Mubarak Soulemane Hearing – January 27, 2021, 10 am Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Mubarak Soulemane
- Rapporteur Ria Julien
- Commissioner Ms. Hina Jilani
- Commissioner Prof. Niloufer Bhagwat
- Ms. Omo Klumsum Muhammad, the mother of Mubarak Soulemane
- Reverend Kevin McCall, spokesperson for the family
- Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for the Soulemane family
- Mark Arons, attorney for the Soulemane family
Ria Julien 00:00
Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts, accounts rather, of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black people, by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Mubarak Soulemane. My name is Ria Julien and I’m the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over this hearing today is Commissioner Niloufer Bhagwat of India and Commissioner Hina Jilani of Pakistan. The witnesses for this hearing are attorney Sanford Rubenstein and Mark Arons as well as the family spokesman, Reverend Kevin McCall and the mother of the victim, Omo Klumsum. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify followed by a period of questions from commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark and at the 45 minute mark. Please excuse my interruptions, commissioners Bhagwat and Jilani. I now present to you your first witnesses, first two witnesses, attorneys Sanford Rubenstein and Mark Arons. I will now swear in the attorneys in sequence. Attorney Sanford Rubenstein, please confirm your name.
Sanford Rubenstein 01:34
Ria Julien 01:36
Do you promise that your – pardon me for the mispronunciation of your name – do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Sanford Rubenstein 01:46
Ria Julien 01:48
Attorney Mark Arons, please confirm your name.
Mark Arons 01:51
Ria Julien 01:53
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Mark Arons 01:58
Ria Julien 01:59
You may begin.
Sanford Rubenstein 02:01
My name is Sanford Rubenstein. I am a civil rights lawyer here in New York City. I have represented in my career, countless victims of police brutality, and over 20 families whose loved ones have been killed by police in the New York City metropolitan area. I have represented Abner Louima, a US citizen who immigrated from Haiti, and in 1997, was tortured by police in the bathroom of a Brooklyn police precinct. During a trial in which police officers were prosecuted by the federal government. Police Officer Justin Volpe admitted the torture and pled guilty to federal crimes and was sent to a 30 year jail sentence. He presently remains incarcerated to this day. Since that time, I’ve represented over 20 families, a number of which have come from African heritage, who have lost loved ones who were killed by police in New York City and the New York City metropolitan area. I would like to read the names of those victims into the record. Sean Bell, Ousmane Zongo, Ferman Azou, Shem Walker, Sergeant Noah Polanco, Ronaldo Cuevas, Tamon Robinson, Byron Hurst, Carlo Alcis, Chantel Davis, Tony Reed, Londell LeSage, Herve Jules, Delron Small, Ariel Galarza, Erickson Brito, James Owens, Dwayne June, Eric Garner, and today’s case, Mubarak Soulemane. Three of the cases, which I’ve mentioned will be subject to this Commission’s hearings at a later date, Sean Bell, Ousmane Zongo, and Shem Walker. But I would like to point out something very important with regard to these killings. No police officer has gone to jail.
I’d like to take a moment now to discuss remedies to address systemic police misconduct. In 1994, Congress authorized 42 USC section 14141, which gave authority to the Department of Justice to investigate and remedy systemic police misconduct. The right to investigate, file federal lawsuits requesting a federal monitor be appointed by a federal judge to oversee a police department in which there is systemic police misconduct. In January 2017, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice issued a report addressing the impact of the statute, the Civil Rights Division pattern and practice police reform work from 1994 to the present, and found regarding these investigations and reform agreements with local governments that the consent decrees improved policing regarding the use of force and resulted in better training of police officers. As well as helped with funding and political support for more effective constitutional policing. This work was stopped by President Trump and his attorney general at the time, Sessions, and under his administration was brought to a halt.
