Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Taking chances with contempt to avoid perjury?

Our power went out this past week, and the absence of white noise emanating from my CPAP machine caused me to jettison an otherwise long, comfortable slumber in time for the Christmas holiday. Draping myself in a bathrobe and my wife's fuzzy pink slippers (I'm not particular about attire until after I've had my breakfast and morning scotch), I lumbered down the stairs to face my estranged family.

I peered out the kitchen window, temporarily blinded by the brilliance of fresh snowfall in the morning sun, and grabbed a pair of my wife's Sam "Ace" Rothstein sunglasses to hide my eyes from the nightmare I could have eluded by staying asleep.

Again, little has changed since we last spoke, Patriots, and I take little comfort in having been correct with my predictions more than a month ago.

Of course, I'm referring to the Mark Anthony Barmore fiasco.

As you read here first in November, powder burns on Barmore's hand was crucial evidence to exonerate officers North and Poole in the grand jury's eyes.

So, what about the statement to police from a 17-year-old girl (Marissa, Pastor "Apostle" Melvin Brown's daughter) that Barmore surrendered peacefully with his hands up and head down? As it turns out, according to the testimony of at least one other witness, Marissa probably couldn't see what actually transpired in the seconds before shots rang out.

I suppose it's possible he may have head his hands up at one point, but the officers say Barmore went for Poole's gun. During that struggle, State's Attorney Joe Bruscato said, Poole's gun discharged, accounting for the powder burns and the bullet superficially striking Barmore's neck.

When Jesse Jackson led marches here in Rockford recently (how far he's fallen since marching with King in Memphis), Barmore's family felt it was appropriate (probably at Jesse's urging) to picture their fallen kin's dead body on picket signs. Their point was that he'd been shot in the back, which he was. But that's not to say the officers were not justified.

Now, believe me, I have no love of the police apparatus in general, because I've been the target of many fascist tactics by law enforcement in my life. But I'll say again that I think the black community has chosen the wrong battle in this instance, and so has Rev. Jackson in trusting the word of the Browns.

That brings me now to Pastor Brown, who has consistently called officers North and Poole murderers. Really, Melvin? Why don't you tell us what you did prison time for before conveniently finding the Lord in time to be paroled?

Has the African-American community at large been historically fucked over in American society? Absolutely. But that doesn't make it right to vilify two men who, by most accounts, acted appropriately under the circumstances. That will not make things right, and nothing otherwise is "owed" to anyone. That's an unjust victory you're not gonna be proud of when you stand before Jesus, Allah, Odin, or whomever one prays to.

Yes, North and Poole have pulled their triggers before in the line of duty (which I guarantee will be the cornerstone of the civil suit against them), but even if they have itchy trigger fingers, you're gonna have a hard time convincing me that the officers marched into a day care center full of witnesses with the intention of shooting Barmore to death. If they were going to kill a man in cold blood, they wouldn't have done it in front of witnesses, I guaran-damn-tee.

Would things have gone down the same way if the incident had unfolded somewhere on the "white" east side? I think so.

Yes, it's true that cops often cover for other cops, but my gut tells me that's not the case here. Could it have been handled in a way that no one would have died? Perhaps. The civil case will be the major news story throughout 2010, so if you're sick of hearing about it, move. Or, if you're like me, nod off and wake occasionally to see if the landscape has changed. However, it seldom does around here.

As I wrote in November, Pastor Brown is sure to see dollar signs and keep the controversy alive. Religion is a very lucrative business. If you don't believe that, just look at the clothes, cars, jewelry, etc. he and his family are "blessed" with in doing the Lord's work. They seem to be doing awfully well as humble servants of low-income parishioners.

However, there remains one question the Browns are hoping no one will ask: Who allowed Barmore into the day care, thus endangering the children entrusted to the House of Grace? Again I ask, where is the class action suit against the day care from the parents of these children put in harm's way?

Perhaps it is one thing if Barmore sought sanctuary in the church itself, but it's quite another to barricade oneself in the midst of children. Then, factor in that North and Poole were advised he may have been armed, and you've got a real situation on your hands-one that needed to be diffused decisively under the circumstances.

As the lone voices alleging wrongdoing on the part of North and Poole, it is very telling that the apostle's wife and daughter, Sheila and Marissa, decided not to show up to provide testimony under oath to the grand jury last week. They have legal representation, so they knew what they were getting into by keeping their holiday vacation plans instead.

It is obvious they were advised it's better to face contempt-of-court than to lie under oath and face perjury charges. They'll use whatever penalties they face to their own advantage. Then, they'll be on the offensive in the civil case, without having to be called liars by the grand jury. They might even win some money, but I'm sure it'll be used for the Lord's work to bring healing to the divided Rockford community.

I'm going back to bed, but stay tuned.