Freddie Gray Hearing – January 18, 2021, 11:00 AM Eastern

Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Freddie Gray

SPEAKERS

  • Rapporteur Ria Julien
  • Commissioner Mr. Max Boqwana
  • Commissioner Judge Peter Herbert, OBE
  • Judge William Murphy, attorney for the estate of Freddie Gray

Ria Julien  00:21

Yes, I’d like to welcome everyone back. We now begin in the hearing in the case of Freddie Gray. My name is Ria Julien, and I’m the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over the hearing today is Commissioner Max Boqwana of South Africa, and Commissioner Peter Herbert of Kenya. The witness in this hearing is the attorney for the estate of Freddie Gray. That is Judge William Murphy. And I will, by way of housekeeping, explain that there will be 15 minutes for this hearing. The witness will testify, followed by a period of questions from the commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark, and the 45 minute mark, and please excuse my interruptions, commissioners Boqwana and Herbert I now present to you your first witness, Judge William Murphy. And I will begin by swearing in the witness. Judge William Murphy, please confirm your name.

Judge William Murphy  01:28

William H. Murphy, Jr. Can you hear me? All right? Yes,

Ria Julien  01:34

Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Judge William Murphy  01:41

Absolutely.

Ria Julien  01:43

You may begin.

Judge William Murphy  01:45

Thank you. I’m here to talk about not only Freddie Gray, whose case is incredibly important in the series of cases that led us to this point, but to the most, one of the most recent cases, of William Green. But before I do that, let me tell you a little bit about my background and history. I come from an African American family of distinction in the sense that my relatives started a newspaper in the 1890s, called the Baltimore Afro American newspaper. It became the preeminent national newspaper for Black people in America over the course of the 20th century, and played a pivotal role in the civil rights struggle in America. I grew up as part of that family, I grew up as a community organizer, I was expected to uphold the tradition of activism in my family. My father was one of the first African American lawyers to attend the University of Maryland. He was number three in the 20th century. And he became a judge, I became a judge, I started practicing law in 1970. And this is my 51st year of the practice of law. I was elected judge in 1980, I left the bench to run for mayor of Baltimore in 1983. And for the surrounding periods, I’ve been an active practitioner.

And one of the things that I’ve always been concerned about is Black activism and the consequences that law enforcement has made Black activists pay in the in the past years of my life, and in the years before that. My first client in the practice of law was the American Black Panther Party. And one of the first jobs I had to do for them was to dissolve an injunction that had been imposed on their newspaper that prevented it from being distributed in the wake of some police killings and shootings in Baltimore.

And I have represented people in the police brutality space since the 70s.  I’ve gotten large verdicts and settlements for suing the police and so on, police officers. My largest one is $44 million. I recently settled the William Green case for $20 million. And we settled the Freddie Gray case for $6.4 million and so, very active in this space. I agree with the approach of the questions to the last witness. I believe that in order for people who are listening to this, to understand what we are facing and what we can do about it, we have to understand a little bit about the background and so I’m going to share the high points as I see it.

We all know that leading up to the the exploration of the world for wealth by organized European gunships that Europe was involved in one war after another, and became highly proficient, and ahead of everybody else in the world in the use of steel base, gunpowder, weapons, and in the development of armed naval ships, that ultimately were used to conquer the Americas, and Africa, and India, and China just to name a few, and these economic levers.  As a result of all these wars, Europe became essentially bankrupt. And they had to scour the world for wealth. And so these gunships that have been used to fight the wars in Europe would then use to visit Africa, and to take over, because they had the superior weaponry, African civilizations, African landmasses, African economies, etc. And part of what they did when they came to Africa with superior steel based weapons, was not only to steal African national resources, but to also steal Africans, and to export them around the world as slaves.

They populated the United States with slaves. They populated South America with slaves, they populated the Caribbean islands with slaves. And that was part of their building of wealth, and the control of the African populations that they took to these parts of the world. And in our country, we had a civil war, because there was a deep division in America about whether slavery was morally acceptable. And that Civil War divided the nation into two parts, which represent essentially, the electorate that you see in deep division in the presidential election that we just had of Donald Trump. And the places where slavery was permitted in the United States, which we now call the red states are the are the parts of the country that supported Trump, and the places that opposed slavery, the blue states are the parts of the country that supported now-President Biden. 