The pattern and practice investigations by the Justice Department must be continued on the president. In addition, Congress should revisit this section of the US code and give private actors and perhaps State Attorney Generals the right to bring these pattern and practice lawsuits to federal court. Because as we see from what happened during the time of the Trump administration, these pattern and practice investigations will completely stop. If private actors had the right to bring them they would not be stopped. In addition, independent prosecutors must be appointed to investigate and prosecute cases in which citizens are killed by police. Since local prosecutors need the police to make their cases there is an existing conflict, or at least an appearance of conflict by the public with regard to having local district attorneys investigate police killings. A model for this is in New York state, where state law has authorized the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute police officers who killed innocent victims. In addition, a number of the killings that I have referred to in the list of 20 were mentally ill individuals. A 911 call is made: My mentally ill cousin, brother, son is acting out. The police come and unfortunately, deaths occur. We need mental health specialists to respond, as well as the police, when calls are made to 911. Now the tragedy of the killing of Mubarak Soulemane.
Mubarak Soulemane was the driver of a allegedly stolen car. He was subject to a high speed police chase. His car eventually was trapped by police at a standstill. While trapped, a Connecticut State Trooper fires seven times into his car killing him. We know the penalty for car theft is not death, and police should never be the judge, the jury and executioner. Now let’s look at the video.
Video audio 07:43
[short audio of yelling, shots fired.]
Sanford Rubenstein 07:51
Clearly, this police officer was not in imminent danger. Clearly this police officer was not in imminent danger. The state’s attorney in Connecticut has been charged with the responsibility of investigating this killing. Today, over one year after this occurred. There is no result of that investigation. These investigations should be done timely, and a family should not have to wait over a year to get a determination regarding the presence of a police officer. I might not like to ask Omo Muhammad, the mother of Mubarak Soulemane to speak to the effect that this killing has had on her and her family.
Omo Klumsum Muhammad 08:41
Yeah, my name is Omo Klumsum Muhammad.
Ria Julien 08:46
Ms., if I may. I’m terribly sorry. But may I just interrupt for a moment to swear you in before you give your testimony?
Omo Klumsum Muhammad 08:56
Ria Julien 08:58
Miss Omo Klumsum. Please confirm your name.
Omo Klumsum Muhammad 09:02
My name is Omo Klumsum Muhammad.
Ria Julien 09:06
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Omo Klumsum Muhammad 09:11
Ria Julien 09:12
You may begin.
Omo Klumsum Muhammad 09:17
I’m the mother of Mubarak Soulemane. My son was murdered on January 15 2020. I was out of the country when my oldest son called me and told me my son was brutally killed by state trooper Brian North. This day has been a very devastating day for me, while I was away in Africa, I have to flew within 48 hours to come here to be able to see my son before he was buried. I was luckily to be able to see my son before he’s buried. I wouldn’t want any mother. Any family to go through this unpleasant, devastating time that I’m still going through. I am still fighting for justice. I’m still praying for justice. And justice have never came. It’s been over a year that I’m still waiting for justice. This has been effect and deteriorated my family. My whole family is in pain is still mourning. We still haven’t had an answer. My son is been suffering from this illness for over six years before this, trooper took his life away, murdered my son put a seven bullets on my son. My son Mubarak was not at any harm. He was in the car trapped. He shouldn’t deserve to die the way he was murdered.
We still waiting. We still praying for justice. And justice still is not here. We don’t know when, justice, it shouldn’t take this long for us to get justice. Because this video can tell you everything that you need to know. It shouldn’t take a year for, for us to get a verdict. The verdict needs to come earlier than than this day. And we’re still waiting. This has been hurting us. Anytime we pass through my son’s room is a mourning time for all of us. It’s hard, it’s painful for any mother to go through this. Why should we have to wait this long? I want justice to prevail for any police brutality, who are killing our innocent kids. Any police who killed any innocent kid to be held accountable, to be brought to justice. That’s when we know justice is working. But until today, there’s no justice in America yet. Thank you.
Sanford Rubenstein 13:31
I would now like to ask Reverend Kevin McCall, who’s acting as a family advisor here, who is a civil rights leader here in New York City, who is advising this family, to speak
Ria Julien 13:43
Reverend McCall, if I may swear you in. Reverend Kevin McCall, please confirm your name.
Kevin McCall 13:49
Ria Julien 13:51
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Kevin McCall 13:57
Ria Julien 13:58
You may proceed.
