Vincent Truitt Hearing – February 6, 2021, 1 pm Eastern

Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Vincent Truitt

SPEAKERS

  • Rapporteur Prof. Horace Campbell
  • Commissioner Prof. Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France
  • Commissioner Sir Clare Roberts
  • Ms. Venethia Cook, mother of Vincent Truitt
  • Ms. Maria Banjo, attorney for the Truitt family
  • Mr. Gerald Griggs, attorney for the Truitt family

Horace Campbell  00:01

Good afternoon. Today is the sixth of February 2021. 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 of the unjustified killing and maimings of Black individuals by police officers of the United States for an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Vincent Truitt. My name is Horace Campbell. Presiding over the hearing today is Commissioner Clare Roberts, I should add, Sir Clare Roberts of Antigua and Commissioner Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France of France. The witnesses for this hearing are Maria Banjo, and Venethia Cook. We may have a third witness. There will be, 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 Sir Claire Roberts and Commissioner Mireille Fanon-Mendes France. I know present to you, Maria Banjo, the first witness. Maria Banjo, please confirm your name.

Maria Banjo  01:54

Maria Banjo.

Horace Campbell  01:58

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

Maria Banjo  02:07

Yes.

Horace Campbell  02:08

You may begin.

Maria Banjo  02:10

Thank you. Good afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about Vincent DeMario Truitt’s case. As you mentioned earlier, you will also hear from his mother Venethia Cook Lewis. Four days ago would have been Vincent’s 18th birthday. Now this particular incident occurred in Cobb County, Georgia, which is just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. On July 13 of 2020, there was a young boy who was gunned down the day before his mother’s birthday. The Cobb County police commenced a pursuit on an alleged stolen car. Now Vincent was only a passenger in this vehicle, while the police were pursuing the driver for alleged criminal allegations. The driver ended up leading the police on a brief chase up Riverside Parkway through the Kwik Trip gas station and down Riverside Parkway into a warehouse park. The police ended up using a PIT maneuver behind the car and the vehicle ultimately came to a stop behind the warehouse park. The driver exited the vehicle and immediately fled on foot. A few seconds later Vincent also exited the vehicle climbing over the console and through the driver door. He ended up only taking two to three steps beginning to run away from the police when he was shot twice in the back. Now let me be very clear. Prior to him being shot, Vincent was no threat, he posed no threat to the Cobb County Police Department. It was at that time where he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. And at that point, the police attempted to give CPR to him. Even though Vincent was cautious and talking. He eventually asked why did you shoot me? I’m dying.

Vincent moaned on the ground. As a Cobb County police removed his top pants, undergarments exposing his buttocks. A gun was ultimately found on the ground some distance away from Vincent’s body, but there was no evidence that he presented a gun in an offensive manner, brandished it or pointed it at the police. In fact, in the body camera and the dash camera, the gun is not present until after Vincent is on the ground dying. He was eventually transported to Grady Memorial Hospital and after extensive surgery, Vincent passed away from his gunshot wounds the following day on July 14, of 2020. Now, Attorney Gerald Griggs, and I got involved in this case only three months after Vincent was killed. Soon after we were retained, we set up a meeting with Victor Reynolds, who was the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Now, he was gracious enough to meet with us, as well as 10 members of Vincent’s family, where he outlined the case as he knew it. He, his department was charged with conducting the investigation. And he explained to us that this investigation typically takes about 90 days from the date of the incident in order for the case to be concluded, the investigation that is. He explained that he had agents on the case and they have preserved all the body cam, and surveillance videos, which is crucial because there were at least five to six officers on the scene. There were several surveillance cameras that we could see from behind the warehouse where this incident took place. When we asked whether or not he would be releasing this video to the public, he stated he would not. And when we followed up and asked whether or not he would show us this video, he again said that he would not. However, he agreed to make contact with the former DA, Julia Holmes, in order for us to set up a time to view the video. Since he would not show us the video he did explain what he saw in the video. And he confirmed what we already knew, again that Vincent never fired a gun, never pointed a gun, never posed a risk to anyone.