And so the divisions that had been caused by what led up to slavery continue to wreak havoc in America and prevent us from developing mechanisms to eliminate racism in America. And we also have had a problem with the oppression of women. Women have been enslaved around the world much longer than people of color. And their participation in the politics of the United States has been limited until they were given the right to vote first in the 1920s. We did not get the right to vote as African Americans in red states until the passage of what is now called the Voting Rights Act, which put essentially Southern states, red states, in a trustee arrangement where they had to come to the Justice Department in America to get permission to change any voting statutes to protect Black people from the vote being disenfranchised in America, and our Supreme Court, partially appointed by Donald Trump recently got rid of that provision, that what we call the preclearance provision. So that now we have to face for at least two years of litigation of fight to rollback voting rights impairment statutes, that have begun to be passed in the red states of the United States, almost immediately after that Supreme Court decision. And so our right to vote in the United States is seriously impaired, even as we sit here today.

And we have basically two sets of attitudes in America.  We had the attitudes that are rooted deeply in the foundation stone for racism, and that is that we are less than human, that we do not have the capacity to govern ourselves, that we don’t have the capacity to learn. We don’t have the capacity to think and to participate fully in the affairs of the real human beings, those who have been classified and classified themselves as white. And so as long as this belief is incredibly popular in America, by the way, there has never been any organized effort to eliminate that belief. If you will recall, at the end of World War Two, we made sure that we made the Germans eliminate Nazism as part of their culture and belief system. And we did it through making them reform their educational system. When we won World War Two against Japan, we immediately took over the education system and reformed it so that their beliefs of race superiority would no longer be a part of their culture.

But we have never had a political consensus in America to take over the education system or even influence the education system, to even teach the correct history, what happened to the stolen Africans who were brutally brought to America, and were brutally enslaved. And so both white America and Black America have no idea of the history of Africans in America unless they take electives, which teach that kind of course material and even in the traditionally Black American universities, the the the ones that were helped to be created by emancipation, and white money in the face of that, you know, at Howard University, at Morgan State University, all the traditionally Black colleges and universities in America do not teach the history of Africans in America as a required course. And that’s shocking. But it results from the fact that the money to fund these universities, comes almost exclusively from whites.  And so in America, we need an educational reformation, where it is required for every school system in America, especially in the red states, to teach the true history of what happened to Africans in America. And, you know, it’s easy to understand that history, if it is taught without reluctance, and, of course, racists in America don’t want it to be taught, they believe it’s gonna make African Americans angry.

And so it is a part of the continuation of American culture, that there be no such teachings, none in any public school system in America. And that’s the way it is today. So it’s much worse than the picture you heard before. That’s in that context that we have to understand the recent events in America about police brutality and the recent efforts to reform the police. And let’s face it, a simple fact, up until the widespread deployment of video, cell phone cameras, every time that there was a police brutality incident, that instance that was particularly barbaric., the police simply lied about it, the media did nothing about it, there was no undercurrent of belief of what black people were saying about how these things happened. And nobody got a chance to see for themselves that police brutality in America was not only real but extraordinarily widespread. 

There isn’t an African American in America that either hasn’t had a close friend or relative brutalized or themselves been brutalized. And so we all understand, as African Americans, that we have to train our children how to interact with white police officers, in order to assure that they too will not be shot or brutalized when they encounter white folks and particularly white police officers. Now, this routine availability of technology has been revolutionary, because now white America can see for itself without being polluted by police perjury or misstatements exactly what happens to Black people in one encounter after another in America, between police and Black citizens, and many are in shock because of the lack of education that they’ve had about racism in America. 

And these young people in particular, and some of their families are outraged at what they have seen. And so this gives us a window of opportunity to reform the police. And what has happened with the outgoing Trump administration has also enraged a good number of white, a good number of whites of goodwill. And so this is the time to do as much as we can to promote not only police reform, but a wider agenda of things that have to happen in America for us to become full fledged citizens for the first time. And although there are some Black people who are free in America, most of us are confined to menial employment. Most of us have jobs working for white companies, most of us still are afraid of the mismatch of political power in America and afraid to speak out. And those of us who do suffer serious repercussions to the extent that we do. And so it is a dismal situation in America. And I don’t want people to think that because we have optimism that some of these changes can be made, that we are talking at this point in our history about widespread change. Although I’m more optimistic that during this window of opportunity, we can get a lot done.

