Police Lynching

What we witnessed was a lynching. That’s part of the reason to put it in a historical context. It was a public message to people that what Officer Chauvin was doing was okay and you might be next.

Phillip Atiba Goffpolicingequity.org

The quote is from this episode of The Rachel Maddow Show:

RACHEL MADDOW – Hope over history: Racial justice advocates anxiously await Chauvin verdict – April 19, 2021

Professor Goff’s statement echoes what I took away from the brief bits of the nine minute video of Officer Chauvin killing George Floyd that I could make myself watch. Officer Chauvin was acting the part of a terrorist, instructing his audience on the subject of what happens when law enforcement decides to kill a black person. I can kill him and I can kill you. That is what Officer Chauvin is saying.

Monday’s show led off with a visitation on the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Tulsa. If you haven’t heard the story, it is worth giving this six minute video a chance to tell you about it:

RACHEL MADDOW – Remembering the Tulsa race massacre as the 100th anniversary approaches – April 19, 2021

It is also worth remembering in the time and place that we find ourselves in today, that the police in America were founded from the slave patrols that were instituted during the years when slavery was a part of life in the United States:

Throughline – American Police – June 4, 2020

…this system of essentially tracking black people’s movements to control them needed a similar kind of armed and/or empowered law enforcement constituency. So on one hand, you do have the growth of a formal bureaucratic nuts-and-bolts police system that emerges by the late 1860s, 1870s. You know, prisons are being remodeled or expanded and built. Prison farms are beginning to open. I say all that to say because the South had a very anemic infrastructure when it came to criminal justice by a very stark contrast to northern states. And one of the things that it doesn’t really have is it doesn’t have a formal professional police force like – certainly like big cities from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, the old colonial cities, now essentially industrial, thriving, modern places by the 1870s and 1880s. And so what does the South do? Well, Southern leaders empower vigilante groups to do a lot of the day-to-day surveillance and policing of black people, and out of that, particularly in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan is born in Pulaski, Tenn.

npr.org

In the South the police force is directly descended from the KKK and slave patrols. In the North the history is different, but just slightly different. The police in those areas still establish a racial hierarchy with black and brown people at the bottom of the social ladder, they just didn’t do it because of slavery. This is the racial basis for American policing. The history that all Americans have to accept and deal with.

I liked Six Flags Over Texas back when I was a teenager and into amusement parks. I could appreciate the history of the six flags that flew over Texas that was the reference for the name, but I always knew that one of those six flags was a flag of rebels and white nationalists. The amusement park that started in Texas is too embarrassed to fly the rebel flag in places where they own parks and the rebel flag never actually flew, so they have repurposed the six flags to be some other six flags and who really cares now anyway? I’m sympathetic to their corporate problem and really don’t see why they should have to fly flags in the first place other than that they put it in their name. Apparently some people didn’t learn their history and now want to pretend it wasn’t real history. They want to force Six Flags to fly the rebel flag even though the name and the flag were specific to Texas. These are facts folks.

There are plaques up in the Texas capitol that claim that the Confederacy wasn’t based on preserving slavery, which is false. Those plaques as well as most of the statues and monuments across the South date back to various times when white nationalism was in power and acted to whitewash history, giving themselves honor that they never deserved in the first place. They used their authority to compel the schools to muddy history in the textbooks, teaching kids falsehoods that could be disproved by doing basic research on the subject of the history of the succession movement and of the racist history of the American continent under European dominance and then United States dominance.

What has become clear to me over the years since I first started paying attention to this subject is that a lot of people have been fed lies for a lot of their lives; and they are happy to go on believing the comforting lies that they were told as children. It’s time to grow up now. It’s time to embrace the truth as it transpired through history, and to make our way forward with a firm grasp on the truth. Like the confederate monuments that dot our landscape, each town square that ever held a lynching party should be required to host a token from this memorial:

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New York Timesmuseumandmemorial.eji.org

…and Derek Chauvin should be forced to wear one around his neck for the rest of his life. He is the personification of the racist history of the American police system. It is long past time to rewrite that system. At least the jury did find him guilty. That is a step in the right direction.

