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sabato 18 febbraio 2012

Martiri europei: Erik Tornblom

Martiri europei: Erik Tornblom

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Nota preliminare: con l'espressione "martiri europei" intendiamo sia europei propriamente detti, sia appartenenti alla varie comunità discendenti da europei, sparse per il mondo.

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Abbiamo accennato alla morte del diciassettenne statunitense Erik Tornblom nel precedente intervento [11 febbraio 2012]. Ora entriamo nei dettagli. Il ragazzo, dopo avere dato un passaggio in auto agli afro-americani Marcus Reymond Robinson e Roderick Sylvester Williams Jr, viene da questi costretto ad allontanarsi verso una zona isolata e, qui, assassinato con un colpo di pistola alla testa. Secondo quanto emerso durante il dibattimento, i due neri uscirono di casa con la precisa intenzione di rapinare e uccidere un bianco. Uno qualunque.

Ora, lo sviluppo della vicenda. Robinson è stato nel frattempo condannato alla pena di morte, non ancora eseguita, e Williams alla prigione a vita. A questo punto, entra in gioco una nuova legge dello stato della Carolina del Nord, in cui il tutto è avvenuto. Tale legge, il Racial Justice Act, permette, ai difensori di un imputato, di sfruttare le statistiche relative alle condanne a morte e alla identità etnica e razziale sia dei condannati, sia delle vittime, per valutare se la condanna a morte non sia frutto di un qualche pregiudizio razziale "statale".

Ossia, partendo da quante condanne a morte vengono comminate agli appartenenti di questa o quella comunità razziale, incrociate con quante condanne a morte vengono comminate in casi in cui le vittime sono appartenenti a questa o quella comunità razziale, e considerando anche la modalità di composizione razziale delle varie giurie, i difensori di un imputato possono "impugnare" tali statistiche per rimettere in discussione la condanna e, perlomeno, farla sostituire con una normale pena detentiva, anche se a vita.

I difensori di Robinson è quello che, appunto, stanno cercando di fare e, nei prossimi giorni, dovrebbe arrivare una decisione relativamente alle loro richieste. Con quali possibilità?

Il Racial Justice Act viene utilizzato per contestare la composizione delle giurie, laddove gli imputati siano afro-americani, in quanto i giudici tenderebbero ad allontanare i giurati di pelle nera, prediligendo i bianchi. Per la condanna a morte di Robinson, i giurati neri erano il 18% del totale, quasi in linea con la popolazione del North Carolina, dove i neri sono il 21%. Ma secondo i sostenitori del RJA, sembra che le proporzioni razziali non bastino, dato che per giungere alla composizione della giuria, nel caso Robinson, nel conteggio finale tra quanti giurati sono stati accettati e quanti allontanati, i neri sono stati rifiutati oltre tre volte più dei bianchi. Ciò, evidenzierebbe, a loro dire, un qualche pregiudizio razziale, a danno dell'imputato.

Nelle ultime settimane, differenti analisi hanno considerato la questione posta dall'utilizzo del Racial Justice Act e delle relative statistiche. Secondo il pubblico ministero Jonathan Perry, ad esempio, le statistiche del RJA riguarderebbero solo una piccola parte di tutte le cause finite con condanna a morte, impedendo, in tal modo, la presa in considerazione di ragioni differenti, rispetto a quelle razziali, per la formazione delle giurie. Dello stesso avviso, Christopher Cronin, del dipartimento di scienze politiche della Methodist University, secondo cui le giurie venivano formate, non su basi razziali, quanto ideologiche, dato che molti dei giurati allontanati lo erano in quanto avversi alla pena di morte e, in funzione di questo, considerati meno affidabili da giudici di opposta idea giurisprudenziale. Oltre a questi fattori, altri elementi discriminanti erano, ad esempio, la fedina penale del giurato. Tutti elementi non presi in considerazione dal Racial Justice Act.

Non sappiamo come andrà a finire la vicenda, ma ci sembra che l'idea del Racial Justice Act tenda a schiacciare il caso in questione e, forse ogni altro, sotto il peso di altri casi più o meno simili, tutti valutati ideologicamente. Ideologicamente, in quanto sembra assumere più importanza l'ambito della corte che l'accadimento in sè, e la sequenza di mille altri giudizi che non la singola vicenda. Ossia, il fatto perde importanza e tende ad assumere valore l'idea di società che uno possiede, indipendentemente dalla realtà concreta. Forse è anche per questo che sembra perdere importanza il perché dell'omicidio di Erik Tornblom. E forse è per questo che di Erik Tornblom su internet si trovi solo una foto (tra l'altro rintracciabile su un sito identitario come A Million Points of Light, Darkened), mentre dell'assassino numerose di più. Direte, ma è così spesso! E' vero, lo è! Nella società dello spettacolo, l'omicidio e la vicenda personale dell'omicida assumono valore d'intrattenimento, sia che si tratti di violenza grafica dei film, sia che si tratti di informazione giornalistica. Ma proprio per questo, proprio perché la società occidentale preferisce raccontare maggiormente il persecutore rispetto alla vittima, il Racial Justice Act sfuma nell'oscenità...

