- CUAPB Special Report: Philander Jenkins Court Watch Day 1
PHILANDER JENKINS COURT WATCH, DAY 1
Yesterday was the first day of trial in the case of Philander Jenkins for charges stemming from an arrest in May 2003 in which he was beaten and his jaw broken by Minneapolis police.
From the moment we walked into the courtroom, it was clear that the machinery of the criminal justice system has been tuned up to railroad Philander. About 20 people were in the courtroom to watch the proceedings and even veteran court watchers were shocked at the blatant bias against Philander and his lawyer by Judge Regina M. Chu and Hennepin County prosecutor Anita Jehl.
The day started with Philander's attorney, Jill Clark, entering a number of motions. The main motion was for a change of venue based on actions by the Hennepin County sheriff's deputies last week (they attacked Philander's previous attorney and supporters in the courtroom) and based on Philander's ongoing case against the Sheriff's department related to him being beaten and sexually assaulted in the jail in October. A change of venue would have allowed Philander's trial to be conducted in another county and would have allowed him to be moved to another jail for his safety.
Despite the politically supercharged nature of this case, Judge Chu summarily denied the motion and implied that the witnesses to last week's attack (when Judge Chu was not even in the courtroom) were liars. This ruling was not altogether surprising considering the cozy relationship between judges and deputies. Deputies work as security in the courts and judges see them as their protectors. Don't forget that there was a shooting a few months ago in one of the courtrooms. Judge Chu did what every good little judge in Hennepin County is expected to do--she backed up the deputies. She went further by summarily denying all other defense motions.
Jury selection started and revealed even more interesting information on the machinery of injustice. For starts, of the initial pool of 30 jurors, only one is Black. The rest are white and primarily suburbanites.
Minneapolis has about 800 active duty police officers in the street and there are probably another 100 or so sheriff's deputies. Yet, somehow, at least 1/3 of this jury pool of 30 people, brought in from all parts of Hennepin County, are related to cops or deputies. Now how is that possible in a metropolitan area of this size?
While Philander's attorney, Jill Clark, questioned potential jurors, Judge Chu repeatedly stopped her from asking them about race and bias. However, one juror wasn't going along for the ride. He went into a long dissertation about racial injustice in the courtroom and Judge Chu was helpless to stop him. He was stricken from jury by the prosecutor.
One man stated no less than three times that if a cop was on the stand, he would have to believe the cop, no matter what. When Ms. Clark objected to the juror based on bias, Judge Chu overruled her and that clearly biased man was added to the jury.
Throughout the day, Judge Chu kept asking the attorneys how long the trial would take. It was as if she is impatient and that the trial is just a formality for what they already plan to do. How dare a young Black man impede the "efficiency" of the system by demanding his rights and not going along with the railroad! Doesn't he know his 'place'?
Once again, the prosecutor tried to pressure Philander to take a deal. Even though Philander was only in the house a few minutes before it was raided, he has been charged with possession of a gun and cocaine the police claim they found in the house. The prosecution is so sure about their case BUT they'll 'generously' drop the gun charges if Philander will take the fall on felony drug charges and go to prison for a year. Don't forget that Minneapolis cops broke Philander's jaw and that the jail held him for 10 days without giving him medical care. Prosecutors and judges know full well that if Philander goes down on criminal charges, any case he has against the cops and the county goes up in smoke. This is the real reason for the railroad. These people will destroy a young man's life just to cover the arses of the cops and deputies.
Jury selection continues at 9:00 this morning and this trial is expected to continue throughout the week (though no court on Thursday, due to New Years holiday). IF YOU CAN SPARE A FEW MINUTES PLEASE COME TO OBSERVE--Hennepin County Government Center, courtroom 753.
Please also feel free to contact Judge Regina M. Chu in her chambers at 612-347-7782 to let her know how you feel about her role in this travesty. Regarding prosecutor Anita Jehl, you can call her boss, Amy Klobuchar, at 612-348-5550.
We'll have another report later about today's proceedings.
Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)