30 Jul 2003 Project 21 Press Release: Black Conservatives React to Inglewood Police Brutality Verdict
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are encouraged by the peaceful night in the Los Angeles area and elsewhere following yesterday’s hung jury verdict in the trial of a former Inglewood, California police officer who was charged with police brutality and the not guilty verdict of his partner for filing a false report. While emotions surrounding the case could have led to community violence similar to the aftermath of the 1992 Rodney King trial, Project 21 members are pleased that community leaders and residents seem to be accepting the verdict and letting the legal process run its course.
Yesterday’s verdict stems from charges that former Inglewood police officer Jeremy Morse committed assault under color of authority on July 6, 2002 when he pushed then-16-year-old Donavan Jackson onto the trunk of a police car and hit him in the face. The beating was caught on video and played nationally by the media. At the time of the incident, officers were questioning Jackson’s father about an expired auto registration when Jackson made suspicious moves and resisted the officers. Family members said Jackson has a learning disability that keeps him from following instructions. Morse was fired after the incident.
While the jury deadlocked on the charge against Morse, the district attorney is reviewing the decision and considering a retrial that, if it takes place, would begin September 29, 2003. Additionally, Jackson’s father and grandfather have filed state and federal civil lawsuits against Morse and Morse’s partner at the time, Bijan Darvish.
To follow are comments from Project 21 members about the case and its aftermath:
* Edmund Peterson (Washington, D.C.): “As Benjamin Franklin stated in his Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1758, ‘half a truth is often a great lie.’ The tape we saw on television obscured many of the facts that clearly took place and complicated the perception that this was exclusively police brutality. We must be careful about what we think we are seeing in cases such as this. We cannot convict people based on media images. We’ve got to let the judicial process run its entire course. It’s true we saw the officer hit the young man, but it’s what we didn’t see that apparently mattered.”
* Geoffrey Moore (Chicago, Illinois): “A verdict has been rendered, and I hope people respect that decision. For anyone who disagrees, I pray that they do so in a civil and appropriate manner. Let the process unfold – there may be a retrial. We do not need to have a repeat of the riots, looting and murder that we witnesses in 1992 after the Rodney King verdict.”
* Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson (Los Angeles, California): “The judge and jury have heard both sides of this case and both sides have been represented fairly. The verdict is in and the black community must accept it. We can’t afford a repeat of the Rodney King riots. We live in a nation of laws, and we must obey the law like everyone else – even if we disagree with the verdict.”
* Mychal Massie (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): “First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge had the father not made the decision to drive with expired license plates none of this would have transpired. Beyond that, the events as they unfolded constitute a breakdown of propriety on both sides. Notwithstanding, we are a nation of laws with a system of courts and jurisprudence. A duly sworn jury has found in said case – like it or not, agree or not, our system has functioned as it was intended. Should rioting and destruction result, it would be tantamount to anarchy.”
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.