1/2/2004 Newsletter


  • CUAPB Special Report: Philander Jenkins Court Watch, Day 3

Wednesday, December 31st was the third (and final) day of the Philander Jenkins trial. We conclude our daily coverage of this trial with this report:

Day 3 of the Philander Jenkins trial started, as promised, with a great deal of excitement. Once again, a number of court watchers were in place for a ring-side view of the action.

While preparing for trial, Ms. Clark had attempted repeatedly to get access to the evidence, reports of testing on the evidence, etc. Remember that according to the prosecution, this case was about "guns and drugs" so there needed to be ballistic tests and fingerprint tests of the gun and the substance the cops claimed was drugs needed to be tested to determine what it is. Funny thing, though, the prosecution kept not quite turning over the evidence and tests to the defense. Every time Ms. Clark would go to the county attorney's office to get this info, "my assistant is on break" or "the person who has those results isn't here," etc. Finally, on Wednesday morning, Ms. Clark went to the County Prosecutor's office to inspect the gun and was told that it had just been sent off the day before for "testing."

Just to cover herself, Ms. Clark sent some of us court watchers out with subpoenas to the county lab, the jail (who had told Ms. Clark the day before that they have a policy of not releasing public data to defense attorneys), and the police evidence room, in one last attempt to get reports and evidence. Meanwhile, she filed a written motion with the courts demanding that the case be dismissed and outlining the prosecution's withholding of exculpatory evidence (evidence that could prove Philander not guilty). She did this because Judge Chu has a habit of doing everything in chambers, thus keeping things out of the official court record. By submitting her motion in writing, it became part of the court record.

During the discussion of the motion to dismiss, it came out that the gun in question had NO fingerprints on it and that the numbers were filed off the gun. In other words, there was nothing to tie the gun to Philander and this is a sure sign that the gun was a "throw down"--a gun planted by cops. This, after the prosecutor LIED during Philander's bail hearing by saying his fingerprints were all over it.

Next, it turned out that there were eight other cops on the scene who were never identified in any report. This information was (conveniently) never shared by the prosecution.

Finally, it turns out that the cops didn't have a warrant for the raid on the house. So the prosecutor started referring to the raid as a "knock and talk" but that doesn't explain 10 cops at the same address, swarming and searching the house and beating the hell out of the two men who were visiting.

It became clear that the prosecution's case was imploding rapidly. Prosecutor Anita Jehl then asked for a delay, telling the judge "I'm not prepared to defend against the defense." She began to distance herself from the case and implied that the cops had lied to her. Judge Chu told Ms. Clark, "there has to be a practical solution for this" to which Ms. Clark replied, "there is--drop the charges." Judge Chu sent the jury, who had been waiting in the hall all morning, away until 1:30 while Ms. Jehl ran off to figure out what to do.

When the afternoon session came around, the prosecution and defense were called into chambers, where the prosecution offered an extremely generous deal.

Ms. Clark met at length with Philander and his mother and Philander decided to accept the deal. This was in part because the jury was all white and pro-cop, since the prosecution had used its strikes to remove the only Black juror and the other two jurors who were less sympathetic to the cops. There were so many pro-cop jurors that Ms. Clark wouldn't have had enough strikes to remove them all. Even though it was clear that the cops had planted the gun and drugs and then charged Philander with them to cover their own brutality, it wasn't certain that the jury would be able to accept that cops do these things. If they found Philander guilty, he faced five years in prison. The deal was for Philander to take a guilty plea on a very minor drug charge, with the sentence being one year (and he's already served most of that) and the gun charges dropped completely.

Some of us court watchers were upset that Philander took a deal. It hurts your heart to watch someone plead guilty to something you KNOW they didn't do, especially when you know the deal was only offered to cover the hind quarters of the cops and prosecutor. We would have loved to see the real truth come out in court.

The bottom line, though, is that Philander is the one whose future was on the line and the decision about taking a deal vs. risking a trial in front of an all-white, pro-cop jury was his to make. He has expressed his satisfaction with the deal and feels he got at least some measure of justice, considering what happens to most young Black men at the hands of this so-called justice system. We have to respect his assessment of the situation and know that we helped to play an important role in getting him whatever measure of justice he got.

Philander will be going to court again on additional charges put on him after he revealed that he had been beaten and sexually assaulted in the jail. The court date is not known at this time but we will let you know when it has been scheduled.

Thanks to all who have acted as court watchers in this case. It is clear that our presence is important and noticed. Early on in the case, Judge Chu told Ms. Clark, "tell your people to take off those buttons." (We were all wearing our No Police Brutality buttons). Ms. Clark replied, "they are not 'my people,' they are court watchers. And the First Amendment allows them to wear those buttons. But if they have to take them off, then the cops should have to take off their badges." Can't argue with that logic.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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