When Shepherds Kill
Closing arguments were short and sweet. Judge Higginbottom gave the jury their instructions and sent them off to deliberate.
I decided to stand around in the corridor outside the courtroom, talking to some black lives matter members, there to protest the court proceedings. About a half hour into the deliberations I saw the prosecutor and defense attorneys rushing back into the court room.
“Hey Mike, what’s happening?” I asked.
He turned to me and said, “the jury is back”.
I followed him in and took my seats at the defense table where Evan was already seated.
One by one the jury members filed back into the jury box and took their seats.
“Will the jury foreman please rise.” Said Judge Higginbottom.
A short, white haired older man with a stocky build and a ball spot on the top of his head rose.
“Mr. foreman has the jury reached a verdict?”
“Yes your honor.”
“Please hand the verdict to the bailiff. Who took the piece of paper to the judge, who read it, then handed back to the bailiff, who gave it back to the jury foreman.
“Will the defendant rise and face the jury,” said judge Higginbottom
“Mr. foreman what is your verdict?”
“We the jury find the defendant . . . guilty as charged.”
People in the court room jumped up and started shouting, “no justice no peace.”
Someone yelled out, “this is wrong-how could you do it?”
Evan collapsed back into his seat.
The members of the jury just sat in their seats looking down at the floor, while the jury foreman stared out at the crowd and started shouting “he is guilty, he is guilty, it is time you punks get what you deserve.”
Judge Higginbottom pounded his gavel down, harder and harder with each blow in an effort to get control. But no one was listening, it was clear the spectators had lost respect for him and the judicial system he stood for.
A group of people burst into the court room and picked up the chant, yelling to the top of their voices. Word of the verdict reached the crowd outside and they chanted “no justice, no peace”.
Several Sheriff deputies came over to our table and led Evan out of a side door, a female deputy worked to get the jurors out and another sheriff deputy came over to the judge trying to persuade him to leave. He refused to go. It was clear from his facial expression that he was angry and did not wish to abandon his ship. At last he gave up and was escorted from the court room.
The crowd shouted, “no, no let him go. No, no, let him go.”
This scenario was the perfect storm. I could hear police sirens wailing outside. I went over to a window and could see the massive crowd gathered below and the Chicago Police Department struggling to hold them back.
About ten heavily armed sheriff deputies pushed their way into the courtroom from the door that led to the judges chamber. Then waded into the crowd of spectators.
The heavy wood doors to the court room were now locked. The protestors had brought heavy chains, which they wrapped through the door handles and secured it with a pad lock.
Without a way to get out the crowd turned on the sheriff deputies, beating them with their fist and clubbing them with home made weapons. The deputies were retreated back behind the door from which they came. Back to the judge's chamber and the hall the led to the holding cells. Several leaders of the demonstration followed them and secured the exit door, preventing the deputies from mounting another attack.
The Cook County judicial system had always given people the appearance of fairness, but we all knew, yes even those of us inside the system, that it is corrupt and anti black. In the past I had said nothing. . .done nothing.
It didn’t matter how many African Americans, women or Latinos became judges, they quickly conformed to a legal system that found pleasure and justification in locking up as many black men as it could.
After members of the crowd started yelling, I rushed over to Evan’s mother and brought her to a place of safety near the defense table.
A young man dressed like your average street thug, ran from his seat brandishing a gun which he must have taken off a sheriff deputy. One of the demonstration leaders called for him to drop the gun, but the young man wasn’t having it. He stood there, pointing the gun at the men urging him to drop the gun. It was then he and I saw a sheriff deputy who had fallen and not escaped the crowd. The young man pointed his weapon at the deputy.
“Don’t get up you motherfucker! I'm going to kill your ass. People like you always fucking with people like me. I’m tired of it!”
I could see the hatred and desperation in his eyes. At that moment all I could think about was Langston Hughes’ poem A Raisin In The Sun. The young man was the epitome of a person whose dreams have been deferred and now he was ready to explode.
I couldn’t let the young man kill the deputy, so I rushed him just as he was looking from the deputy to the crowed. I caught him off guard. Grabbing his arm holding the gun, raising it above his head. He quickly got his composure back and sought to regain control of his arm. We struggled, I elbowed him to the stomach. He took the punch and tried to force the release of my grip on his arm, but I wouldn’t let go. We fell to the floor fighting all the while for the gun, then there was what sounded like an explosion and the lights went out.