So much needs to be done in America, that we need the help of the United Nations. And we need the help of people around the world, to pressure the American government to do what they are supposed to do. So that we can be truly free for the first time in this country. And make no mistake about it. There’s still wide swaths of America, where if you come there, and you tell the truth, or you attempt to tell the truth about what’s going on, you can be brutalized, and in some parts of America even killed. And so that’s where we stand right now. 

That’s in the context, that I wanted to talk about the Freddie Gray case, and the William Green case. Then, the Freddie Gray case took place five years ago. But it was one of about six or seven prior cases that were caught in some measure on videotape where people reacted so severely across the country. That enough was enough, that that caused in in the case of Baltimore, Maryland, I’ll get to that in a second, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to take aggressive action against local police forces. So let me talk about Freddie Gray. Because that is typical of what happens in America. And let me talk also about William Green. And I will have enough time left over after I have brought these facts to your attention that we can have a robust discussion about the very things that you were questioning the last witness about, because unless we mobilize Africa, India, China, throughout entreaties to the United Nations, unless we mobilize nations where these problems are also endemic, we will not get change we need in the United States. 

And one last observation about that. For the first time in my memory, the United States is facing the prospect of the counter revolution, primarily based on race. And the American government appears weak and becoming even weaker to the countries around the world. And they need to understand that this is a part of our history of color prejudice, and oppression. Because the main supporters of Donald Trump are neo nazis, and all kinds of white supremacist organizations. That’s where the fire, the emotion is coming from. And at the same time, that people are becoming more conscious, governments are becoming more adept at using sophisticated propaganda. Because we now have an interconnected information system throughout the world. News travels fast, America, the world has become more local than international in terms of access to information. And countries all around the world are trying to get people from getting information, which would spur them to mobilize for change in their own governments. 

So in that background, let’s talk about Freddie Gray. On the morning of April 12 2015, Freddie Gray and two of his friends were walking near the intersection of West North Avenue and North Main Street in a very poor African American community in Baltimore, that was heavily patrolled by police officers who routinely stopped, questioned, frisked, harassed, searched, assaulted and arrested and prosecuted residents without just cause. This has been a phenomenon in every American city, even now. When approached by police, young people who lived in this neighborhood routinely avoided encounters, as you pointed out, Mr. Boqwana, usually avoid encounters with the police, because that usually goes south, usually becomes a violent encounter.

And so when Mr. Gray and his friends had just left a small neighborhood restaurant, several blocks from their homes after eating breakfast, they were not engaged in any illegal activity, and were talking to each other while walking. Now two Baltimore City policemen on bike patrol, had no probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that they had or were committing any crimes, rapidly drove toward them on their bikes and to avoid being stopped, questioned, frisked, arrested, searched, assaulted, arrested and prosecuted without cause these three young black men ran literally for their lives. And so they were stopped by, they were chased by these bike policemen. And Freddie Gray after running for several blocks, who saw that his arrest was inevitable, stopped and laid on the ground to avoid being assaulted. And his crime so far was running while Black.

And the two bike officers grabbed him, lifted into a standing position, searched him, found a small knife in his back pocket that was he was legally permitted to possess, put him back on the ground on his stomach. And then hogtied him by cuffing his hands behind his back. shackling his feet together, bending his legs behind his back and fastening his shackled feet to his cuffed hands. They then call the police transport van to take him to the police precinct nearby about a mile away to be processed, charged and detained in a cell at the precinct. A perfectly healthy young man at the time all of this happened. Now citizen videotape the police hog-tying him. I mean we can send you that video. Mr. Gray screaming in agony until the police transport arrived. The police releasing his shackled feet from the handcuffs behind his back, attempting to stand him up and then dragging him by both arms with linked legs to the back of the van sitting him down in a van bench and being driven away.

Van driver made two stops on his way to the police precinct, one to inspect Mr. Gray, and the next to pick up another prisoner unrelated to the incident, who was placed in a separate compartment of the van. We could not see a converse of Mr. Gray.  About 45 minutes after the bicycle officers put Mr. Gray in the van. He was delivered to the precinct unconscious with an 85% severed spine. After an unwarranted delay was then ambulanced to the shock trauma unit at the University of Maryland Hospital, where he died two weeks later. When a shocked nation saw the video which didn’t depict brutality but that he was hogtied and put into the van, and they learned of his grievous injuries upon being delivered to the precinct. And they saw pictures of him suffering in the hospital in critical condition with all kinds of tubes tacked to his mouth and living in fact on death’s door. And they were informed of his death on April 21 2015. The day before my birthday, I might add.

