Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: When the Guilty Go Free

Whenever the “guilty” get away with it, a scar is left for those who are the victims. Donald J. Trump, O.J. Simpson, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam — notoriously infamous acquittals.

We’ve known for weeks that Trump, the TWIMPRIC (Twice Impeached Private Citizen) would never be convicted by the Repugnikkkan Party sycophants in the U.S. Senate who blithely tried to ignore the hours and hours of damning and compelling evidence that conclusively proved that the draft-dodging whoremonger who filed multiple bankruptcies before assuming the highest office in this Wilderness of North America committed treason, not to mention a “high crime and misdemeanor” worthy of his public humiliation. But alas.

A solid, bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate (his jurors — more like a jury of his accomplices) voted 57-43 to convict the Guy, but the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority, so they fell 10 votes short. He got off. Where were you when you learned the news of a crooked exoneration?

I was at New York’s JFK International Airport, Oct. 3, 1995, retrieving my luggage to clear customs in a Black Press delegation of National Newspaper Publishers Association personnel returning from Nigeria when the news broke that O.J. had gotten off. Most Black folks around the country were delighted that the racist L.A. cops and prosecutors had not strung him up, but most folks were certain that O.J. really did it.

There is certainly a big difference between acquittal and innocence.

Before The Donald got away with the most egregious betrayal of the U.S. rule of law in history, the most horrible crime I can recall that went unpunished was in September 1955 when Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were acquitted after just one-hour of deliberation by an all-white jury in Greenwood, Mississippi of the brutal murder of Emmett Till. This probably deserves to be The Crime of the 20th Century.

Emmett, a 14-year-old from Chicago was visiting relatives in rural Money, Mississippi, near Greenwood. Roy’s wife Carolyn Bryant claimed that the lad had grabbed her, made lewd advances and wolf-whistled at her as he left her husband’s store.

Negroes in Mississippi at the time were beaten, castrated and lynched for just looking, for what was called “eyeball rape.”

What Emmett was alleged to have done was far, far worse. So, four days later, Roy and J.W. visited his house in the middle of the night. They took the boy and forced him to carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to strip. The men beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, then threw his body, tied to the fan with barbed wire, into the river.

That a trial was held at all is a wonder, like the recent impeachment trial of The Donald. The scoundrels were acquitted, almost immediately. Months later, the culprits — knowing that they could not be charged again for their heinous crime because of Constitutional protection against double jeopardy — confessed to their dastardly deed in an interview with Look magazine.

Then, in 2017, in a book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Carolyn Bryant confessed to author Timothy Tyson that her testimony at the trial was untrue. It was all a lie.

So, here we are still witnessing the nine-foot-tall fences, topped with razor wire, surrounding the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the White House and other federal buildings in Washington, just weeks after what might reign as the Crime of the 21st Century, and another arch-deceiver and famous prevaricator — an inveterate liar who told more than 30,000 falsehoods while he was president — has gotten off after inviting a mob of his lied-to supporters to come to Washington, where he incited them to march to the seat of the U.S. government to attack the Congress in order for him to unlawfully remain in office. He walks free, even though Ray Charles can see he’s guilty as sin.

All this brings to mind the words of Benjamin Franklin, which are hard to digest under these circumstances: “It is better a hundred guilty persons should escape than one innocent person should suffer.”

But Black people in this country know all too well that time after tearful time, innocent folks have been put to death by wicked cops, turned judge-jury-and-executioner, only to see the guilty escape punishment.

Indeed, if we could examine the records, we could see where countless Black men and women have been sent to the gallows, the gas chamber, the electric chair for crimes they did not commit. Thankfully, in recent times, literally hundreds of innocent Black folks have been exonerated — some even from death row.

And so, we watch with grief and anguish, as another guilty fiend goes free. Remember, acquittal is not the same thing as innocence! History will judge.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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