  • Death penalty case puts racism on trial in North Carolina (Kate Dailey, BBC, 8 febbraio 2012):
In North Carolina, the Racial Justice Act seeks to remedy years of inequity on death row. But can racism be regulated?
In 1991, 18-year-old Marcus Reymond Robinson and a friend convinced Erik Tornblom, 17, to give them a ride home from a gas station.
Robinson and his friend then pulled a gun on Tornblom, forced him to drive to a field, took his car and his money and shot him in the head.
A jury later convicted Robinson, who is black, of pulling the trigger on Tornblom, who was white. The prosecution presented evidence that Robinson said he wanted to kill a "whitey" ( http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2012/01/30/1153982?sac=Home ).
He was sentenced to death and scheduled to be executed in 2007. But like many death row convicts, he has survived past that date, and continues to appeal his sentence ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/us/death-row-inmates-wait-years-before-execution.html ).
Last week, he appeared in a North Carolina courtroom as the first death row inmate to present evidence under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act (RJA), a controversial law designed to compensate for bias in the judicial system.
He and his legal team are hoping the new law will offer him relief in the form of life in prison without parole.
In the process, they're putting racism itself on trial.
'Wild disparities'
Critics of the death penalty have long argued that it is applied in an uneven and unjust fashion.
"Currently, only about 1% of the people who are accused of intentional murder are receiving the death penalty. There are wild disparities," says Malcolm Hunter, one of Robinson's lawyers and executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.
"I could show you the summaries of 50 cases any year in North Carolina and say 'I want to pick out the two or three that get the death penalty', and you'd never be able to do it."
A series of studies over the past 30 years show that race is often a significant factor in who gets the death penalty: that black convicts are more likely to receive the death penalty than white ones, that white victims are more likely to result in a death sentence than black ones ( http://www.jstor.org/pss/1143133 ) + ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/us/death-row-inmates-wait-years-before-execution.html ).
For Shirley Burns, the mother of Robinson, the idea of sentencing bias isn't just an academic exercise. Her other son, Curtis, was killed in 2006.
His killer wasn't eligible for the death penalty but could have served life in prison. Thanks to a plea bargain, he is currently serving a 22-year sentence.
"Punishment for a crime is not wrong, but the way that it is dealt to different people is wrong," says Ms Burns.
Though it is currently unconstitutional to seek the death penalty for racially biased reasons, defendants must prove intentional bigotry to make their case.
That's a difficult order, says Frank Baumgartner, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina.
"You would have to get someone to say I did this on purpose, and I did this for the reason of racial bigotry," he says. "It's almost never done."
But by looking at several cases over time, broader patterns of systemic bias emerge.

In the 1987 Supreme Court case McClesky v Kemp, justices weighed whether these statistical patterns could be used to prove bias in a death penalty appeal.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices decided against the use of this data, noting that the matter was one "best presented to the legislative bodies" who could choose to pass specific laws addressing this concern ( http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/mccleskey.html ).
In 2009, the legislature in North Carolina did just that.
Data defence
The Racial Justice Act (RJA) allows death penalty prisoners to use statistical patterns of injustice, not just the facts of an individual case, to prove bias.
A similar but weaker law exists in Kentucky, and has yet to be put to use ( http://www2.journalnow.com/news/2011/dec/25/wsmain01-nc-ky-diverge-on-racial-justice-ar-1749116/ ).
Under North Carolina's RJA, Defendants are eligible for a life sentence without parole if they can show that they were more likely to receive the death penalty because of their race or the race of their victims.
They can also, as in the case of Marcus Robinson, try to prove racial bias in how the state used their "peremptory challenges" during jury selection.
These challenges allow lawyers for both the prosecution and the defence to strike a certain amount of potential jurors without cause, as long as in doing so they adhere to federal laws against discrimination.
Barbara O'Brien, a law professor from Michigan State University, studied the role of race in peremptory jury strikes in North Carolina from 1990 to 2010.

At Robinson's RJA hearing, she testified that, on average, North Carolina prosecutors in death penalty cases excluded qualified black jurors at more than twice the rate of qualified non-black jurors.
For Marcus Robinson's jury pool, qualified blacks were rejected 3.5 times more.
"Being black does predict whether or not the state will strike the potential juror, even when controlling for these other variables," she said.
The final jury seated in Robinson's case had nine white members, two black, and one Native American. The rate of black members on the jury, 18%, was not much different to that of North Carolina's black population, about 21%.
But under the RJA, the final makeup of the jury is not at issue. Instead, it's what role the state played to get to that point.
"Absent of other things, naturally the prosecution will want less blacks, defence will want more. The question is whether we should allow the prosecution to bleach juries," says Mr Baumgartner.
"Should the state, on our behalf, engage in a racially discriminatory pattern of behaviour?"
Colour blind justice?
For the family of Erik Tornblom questions about systemic bias and judicial fairness seem far removed from the death of their son. He is not a statistic, they say, and neither is his killer.