Then on October 13, we met with the former DA to see whether or not she would offer her condolences and authorize the release of this tape. During this first meeting, she did express her condolences to the family. However, she would not let us view the videotape. She stated that it was because it was still under investigation by the GBI. However, she did put the family in contact with victim advocates and offered counseling services to the family and indicated that she would be presenting the case to the grand jury. During that time, I wanted to highlight one of the questions I ended up asking her. I asked her whether or not she had ever seen a case like this where a victim was shot twice in the back. And that be deemed a justified shooting in Georgia. She said she has never seen such case. And in all my six years as a former prosecutor, I have never seen that as well. And so we are very concerned clearly about the lack of accountability and transparency in this particular case. Eventually the GBI did end up giving the case and turn it over to former DA Holmes. And on November 4 of 2020. We met with her again, where we were able to view the video. Our attorney Gerald Griggs and I, along with Vincent’s father, stepfather, godfather had to sit through Vincent’s death. We watched it twice because we wanted to make sure we did not miss anything. And again, it confirmed what we knew. It, you know, I’ve seen several of these videos, and this one was very disturbing throughout the entire video. At no time, did you ever see the lights of Vincent’s face. He never looked towards any of the officers. As soon as he got out of the vehicle, he turned and left, and out of all the police officers on scene. This particular officer was the only one that chose to discharge his firearm in the back of Vincent DeMario Truitt.

Again, Vincent was merely a passenger in an alleged stolen vehicle and was gunned down only seconds after getting out of the vehicle. On January 14 of this year, we met with the newly elected DA Flynn Broady. During this meeting, we discovered that he also will not be releasing the video, despite his several campaign promises to do just that. He explained that it will not be released until after our grand jury has been convened and heard the facts of this case. He explained to us that he expects to present this case of the grand jury this month and we are eagerly awaiting on when that date is going to be, and also the grand jury’s decision. And so as of this moment it has been 208 days since Vincent DeMario Truitt has been killed and we are demanding justice. Thank you.

Horace Campbell  10:22

Thank you very much. Commissioners, Clare Roberts and Mireille, I’m sorry. Let me start over. Commissioners Clare Roberts and Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, I now present to you the second witness, Venethia Cook. Venethia Cook, please confirm your name.

Venethia Cook  10:56

It’s Venethia Cook.

Horace Campbell  11:01

Venethia?

Venethia Cook  11:02

Yes.

Horace Campbell  11:03

Thank you. Do you promise that your testimony to the commission of inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Venethia Cook  11:13

Yes.

Horace Campbell  11:14

You may begin.

Venethia Cook  11:19

Thank you for allowing us to be here. I’m the proud mother of Vincent DeMario Truitt. My precious baby was only 17 years old when his life was taken by Cobb County police officer, shot his back twice. This happened in July 2020. We are now in February and no action has been taken. My son was a bright and ambitious teen with an unforgettable personality. He was a loving person. No violent history whatsoever. He loved to joke around. He always laughed and smiled. He was very respectable with manners. Vincent was a proud member of Beulah Baptist Church and a pillar to his community. He volunteered and gave in different organizations such as Hosea Feed the Hungry every year. He volunteered as a counselor during summer camp for the Police Athletic League. He was a star basketball player for the Police Athletic League. He played football and ran track for the Police Athletic League. He also attended after school programs for the Police Athletic League. He looked up to officers that helped raise him from the age of eight. My son had big dreams to continue his entrepreneurship. He had just started his own business designing clothes working on his brand GFN, going for nothing. He also worked as a Georgia certified soccer referee.

