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Let The Punishment Fit The Crime . . .

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The outpouring comments calling for a public lynching, to metering out the same cold-blooded execution, in order to save taxpayers the expense of housing two teenagers, who brazenly shot to death a 13-month-old baby, is a very fiery and divisive topic.

One cannot argue that the crime committed by these two teenagers is not heinous, and that the punishment administered should be of equal measure, but our system is one of due process, where an individual is considered innocent until proven guilty.

If we are to subjugate thoughts of retribution, we need to let our justice system, no matter how imperfect we think it to be, run its course, and after all the facts have been presented and examined, whatever verdict and punishment is rendered by the court, is what the accused should have to contend with.

Once we allow ourselves to entertain the notion of dispelling due process and exacting revenge for nefarious acts of violence, are we any better than the perpetrators, when in the guise of being law-abiding citizens, we trample and ignore their rights?

Sherry West was pushing her baby Antonio in his stroller when two teenagers accosted her and demanded money. When she refused and insisted she had no money to give them, the elder of the two, whom she later identified as De’Marquis Elkins, threatened to shoot her, and her baby as well.

West wrestled with her two assailants. Neither could snatch her purse. Miffed by their futile struggle, Elkins allegedly carried out his threat. He shot West in the leg; another bullet grazed her head, and then with depraved indifference shot her baby between the eyes.

Would the outcome have been different if West had just given Elkins and his 15-year-old accomplice, Dominique Lane, her purse?

The coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia is appalled that such a ghastly incident could have occurred in their small close-knit community. Witnesses tipped police that Lane was seen in the backseat of a car driving away from the scene of the shooting.

Police using West’s description that her attackers were African-American teenagers, concentrated their investigation on the surrounding schools’ absentee records, and by going door to door. West identified a mug shot of Elkins out of the twenty-four she looked at, unbeknownst that the police already had him in custody.

Although his aunt, Katrina Elkins, stated that he dined with her at breakfast, which was an hour before the shooting occurred, Brunswick police spokesman, Todd Rhodes, says authorities have sufficient reasons to charge Elkins.

Verdell Hunter characterized her grandson, Lane, as a baby himself, not a baby killer.

West’s mournful depiction of what happened to her and Antonio will no doubt sway public sentiment that our judicial system should be abolished in this particular case.

Derisive comments querying if President Barack Obama had a son, would he likely to be of the same temperament as Elkins, only serves to fuel hatred and propagate racial discord.

There will be no winners in this case.

The parents of Antonio Santiago demand justice. West’s says she can never forgive her baby’s killer. “I hope the shooter dies,” she cried. “A life for a life.”

One can only hope that justice will truly be served.

A long drawn out battle is brewing, with Elkins’ lawyer proclaiming his client’s innocence. Lane’s mother, Brenda Moses, claims that her son is a victim and doesn’t know Elkins.

In the end we should not rush to judgment, but ensure that these are the individuals, who tried to rob a mother and ended up killing her 13-month-old son.

When these allegations are proven in the court of law, and not by the court of public opinion, then by all means let the punishment fit the crime.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

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A Black Doll Head . . .

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Perhaps the citizens of Harlem were naïve to think that the egregious racial acts that threatened their very existence and attempted to strip them of their civil liberties were a thing of the past.

And if that was the case . . . then they were rudely awakened and put on noticed that nothing could be further from the truth by the doll head incident.

On the night of July 22, Harlem residents claimed that a life-size black doll head was mounted on the rear antenna of an unmarked police car driven by two white officers.

The incident first came to light when New York State Senator, Bill Perkins [speaking on behalf of Harlem’s complaining citizens] reported it to a police official.

Senator Perkins stated that during the celebration of the opening of a new restaurant at 1529 Fifth Avenue, several young men who lived across the street, noticed the life-size black doll head on an unmarked police car as it patrolled through the neighborhood.

“When a witness attempted to take a picture of the doll head,” Senator Perkins said, “one of the officers immediately took it down, stuffed the baby head in the trunk of the car and walked away laughing.”

The senator said that when he confronted the officers later, they claimed to have no knowledge of the doll head whereabouts.

This event has fanned the flames of an already frayed relationship between the populace of Harlem and the police officers, who are supposed to serve and protect them.

Harlem’s venerable citizens are incensed over the incident and have likened the act to the KKK burning a cross. Most can recall the riots in 1935, 1943, and 1964 which were partly attributed to problems with the Police Department.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly intimated that the doll head could have been the work of a neighborhood prankster. He blames the assertions made by Harlem residents of feeling victimized by officers as part of the negative stigma the police face in doing their job.

“I would describe our relations as good in Harlem and, quite frankly, throughout the city,” Commissioner Kelly said. “We are always going to have some pockets of tension because of what we do, because of the enforcement aspects of the work that the police department does.”

But residents disagree. Some have hinted that the relationship with the police have become more polarized; with a lot more young African-American males subjected to being stop and ordered to produce their identification.

The fear of reprisal, [for speaking out against police intimidation tactics] at least in the eyes of Harlem’s citizen came to fruition with the arrest of Clarence Jones.

Mr. Jones who had expressed his indignation over the doll incident at a news conference on July 24, and claimed to be the eyewitness, who tried to take the picture of the doll’s head, was apprehended on July 28, and charged with obstruction of government services and resisting arrest.

“I am certain it’s retaliation,” said Roger Wareham, Mr. Jones’s lawyer. “It’s sending a message to anyone else who is thinking of doing that, that it’s not worth it. This is what you are going to face.”

The Police Department released a statement claiming that the officers who arrested Mr. Jones were unaware of his connection with the outcry over the doll head incident.

How the life-size doll head got mounted on the antenna of the unmarked police car is debatable.

What isn’t however, are the feelings that this episode has spawned within the Harlem community.

Young African-American males assert that racial profiling is a tactic used by officers of the 28th precinct. Their chief complaint is that they are constantly being stopped and harassed by police.

The New York Civil Liberties Union obtained data from the Police Department corroborating the allegations made by Harlem’s young African-American male population.

These encounters known as “stop-and-frisks” showed a disparity in the overall numbers from April through June in 2006. The 28th precinct, in Central Harlem, police officers made 2,365 stops, compared to 409 made by officers in the 24th precinct, on the Upper West Side, although both share the same crime statistics.

And according to data from the first three months of this year the trend is likely to continue . . . 514 stops in the 28th precinct and 460 in the 24th.

Although police claimed that they make stops based on the descriptions of suspects, it’s becoming increasing difficult to find someone, who doesn’t feel that it’s really based on the age and hue of a person’s skin.

It would seem that the citizens of Harlem have a legitimate grievance and are justified in being fearful of the very officers, who have taken an oath to serve and protect them.

Perhaps the old adage is true . . . African-Americans have come a long way—but to the citizens of Harlem, the rogue cops who patrol the streets with a life-size black baby doll head . . . they haven’t come far enough.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

 

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