For Amplifiers - Tenn. White Courts Version of Black Just-us
September 25, 2020
IN MEMPHIS TENNESSEE DO BLACK DEFENDANTS MATTER?
AFTER YOU READ THIS, WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU.
In 2004 Vern Braswell, a Black man, was charged in the death of his wife after they engaged in erotic asphyxiation during sex. She was alive, although not feeling well, when it was over and she eventually died later that night while in their Jacuzzi tub.
He was charged with first degree murder because prosecutors said it took 3 minutes of constant pressure for her to die (George Floyd received almost 9 minutes of constant pressure, and the White officer was charged with second / third degree murder, but allegedly 3 minutes of pressure was enough to charge a Black man with first degree murder, just saying)
THE TRIAL KEYS
Prosecutors repeatedly told the jury that Braswell's defense was a hoax he concocted during trial because he had nothing to rely on. (This is key for later events)
Imagine being a Black man forced to publicize the most intimate details of your life with your wife in a mega public forum & how embarrassing that must be while a White team of prosecutors minimize and insult you so bad that it's cited by the Criminal Appeals Court (some say he was very close to a nervous breakdown & the footage of his testimony describing exactly what happened is very hard to watch).
The jury deliberated for hours. Stopped to ask the court, “When they engaged in erotic asphyxiation, did he penetrate her?” The jury did not ask if they engaged… The jury asked when they engaged in erotic asphyxiation… Then they went back to deliberate many more hours before returning with a verdict of second degree murder.
This clearly shows that the jury believed Braswell or gave his testimony credibility. Clearly it was a close call for them. (This is also key for later events)
Almost 30 citizens and influential Memphians wrote letters describing Braswell's community service and his compassion for those in need. (This is also key for later events) The White judge denied bail.
(Braswell was an assistant principal who would go into the community and get drug dealers and gang members to agree that his school kids were “off limits” to their activities and he would get those same guys to help finance and pay for food to feed all the children who attended Saturday School where Braswell would volunteer to help teach, tutor, and work with hundreds of inner city at risk Black children)
Braswell even had agreements with hotels to provide temporary housing for families of homeless students. This was documented
The sentence range was 15 – 25 years after Braswell was found guilty. For all of Braswell's years of community service, the judge knocked one year off of the maximum sentence and sentenced Braswell to 24 years with no parole.
While the brother was self admittedly flawed, he did have a lot of redeemable qualities.
DON'T FORGET THE 3 KEYS
1. Prosecutor claimed the Braswell defense was fabricated,
2. The question the jury asked during their lengthy deliberation,
3. The massive community support letters.
THE FIRST APPEAL
One of the single most important units of evidence was the collection of powerful letters of support from the community for Braswell. This type of evidence weighs heavily with appellate courts. However, the Braswell letters totally disappeared and vanished from the court files & the judges held nobody accountable. Poof, into thin air. No relief!
THE POST CONVICTION APPEAL – HOW WHITE PROSECUTORS TREAT BLACK DEFENDANTS
When Braswell filed his next appeal:
- For about two years the prosecutor was evasive with Braswell's case files and refused to give Braswell's new lawyer access so she could prepare his appeal.
- When a different prosecutor was assigned to the case, he gave the lawyer access to the file until they came across a sealed envelope of evidence shockingly labeled DO NOT SHOW TO THE DEFENSE!
- For 3 to 4 more years prosecutors refused to reveal the contents of the envelope and later said that it was missing. They later callously implied that the envelope of evidence never existed. This was the second time evidence that would have helped Braswell simply disappeared from the case files and the all White judges did nothing about it.
- When Braswell's appeal attorney, a young Black woman, testified to a judge about seeing the sealed envelope and it's markings that indicated no defense attorney was ever supposed to see it, allegedly she was blackballed by the DA's office which effectively ran her out of business and out of town, because she could no longer get clients good plea deals.
- Braswell's original trial attorney, a Black man, told a judge under oath that when he was initially called to testify about evidence that he did not receive from the prosecutor, he “held back” because he was warned that his testimony against the DA's office could determine his freedom because he had been disbarred for alleged improprieties involving clients and was being investigated by the prosecutor, therefore his testimony in the Braswell case against the prosecutor had the potential to lead to charges being activated against him.
THE POST CONVICTION APPEAL – WHAT WAS LEFT OUT OF THE TRIAL
While the White prosecutors were playing fast & loose with the Braswell case file, the new attorneys discovered the following was left out of the Braswell trial (Remember those keys?)
A woman who participated in intimate acts with the Braswells said under oath that she was ready and willing to testify at the trial that Braswell’s testimony matched exactly what the couple would do when they were intimate because she had witnessed it first hand on multiple occasions while being intimate with them.
She was left out of the trial because the trial lawyer forgot to reach out to her to come testify (Based on those 3 keys, case closed, right? Perhaps if Braswell would have been White)
Two prominent attorneys (one is currently a judge) said under oath that they were ready and willing to testify at the trial that Braswell told each of them shortly after he was charged that he and his wife had engaged in erotic asphyxiation the night she died. (Remember that 1st key about the prosecutor repeatedly telling the jury that Braswell fabricated his defense during the trial. What she told the jury was wrong. Case closed, right? Perhaps if Braswell would have been White)
They were left out of the trial because the trial lawyer neglected to call them to testify even though they were already in the courthouse.
Prosecutors had a statement where a witness could confirm that Mrs. Braswell told the witness about one of the couple's intimacy partners.