People from around the country and indeed the world came to Baltimore to join the city’s incensed expression of outrage. Huge and protracted demonstrations and civil unrest took place in Baltimore. And in cities all over the country, in reaction to how this must have happened.  The nation was glued to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, a variety of other news outlets and to international press coverage from around the world. Freddie Gray’s death in the aftermath of Eric Garner and others produce this kind of response. Now, the traumatized and grieving family immediately hired me and my firm to obtain justice. And we urgently reached out to the Baltimore community leaders and local and national community and civil rights organizations and political leaders to request that the United States Department of Justice immediately come to Baltimore to investigate this case and in fact, particularly Baltimore City Police Department, because of its long and unaddressed history of police brutality and corruption directed at the city’s African American community.

For years, there were two kinds of policing in America. One aimed at whites, where there was collaboration and a rule based and law based approach to policing the white community, it was quite friendly, it was quite supportive. Many less arrests were made. Kids were sent home to their parents to deal with minor offenses. And the police, the white community, adored the police, they regarded the police there as Officer Friendly. But in the back of the day, it was hard to get a different approach.  And for 400 years, this approach has been constant in America and that, you know, the police were originally employed to enforce slavery in America, and to catch escaped slaves. They were then employed after the Civil War, to prevent Black people from voting. They were employed to terrorize Black communities all over this country, to prevent them from being involved in political activity and to overcome the brutality of this situation.

The police have always been an instrument in the Black communities in America, of white power, and whatever the current white political agenda against us was. And they brutally resisted all of the non violent demonstrations of Dr. Martin Luther King, for example, by films that spread around the world and produced outrage around the world about how the major exponent of democracy, the United States of America, could have such a brutal response to what was going on. And that was the case here.  And so we were able to persuade the Justice Department, with the help of organizations, both in Baltimore and around the country, like the ACLU, for example, to come to Baltimore immediately, and start an investigation of what was going on. And this investigation took place over a period of several months, and resulted in a shocking report about the nature of policing in Baltimore, which was more than shocking about Baltimore. It was typical of what was going on in almost every major city and minor town across the United States. And I furnished you with a copy of that shocking report.

And so Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who has now been nominated by President Joe Biden to be the second in command of the United States Justice Department, quickly came to Baltimore net with us and erratic community leaders and organization authorized that investigation I’ve just described. And ultimately, based on the investigation and report, the Department of Justice, the United States Department of Justice demanded that Baltimore agree to supervision by the federal government of our police department until its problems could be solved. And soon after, the city agreed to be bound by a court supervised consent decree to that effect, and to be overseen by a court supervised monitor, which is in existence today and assures compliance. The city agreed. And to date, the department remains under supervision of that monitor and the consent decree. Now independent of the Department of Justice investigation, our concurrent investigation revealed pattern and practice by Baltimore City police and wrongfully arresting individuals, throwing them into the back of a police van without seatbelts in them, and giving them what they call a rough ride.

And police with amusement, especially the white police, referred to it as tossing, referred to it as about all other kinds of names. And many of these people who in the same position as Freddie Gray that day, received serious and life threatening injuries as a result of being exposed to these rough rides. And so for example, in 2005, a man named John D. Johnson, a 43 year old black plumber, was arrested for public urination, went into the Baltimore City police van healthy and emerged as a quadriplegic. Before he died, he complained that he had not been buckled into his seat and that he had been subjected to a rough ride which caused his brutal injuries. He had a fractured neck and died two weeks later, and at trial a jury awarded him $7.4 million. In 1997, Jeffrey Austin also became paralyzed because of an unbelted rough ride in the Baltimore City Police van. Austin told the officiers he couldn’t breathe, just like Eric Gardner. But like Mr. Gray, his pleas were ignored. And similar to Mr. Gray, the police falsely reported that Austin had been thrashing around, banging his own head up against the van.

And by the way, these stories, these ridiculous kinds of excuses for police misconduct, had been routinely believed by white judges and juries over the course of American history. That case was settled for $6 million. And in 2012, there was a similar incident, a 27 year old white female assistant librarian at the Johns Hopkins University filed suit after her brutal ride in a van, which caused her injury. Now, shortly after Mr. Gray’s death, a wonderful young City prosecutor named Marilyn Moseby, the first, the second elected Black prosecutor in the history of Baltimore, prosecuted the six police officers who were involved in Freddie Gray’s death. But unfortunately, in Maryland, you have the right to elect a non jury trial in front of a judge sitting without a jury. And that judge acquitted all six of these men. Now let’s talk about the William Green case.

