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A Diverse Jury Delivers Justice for George Floyd

Right up to when the verdict was read the anxiety level was so high, people all over the country were fearful. This case was really the People vs. the Cops. Leave it to diversity.

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Mural in Oakland, Calif. June 7, 2020 Photo Credit: Christy Price

All-white jury? There’s no more feared phrase among civil rights lawyers. But that’s not what Minnesota gave us in the Derek Chauvin trial. The jury that decided the fate of the white former police officer who had his knee on George Floyd’s neck was more  diverse than the Minnesota county where the trial was held.  And that means the odds of getting justice were probably a lot higher than anyone could have imagined. 

Right up to when the verdict was read the anxiety level was so high, people all over the country were fearful. This case was really the People vs. the Cops. Leave it to diversity.

Minnesota’s Hennepin County has 1.3 million people, according to Census data from 2019. The racial breakdown is 74.2% are white, 13.8% black, 7.5% Asian, 7%  Latino, 3.3% biracial, 1.1% Native American. How much lower would your anxiety level be with a 12-member jury that had only nine white people?  Not much.

But again, praise diversity. The Chauvin jury included six whites — two male, four female. And there were four Black people (three of whom are male, plus a 60-year-old black woman). The remaining two jurors were multiracial. But now, what’s in their heads?

The questionnaires all the potential jurors filled out asked about policing, protests and criminal justice. Among the selected was a white man in his 20s, who was the only juror who said he had not seen the cell-phone video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The man, a chemist, said in his questionnaire, “I rely on facts and logic and what’s in front of me.”

To me that sounded like a guy who might want to see some evidence again. That indicated to me the potential for a long deliberation and not a quick one.

One of the Black jury members, in his 30s, said he had not seen the cell-phone video in its entirety. In his questionnaire he said he didn’t believe Chauvin “set out to murder anyone,” but noticed how three officers on the scene stood by and didn’t take action.

It seemed to reflect a balanced, open-minded jury that could deliberate on the truth.

The prosecution skillfully framed its case around the cell-phone video we have all seen, the 9:29-long video of Chauvin with a knee to the neck of Floyd. “You can believe your eyes,” said attorney Jerry Blackwell in the opening. In closing, his prosecuting partner, Steve Schleicher, said it again and added, “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.” 

In the end, the jurors did not allow themselves to be gaslit by the defense, who presented alternative facts as to how Floyd died. But jurors could see for themselves in that video:  Chauvin wasn’t demonstrating “reasonable” policing. 

The jury delivered guilty verdicts on all three complicated murder charges: second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Trifecta. 

To think Chauvin wanted to plead to at least 10 years, but former U.S. Attorney General William Barr wouldn’t approve it because there was fear that 10 wouldn’t be seen as severe enough. Now Chauvin, whose bail was revoked and sent back into custody, could get up to 40 years.

A triumph for the people. And for diversity.  A system so biased toward the cops was beaten. It happens. 

Savor it peacefully and think of others who have come up empty-handed in their quest for justice. Let this be an energizing reminder, how alive justice can make us all feel.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See his vlog at www.amok.com  Twitter @emilamok FB @emilguillermo.media

Activism

California-Hawaii NAACP Conference Sues Sec. of State Shirley Weber 

The Elections Code provides for a 20-day period to review the ballot materials and file any legal challenges. Because all legal challenges to ballot materials for the November 8, 2022, statewide general election must be completed by August 15, 2022, the lawsuit was filed on August 1.

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Rick Callender, California-Hawaii conference president of the NAACP, and Shirley Weber, California Secretary of State.
Rick Callender, California-Hawaii conference president of the NAACP, and Shirley Weber, California Secretary of State.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

The California – Hawaii State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) NAACP and Conference President Rick Callender have taken legal action against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber asking that a statement included in the Argument Against Proposition 26 in the ballot pamphlet for the Nov. 8, 2022, statewide general election be removed.

Prop 26 would permit federally recognized Native American tribes to operate dice games, roulette and sports wagering on tribal lands. On-site wagering at privately operated horse-racing tracks in four specified counties for betters 21 years or older would become legal as well. The proposition also imposes a 10% tax on sports-wagering profits at horse-racing tracks and directs portion of revenues to enforcement and problem-gambling programs.

