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury.  Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association. 

Mr. Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.

“HE GOT AWAY WITH MURDER!”

Contributed by Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick, JD

CWR Legal Advisor

8-6-2013

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

Attorney Jermaine Wyrick, J.D.

“HE GOT AWAY WITH MURDER!”

The only person of color on the jury, a Latina woman, stated these words after the jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the killing of an unarmed youth, Trayvon Martin.  Unfortunately, the verdict demonstrates racial divisions based upon an individual’s perception of the law.  The jury lacked diversity.  Five of the six women were white.  As an African American male, I personally think the verdict was racist, based upon false, negative stereotypes that demonized Trayvon Martin, as a “thug,” solely because he was an African American youth.  Moreover, George Zimmerman racially profiled, wrongfully assumed that Trayvon Martin was suspicious, dangerous, and violent, when he was harmless.

He was peacefully walking to his father’s fiancé’s house after purchasing a bag of skittles and an iced tea when he was confronted by George Zimmerman.  The 911 operator told Zimmerman not to follow Martin.   In his last words, Trayvon Martin told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, through cell phone, there was a “creepy” man following him that he even asked, “What are you following me for?” and yelled, “Get off!  Get off!”  While there was a factual dispute about who cried for help on the 911 tape, considering Zimmerman was armed, he did not need any help whatsoever.  Moreover, one of the neighbors a retired teacher insist that it was Trayvon Martin’s voice on the tape, because she was there, and based upon her experience it was the teenager’s voice.

The verdict is similar to a famous 1857 racist case, Dred Scott, where the court decided, “Blacks were so far inferior they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”   Certainly George Zimmerman did not respect the rights of Trayvon Martin, nor did the jury.  The acquittal of Zimmerman is analogous to the 1955 tragedy of Emmett Till, a 14-year old, who was brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman.  An all-white jury rendered a “not guilty” verdict based upon their rationale that the prosecutor failed to prove the identity of the body, which had been savagely beaten by the white woman’s husband and her brother who kidnapped Till from his uncle’s home.  Similarly, people nationwide were outraged not only at the verdict but the prosecutor’s decision not to charge the killers with kidnapping.

Hopefully the Trayvon Martin verdict will be the impetus to a non-violent movement, the same way Till’s tragedy was for the civil rights movement.  Last week, I attended a rally where Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin spoke.  In addressing the injustice of the jury’s verdict, she stated, “We must take action!”  As an optimist, as unjust as the verdict was, positive solutions can come from this that must be explored.  People of good will must report for jury duty so that they can influence just verdicts.  Hopefully, the U.S. Department of Justice will pursue federal charges against Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights.  Individuals such as the iconic musical genius Stevie Wonder have called for a boycott of Florida and other “Stand Your Ground” Law states.  Personally, I do not think that entire states should be boycotted, because it can have an unfair, negative impact on those not responsible for the verdict, such as those who work in the tourism industry in Florida, that may have hoped for a Zimmerman conviction.  I think it would be more effective to boycott businesses that gave financial support to Zimmerman’s defense.  Supporters of Trayvon Martin can also donate to a foundation in his name.  I applaud people such as radio disc jockey Tom Joyner who committed to paying Rachel Jenteal’s college education to help her improve her plight in life after she not only experienced the tragedy of being the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin, but also the ridicule she was subjected to as a witness at the trial, including contempt from one of the jurors who stated, “she was not credible because of her communication skills.”  We as a society must effectively communicate with others to eliminate racism and violence.

 

About Attorney Jermaine Wyrick: Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick has practiced law since 1997. His areas of practice are civil rights, criminal defense, and personal injury. Wyrick is also a lecturer and is currently a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Board of Directors for the Wolverine Bar Association.  Wyrick’s awards include the Pepsi “Everyday Freedom Hero” Award; “Civil Rights and Education” United States Attorney’s Office Black History Month Award, and the “Five under Ten” Award from the University of Michigan, African American Alumni Council; Who’s Who in America, the Federal Bar Association, Pro Bono Project Award; Respect for Law, Optimist International, and an award from the Detroit Branch NAACP for Outstanding Leadership in Affirmative Action.