Ria Julien  31:48

Judge Murphy, if I may interrupt, we’re at the 30 minute mark.

Judge William Murphy  31:55

Well, I’ll just give you a brief summary of William Green’s case because it’s simple to summarize. In September 20 of 2020, William Green was coming from a bar. He’d had, look, too much to drink, and he probably smoked some PCP in addition, and he sideswiped four parked cars and crashed into a fifth. The neighbors were alarmed. They called the police, police arrived. Mr. Green was sitting in his car fast asleep. They woke him up. He was docile and cooperative. They locked him up and handcuffed him behind his back and sat him on the front seat of a police vehicle. A squad car. When the police, one of the police officers arrived, he got into the same squad car and sat next to Mr. Green. He was still handcuffed behind his back and he had no way of undoing that. But five minutes later, the police officer, who was Black, shot him six times and killed him while he was sitting in the front seat. Literally for nothing.

And when the officers asked, What happened, why did you do that? He said, he was reaching for my gun. Well, the problem with that was he was handcuffed behind his back. And the second problem was he was parked on the wrong side of the street, where his passenger side door opens immediately onto a sidewalk, he could just step out of the car instead of engaging him. He has since been charged with second degree murder. He’s awaiting trial without bail. And in the meantime, we settled that case for $20 million for the family. It was one of the most brutal police brutality incidences in recent years. Now with that, I’m prepared to open the floor for questioning by the Commissioners.

Ria Julien  33:53

Thank you.

Max Boqwana  33:56

Thank you very much, Judge Murphy.

Judge Peter Herbert, OBE  34:02

I couldn’t agree with more with the the premise and the summary that you’ve given in a sense of African Americans’ circumstances, life expectancy and place in the world. And I just wanted to pick up on to one wider question and then move across to Max, is when you were speaking about one of the cases. The case resonated with a case of Christopher Alder, who is a Black paratrooper, ex Black paratrooper in the city of Hull, where William Wilberforce first came up with that part of the Quakers’ anti-slavery campaign. And this young man similarly had a rough ride. He was, went to a hospital. He had some slightly bizarre behavior. The police were called, they made an arrest for disorderly conduct and 25 minutes later in Hull police station, his trousers were at his ankles, he was, and he died about nine minutes later. Police officers were heard to make monkey noises in the background, it is all caught on video. The police were prosecuted for manslaughter. There were four separate contradictory medical reports that were given. And there was a judge directed acquittal. And the United Kingdom is unique in the sense that, not quite unique, no police officer, serving police officer has ever been convicted for the murder or manslaughter of anybody in all their history, and there is a preponderance that juries will generally acquit.

There may be one, I think, slight exception, or manslaughter when a plea was entered. But I think that’s all.  The question I wanted to ask you is this. Given that global historic similarity what that one experiences wherever one is in the world, whether you’re Christopher Alder, or Freddie Gray, these places are not all the slave states of the South. Some of these instances occur miles, thousands of miles away from the American Civil War. They occur in the in the Union North, and is there therefore, a global in a sense, view, as been couched by Max and others, that Africans continue to be inferior, continue to be inhuman, no matter where they are. And our life continues to be cheap, even for each other, given the fact that the second case, William Green, was shot by a Black officer who you would have thought had some humanity to treat his fellow person of color, as a person with deserving of dignity and life expectancy.

Judge William Murphy  36:57

It is a global phenomenon. And I think that’s why the National Conference of Black Lawyers, which I’ve been a member of and a participant in since 1969, has reached out to an international forum. Remember, Malcolm X reached out to the United Nations shortly before he was killed. And most of us believe in the progressive community that his successful campaign to organize the heads of state of Africa through the Organization of African Unity was what caused him to be viewed as an imminent threat in the United States, and then caused him to be assassinated. When Dr. Martin Luther King not only transcended from being a civil rights leader to a world leader by opposing the war in Vietnam, and getting tremendous additional white support in the United States for that. That’s — he was killed shortly afterwards, because he transcended from a local leader to a national leader. And the last thing the United States wants is for its dirty linen to be aired in public, because it calls itself the bastion of democracy without yet being that internally.

And so this contradiction has always bedeviled the United States, every nation that the United States used to explore it, is well aware of it. And they are well aware of it even now, in their dealings with the United States of America.  And so I agree with you that this is a an international problem that can only be addressed after exhortation from the African American community in America and other peoples of color to get the United Nations to use its existing mechanisms to investigate this phenomenon, remember, they’ve always had mechanisms in place and regulations in place to deal with this kind of disparate treatment by whites towards blacks, by ex-colonists towards that the people they colonized, etc. And many of these rules were insisted upon by African nations as a part of the United States, not United Nations, franchise. Now, let me also add one other thing. The time to do this is now because the United States is looking hypocritical, because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is let’s face it, a white male supremacist. I’m not afraid to say it, even though others may be, he has fomented racial division for his entire four years in office, he has praised white supremacist organizations and paramilitary organizations. And right now, the information that our law enforcement agencies are getting is that armed insurrection is a possibility. And armed protests are a possibility based on the intelligence they gathered, and that these possibilities are imminent. There could be no better time to take this matter to the United Nations, for extended discussions.

Max Boqwana  40:40

I would like to be a little bit optimistic. And what I want to find out from you, and I’m sure you are most qualified to do this, what has become better since 1970 up until today? Have we moved towards a better society, or we have stuck to where we were in history?

Judge William Murphy  41:05

Well, both are, are true. We seem stuck where we are in history, even though there has been a tremendous struggle, in part that has been successful, for equal rights in America. But if it were truly successful, there wouldn’t be voter suppression around the country, especially in the red states, of the Black vote. If we’re truly successful, we wouldn’t have a president who was supporting, who has appointed justices to the Supreme Court, for the singular purpose of my notice, of rolling back the civil rights protections that we’ve had to fight for, for so long. And so we see that America is in a seesaw situation, where for a term, the presidency is controlled by people who do not believe in these progressive reforms. And then, for example, under Joe Biden, a regime that does believe in these progressive reforms, but it’s gonna be a hard fight to get anything done under the Biden administration.

And what gives me optimism about America is the emergence of young educated whites, who have gone to school in integrated circumstances where they meet, people have all kinds of backgrounds, people from other countries of color, people of color from this country, and they, in a sense, put pressure on their own parents, to follow them in being progressive in this country. And that’s why you’ve seen so many whites of goodwill, accompany Black Americans in these protests.  But this is a fragile coalition. It is a fragile event. And we could very easily go backward, substantially because of our Supreme Court. Which, in many observers eyes is so quote, “conservative,” meaning imbued with some of the racist assumptions that have plagued America for so long, that they’re going to make stupid statements as were made when the Voting Rights Act was decimated by the Supreme Court about two years ago. And that is, there’s really not much racism left in America. So we don’t black people don’t need this protection anymore. That’s what they said. And the outcry was so strong, that in a second opinion, where they had to reaffirm the law against discrimination in housing, they laid out a rather detailed summary of racism in America and kind of reversed itself.

But you can see if you have to do that, to get people to see the truth. And if the truth looks so radically different between those in the red states and those in the black states, we have a lot of work to do. And we need a lot of help, in order to go to become a more progressive union. Now, demographics are helping us and it’s also fueling white rage, because white political leaders know and many white citizens know that by the year 2040, there’s gonna be a majority of people, women and people of color that will comprise the American electorate. And as you can imagine, this is causing racists not only heartburn, but for many of them to lose their mind and fight in the ways that you see in the demonstrations of the US Capitol..

Judge Peter Herbert, OBE  44:49

Yes, thank you. I just wanted to pick up on that and some of that optimism in the sense that, and then reflect on the fact that around the world you saw progressive people whether, Asian, white, from every corner of the globe actually demonstrating that Black lives matter. So I, I do endorse that optimism. But how do you mobilize that and I’m thinking of somebody who saw the Rodney King video played, discussed the case at length with Middleton Grimes and and then thereafter, really searching for a way within the pan-African community that the 953 people, poor people, mostly of African Brazilian origin who were killed by Brazilian police last year. How do we mobilize that and make common cause between the protesters killed by Nigerian police in the SARS demonstrations? What’s happening in Brazil? What happens in France? And what happens in the United States? So we’re not siloed into different parts of our struggle? How do we present that to the UN, to the Organization of African Unity as a global and a problem, which can be addressed as a significant problem per nation state? How do we do that?