He had just received his driver’s license and planned on purchasing his first car with his own money. Vince was the first child, first grandchild, first nephew. first real joy of my life. We live and grew and learned a lot together. Not having him around has affected my entire family. I went from helping him make shirts to sell to put his, to sell his shirts with his face on it. I prayed to God, for my happiness has been ripped away due to one senseless act of a Cobb County police officer. My life has been destroyed. I will never be the same. Living without him is painful. My world has been flipped upside down. I must make time to sit at his gravesite every day of my life. It’s the only place that I feel peace. He took my gift away, my gift of being a mother to my son. The only thing I could do for him now is decorate a piece of land where his deteriorating body remains Two statements that will haunt me forever. One being from GBI investigator…. Yes, the person in this picture is deceased. The other day my son’s last words. Why did you shoot me? I’m dying. My poor boy never saw it coming. He was running away. Since when should running away become a death sentence? Vincent should be here right now, fulfilling his dreams. He was just starting to live. I’m left with this excruciating pain of my firstborn child being murdered one day before my birthday. For the rest of my life. Sleep doesn’t come easy. There’s no happiness in my future. This officer not only killed Vincent but he killed me too. The house is quiet now. I’m used to the noise of Vincent and his little brother playing around. His little brother now sleeps on the couch due to the loneliness he feels. Their rooms were only feet apart. I couldn’t find the strength to view the actual video. However his father, stepfather, godfather along with attorney Griggs and Banjo witnessed it, witnessed what happened.

My son ran in fear after being rammed multiple times by the police car. My son was shot immediately after exiting the vehicle, handcuffed, flipped around, his clothes were not cut off, were ripped off. My son laid on the pavement naked, where he took his last breath to ask the officer, Why did you shoot me? I’m dying. The officers started poor CPR. And I say poor CPR, because my son was still handcuffed behind his back. It’s impossible to perform successful CPR that way. I was never notified, although he had his ID on him. I was told they didn’t know who he was. Even though the news reported a 17 year old shot by the police. I found out via Instagram. Through his best friend, he confirmed Vincent was shot. I was escorted out of the hospital, Grady Hospital after being told my son wasn’t there and has never been there. My son laid on that, at that same hospital for 12 hours in and out of surgery, until his heart gave up.

I am disgusted at how Cobb County has handled Vincent’s murder. No parents should be treated like this. No parent should have to wait this long for answers. No parent should have to fight for what’s right. From day one, myself and the public has been lied to multiple times. Tim Cox, the chief of police lied on national television, painting this horrible picture of my child. Vincent didn’t deserve to be shot down like that. He was just a kid. The world knows the name Vincent DeMario Truitt, but we have yet to hear the name of the person responsible for his murder. In what world do you shoot a kid, a teen, and live your best life? This officer gets to enjoy his life with his family, he gets to continue working on the force that’s supposed to serve and protect. Where was my son’s protection on July 13? At what point does someone act and do what’s right? Cobb County released several false statements but refused to release the tapes to the public. The public should know the truth. Why is this officer still working? My son was no threat. This officer committed murder and he should be treated like any other person that commits murder. My wounds cannot heal until justice is served, I want this officer fired immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. My son’s life matter. Justice for Vincent DeMario Truitt.

Horace Campbell  18:11

Thank you so much, Gerald. I think we could swear you in just in case. You want to come in to answer any other questions. Okay.

Gerald Griggs  18:20

Okay.

Horace Campbell  18:21

Let me swear you in. Commissioners, Clare Roberts and Commissioner Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, I now present to you the third witness, Gerald Griggs. Gerald Griggs, please confirm your name.

Gerald Griggs  18:41

Gerald Griggs,

Horace Campbell  18:43

Do you promise that your statements to the commission of inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Gerald Griggs  18:52

I affirm.

Horace Campbell  18:54

Thank you very much and thank you very much Venethia, for that very strong statement. Please, commissioners, you may now question the witnesses.

Sir Clare Roberts  19:14

If I may, Mrs. Cook, please accept my deepest condolences, this tragic killing of your son on behalf of myself and this international commission. By this hearing this tragedy is being given international spotlight. So you can know that at least the matter is not being buried on the international scene and that you are not alone. I wish to ask just a couple of questions. One has to do with the system that exists for ensuring an independent and impartial investigation and prosecution of this tragic killing. What is there in the system to ensure such impartiality and lack of impunity?