Kevin McCall 14:00
Good morning, everyone, to the commission and to those who are here are listening to various individuals that state their claims of police violence and police injustices. Not only just here in New York City, but across this country, in particular, before I talk about Soulemane Mubarak’s case. So I want to just give one recommendation, I think that will sum up what Mr. Rubenstein has stated and others I’m quite sure have stated. But I’ve been doing this work since I was 16 years old. I’m now 35, I’ve been doing this work, and seeing so many times, injustices has been happening. Since I was 16, I watch different things transpire throughout the country, throughout the city, and police are not held to the full extent of the law. It seems like it’s a revolving door that happens repeatedly, where an officer do an act of police misconduct. They sometimes get indicted. Sometimes they don’t get indicted. But when they get indicted, after the indictment, they come back with a not guilty plea. Then they go back, we have to fight for them to lose their job, have to fight for them to get on desk duty, we have to fight for them to not receive any special privileges such as raises. And if they get fired, for go to another state or another town to get another job in the police force. It seems like everything within the police department is a fight that African Americans and Latinos, even some whites have to be able to go through with the police department.
And it seems like it’s a never ending revolving door that happens, where the police, police the police, and there’s nothing happens to the police department. So what we have to do is continue to organize rallies and marches and scream, no justice, no peace, and really try to be able to get the those that are in authority to hear our voice. But this time, during the era of George Floyd, people were sick and tired about being sick and tired. Not just facing a pandemic of the coronavirus, but facing another pandemic called police brutality. When you see in video, in the video of NYPD officers and people in offices across the country, enforcing social distancing where individuals didn’t have on masks in Black and brown neighborhoods, but in white neighborhoods, they were giving people masks and giving them hand sanitizer. So we need an entire overhaul of the police department across this country. Police departments have called, different individuals have called for the police department to be defunded. And to reallocate funds to services that is affecting Black and brown or Latino folks. But most of these officers, I think, needs to be able to learn a lesson. And the only lesson that they can learn is you can be able to remove qualified immunity. These officers are not held responsible, they get away, they go on with their life. If you look at it across the country, in Atlanta, Georgia, the same chief that, the same officer that resigned in the Rayshard Brooks case, went to Kentucky and is now the chief in Kentucky.
So the same practices that she has done in one state she’s now doing in Kentucky. This is a systemic problem in our country, and it needs to change and does not is not going to change until the people. I have faith in the Biden administration. And the Biden administration can be able to make the necessary changes. But we still have to be able to fight. We still have to raise our voice. He is not the wherewithal, be-all, it is not where the buck stops. We still have to be able to march on to see what they’re going to want to be.
Now with Soulemane Mubarak, this case, and this mother and this family, his sister, his family, his uncles, itis very disheartening of how the city, the state of Connecticut has dealt with him. He has suffered from mental illness. We have all have issues, we, whatever you disagree or not. We all suffer from something whether in silence or whether it’s in public. But we all have issues and we try to going day to day to deal with our issues and rely on the city to provide the resources for our loved ones and our issues. This incident could have been dealt with another way. Here goes a man in the vehicle that you can hear dispatch on the phone telling the Officer Brian North, not to chase the car. You can hear him say, Don’t chase, regress, don’t go forward, and he proceeds to chase the car. After he chases the car, he gets out his car with his weapon drawn. Both weapons are drawn. And with no threat, no immediate threat at all. He executes him and shoots him seven times. Now he’s in his vehicle, as you saw in the video, he’s in his vehicle, there’s no weapon that is in display. And he shoots him seven times, and executed him right on videotape.
How many videotapes that the city of Connecticut and others has to see, for us to be able to believe that this actually happened? Do you think that folks just wake up in the morning and record videos of police misconduct for their Black mental health? It is something that has to change. Now, to add insult to injury, is this very same case we had to go travel to Connecticut, to march and scream out his name and call on the spirit of our ancestors all the way from Africa, for justice for Mubarak. And scream that out loud so they can be able to hear, so this officer to be on desk duty. But now a whole year went away. A whole entire year this family had to go through. Now this happened January 15 2020. This family had to sit through George Floyd. His family had to sit through Breonna Taylor, his family had to sit through Rayshard Brooks. He had to sit through Jacob Blake, that, to sit through so many unsung names that I haven’t even mentioned, of police injustices, injustices and police murder. And still, there’s no justice. And still, there’s no recall. So the family had to go through agony, and had to be able to relive this all over again. With those seeing those images and those videos across their screen.
