America’s criminal justice system is not based upon justice or fair play. It is predicated on lies, trickery and deceit. Whether one of us is innocent or guilty, we must recognize that when we enter the courtroom we have entered a bloody arena, where the prize at stake is our lives. Anything goes. Rights violations, prosecutorial misconduct, coercion, perjured testimony, falsified reports… the list goes on. What the prosecutor seeks is that initial conviction, because they know that the appeals process will drag on for years. While you rot behind bars, your appeal briefs will collect dust on some obscure judge’s desk.
When we are indicted for our alleged wrongs, many times we are overcharged for the crime itself. They race up many related charges that stem from one offense. We are faced with staggering amounts of time to serve and our minds reel at the thought of doing so much time. “A thousand years? All I did was…” we say to ourselves. It is basic psychology. It is to ensure your full cooperation when you are offered the coveted “deal” that will allow you to spend less time behind bars. Actually, it is a ruse to frighten you into accepting a plea agreement for something that the prosecutor would be hard-pressed to fairly prove against you. Many co-defendants are tricked this way into offering testimony in exchange for lighter sentences or, in some cases, total immunity for crimes they helped to commit.
One essential thing to understand is that the sincere-looking White attorney who is supposed to defend and protect your rights is, in face, a “sworn officer of the court.” They are bound by some oath of judicial fealty of which you know nothing. “Why, you’ll never see the light of day! It’s a good deal! With time off for good behavior you’ll be back out in a few years,” the smooth-talking, reassuring White face says.
What you don’t know is that the dockets are full. The lawyers are no more than amateur actors with mediocre legal abilities. They play their parts again and again. It’s their job to ensure that the wheels of injustice continue to spin smoothly. They are the golfing buddies of the judge, the cousin of the prosecutors. They may have been prosecutors themselves, once. They lunch together every afternoon. Their children attend the same private schools. They belong to the same clubs, the same lodge, they may even swap their mates. Their allegiances are only to each other and not to you.
For those who refuse to take that coveted deal, there will be hell to pay for having the nerve to buck the accepted System of Things. You won’t be dealt with fairly because you are poor. You will not be afforded a jury of your peers. The Latin legal terms they use are a dead language, buried and hidden, only otherwise kept alive by priests at the Vatican. Witnesses are coached in what to say. The police intimidate your witnesses, convincing them not to appear in court. Hand signals are given, passwords spoken. Objections are overruled by the judge with a nod and a sly wink. You sit in the midst of some Masonic ritual taking place. Your silence is assured. You are threatened with exposure of your criminal past (if you have one) if you dare to speak in your own defense. The cards are well-stacked against you and chances are, you will go to jail.
Many of us lack a fundamental belief in ourselves; we lack faith and confidence in the abilities of those professionals of our race to perform accurately when things count most. We feel somehow that their education and training isn’t on equal footing with their White counterparts. We have been brainwashed to assume that a Black attorney isn’t capable of competently representing our interests in the White man’s court of law.
“Now don’t you go in there with a Nigga’ lawyer… Get you a good Jew lawyer. You go down there with a Nigga’ lawyer and you’ll end up with more time.” This is standard advice. By such a notion as “Slave Widow,” we fall, easy prey in the clutches of the corrupt White attorneys. If we fully understood what we were up against we would see that no one should represent us, other than another Black person.
There are many White attorneys who earn their livelihoods extracting pounds of Black flesh inside America’s halls of injustice. They continuously deal Black bodies as their slave-owning forefathers did in the days of yore. These attorneys deal cases with the prosecutor and collect bribes when we have the ability to pay. To these White attorneys, we are just unsuspecting victims.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.