Maria Banjo  20:24

Well, as we mentioned earlier, this particular case was investigated initially by GBI. Now GBI is a statewide agency that comes in to various counties to conduct investigations. And typically when we have police involved shootings, frequently, the local prosecutor will ask for the DA for the GBI to step in and conduct an investigation, or the GBI may decide on their own to go in to a local county and conduct the investigation, and in this particular case, wasn’t investigated initially by Cobb County, which I think is super important in that it’s one of the Cobb County officers who has ended up killing Vincent DeMario Truitt. We think that’s a good layer to ensure impartiality. Unfortunately, you know, we are at the mercy of the prosecutor, and in deciding what type of charges are going to be presented to the grand jury, how the case is presented, what kind of evidence will be presented. Attorney Gerald Griggs and I have expressed our strong concern to ensure that the proper charges are presented and all the facts and evidence are presented to the grand jury so that we can prevent a situation where the grand jury is not able to view all the evidence that they need in order to make the proper full determination in a case. Attorney Griggs, I’m not sure if you have anything additional to add to that.

Gerald Griggs  22:16

Yeah, just just additionally, the layer of protection that we have, we believe is that having met with the GBI, and having a full understanding of what evidence has already been turned over to the district attorney’s office, we have a full understanding of what happened to Vincent DeMario Truitt. We just want to make sure that the extra layer of protection from the new district attorney is that he moves forward in both releasing the video as well as proceeding with charges. But the short answer to your question is that layer of protection was making sure it was sent to the GBI for the full investigation instead of merely being in Cobb County police. Because we’ve seen, as Venethia has stated, its Cobb County police represented three different we would say false statements with regard to what happened that day. And so we are hopeful that the full report that was turned over to the DA’s office as well as the videos will will be shown to the to the grand jury, and the grand jury will indict. So we believe that there has been sufficient protection from the Cobb County police interfering in this case. And so we’re just hopeful.

Sir Clare Roberts  23:39

Assuming that there is an indictment, we have been told that there is a natural bias, if you like, towards the prosecution, that the prosecution tend to put forward a case that is biased in favor of the police, that there is some sort of unholy alliance between the prosecution, the prosecutor and the police. Do you Is there some way of ensuring that this bias does not come into play in prosecuting the case?

Maria Banjo  24:21

You know, that’s always a concern that the prosecutors and law enforcement are moving in lockstep and they need to be independent agencies. And that’s the only way our justice system works. We have prosecutors, we have defense attorneys, and we have law enforcement and law enforcement shouldn’t be on anyone’s side at the end of the day. That is always a concern. I think the fact that attorney Gerald Griggs and I, we both know the facts of the case seen as how we watched the video several times, it’s going to be up to us as well as the greater community to hold folks accountable to what is going on. And we know I mentioned earlier about the charges, because the way in which prosecutors decide to how they want to charge a case can really impact one, whether or not a grand jury ends up indicting. And two, if the case goes to trial, whether or not a jury ultimately finds guilt, you know, the legal theory behind the order and the type of charges is extremely, extremely crucial. And we are hoping that the current DA will let us know what charges he plans on presenting to the grand jury to make sure it’s a full, a full list of charges to get the best result at the end of the day.

Gerald Griggs  25:51

Yeah, just to chime in there. There are certain protections on the Georgia law, the Georgia crime bills, Bill of Rights requires a prosecutor to make certain disclosures to the family with regard to charges and presentation to the grand jury. But ultimately, it’s going to be up to citizens, as well as the family to make sure there’s pressure on this particular DA, who ran on the platform, that he would get justice in these type of cases, as well as get justice in Vincent’s case. So we’re hopeful. But we have our confidence in the people making sure that the politicians do what they say they’re going to do. In Georgia, there has been a push to have independent prosecutors assigned to cases like this. In this particular case, that hasn’t happened yet. But there tends to be a close association with the prosecutors and the police. We’re hopeful that because it’s a new prosecutor, freshly elected, now he will not succumb to that pressure.

Sir Clare Roberts  26:51

If the commissioner from France will allow me one more, in regards of Mrs. Cook, what she would consider justice in this matter, what would be the the package constituting justice? I suppose, for instance, the prosecution and conviction and punishment of the officer who killed her son, naturally, compensation monetary. What would she consider a package? We know that nothing can bring her son back and really pay for that grief that she must be going through. But to bring closure, at least what would you consider a package of justice?

Venethia Cook  27:58

Nothing but justice. I want this officer prosecuted to the full extent of the law and fired immediately. And the police chief needs to resign and anybody else that cannot do their job and do what’s right.

Andre (father of Vincent Truitt)  28:16

This cop needs to be put under the jail for what he did to my son.

Venethia Cook  28:22

Nothing but Justice.

Gerald Griggs  28:24

And just to be clear, Venethia and Andre have been resolute in their demand for justice from the very beginning. They want full transparency and accountability. They want this officer charged with first degree murder. They want him convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Nothing will bring Vincent back. But it’s a large step towards justice. If the wheels of justice turn to hold this officer accountable, as well as the police chief that has been, covered for this officer, so they want him named. They want him indicted. They want him arrested and they want him convicted and sentenced to life.

Venethia Cook  29:04

My son was only 17 years old. He had the rest of his life ahead of him.

Horace Campbell  29:11

Excuse me, we have passed? the 30 minute mark. Please continue.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France  29:17

May I?

Horace Campbell  29:19

Please.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France  29:20

Thank you. Thank you for your testimony. And I am wondering if as a commission, we don’t have to think about something concerning the killing of young people because he’s not, the killing of your son is not the first one we heard about. And there is some relation between them without reason and without justice, for the killing of your one loved, the people you love and what we can see, there is a relation between prosecutor and police. There is a lack often, in your case, there is a lack of transparency on the charges. And therefore it’s organized impunity for these people, and as a consequence, there is a lack of justice. But we, I think, and I would have your, your feedback about that. I think there is a, we have to take into consideration the structural racism in the US, particularly in US. And the color line is one of the reasons that people are killed without any reason, and without any justice, any process. And this racialization organized all the US Americans, all the American society, and what we can see also, I don’t know exactly in this case, if the the police who will fire your son is a, belong to any trade union police or something like that. But if there is no real work on this issue of racialization, of structural racism is that that kill every Black bodies, it’s not an way, it will be very difficult to get justice, because the justice is organized by this color line. And I would like to ask you, attorney Banjo, or maybe Mr. Griggs,  how do you think we can address this issue of racialization of American society, North American society in order to get justice for Black bodies who are killed without reason, and particularly the young Black bodies?

Maria Banjo  32:23

At the end of the day, I think it starts from the very beginning where we have the subjective fear of Black people. You know, I think, at the end of the day, it’s a top down, it comes from leadership. And until that is addressed, how officers should be policing in the community, how they should not rush to judgment, only when it comes to certain individuals. And once now, families like Vincent’s family gets thrust into the system, they need to feel confident that the rules will apply the same for everyone, no matter what you look like. And in this particular case, is very concerning, because that is not what has been happening. And that is why lost confidence in the system. At this point, based off of the video that we’ve had to see twice, there is sufficient evidence for probable cause for an arrest warrant for the officer where that should have taken place soon after the event, as soon as they were able to look at the video presented to a magistrate judge, get an arrest warrant. And this officer should have been made to bond out on those charges, like every other citizen, instead of what is happening, months are going by. He was administrative leave for a short period of time, then reinstated to active duty, and he’s out on vacation enjoying the holidays. And we are expected to continue to wait until the grand jury. And so if the system had been treating this family with the respect that it deserves, then we wouldn’t be so concerned about what is going to be presented to the grand jury and whether or not they’re actually going to be able to get justice. So I do think the police culture needs to be changed. We need to have greater diversity not only in color, but also in thought and not be afraid of thinking outside the box when we’re trying to attack these systemic issues. Because the old way we can confirm is ineffective. The old way is not working. So I think we need to impress upon those with power to effectuate change, that they need to embrace new ideas to fix our old problems.

Gerald Griggs  35:15

Also think that we just have to be realistic about systemic oppression, systemic racism, and it’s injecting itself into the system. You know, Dr. King put it best, we can never be satisfied as long as Black people are the victims of unspeakable horrors of police brutality. Dr. King said that at the March on Washington. And so here we are 60 years later, still dealing with the same issues. But I think that we are at a profoundly different place. And the issue that we have is that the African Americans and the white people of good conscience are not saying anything, and they work in the system. In this particular case, Georgia law is quite clear what should happen. In this case, the police officer shot Vincent while he was running away twice in his back. And there’s a video of it. There is sufficient probable cause to charge him with murder, period. There doesn’t need to be any legal change to make that happen. But we have to have politicians and prosecutors that have the courage to enforce the law. So I just think that we have to call it what it is. We have to call it a lack of courage to do what’s right, effectuate what the law was purposed on doing in Georgia, the murder statute is quite clear. Title 17, which is the Criminal Code on procedure is quite clear. There are not two different systems, one for civilians and one for police officers. There’s one system and we need his prosecutor to effectuate that system working in this case.