The lawsuit is challenging a statement from the “No on Prop 26” opposition using a quote from Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, former president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles branch. Hadley-Hempstead’s opposition statement read as follows:

“‘We oppose Prop 26 to protect young people from developing lifelong gambling addictions that often lead to ruined finances, relationships, even homelessness and crime.’ Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, retired teacher and President Emeritus of the Los Angeles NAACP Branch.”

The lawsuit claims the quote gives “the false and misleading impression” that the NAACP opposes Prop 26. The NAACP endorsed Prop 26 in February 2022. In addition, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP has not endorsed the No on Prop 26 campaign. The NAACP bylaws prohibit local branches from taking positions contrary to the state branch. The lawsuit also raises concern about how the quote was obtained.

“The NAACP is proud to stand with Indian Tribes in strong support of Prop 26 to help further Indian self-reliance,” Callender said in a statement given to California Black Media (CBM). “We are outraged that the card room casinos and their No on 26 campaign would deceptively use the NAACP name in its arguments despite our strong support. We are suing to have these dishonest statements removed from the ballot arguments so it does not mislead voters.”

Callender’s lawsuit further points out that the position ‘President Emeritus’ does not exist within the NAACP and the only branch that can clear use of the trademarked term NAACP in support or opposition of any legislation is the state branch of the organization.

A declaration in support of the lawsuit from Hadley-Hemp. stead describes how she believes she was misled or misunderstood when she was asked to give the statement by Betty Williams, former President of the Sacramento Chapter of the NAACP.

Hadley-Hempstead declared that she was under the impression that Williams still worked for the state branch and believed that her statement against Prop 26 was in solidarity with Callender and the position of the state branch.

In her declaration, Hadley-Hempstead says “If I had known that Ms. Williams wasn’t working on behalf of NAACP, I would have said no right away…… As a long-time NAACP member, I would not agree to lend my name to a public document that took a contrary position to the official NAACP position and would not knowingly violate the NAACP’s bylaws.”

“The card room casino operators responsible for the deceptive No on 26 campaign have a well-documented and deplorable track record of flouting the law,” Callender told CBM. “They’ve been fined millions for violating anti money-laundering laws, misleading regulators, and even illegal gambling. We are suing to prevent their misleading statements from appearing in the voter information guide sent to tens of millions of voters.”

The Elections Code provides for a 20-day period to review the ballot materials and file any legal challenges. Because all legal challenges to ballot materials for the November 8, 2022, statewide general election must be completed by August 15, 2022, the lawsuit was filed on August 1.

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Commentary

COMMENTARY: Can You Name the Chief Justice of California’s Supreme Court? Get to Know Tani Cantil-Sakauye Before She Steps Down

If a judge’s job is to stay above it all and concentrate on the work at hand, then the fact that the chief justice of California’s State Supreme Court, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is not exactly a household name testifies to her ability to have done her job exceedingly well — impartially. With hardly an objection. Without making the news.

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Chief justice of California’s State Supreme Court, Tani Cantil-Sakauye. (Photo: California Courts Newsroom)
Chief justice of California’s State Supreme Court, Tani Cantil-Sakauye. (Photo: California Courts Newsroom)

By Emil Guillermo

For the last 12 years, the chief justice of California’s State Supreme Court has been Tani Cantil-Sakauye, a history-making Filipino American, the first person of color and the second female ever to hold the position.

Of course, you can say her name, but just in case, here’s a pronouncer: Con-TEEL-Saw-ka-OO-yay.)

If a judge’s job is to stay above it all and concentrate on the work at hand, then the fact that Cantil-Sakauye is not exactly a household name testifies to her ability to have done her job exceedingly well — impartially. With hardly an objection. Without making the news.

That’s why I was shocked to hear Cantil-Sakauye’s announced her retirement on July 27 at age 62.

Cantil-Sakauye described the reaction from colleagues about news of her departure as “moans and groans and exclamations of concern and dismay and congratulations.”

But just marvel at what she’s left us. A state judicial environment where consensus is enabled in the pursuit of fairness under the rule of law.

Instead of a fragmented court constantly drawn into issues of rancor and division, California’s high court has been collegial and focused on its job. It’s a court that in Cantil-Sakauye’s words is now “solid and sustainable.” And perhaps that is the reason she has set a retirement date of January 1.

Appointed by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, Cantil-Sakauye took her oath in 2011.

