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Monday, September 29, 2014

Voices from the Row: Justice Served?


 Henry Lee McCollum is a free man now.  Being forced to spend 1 year on death row would be a haunting experience for anyone knowing their conviction was tainted by racism, prosecutorial misconduct, and a judge’s abuse of discretion.  

How does a mentally disabled man, in his 50’s shake the injustice of serving 30 years on N.C.’s death row, and move forward with his life as if justice has been served?

Henry’s circumstance is proof that the N.C. justice system is broken, and de facto moratoriums or commuted sentences becoming life without parole, are the results of the metaphorical judiciary broom –sweeping the shards of injustice beneath the hem of the black robes overseeing these lopsided court proceedings – advocating state sanctioned murder.

Published author, Lyle C. May has taken the initiative to speak out against this particular brand of injustice.  The following words were sent to the Raleigh News & Observer’s editorial section, known as the “People’s Forum” just in case his truth don’t make the black and white of the local newspaper, the masses will remain privy to our (the condemned) side of what is being labeled as Justice Served.


Still Living,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

---------------------------------------------- 

People’s Forum
News& Observer
P.O. Box 191
Raleigh, NC 27602

September 4, 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

This letter exceeds the word limit for the People’s Forum.  Considering the nature of, and perspective on the subject, it is my hope you will waive the limit this time.

On September 2, 2014, after spending 30 year on death row, a travesty of justice was averted when Henry Lee McCollum was acquitted of the 1983 rape and murder of Sabrina Buie.  Henry’s brother, Leon Brown, was also acquitted of the rape and released.  Had it not been for Brown’s 2009 application to the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission, Henry McCollum would still be on death row.

In fact, had it not been for the connection between the two brothers in the Buie case, the commission would not have reviewed Henry’s part.  For some inane reason, the commission cannot investigate death penalty cases until a prisoner’s appeals have been exhausted and the defendant files a claim.  

The problem with this is, when a death row prisoner exhausts his or her appeals, they are executed.  How incredibly fortunate for Henry there has been a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina since 2007.

This one was too close.  As it stands, Henry and Leon had their youth stolen from them by overzealous, blind SBI agents, impressionable jurors, ineffective attorneys and a prosecutor who brags about his oratory power to persuade people rather than relying upon the facts or evidence in a case.  How many more cases on death row are just like Henry McCollum’s?  This is not an aberration; his is the eighth acquittal on N.C.’s death row.

The difference between the previous seven acquittals and Henry is that an objective commission had a hand in clearing Henry and Leon of any wrongdoing.  The first seven had to rely on their appellate attorneys and the minimal resources available to them.  

One wonders why Henry’s attorneys after three decades, were incapable of freeing him; or why, with a little bit of digging, exculpatory DNA evidence was so easily found by the commission.  These questions may seem complex, but they underline a common problem with many appellate attorneys who represent death row prisoners: the bare minimum is the status quo.

In Henry’s case the bare minimum in 1991 put him back on death row after a new trial.  His attorney of the moment, tried to coerce Henry to confess to a crime he did not commit.  This is inexcusable.  With so many people against indigent, intellectually challenged defendants like Henry McCollum, it’s a miracle this man made it home alive.  All glory to God indeed, Henry.

Christine Mumma, Executive Director or the NC Center for Actual Innocence, mentioned some lessons learned from the exoneration of Henry McCollum.  What the public needs to be aware of is that the horrible circumstances of injustice in the Buie case are a culture in North Carolina death penalty cases, not some isolated event.  

Maybe, if the Innocence Commission were to work in conjunction with appellate attorneys to defend their clients, 31-year prison terms by innocent men can be avoided.  At the very least the commission can demonstrate what it means to be true representatives of justice.

Sincerely,


Lyle C. May
Copyright © 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MANNKIND: 6 reasons to love my Lil’ Mann


Hotep,

Any legacy worth acknowledging should possess intrigue-worthy events, which offer lessons within their message.  This is my reason behind writing the memoir, “Mannkind: A conversation with Deuce.” 

The content of this particular work is a history lesson of my miseducation, deception and philandering.  All from the perspective of a G-dad having a conversation with his only grandson.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I feel it is important for me to share some of the potholes within the path of our legacy, The Mann legacy.

All too often our elders mislead us with the best part of the story, or the inevitable happy ending.  My beginnings do not parallel a story of a young prince inheriting a vast land with the world at his feet.  

My present is not the all-American tale of the big house, white picket fence, and all of my days filled with more happiness than I know how to express.  The life of this Mann does not possess the elements of a fairytale.  However, you are the beginning of my happy ending, Deuce.

The furtherance of my ancestry comes in the form of a 6 year old, beautiful, Cali-bred little boy.  Daveante Elwood Mann, Jr. is my first grandseed.  It is no coincidence these words came together on the second anniversary of his baby sister’s nativity (7/24/2014).  I love my bloodline.  It is rich with creativity and the surefire spirit of go-getters.  Word is bond!

Some parents/grandparents may wait far too long to tell their offspring why they adore their very existence.  Others may never get the chance to do so.  Here and now, I can proudly say: I don’t qualify as either.  Son of my son; in celebration of your 6th year, here are 6 reasons why I love the mere thought of you:

 1. Your dad is the flesh of my flesh, and I love him dearly.  I’m so proud of the father, husband and Mann he has become.  He is a part of me that brought you into existence, which brings a very high value of meaning into my own.

