This piece was originally published on Black Agenda Report.
The “radical” mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, has presided over the police killing of eight Black citizens since 2017.
“The Jackson 8, those Black folks killed by the Black led police state, should not be forgotten.”
During the week of May 17, 2021, the show trial of Jackson Police Department (JPD) officers Lincoln Lampley and Desmond Barney, two of three Black police officers charged with second degree murder in the beating death of 62-year-old George Robinson was held. The third officer who has yet to be tried is Anthony Fox. Robinson was one of eight Black people killed by JPD since Jackson’s “radical” mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba took office in 2017. The case ended as a result of the granting of a directed verdict and dismissal of charges with prejudice against both JPD officers.
Judge E. Faye Peterson, a Black woman, former Hinds County District Attorney, and daughter of one of the first Black police officers in Jackson, rendered the decision that helped the officers circumvent a jury’s decision. Although Judge Peterson rendered the decision, the entire award-worthy production was a collaboration between various members of Jackson’s Black political class, including Mayor Lumumba and progressive prosecutor Jody Owens who normatively collaborate with, preside over, and provide cover for Jackson’s Black led police state.
Of Show Trials and Directed Verdicts
Show trials in history are usually where verdicts are rigged and confessions are extracted by coercion by the state. In this case, the proceedings were a show trial because they were calculated to get ordinary Jacksonians to reconcile themselves with the State and believe that those working at its behest can pursue justice for those abused, maimed, and killed by the Black-led police state in Jackson.
A directed verdict is when a judge, in the middle of a jury trial, takes the decision of guilt or innocence of a defendant out of the hands of a jury. A judge grants requests for directed verdicts because he or she decides that the State has not presented enough evidence as a matter of law for the jury to decide the question of guilt or innocence. In a trial, judges only make decision based on the law. It is the jury who sits as judge of the facts of a case. Arguments for a directed verdict are made by defense attorneys after the State has presented its case. Such arguments are usually perfunctory (fleeting, routine, and token gestures) and most of the time even experienced defense attorneys know that the request will not likely be granted because in the cases of indigent, poor, and Black defendants, most judges don’t find it politically expedient to take the decision of guilt or innocence out of the hands of a jury after a defendant has been indicted for a crime and has opted to proceed to trial.
Apparently, when the henchmen of Capital and the State, who have a history of being involved in police shootings, are on trial, such arguments are taken seriously. For this is an occasion for those who coerce on behalf of the rulers to keep them from being disciplined while sustaining the legitimacy of the judicial process in the public’s eyes.
In essence, the argument for a directed verdict is made so that the record of any legal errors that a defense attorney believes has been made can be preserved for appeal. The other thing that is noteworthy about Judge Peterson’s ruling is that she dismissed all charges against both officers with prejudice. This means that even if further investigation was conducted that discovers evidence of the officer’s involvement in the beating death of George Robinson, the case cannot be prosecuted again.
Lincoln Lampley and Desmond Barney
The officers who Judge Peterson cleared of all charges have a history of abusing and being involved in the shooting of Black people. Both Lampley and Barney were involved in two other shootings of working-class Black people in Jackson before George Robinson’s beating death in January 2019. These incidents involving Lampley, Barney, and another Officer named Anthony Veasey, who is also Black, occurred in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In both instances, the officers were “investigated” by JPD internal affairs department and were found to not have committed any wrong doing and that the use of force in both incidents were justified. It is no surprise that an institution tasked with investigating itself does not find a spot or blemish.
Lampley and Barney were not fired after being involved with the incidents where ordinary Jacksonians were either shot or killed. Lampley, Barney, Veasey and Rakasha Adams, a Black woman JPD officer implicated in the police state killing of 21-year-old Crystalline Barnes in Jackson, waged a legal battle to be reinstated to full law enforcement duties. The officers who murdered with impunity complained that they had been cleared through all avenues and the City of Jackson was refusing to reinstate them. It must be understood that what full law enforcement duties entail: the harassment and terrorization of the Black multitudes in the most radical city on the planet. Barney became employed with the Clinton Police Department. Clinton is a suburb that neighbors Jackson. Lampley is still employed with the JPD.