"What do people in Michigan have to do with us in North Carolina?" Patricia Tornblom, Erik's stepmother, asked after the first day in court. The family wore buttons that read "Justice is color blind".
To them, the only racial bias that matters should be the one that Robinson displayed when seeking out a white victim.
The prosecution cannot make this argument. They cannot provide details of the murder and argue that the death penalty was well deserved. They can only present their own statistics expert, as well as evidence from the judge and prosecutor in Robinson's original trial ( http://fayobserver.com/articles/2012/02/06/1155593 ).
Both men maintain that race was not a factor in the state's jury selection process. More judges are expected to testify to similar effect.
But the Racial Justice Act fundamentally redefines the way the judicial system views racism. For years, the courts only saw racism as a deliberate act, done with malice.
The RJA says that racism has more to do with subtle shifts and built-in prejudices that permeate what should be a fair process.
"People can be motivated by race without even realising it," said defence attorney James Ferguson in his opening arguments. Later, he presented expert witnesses testifying to that same claim.
The hearing is expected to wrap up within the week, after which Judge Greg Weeks will make a ruling.
His decision as to whether or not Robinson qualifies for a new sentence will help shape the way that the law is interpreted in the future, and will reveal how far-reaching the consequences of the RJA could be for death row inmates, state prosecutors and the people of North Carolina.
Either way, his decision is expected to face appeals, and to serve as a historic moment in the ongoing debate over how American courts deal with race, justice and death.

  •  Racial Justice Act hearing: Political scientist says juror ideology, not racism, can explain study's results (Paul Woolverton, The Fayetteville Observer, 14 febbraio 2012):
A political scientist testified at the Robinson Racial Justice Act hearing Monday that juror ideology, not racism, can explain the results of a statistical study that said local and North Carolina prosecutors have dismissed black jurors more frequently than whites from capital murder trials.
Polls repeatedly have found that black Americans are likely to be politically liberal, oppose the death penalty and mistrust the criminal justice system more than whites and other racial groups, said Christopher Cronin of the Methodist University political science department, in testimony for the prosecution.
There has been previous prosecution testimony that black jurors cited in the statistical study were peremptorily dismissed not because of their race, but because they expressed reservations about the death penalty, had criminal records or other factors that made them undesirable to the prosecution. [...]

  •  Racial Justice Act hearing: Retired statistics professor disputes prosecution's testimony (Paul Woolverton, The Fayetteville Observer, 15 febbraio 2012):
An assistant district attorney argued Tuesday that a study claiming racial bias in North Carolina's capital murder trials can't be trusted.
Jonathan Perry, a prosecutor from Union County, gave closing arguments in the Racial Justice Act hearing in Fayetteville. Perry said a Michigan State University study was based on a too limited sample of death penalty cases to provide meaningful results.
Perry is helping the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office fight a Racial Justice Act claim from death row inmate Marcus Reymond Robinson of Fayetteville. Perry handled most of the testimony from statistics experts in the 2 1/2-week hearing.
Perry also said that the statistical technique used to produce the study's results, called logistic regression, is not able to detect numerous nonracial reasons that a person might be peremptorily struck from a jury. [...]

Further, the study looked only at 173 trials from 1990 to 2010 that resulted in death penalties, Perry said, when there were 696 capital murder trials in that period.
All the trials should have been examined, Perry said. [...]

4 commenti:

  1. Il punto che sottolinierei maggiormente è come la giustizia nei contesti multirazziali sia ridotta ad una questione di "equilibrismi razziali", che, come giustamente scrivi, non ha attinenza alcuna con il fatto concreto.

    RispondiElimina
  2. Sì, direi che l'espressione "equilibrismo razziale" renda l'idea. Un tempo si ricercava l'equilibrio in ogni ambito della vita. Ora rimangono solo gli equilibrismi. E non sono la medesima cosa.

    RispondiElimina
  3. Sassofonista euroamericana di strada aggredita e insultata da 3 donne afroamericane perché stava suonando una canzone jazz di Cab Calloway, musicista afroamericano. La sua colpa? Essersi permessa di suonare un pezzo che "non è per bianchi".
    Il fatto è avvenuto lo scorso 26 giugno durante una manifestazione nei pressi di Chicago. Non è finita in tragedia per fortuna, ma è uno di quegli innumerevoli episodi di cui non si sente mai parlare e che invece fanno capire quanto la società americana sia profondamente percorsa da tensioni interetniche mai sopite.

    Fonte: http://fox6now.com/2013/06/27/street-performer-assaulted-outside-summerfest/

    Roblif

    RispondiElimina
  4. Le tre cretine evidentemente non hanno sentito parlare della Reliance Brass Band, di "Papa" Laine o dell'italo-americano Nick La Rocca (mi pare che qualcuno dica sia stato uno dei "maestri" di Louis Armstrong), tanto per fare qualche nome, quasi agli albori.

    Concordo sul significato dell'episodio citato.

    RispondiElimina