When they went a whole year with the Attorney General refuse to make a judgment call, in this case, in terms of finding out what is the responsible factor, what’s going to happen to the officer and find that this shooting was either justified or not justified. But the family had to sit there whole yea. We just finished in last week on Martin Luther King Birthday to commemorate his death, but we should have been celebrating that justice was served for him and his name. But no, we had to be able to continue to block off highways and light candles, because we don’t know what the Justice Department is. So that’s why we continue to say justice delayed is justice denied. Why delay a family? And they do this over and over. I encourage everyone on this panel to see the movie American Skin. It shows the pain and agony of what happens in this country time and time again, and that they get away and nothing happens. So I pray that as you listen to each individual from near and far, from case after case and plea after plea that it is something that needs to be changed in this country. And it starts with us. Thank you.
Sanford Rubenstein 24:18
I’d now like to ask local counsel Mark Arons to be available for questions from the panel. And we’re now ready for questions from the panel.
Ria Julien 24:29
Mr. Rubenstein, the panel or the commissioners would like to proceed with questions maybe it appears that Commissioner Bhagwat has a question she would like to address to the witnesses.
Niloufer Bhagwat 25:00
Attorney Rubenstein, can you hear me?
Sanford Rubenstein 25:03
Niloufer Bhagwat 25:03
Again, you have made a statement that there was a special provision which allowed for oversight into police misconduct. When, when, when was that regulation or provision passed? When was it made?
Sanford Rubenstein 25:33
In 1994, the United States Congress passed 42 USC section 14141, which authorizes the Justice Department to investigate, and if appropriate, as a federal judge, to appoint a monitor to oversee a police department, where there is a pattern and practice of police brutality. In fact, prior to the Trump administration, the prior administrations, Clinton, Bush had over 20 cases in which the Justice Department intervened and entered consent decrees with local governments to try to prevent the killings of innocent victims by police. Unfortunately, that was stopped by the Trump administration. And I strongly urge the Biden administration to continue this. And I urge Congress to enact legislation to give private actors the right as well as perhaps State Attorney Generals to bring these actions regarding systemic systemic racism in police departments.
Niloufer Bhagwat 26:37
My question is, that if this provision was made in 1994, then why is it that we have received evidence as commissioners of continuous lack of police accountability? From before 94, not in 94, continuously 94, 95, 96, 97 until today, and we have been told by attorney, responsible attorneys who have given evidence before that, that successive this has happened. Lack of police accountability is a problem in successive administration, whether Republican or Democrat, and not confined to any one.
Sanford Rubenstein 27:31
That’s an excellent question. Obviously, while this statute may have prevented police killings, obviously, it’s not enough. It’s a tool that can be used by the Justice Department. But it’s not enough. And that’s one of the reasons why I said after I spoke about that statute, that I’ve represented over 20 families and killings of police killings of individuals by police, and not one police officer, in those cases, has gone to jail. And perhaps what we need is more effective prosecution of police officers in these cases as a tool, which will result in accountability so that other police officers learn a lesson.
Niloufer Bhagwat 28:13
We have also been informed, both by attorneys and witnesses, that it is the district attorney who oppose action being taken against police officers. Therefore, what is, would it be better to have independent prosecutions in the case of such incidents.
Kevin McCall 28:44
I’ll answer that. The independent prosecutors across this country, they are supposed to be a body with independent of the police department. However, that does not give the police officers, even though they are independent of the Police Department, that does not give the police, the independent agency. We fought for that many times we fought for that, to be able to have those individuals, those district attorneys not to be able to have, however, even with the faith in the independent prosecutors, there has not been resulting in having a police officer be held accountable for the actions. So independent prosecutors does nothing, is not, it does nothing. It is meaningless. If you give it to an independent prosecutor, such as the attorney general, like we have one here in New York. We have Letitia James, but we have cases just under her that in her possession that we still don’t get. They present the evidence, but we still don’t get no real teeth. An officer doesn’t go to jail. The officer doesn’t be held responsible. It’s a long process for them for the, for the case to even start. So it’s a process that goes nowhere. So we don’t have faith in the independent prosecutors.