2. At my loneliest moments, I can lean on the reality of caring for someone that promotes my being by waking up and just being a Mann.

3. People come…and people go…but our union resonates a loyalty worth the separation we currently endure.  When the long-awaited day comes for the two of us to immerse ourselves in a familial embrace, these words will be prophetic.

4. The final three months of 2008 was an upbeat experience that started with your birth.  September 24th preceded the historical change of command, most people my age or older, in this country, did not think they would live to see. I believe in being born with a purpose.  I do not believe in coincidence.  Feel me?

5. The charisma of a Lil’ Mann.  Nothing short of hereditary. Ya heard?

6. You are the seed of a Mann.  My blood.  My heart. My future.

These words may be beyond your understanding, for now.  Nonetheless, you will always know that your G-dad may have been forced to love you from afar, but the distance made me love you no less.  You are the embodiment of everything good about being a Mann.  Happy Birthday, Son of my Son!!

Much Love,

G-dad
Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Monday, September 15, 2014

Judicial Pantomime Separates Society from The Real


Upon entering your stage,
You gauge an impressionable audience awaiting a reason to become enraged.

Your performance must be legendary and ever so swift to reality
Your steps into the gallery are that of someone seeking justice without taint.

He pantomimes! He pantomimes!

Hand gestures, shoulder shrugs, the movements of one who cares
Selected to seek justice under the guise of impartiality,
Your misconduct is a traditional formality protected by judicial snares
Your hidden transgressions escapes your facial expressions,

While you hold the ear of the black gown and the almighty gavel.
You look into the faces of strangers,
Intimidating them with the threat of immoral dangers.

He pantomimes! He pantomimes!

You must convict on all counts!
I hear every word you say
You can’t allow him to go free,
He’ll just live to kill another day!

Looking into the eyes of your trusting audience,
Persuading them to support your warped brand of justice,
You desire this:

A curtain call at the conclusion of your performance
Your morals are dormant.
A defendant subjugated by your emptiness.
Your fee is the conviction of anyone like me

Guilty! Because you fit a specific stereotypical label.
Guilty! Just because you’re sitting at that defense table
Guilty! For entering our world thinking you could uphold your standard of principles

We sentence you to die,
Whether it is the truth or a lie.
 You then look into my eyes to reveal what you wish for no other to see,

The expression of your satiability to orchestrate death
Now comes the curtain call.
Take a bow for injustice

He pantomimes! He pantomimes!

Always 100,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Stone to Build Upon


Hotep,

Journalism has no definitive format for how a story should be told.  At least, not the brand of journalism I know to be the most credible.  

A journalist should tell a story the way the information at hand impacts his/her life.  In today’s mainstream media, the journalists I feel a gravitational pull toward are: Soledad O’Brien, Barbara Laker, Helen Ubinas, Barry Saunders, and Wendy Ruderman. 

These particular writers breathe a story to the tune of their own heartbeats.  Acceptance is not a priority.  Their brands of journalism allow the readers to hear what they mean, formula that can breed positive change in any community.  Na mean?

Charles Sumner Stone, Jr. was at the top of the journalistic food chain when it came to the unorthodox style of reporting a story.  Better known as Chuck Stone, his pedigree includes the experience of being a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, special assistant to U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, cofounder and first president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Walter Spearman professor at the University of North Carolina.  He was also a columnist and senior editor at the Philadelphia Daily News from 1971 – 1991.

Seventy-three men and two women – all fugitives from justice – chose to surrender themselves to Chuck Stone in the Daily News newsroom.  All of them said they were afraid of being beaten by the cops and all were black.  

On October 2, 1983, two armed men held up the Girard Bank at Bala and City Avenues.  With a hostage in their grasp, and cops and FBI agents at the front door, the robbers’ one request was to get Chuck Stone. 

With him on the scene a potentially fatal outcome transcended into a peaceful resolution.  These lawbreakers didn’t think all their problems would vanish with the swipe of an ink pen, but they were well aware that a respected journalist capable of objectivity would detain authorities from responding in an overly aggressive manner, when the assailants clearly intended to surrender without confrontation.  All too often bullets become the final resolution.

In November of 1981, Chuck was called into Graterford State Prison when a convicted multiple – killer led four other inmates in a failed escape attempt that resulted in the inmates being trapped in the prison kitchen, while holding six hostages.  The legendary journalist again was requested; met with the prisoners; and received a list of their demands for better prison conditions.  

After two days of negotiating, the hostages were released without harm.  Which came as a shock when it was discovered the inmates were well armed with a double-barrel sawed-off shotgun, a single barrel shotgun, a .38 caliber pistol, and a .22 caliber pistol. 

The stories that Mr. Stone wrote pertaining to these noteworthy experiences exemplified his commitment to the people he viewed as victims of corruption and incompetence.  I wholeheartedly agree with Daily News columnist Elmer Smith, “He was a cause crusader because that’s what his people needed.”

Chuck Stone’s brand of journalism reinforces my passion to cultivate my own distinctive voice, and to be the “cause crusader” for my peoples living in the shadows of reproof.   A great monument can’t stand tall without a dependable stone, as it’s foundation.  Rest in peace Mr. Chuck Stone, 1924 – 2014.

Always 100,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann