Call Today for a FREE Consultation

262-923-8761

24 HOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT

Then & now: How racism still affects our criminal justice system

| Nov 21, 2013 | Criminal Defense

If you happen to be a history buff (or pay attention to the news), you probably know that this week marks two historic anniversaries. Tuesday was the 150th anniversary of the day that President Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address to dedicate a new military cemetery during the Civil War.

And tomorrow will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Both of these presidents were assassinated, and both are remembered for their important contributions to the causes of freedom and equal rights for African Americans. Unfortunately, half a century after the death of President Kennedy, African Americans still face inequality and injustice in several aspects of American society, including the criminal justice system.

National crime statistics reveal that in Wisconsin and across the country, African Americans are much more likely than whites to be arrested and prosecuted for drug offenses and other crimes. This is despite the fact that rates of drug use are similar among the two groups.

There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the criminal justice system treats all Americans equally, regardless of color. That being said, some historically racist parts of the country are making attempts to correct the racial injustices of the past.

This week, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles granted posthumous pardons to three men who were among nine black teenagers wrongfully convicted of rape in 1931. The nine defendants, known collectively as the “Scottsboro Boys,” had been accused of gang-raping two white women.

The Scottsboro Boys were hastily convicted by an all-white jury, and all served time in prison. The case would eventually lead to two important rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, and many believe it also helped start the modern civil rights movement.

In 1937, five of the Scottsboro Boys had their convictions overturned along with having the charges against them dismissed. It wasn’t until 1976 that a sixth member of the group was pardoned by the Governor of Alabama. This week, the final three Scottsboro Boys were pardoned.

Although the men are now deceased and the gesture is therefore symbolic, it nonetheless sends an important message. It has been said that those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it. By recognizing the racism and prejudice in America’s past, we can hopefully work to erase the racial biases that still linger in our criminal justice system.

Source: New York Times, “Alabama Grants Pardons in 1931 Scottsboro Boys Rape Case,” Nov. 21, 2013

Archives

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)