Sanford Rubenstein 30:13
I would like something more. Well, the Reverend certainly pointed out something which is very accurate. The fact of the matter is the public doesn’t trust local district attorneys, because local district attorneys need the police to make their cases, independent prosecutors, I think, are another tool which could be helpful in prosecuting, investigating and prosecuting police officers for wrongful acts. And perhaps, well, it’s not a solution. That as a tool could be helpful, if anything, so the public trusts the process, which it doesn’t do now with district attorney’s prosecute, because district attorneys need the cops to make their cases.
Niloufer Bhagwat 30:57
Attorney Rubenstein, Is there a system where there could be an independent committee of the county overseeing cases of all use of lethal force, this is meant to recommend with a view to recommend prosecution,
Sanford Rubenstein 31:24
The solution may very well be that they, rarely will be to have totally independent prosecutors, perhaps elected by the public and serve as an office to investigate and prosecute when appropriate police officers.
Niloufer Bhagwat 31:39
I’m not referring to independent prosecutors now because Reverend McCall has said that there is a flaw in every case. The use of lethal police for should be investigated by a committee of citizens overseeing the police department in the county.
Kevin McCall 32:01
Absolutely, we this is something that we were talking about here in New York City, where we have something called the elected civilian elected, a civilian elected, civil complaint Review Board. It’s a group of people that are citizens that oversee the acts of the police department, along with the city agency, but is elected as a body of people. And they will in fact, see what the consequences will happen with the police. It’s like take, for example, here in New York City, you had an officer who in one particular precinct, you have an officer have 1000, 1300 officers receive misconduct, in one precinct, and out of those 1300 officers, the repercussions were either vacation days taken away, or raises that happened. In one precinct, the 75th precinct. So if you have a body of people that can look at the misconduct and make not just make a recommendation, because right now you have in the cities, you will you make a recommendation to CCRB, they go do departmental trial. And they have recommendations. And it goes to the police commissioner, and the police commissioner, it’s up to him if he agrees with the recommendation or not. So it’s like the police policing the police. And we don’t need the CCRB for that. So we have a committee and the people is ran by the people and the people can understand that this is the criteria that is met and is a governing body people, then we can get some inroads.
Niloufer Bhagwat 33:53
So this committee, according to you, Reverend McCall, should should be a decision making Committee to refer the use of unjustified lethal use of police force for prosecution, they should have the decision making power.
Kevin McCall 34:12
Absolutely. I told you
Niloufer Bhagwat 34:14
And it should have a fair representation of racial minorities in the committee.
Kevin McCall 34:19
Niloufer Bhagwat 34:22
Reverend because you gave us some important information. You said that African Americans were at the receiving end, predominantly, Latinos were at the receiving end and also some members of the of the majority that is the white community. Reverend McCall, you have a lot of experience and to say you have been watching the process of the age of 16. Would a wider coalition a wider coalition of the different races coming together on the basis of a program to oppose the use of unjustified use of police use of force? Would it yield better results than only the movement is confined to the African American community? What are the prospects of such a coalition being built?
Kevin McCall 35:40
I agree, I’m not opposed to, not saying that it should be to just one particular race. It should be a wide, broad committee in the coalition. However, my personal experience, and my personal view is that white people cannot talk about Black issues, and feel the pain of Black and Latino issues which they have never experienced. Black people have been bitten, brutally murdered by the police department, they constantly walk out the house and the police harassing them, the police beat them up. White people can’t talk about that. So you, there’s no relation. And there’s a cultural difference, that white people that does not connect, you can march with us and and don’t get me wrong, we respect them. And we, it’s good to be able to join forces. But when you talk about our issues, it needs to be Black and Latino people.
Niloufer Bhagwat 36:53
The reason I’m asking this question is because in my country, in India, when there was misuse of profiling, of the Muslim minority population, of 14% of the population around and there was a campaign, because they were going to be victimized by the National Register of citizens, along with others, from the working classes of the country, a National Coalition succeeded. Whereas if the campaign has only been confined to the minority, the widespread appeal and support of millions against creating a National Register of citizens to harass those who had already been targeted, it would not have received the support which we got of millions of. It is in that context that I am asking you for the clarification.
Kevin McCall 38:16
I totally understand. I don’t think that I don’t, as I said, I don’t think that it’s a saying that is to be just broader to, just be comprised of Black and brown people. However, we have always got the wrong end of the stick. So because of Black and brown people always getting the wrong end of the stick. When there’s going to be saying that Black and Latino people across this country built this coalition. This has happened, and we’ve done it without having another race involved. When they talked about the Holocaust with the Jews, that was fine. When they talked about different things that happened in other communities, that was fine. And that was things were happening. But when you start talking about Black and brown issues, we’re talking about inclusion. So my thing is that, let us for a change, deal with our issues, Black and brown and Latino. And those are minorities. And let us continue to go on forward together. We can have unity, we can have unity those, we can do that. But let them be in the background while we be on the forefront. Because we’ve been in the back too long. It’s time for us to be able to be in the forefront with our issues in the forefront. So people can see the effective changes happening. Let them be the lawyers, let them be the backburner but while black folks are in the front of the line.
Niloufer Bhagwat 39:50
One more question.
Ria Julien 39:51
Let me call time if I may, Commissioner Bhagwat, there’s 10 minutes left in the hearing.
Niloufer Bhagwat 39:56
My colleague may want to ask them something.
Hina Jilani 40:02
Yes, thank you. Thank you very much. I think what Ms. Bhagwat has, some of these issues that you have raised, are extremely important, and very significant for our conclusions. But there is one issue that I think we still need to probe a little bit more. We have spoken about impunity, and everything that we have heard yesterday, in the first day of the hearings of this panel, and today indicates a grave and serious human rights issue that touches upon the right to life. The right to be safe from torture, and the police misconduct that we have been hearing about does infringe very seriously prohibitions against torture, prohibitions against extrajudicial killings. And and I think that this is an issue that that must disturb the whole population of any country where these are issues that are prevailing, and I don’t think that any particular community can, you know, should should resist a general concern about these and, and urge amongst other communities to push for the elimination of these practices that are causing this very serious human rights issue. But in in many civilized countries with a civilized justice system, where such gross violations of human rights are occurring.
And that particular state is not only violating, violating the values that their own constitutions put forward, but are also violating their international obligations that they have, under human rights treaties that they have ratified, then the courts have a role to play. We have spoken about the executive, we have spoken about the impunity that is there because of the commission and mission of the executives. But where are your courts today? In my country, which is, unfortunately not known for its good human rights record, but what I’m hearing from people in the United States, I’m really saying that even though we are ruing the conduct of our courts all the time, our courts have done much more for enforcing human rights, and enforcing the constitutional guarantees that the legislature and the constitutional parliament, the constitutional assemblies have given us. So what what are your courts doing? Please give us a little idea. I know that we heard the other day about some comments that certain Supreme Court judges have made from the bench in certain cases about the police misconduct. And how should they, how should US government and Congress and the executive undertake measures to overcome these challenges? But I really need to hear more about you, about the local court, the district courts where most of the cases will go. Not all cases can go to the Supreme Court. But what how are your courts enforcing fundamental right to life?
Sanford Rubenstein 43:48
Let Mark answer that.
Mark Arons 43:52
Sure. Thank you happy to jump in at this point. With respect to courts, there is this civil liability that’s potentially imposed on these police officers. And then in conjunction with that, there is criminal exposure. With respect to the criminal aspect of it. I practice in Connecticut. Connecticut is a good example of inherent bias built into the system. There is a state’s attorney who is investigating acts of police violence and brutality. The state’s attorney is an employee of the state of Connecticut. The state trooper who brutally murdered Mubarak is likewise an employee of the state of Connecticut. As far as that goes, city and municipal police officers, although they’re employees of the town or the city, they would also be prosecuted by a member of the state’s attorney’s office. So they are all on the same team, if you will.