Judge William Murphy  46:16

Well, political and local and national leaders have to be willing to testify before international bodies to help mobilize the leadership of the countries involved that, where we have the greatest chance of getting them to put pressure on the United States to get this done, to accomplish reform. I don’t believe it’s going to happen merely because people are seeing it, any more than you do. I think that there has to be a part of our struggle in the United States that looks outward to getting the support of foreign leaders and the populations of the countries involved. This is a lot easier to do than ever before. Because we are technologically stitched together now we have an internet that is there for anybody to see. Not that that’s the panacea. I’m not suggesting that at all, because people silo themselves on the internet to borrow your word. And they look for political opinions that mirror their own instead of a reading wide range of opinions, that would cause them to change their current views. And that’s a serious phenomenon. 

So we do have to mobilize more than ever before, to reach out to other nations and their people. So that we can get enough support to make change inevitable, in a country that calls itself the greatest country in the world. Now we’ve got to be more respectful about how we describe ourselves, lest we want to be looked at as egocentric know-it-all Americans. And so it might not be wise to — we can say that to each other. But I don’t think it’s a good way to get cooperation around the world by describing ourselves as being inherently superior to any other nation  in its quest for freedom. But it can be done. We need sophisticated brave leaders, not just from the African American community, but from the larger community to make the case.

Ria Julien  48:42

Commissioners and Judge Murphy, we have a little bit less than five minutes to go. We just passed the 45 minute mark.

Judge William Murphy  48:51

And by the way, I’m available for discussions later on so that we can come up with a strategy. Now, people like Lennox Hinds have been great leaders in the very movement that I’m talking about because of the reach of the National Conference of Black Lawyers has always been both internal and international. Is that a fair statement, Lennox?

Max Boqwana  49:24

Judgment here. I think you’re right about that and maybe, Peter, we need more time with Judge Murphy, especially when dealing with the solutions. Because I think the issues that he raised are deeply political and he has internationalized the issue, and I think we need to respond as such. And one of the responses is to say, what is this group of intellectuals going to do in the — what is being organized internationally as the follow up to the Manchester conference of 1945, to do the assessment of the political, economic and spiritual condition of Black people in Africa and in the diaspora. And I think that’s one of one of the issues that we may have to take a discussion on later on, because I think I agree we need to respond globally on this issue.

But just the last point, Judge Murphy, one of my problems meted out against the people, which happens every day, the violence as a result of economic exclusion, as a result of the segregation, as a as a result of under education, etc, etc. So that you end up with what we’re talking about today is just the extension of that. And what that does, it positions the people of color to be perpetual victims. And I think in our next discussion, then we need to find a way how do we respond not as victims, but as something else? And so what is the alternative to the decoding of the current education system? What is our alternatives to the decoding of poetry, of literature, of economics, of the societal arrangement, because I think we need that response, so that we do not see those that oppress us as an epitome of civilization. Because as long as we continue to do that, we will see ourselves as victims, and we will be treated as victims.

Judge William Murphy  51:53

I agree 100%. And, as my last statement today, unless I’m permitted to go further, we also have to deal with the tremendous problem of mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. And I intended to make that a factor. But somehow, it wasn’t on my written remarks. And we have 2.3 million people incarcerated, and about four times that many in the United States under parole and probationary supervision in the Black and Brown populations in this country. And that’s decimated the Black family.

That’s impoverished so many people. It’s deprived families of male leadership, because it’s primarily been directed against Black and Hispanic men. And so unless we solve that problem, as well, as well, we’re not going to make much progress. And that problem is not yet being fully addressed. The other problem is that we lead the world in incarcerating people per capita. Our criminal justice system, arrests and convicts more people, especially people of color than any other nation. It’s worse than South Africa under apartheid. It’s worse than anything that’s happening in your country. And so the statistics are readily available, I can share them with you. As a matter of fact, I’ve sent you an article laying out what is going on with mass incarceration, and there is a tremendous book written by Professor Michelle Alexander called Mass Incarceration that is required reading to understand exactly what what’s going on in the United States. We lead the world in arresting and convicting people, mainly people of color, per capita, and in absolute numbers.

And I want to thank the National Conference of Black Lawyers for inviting me to appear to testify before you and I want to give again, credit to one of my mentors Lennox Hinds, who has taught me so much about how to look at the problems from an international perspective. Thank you.

Ria Julien  54:26

This concludes the hearing on the case of Freddie Gray, we will now have a short break. The hearings will resume on the hour with the case of Nathaniel Pickett II. Thank you again.

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