She’s guided the court system as its top administrator through budget cuts to budget surpluses, through COVID-19 shutdowns to ideological stagnation.

Once seen as a stodgy conservative bunch, with Cantil-Sakauye at the helm the high court has evolved into an institution shaped by Governor Newsom and his predecessor Jerry Brown, both Democrats.

People forget that Cantil-Sakauye was a Republican who worked her way up in her hometown of Sacramento, from a county prosecutor to cabinet positions under Republican Gov. George Deukmejian. She was a state appellate judge before her appointment to the state’s high court.

She garnered national attention in 2017 when she criticized federal agents for arresting immigrants in California’s state courthouses. Cantil-Sakauye saw it as eroding trust in the state courts and called it “stalking.”

Later in December 2018, she left the Republican Party after watching the Senate hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and registered as an independent.

It’s hard to imagine Cantil-Sakauye is done in January when she’ll be just 63.

Biden and Feinstein think that 63 is the infancy of a career in elected politics.

But politics would be a natural thing for Cantil-Sakauye, whose inspiring origin story has voter appeal.

Consider how her Filipino-Portuguese father, Clarence Cantil, worked the pineapple plantations before coming to California. Her mother, Mary Gorre, a Filipina, was a migrant worker who followed the crops. Cantil-Sakauye grew up humbly and has said publicly that she remembers her mother’s savings guiding her principles about hard work being rewarded and providing the opportunities in the American Dream.

More dominant were phrases like, “There for the grace of God go you,” and “You listen to everyone because everyone has something to say,” the latter she admits has helped her in her work to this day. And perhaps that explains her conservative, but empathic nature.

After two years at junior college, Cantil-Sakauye went to UC Davis for her B.A. She also got her law degree from Davis, all while working as a waitress and blackjack dealer in Lake Tahoe.

At age 35, and already moving up the conservative ranks, she was Ms. Cantil-Gorre until she married Mark Sakauye, a retired Sacramento police lieutenant.

Her hyphenated name merges some major Asian American histories. The Hawaii plantations, the California fields, and her husband’s story, the son of farmworkers who became farmers and then were incarcerated in concentration camps. Cantil-Sakauye said the stories of her in-law’s struggles made her more of an immigrant rights advocate.

Could that be a hint of the future?

For now, we have four more months to notice and appreciate Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye as she winds down the historic nature of her tenure.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See his work at www.amok.com

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Bay Area

Jamie Scardina Appointed Marin County Sheriff

Scardina was elected as Sheriff in the June primary election, running unopposed, and was to be sworn in when Doyle’s term ended Jan. 2, 2023. However, Doyle retired June 30 after more than 52 years of public safety service to Marin, and Scardina became acting Sheriff. The board’s action July 19 covers the time until Jan. 2.

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As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget.
As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget.

Courtesy of Marin County

Acting Marin County Sheriff Jamie Scardina had the “acting” taken off his title July 19 when the Marin County Board of Supervisors appointed him to the position, becoming the 22nd sheriff in county history. Scardina, a Marin native and 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, replaces the retired Robert Doyle. Scardina took the oath of office, administered by Doyle, at a public swearing-in ceremony on July 28.

Scardina was elected as Sheriff in the June primary election, running unopposed, and was to be sworn in when Doyle’s term ended Jan. 2, 2023. However, Doyle retired June 30 after more than 52 years of public safety service to Marin, and Scardina became acting Sheriff. The board’s action July 19 covers the time until Jan. 2.

Scardina grew up in Corte Madera and attended Marin Catholic High School and College of Marin. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology from the University of Montana. After starting his law enforcement career as a Tiburon police officer, Scardina joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2000 and gradually was assigned more responsibilities as he was promoted from deputy to sergeant to lieutenant to captain. Scardina replaced the retired Mike Ridgway as Undersheriff in 2018.

Scardina is only Marin’s third Sheriff since 1983. He thanked Doyle for giving him a “tremendous amount of autonomy” during the past four years as he served as Undersheriff. He pledged to listen to concerns and make decisions together with resident involvement.

“This is not an appointment I take lightly or for granted,” Scardina said at the July 19 Supervisors meeting. “I know it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. … This is something I’m looking forward to, working with staff and working with the community. I know there are a lot of people in the community who want to talk, and we’re looking forward to having those conversations.”

As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget. His annual salary will be $251,825.60 and benefits will be consistent with those received by other department heads.

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