D. Watkins, in a Salon article, recently wrote about those who are so poor that pop culture references are beyond their reach. Watkins knows because as a former drug dealer in East Baltimore…and now a poor college professor…he has seen what blighted America is…he lives in blighted America. In that America the rules are different…in that America…the idea of making ends meet is completely different than what most of consider surviving. In the article, Watkins discusses how some of his friends and fellow residents in East Baltimore didn’t know what a selfie was…and once informed…how the word selfie became their own inside joke. One of the parts that struck me was when describing one of his friends…Buckethead…who served 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Buckethead and witnesses to the crime knew he didn’t do it…but in places like East Baltimore there is a no snitch rule. Snitching is a no-no…telling the truth to the police is considered the ultimate crime. Justice in East Baltimore is different…just like the idea of a stupid picture is considered unimportant…reporting the truth to law enforcement is not an option.
I have witnessed this type of societal rule in-person. I served as a juror on T-Bone’s attempted murder trial. I have served on 3 juries. Twice I sat on military court-martials and served once, here in DC, on T-Bone’s trial. In the military it was simple. UMCJ (Uniform Military Code of Justice) is pretty succinct and efficient. As an Army officer and stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, I got selected to be on court-martial duty for 6 months. What this entailed was being on -call and if there was a court-martial needing a young Army captain…then me, and 6 other Army officers would sit in the box and pass judgement. Both cases were relatively easy cases…the Army rarely court-martials without a solid case…additionally, UCMJ offers so many plea deal options that charged service members usually opt for a guilty plea before having to go through the quick court-martial process. Again, the Army doesn’t prosecutes unless the indicted are guilty.
In the first court-martial, PFC Barracks Thief had an affinity for electronics. Seems there were a rash of stereos and computers that went missing in a barracks that a single unit lived in…the Army ensures that single enlisted men and women live together in close proximity…just like they do on the battlefield. When something goes missing, the list of potential criminals is pretty short. PFC Barracks Thief had no real defense other than he was actually a good guy. In the end PFC Barracks Thief was found guilty…with no problem on my conscience…and sent to Leavenworth…and after his time there he would be dishonorably discharged. Stealing from your fellow soldiers is a no-no. Certain societies, like the one in East Baltimore, have rules that you just don’t break.
The second court-martial was a little more interesting. Seems SGT Anger Management didn’t like people telling him what to do…which is odd considering his profession of choice…but not too odd cause you would be surprised how many people with authority issues join the military. SGT Anger Management really didn’t like being told what to do by a certain lieutenant, and one day…while out in Fort Hood’s scrub oak training area…he punched this lieutenant in the face. Again, the Army doesn’t prosecute unless it is succinct. Regardless of Lieutenant Dumb Asses inability to issue orders without sounding arrogant, SGT Anger Management was completely in the wrong for punching him. SGT Anger Management ended up being PFC Barracks Thief’s bunk mate at Leavenworth.
In both of these court-martials, my fellow officers and I met quickly and decided guilt quickly. Witnesses were aplenty, and the stories all matched the prosecution’s case. Both soldiers admitted guilt but played upon the mercy of the jury…both criminals were not so bright…and expecting leniency from Army officers proved the case against their intellect. Army officers are not known for their leniency.
My time on jury in DC was completely different. We were a jury of 14 (12 actual jurors and two alternates) and the majority were middle-aged women and predominately African-American. One young professional, an investment banker, and me rounded out the jury…we were soon to learn what justice meant in Dc. Here are the facts as presented by the prosecution*
– In December 2009 on a cold wintery night, T-Bone walked up to Dman outside of the plethora of apartment buildings in the housing project of DC east of the Anacostia River and asked him “is it true that you are calling me a bitch?” Dman, being a stand-up guy informed T-Bone, that yes, in-fact, he had called T-Bone a bitch…and then proceeded to call him one to his face.
– At this point, with his honor smudged, T-Bone pulled a Beretta 9mm pistol and shot Dman point blank in the chest. Through graphics and medical professional testimony, we the jury were informed how the 9mm round entered Dman’s left chest inches above the heart and how the bullet traveled at a high-rate of speed from its entry to its exit out of Dman’s left ass cheek. Seems gangbangers don’t really care what type of round they use…so a full metal-jacketed 9mm round stayed solid (the target…Dman…was really close to his shooter) all the way through Dman’s body.
– Dman, after being shot, but not killed…jerked at impact and then ran…yes RAN…after being shot.
– T-Bone, realizing he had not made the impact of his message…chased Dman…and repeatedly attempted to unjam his 9mm pistol…seems gangbangers don’t do much weapon maintenance…so after the first shot the pistol was rendered useless. There was, however, a trail of perfectly good bullets littered on the ground from the point of initial shooting to the final location of T-Bone’s and Dman’s confrontation.
– Dman ran to a neighbor’s apartment where a Dontel, a 10 year-old, was playing.
– Dman, now being a bitch himself, hid behind the boy as T-Bone approached.
– T-Bone said “call me a bitch now.”
– Dman didn’t respond and before T-Bone could restore his honor, the apartment door opened and Dman and Dontel…the innocent bystander and now human shield…were jerked inside by Dontel’s mother.
– T-Bone ran…like a bitch…when the sound of approaching police cars reached him.
– Dman, now lying in the apartment’s entry way (with blood flowing from his chest and left ass cheek) was unable to identify his attacker…seems the 9mm not only caused massive blood loss…and ass cheek tissue damage…but it also cause amnesia. Dontel on the other hand decided to forgo the no-snitching rule identified T-Bone as the shooter.
During the trial, T-Bone and Dman were both in jail for unrelated offenses…thus as they entered the court room everyday wearing handcuffs. Seems shooting one another was a temporary thing and they spent most of their time dealing drugs and stealing shit from their neighbors. Dontel, however, arrived everyday in his private school uniform…he looked as uncomfortable in the starched shirt as he did in having to testify to a bunch of strangers.
Dman continued to claim he didn’t know who shot him…since he didn’t want to be known for snitching and hiding behind 10 year-olds. T-Bone claimed he knew of Dman but didn’t know him. Seems shooting friends and fellow thieves was above him. Regardless of the testimony…Dman and T-Bone stood firm to the fact that it wasn’t T-Bone who shot Dman and that they really didn’t know each other. The no snitch rule was firm.
As you can imagine, the middle-aged African-American women on the jury (moms and grandmothers) did not like the fact that Dman and T-Bone had brought their beef up for public scrutiny and had brought a child into the sights of a 9mm pistol. I had initially worried that there would be some consternation on finding T-Bone guilty…that I would be forced to say something in the argument in finding him guilty. As a person who attempts to deal in facts and data professionally, I thought I would have an uphill climb in fighting for a guilty verdict.
I never said a word in the jury room…7 African-American women discussed and determined T-Bone’s guilt without any of the rest of the other jurors’ assistance. Justice was served by them…it was their duty to pass verdict…the rest of us were there as window dressing. Places like East Baltimore do have their own rules…and they have their own justice…and I for one was not going argue against it. Justice was served but I walked away knowing that I had nothing to do with it.
*One of the lawyers was a young Asian female who had an ability to wear extremely tight skirts…so tight that her garter belts were outlined…guess she was playing to a few of us men in the jury.