Sir Clare Roberts  37:00

I think the I hear the words, the last words. of Vincent Truitt. Why did you shoot me? and it’s it’s very poignant. Do you think, to what extent did race feature in the shooting? Was it? The fact that he was a Black young man? What extent did that feature in getting, being shot by the policeman?

Maria Banjo  37:35

I mean, it had to play a huge role, because nothing else makes sense. There’s absolutely not one shred of evidence that would make an objective person in fear of if that that was depicted on the video. He It was dark outside. He was wearing a hoodie, I believe. he was running away there. There is nothing other than maybe his the officer’s adrenaline was, was pumping. And he was excited. You know, I don’t know. But you know, officers should be trained on how to one, de-escalate a situation, two, how to properly assess whether or not someone is actually posing a threat and understand what needs to happen. What’s an appropriate response to someone running away from you? And what this officer did in that case is absolutely irrational, absolutely unreasonable, and thus, we must believe that, but for his color, Vincent may still be here today with us.

Sir Clare Roberts  38:51

This is a huge question. How does one change this perception that that seems to exist, that Black people are fair game, you can shoot with impunity, you can kill them? How does one change that?

Maria Banjo  39:14

You know, honestly, we have to elect the right prosecutors. There are certain counties here in Georgia where officers who commit crimes are held accountable. That is not consistent throughout the state of Georgia, that is not consistent throughout the US. So we need to make sure that one, we are electing prosecutors that have the same values as our community and seek justice and making sure we hold them accountable as well, even after they get office. So at the end of the day, certain counties have bad reputations for what it means to be a Black person driving through that county. You know in Cobb County is one of the those counties where there are several — people now, if you’re a Black person, to be careful driving through that county. And that’s not that’s not how it should be.

Gerald Griggs  40:12

Definitely agree with Maria. I think the way we change the perception is that we have to start sending some police officers that violate the public trust to prison. And it’s incumbent upon our prosecutors, particularly our prosecutors in metro areas to hold the line. And they have to make the unpopular decisions, you know, charge the officers with the highest counts and put it in front of a jury. And I think that, you know, all throughout Georgia, all throughout the United States, I think people are sick and tired of seeing the same thing over and over again, hearing about young African American men and women gunned down by the police. And then there’s absolutely no justice. And so I think how we change this, is we call out the issue. The issue is we have prosecutors who are afraid to go against the police. But you were not elected by the police nor the police union, you were elected by the people to be representatives of the people and to make sure you bring charges and present cases in front of the jury. And then the people can make a decision. So how we change the process, we charge with murder, we put them in front of a jury of 12. And we let 12 people decide. If we let 12 people see this video of Vincent Demario Truitt being shot in his back. I’m very confident that they will come back with a verdict that speaks the truth. And that’s murder.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France  41:35

Yes, but we I agree. But I think really, if we don’t tackle the issue of racialization or structural racism, we will never, we will never win. And the justice we never get for the people for the family. Because what what they are, what the roles are the police or even the justice to don’t accept any case or kill people. It’s because they seem to think they are superior. And this white supremacy has to be tackled. And really, it’s not I don’t think excuse me, if I’m maybe I’m wrong. And you know better than me, because we are not working in the same continent. But I don’t think and even we can see that in. In France. When there is a murder of young people, Black or Arab people, there is no justice for the family. Exceptionally they give financial compensation, but not justice. And we are facing very deeply rooted structural racism. And it is one of the things we have to raise if we want to succeed in justice. And I am not sure we can get justice if we have different prosecutor because they will be under attack by the police. And the police really is a reflection of the image of the white supremacy and the law and order. And we really we have to think how in order to get justice, to work on this side of the justice to get justice for the family and the victims. But also in the same time, we need to work on the issue of, tackle, structural racism, these are what we call what you call systemic racism. And also why will be never succeeded, we will never succeed, I think let’s think about what what it was done at the level of the UN, against racism. It’s a failure. It’s unfortunately we have to admit it’s a failure. And we have to change that and with the help of of attorneys, of people looking at justice, but we have really to put in the in the front line. Where we are now, where are the case now. It’s the consequences of the history of enslavement and colonization in US.