There has been discussion about independent prosecutors. Connecticut revised their law after George Floyd this past summer. So going forward, there will be something of an independent prosecutor, how independent is still being debated. And I think that still needs to be worked on. But the problem, then is, once the matter is in the criminal court, in front of a judge and a jury, it is still the state’s attorney’s office that prosecutes and again, they are on the same team. So it is my opinion that an independent prosecutor truly independent needs to decide, firstly, whether a law enforcement officer should be prosecuted in the first instance. And then if prosecution is warranted, this independent prosecutor should take the matter and proceed through the court process through jury trial. And then the other thing that needs to be explored is on the civil end. The standard of proof is much lower. On the criminal end, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt. On the civil end, of course, it’s preponderance of the evidence.
The problem with the civil system, a large stumbling block is what is referred to as qualified immunity. There is federal legislation pending in the House of Representatives during the Trump administration, which would remove or drastically modify that doctrine of qualified immunity. And I hope that that’s taken up again in the Biden administration. Because that that’s a significant hurdle and roadblock to civil cases. But it needs to be addressed on several different fronts in order to get jury verdicts against police officers. Because we all understand, I think that members of the public depend on law enforcement for many reasons. And as a result of that, they are very likely to give these officers who have abused civil rights the benefit of the doubt. So going into a criminal trial, going into a civil trial, we as trial lawyers, actually have a strike or two against us, before the trial is even started. I don’t think it’s a problem with jurors, especially now, after George Floyd and what has occurred the past year, I think jurors now understand for the most part, what the problem is, their eyes have been opened to it. But there has to be more effective, more efficient, and more fairly balanced prosecution in the courtroom.
Sanford Rubenstein 48:04
I’d like to add in conclusion, if I may, may have the floor. In conclusion, I think it’s very important to thank the public, for the demonstrations for the hundreds of 1000s, who have marched all over the world against police brutality, for shining a spotlight so that we have hearings such as this to address this horrible problem in our society with regard to police brutality. And the only way that we’re going to end with legislation that’s needed is by continuing to demonstrate to protest, because that’s what the lawmakers listened to taking the streets with peaceful protests, is what needs to continue whenever there is a example of police brutality, because that will result we hope, in legislation to change a system that exists now in which we have not seen justice for so many victims.
Kevin McCall 49:06
And the courts do not the court is in our favor, once to answer your question. To add, actually, the courts, the local courts, they are more so in our favor. However, when you have something called the the public, the court of public opinion, when you have the cases displayed, a judge has to be able to make a decision, the jury has to be able to make a decision based on the peers of the people, based on your peers. So what they do is, when you have a case of high profile, and what they’re trying to do is in different cases is now is, they move the court, they move the case to another place in another area. So now instead of it looks like your peers is all white folks who are pro police. So now you’re going to have a verdict of a, have a not guilty verdict, because they move the courts, they make a motion and move the case to another town in another area. They have done that they tried to do that in the George Floyd case, and the judge denied the motion.
So it’s just, the courts also play a role in terms of that. That’s why it’s important to be able to make sure. That’s why the Trump administration set the court like with Brett Kavanaugh, and to appoint these individuals to court, because he knew that if we go to court, this is what the roadblocks that we will be facing. So everything can go through the courts. But it’s also it’s a battle. It’s a battle. That’s what we’ve been fighting. We have to fight everything. We got to fight for an officer to get fired. We got to fight for him to get jail. We got to fight them to plead guilty. You know, don’t you know, here in the States, when the officer gets convicted, he goes directly to the district attorney’s office. He doesn’t go through the system like anybody else. That doesn’t, that happens all over the country. So it’s a problem. So we don’t trust the court systems either. It’s not like it’s in India. It’s a problem throughout this country, and it needs to change.
Ria Julien 51:13
Thank you, Reverend McCall. This concludes the hearing. And thank you to all the witnesses, and special thanks today to the mother of Mubarak Soulemane, Omo Klumsum Muhammad, for joining us today and our condolences to you and your family. We will now, this concludes the hearings for today. We will resume tomorrow. Thank you again.
Omo Klumsum Muhammad 51:39
Hina Jilani 51:41
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, all the witnesses.