At the zenith of the George Floyd rebellions “radical” Mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, made a theatrical production out of the fact that his hands were tied because the Civil Service Commission, in which he was responsible for appointing members, overruled his administration’s decision to fire the officers. Mayor Lumumba is deserving of a Tony for how he pretended, on stage and on demand, to care about the lives of these Black people, that were snuffed out by the police department over which he presides and has provided cover for since he took office in July 2017.
Never Forget the Jackson 8
Although Mayor Lumumba and his unapologetic supporters on the “left,” people who we are told exist to oppose the state, capitalism, and racism, would like to ignore the Jackson 8 as they uphold his rancid regime as one that takes radical initiative. These supporters have remained silent during his tenure in which he has presided over the police killing of eight Black people and openly collaborated with Goldman Sachs, the global and imperial house of finance, in the name of Black capitalism. Such people would like to forget the Jackson 8.
Unsurprisingly, those who coalesce around Mayor Lumumba’s regime in Jackson continue to remain silent as they hold hands with Mayor Lumumba in fake popular assemblies controlled by the government and light candles with him during Kwanzaa while they don African accoutrements. It is they who defame and make people question the merits of the African heritage in consciousness raising. It is the fake activists for the government who compel people to make the distinction between participatory and direct democracy and to consider putting the hierarchical government out of popular assemblies.
Phony activists talk about “saying the names” of Black people killed in every locale across America except in Jackson. Their names must continue to be written and spoken of so that those who are serious about the liberation of Black people can learn that there can be no Black power without power to the common people no matter how many Black people ascend to government posts above society. Intelligent people might question, given their behavior, the merits of thinking of Black empowerment in terms of hierarchical government. The Jackson 8, those Black folks killed by the Black led police state, should not be forgotten.
Crystalline Barnes, a 21-year-old Black woman was killed by JPD officers when they claimed that she attempted to run them over with a car.
Nathaniel Fleming, A 38-year-old Black man, who appeared to be in the middle of a mental health crisis, instead of receiving the help he needed, he was cut down by a fusillade of bullets fired by JPD Officer Rakasha Adams. At the time of the incident, now Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance, who won election with Mayor Lumumba’s endorsement, was JPD Chief of Police. Vance, in a statement to the media, Vance claimed that he wielded a six-inch knife and lunged at the officer. Mr. Fleming was killed on November 15, 2017.
Lee Edward Bonner
On February 26, 2018, Lee Edward Bonner, 37, was killed by JPD officers who were not in uniform and some bystanders say never identified themselves as officers while investigating “possible drug activity) in the working-class neighborhood of Washington Addition. JPD’s official statement claims that they chased Bonner and they shot him after he produced a gun.
30-year-old Elliot Reed was killed by JPD officers on May 9, 2018 after a traffic stop resulted in Reed’s 26-year-old brother feeling his brother’s life was in danger and opened fire on the officers at a gas station at which they were stopped. JPD officers returned fire, killing Reed. After a number of Black people in Jackson were killed by police and many more abused and maimed, it was not unrealistic for Chauncey Reed to believe that his brother’s life was in danger.
Mario Clark, a 31-year-old father, was beaten while being restrained after family members called 911 to report that Clark was undergoing a psychotic episode. Clark died while in the hospital being treated for the injuries sustained during the beating he received from JPD officers several days later.
Two individuals were killed by JPD officers but their names were never released to the media. These individuals still remain unidentified victims killed by the Black-led police state in Jackson. One victim was killed on June 1, 2018. The details and circumstances of the killing are scant at best. The other person, who, from reports, appears to have been a homeless man, was killed by JPD officers on April 15, 2020 after officers were dispatched to investigate a suspected house burglary. Officers never stated they ever saw the deceased accused burglarizing any homes, but they approached him and he fled on a bike and sought refuge under an abandoned house. The police called the Jackson Fire Department to go inside of the abandoned residence to cut a hole in the floor to extract the man from underneath the house. I remind the readers that this was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. JPD officers claim that the victim produced a screw driver and they shot him.