The prosecutors withheld this information from the defense, the judge, and the jury at trial (Based on those keys from the trial, this was a major violation that all by itself would have gotten the conviction thrown out, if Braswell would have been White)
A forensic pathologist stated under oath that he was ready and willing to testify at the trial that scientifically, the death could have a result of erotic asphyxiation.
He was left out of the trial because even though Braswell paid the trial lawyer to cover the expert’s fees, the expert said he never got paid to come testify. This was the same lawyer who was later disbarred for allegations of poor treatment of clients and allegedly owed clients about $30,000 when he lost his license (Based on those keys, case closed, new trial for Braswell, right? Perhaps if Braswell would have been White)
A security guard stated under oath that he was so familiar with seeing the Braswells at an adult club where he worked, that one night he contacted Braswell to inform him that his wife was there with another woman, only to discover that the other woman was a “gift” for the Braswells.
He was left out of the trial because the trial lawyer said he couldn't find the guard even though the guards phone number was the trial lawyer's files (Based on the first two keys from trial, case closed, new trial for Braswell, right? Perhaps if Braswell would have been White)
THE BRASWELL CASE COMPARED TO SIMILAR WHITE CASES
When James Young, a White man, was convicted of murder when he said his partner died following erotic asphyxiation just like Braswell's wife, the appellate judges granted him a new trial because they said there were too many small mistakes.
Young did not have a witness who participated in their intimate acts left out of his trial like the Braswell case. Young did not have prominent attorneys who backed up his story left out of his trial like the Braswell case. Young did not have an expert who backed up his story left out of his trial like the Braswell case. Young did not have a security guard from an adult club to back up his story that got left out of his trial like the Braswell case. Young did not have a prosecutor to hide witnesses and evidence like the Braswell case. Young did not have a jury that asked the question like the jury in the Braswell case. Most importantly, Young did not have the same skin color as Braswell. Young, a White man, got a new trial, Braswell, a Black man did not. Same issues, different skin color, different outcome.
When Noura Jackson, a white woman, was convicted of murdering he mother, she was granted a new trial because Amy Weirich, the same prosecutor from the Braswell case withheld evidence almost exactly like she did in the Braswell case. Braswell not only had evidence withheld, but prosecutors also then made sure it went missing instead of turning it over to the defense and the judge. Needless to say, while the White woman got a new trial, the Black man with far worse circumstances did not get a new trial. Same issues, different skin color, different outcome.
When Michael Rimmer, a White man, was convicted of murder, he was granted a new trial because the same Shelby County DA’s office in the Braswell case also got caught withholding favorable evidence in the Rimmer case. Rimmer, a White man got a new trial, Braswell the Black man, did not. Same issues, different skin color, different outcome.
OF NOTE. In the cases of the two White defendants, Noura Jackson and Michael Rimmer, the prosecutors were punished. In the case of the Black defendant, Vern Braswell's family filed a complaint against the prosecutor, the prosecutors were not punished.
What’s the difference? When prosecutors were caught withholding helpful evidence in the White cases, they gave the evidence to the lawyers. When the prosecutor was caught withholding evidence in Braswell's case, the evidence vanished rather than giving it to Braswell's lawyers. And they allegedly blackballed the young Black lawyer for speaking out about it. A trio of all White appeal judges said the young Black attorney should have done a better job of catching the prosecutors red handed by taking a picture of the envelope even though it was not her fault for not catching them red handed. So tough luck. Really?
When Joshua Bargery, a White man, was convicted of two murders, he was granted a new trial also. One of the issues from his case involved Bargery wanting a expert in gang killings to testify for him because Bargery said the murders in his case were committed by a gang instead of him. Amy Weirich, the same prosecutor from the Braswell case, took actions that prevented the Black expert from testifying for Bargery. The appellate judges admonished the prosecutor. When Black attorneys testified in the Braswell case and were allegedly intimidated by the DA's office no one was admonished. Bargery, the White man got a new trial, Braswell, the Black man did not. (Same issues, different skin color, different outcome.)
When Laurie Zimmerman, a White lady, was convicted of murdering her spouse, she was granted a new trial because her trial lawyer made promises to Zimmerman’s jury about evidence that were not fulfilled. Braswell's trial lawyer also made promises to his jury that he did not fulfill and this was pointed out to the jury by the prosecutor when they caught the trial attorney lying to the jury. I'm sure by now you now that Zimmerman, the White lady got a new trial, while Braswell, the Black man, did not. (Same issues, different skin color, different outcome.)
When Jennifer Collins, a white lady was charged with murdering her newborn baby, the Appellate Judges granted her a new trial - in large part because of how the jury deliberated. FYI the Collins jury deliberated exactly like the Braswell jury. Collins, a White lady, got a new trial, Braswell a Black man did not. (Same issues, different skin color, different outcome.)
OF NOTE, Collins had lots of letters from the community that also made a difference. Remember Braswell's letters from the community disappeared from the case files into thin air.
SO I ASK YOU AGAIN, DO BLACK DEFENDANTS MATTER IN TENNESSEE?
- Justice For Vern Braswell
Please show your support for Vern being granted a Clemency release:
1) because of the injustices in his case
2) so he can continue working on his prison reform proposals and research and
3) because of his mother's rapidly failing health
by clicking here to send an email to TN's Gov Lee & the Clemency Unit.
God bless you.
Media coverage of Vern's case
- Send questions about the Braswell case to @J4VernBraswell @BlackDefendants Facebook
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