Horace Campbell  44:34

Thank you. We are, excuse me, we have five more minutes.

Gerald Griggs  44:39

Please. I definitely agree with you that we have to tackle the issues of systemic racism and white supremacy, that permeate the American justice system and that permeate our existence here in America. But we also have to remember that we came from ancestors that were strong and that they understood that the only way you beat the system is you deconstruct the system from within the system, and so what I’m saying is this, once we start showing these white supremacists, that they are not above the law, and that they will go to prison for a very, very long time for acting upon their beliefs, whether they are civilians or police officers, you will start seeing a change. And so I always look up to my big brother, Thurgood Marshall, who decided to take it one case at a time in the deep south and start beating people with jury trials that we can do this. And so what I’m saying is, with regard to Vincent’s case, while we’re tackling issues of systemic racism, and we’re getting the international community involved, we need African American lawyers, we need to make sure we put African Americans on the jury, and we need to start sending some people to prison, because I promise you, if they fear the law, and the law working against them, they will stop we’ve seen it happen over and over again. And we will see what happened in this case. So I agree with you, my sister, that we do need to tackle the issues of systemic racism, that underpin everything that’s in American society. But we also need to make sure that the racists understand that the American justice system can work against them the same way they try to make it work against us.

Maria Banjo  46:12

I completely agree. You know, I think, as a result of structural racism, there’s a dehumanization, that has occurred of Black people. And as a result, we are looked at less than and that justifies and allows officers to treat our bodies as such, just recently, a nine year old girl was pepper sprayed for something that she should not have been pepper sprayed for, you know, Vincent’s body was exposed in a manner that was unnecessary, not required for medical attention, not required to disarm him. But in our opinion, it just, they viewed him less than, that’s the only thing I can think of. And so I think that’s a good point that unless we address, the systemic dehumanization of Black people and their experiences and their feelings and their pain, we’re not really going to get very far.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France  47:15

Particularly on Black people, Black bodies.

Sir Clare Roberts  47:20

Can I ask, is ther any statistic, on the amount of convictions? anybody, any policeman been jailed for killing Black people in the states?

Gerald Griggs  47:33

Yes, there have been numerous Anthony Hill was killed by officer Robert Olson, he’s doing a 20 year sentence Gregory Townes was killed in Fulton County, tases to death, those one officer is doing a life sentence, the other one’s doing 20 years. There are several other cases in the pipeline. So in Georgia, we have had success when we apply pressure. And that’s what we’re going to do in Vincent Demario Truitt’s case, because we have to make sure the DA understands that the very same people that elected him in November are going to hold him accountable if he does not proceed with the full extent of the law and punishing this officer. So like I said, Before, I agree with my sister we got to do we got to deal with the issues of the structural impediments. But we also got to hold our elected officials accountable, and make sure they have the same energy for police officers that they have for young Black men who are alleged to be doing non violent criminal offenses. So I think we can do both. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France  48:40

Just a —

Maria Banjo  48:47

You’re on mute your muted.

Gerald Griggs  48:52

I think you’re muted.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France  48:53

Just for information. Could we get some information about the follow up of this case?

Gerald Griggs  49:00

Absolutely.

Sir Clare Roberts  49:13

Agree with Mr. Griggs, that the accountability the lack of impunity, also acts as a deterrent if if one can kill a Black man and and there’s nothing for it, then there’s this absolute impunity and a lack of deterrence, you don’t think twice before doing it.

Horace Campbell  49:38

Thank you so much. Let us thank the family of Vincent Truitt and the commission. This work is strengthened by your testimony. And we thank you both Maria and Gerald, for your work in this case in the state of Georgia. This concludes the hearing the case of Vincent Truitt. We now take a short break and we will resume on the hour in the case of Sean Bell. Thank you so much.

Maria Banjo  50:27

Thank you.

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