In this world of DNA evidence that can discover the origins and identity of any corpse however mutilated and decomposed, how can the government preside over judicial affairs where those who are killed by police go unidentified for one to three years? Investigators, who claim to wield objectivity and reason, must examine these situations with many possibilities in mind. These include the potential of police or government collaborating with civilians in illegal activities and desires to misdirect the public where their low-level collaborators, they feel, would be better discarded and forgotten.
George Robinson, 62-year-old Black man was beaten during a sweep of the Washington Addition neighborhood on January 13, 2019. The sweep was being conducted by JPD following the killing of a local pastor in attempt to find a suspect in the killing. Robinson was body slammed, punched, and kicked. He reported the University Medical Center Hospital complaining of head pain. He died after a few days in the hospital as a result of the injuries he sustained from the beating.
District Attorney’s Press Conference
Following the Judge’s ruling to dismiss all charges against the two officers implicated in George Robinson’s death, District Attorney Jody Owens, flanked by the Assistant District Attorneys who prosecuted the case, and the slain George Robinson’s family members, held a press conference that added to the drama. Owens gave a convoluted and irrelevant history of the case that outlined how his administration investigated the case and decided to indict the officers who were just found “not guilty” in a show trial that lent legitimacy to him and Mayor Lumumba. The press conference was not to apologize for the “failure to gather evidence” to bring on behalf of “the people” – as prosecutors bring a case “the people versus…”
The District Attorney talked about how Mayor Lumumba first asked his predecessor to investigate the case. For anyone who knows how the criminal punishment system works, the sham investigations of Owens and his predecessor can be characterized as little more than a sick joke. The District Attorney’s office in Hinds County works closely with JPD to prosecute ordinary Black people that both Mayor Lumumba and Owens, each who have ties to Black “royal” families in Jackson, hold in contempt. Such people’s cases are not dismissed as a result of directed verdicts. The author should know as he represented countless indigent defendants in Hinds County during his five-year tenure as an Assistant Public Defender there.
Apart from what Owens said to legitimate Judge Peterson’s decision to dismiss the cases of the officers Lampley and Barney, while at the same time defending the case that his office presented, he exposed how both he and Mayor Lumumba had to be pushed from behind by ordinary people in Jackson because of their fear of an eruption in Jackson at the height of the George Floyd rebellions of the summer of 2020. Although he was not attempting to be, Owens was incandescently clear about the purpose of presenting cases involving police state killings to a Grand Jury. It was to clear the officers of the allegations and restore the public’s confidence in the State and the Black elites who manage it. Owens stated that it was important to present the cases to the Grand Jury to ensure that the officers names were cleared. This exposes the bankruptcy of what people term justice in the criminal punishment system. How do those who speak and are tasked by the legal system with gathering evidence to investigate police murder for “the people” pursue justice by first deciding they wish to clear the names of the police?
“The District Attorney’s office works closely with JPD to prosecute ordinary Black people that Mayor Lumumba holds in contempt.”
In the coming weeks, there will be another show trial of the remaining co-defendant, Anthony Fox, for the death of George Robinson. It will be in front of another Black woman judge named Adrienne Wooten. Those fighting the “white racial state” in Jackson can’t find one white person to rally against. When they do a big show will surely be made of their discovery.
We don’t know what will happen with the next “trial,” only time will tell. But no matter what happens, we do know that it will be collaboration among members of the Black political class not designed to seek justice for Mr. Robinson or his family, but to reconcile ordinary people with the State in order to get them to believe that those who hold Black toilers in Jackson in contempt can be their patrons and saviors. This is not possible. The only way that the most oppressed will seek justice is by arriving on their own authority, taking the reins of society from elite politicians and judges, and establishing their own self-government where they organize their own political, economic, social, and judicial affairs.