I cannot help but think of the famous image of Deputy Sheriff Cecil Ray Price and Sheriff Laurence A. Rainey laughing at a hearing after their arraignment following the murder of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964.

Price and Rainey thought it was funny when they were arraigned along with 16 of their friends—not for murder, because Mississippi refused to bring charges, but for conspiracy and violating the civil rights of the murdered men, both federal offenses. And why shouldn’t they think it was all a joke? The jury was all white and, after all, they were law enforcement officers.

heathercoxrichardson.substack.com

Justice

I’ve been studying the subject of impeachment in the United States for several years now. Any of you who take your job as a citizen of the United States seriously have also been doing this. If not, shame on you.

In the course of my education on the subject of impeachment I’ve discovered a glaring error in the arraignment of our government and it’s various competing functions. Congress has no ability to enforce its will on its own. It is beholden to the executive branch to see that its lawful orders are followed.

This error only shows up when the executive branch and the legislature are held by different factions, as has happened since the House of Representatives flipped into Democratic hands in 2018. The executive branch, for the first time in history, has refused to honor lawfully executed subpoenas and requests. Never in history has the executive refused outright to comply with requests made of it by Congress.

In the past, the house has had to create its own arm of enforcement, the few times that it was required to contest with an unlawful, intractable executive. The first presidential impeachment, that of Andrew Johnson, saw congress having to create its own jails and create its own police force to do its bidding so as to be even capable of doing the oversight work that is delegated to it in the Constitution.

The justice department should not belong to the president. This is one of the errors in government arrangement that will have to be addressed when the presidency changes. What do I mean? Congress has no enforcement arm without being able to secure compliance of the justice department. This needs to be spelled out in plain English. The Justice department SHALL enforce congressional subpoenas and all requests for information issued by congress. The Justice department will arrest and detain ANY individual that attempts to evade a lawfully executed Congressional subpoena. The Attorney General shall answer to congress and can be fired by the Congress as well as by the president.

Justice should be effectively severed from the Executive branch. Permanently.

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Milam County Dog Attack: Dog owner still awaiting trial

Going through the archive, I realised that the story about the dog attack had been moved on the Statesman site. I added it to my blog entry on the subject, as well as the story concerning charges being brought against the dog owner.

He’s still sitting around awaiting a trial, which has been rescheduled for January 16, 2007.

I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll ever face trial, myself. The government in Milam county clearly doesn’t think that it’s important enough, or they have sympathy with the dog owner rather than the victim who was innocently minding her own business when she was attacked.


Editor’s note. Reading back through the early blog articles I was stunned to realize I never followed up on this story. Sadly, the jury was unwilling to convict the dog owner. I found a legal opinion on the subject here a portion of which follows. There is more information at the above link if you are interested.

Health & Safety Code §822.041 provides that a court may declare a dog “dangerous” basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045. (See generally Dangerous and Vicious Dogs for discussion of the legal meaning of “dangerous” and the issues pertaining to legal “dangerousness.”)

If a dog has not been previously declared “dangerous,” however, there is a “loophole” in the law, in that there is no law that addresses the situation. Given the savageness of this killing, prosecutors attempted to apply the general law. To make the punishment fit the crime, the grand jury indicted Jose Hernandez for criminally negligent homicide. His trial took place in March 2007.

The conviction of this dog owner depended upon overcoming the bane of dog bite victims, namely the one-bite rule. Under this ancient British legal doctrine, the owner of any domestic animal is not held responsible for the first bite, the first mauling, or the first killing by each and every one of his animals. (See The One Bite Rule.) Texas is in a minority of states that continues to salute the flag of Great Britain when it comes to dog bite laws. (For lists of states that follow or have abrogated the one bite rule, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)

Hernandez testified that he had no idea his animals were capable of such brutality. He admitted none of his animals had ever been seen by a veterinarian and hadn’t been vaccinated. Several other witnesses for the defense testified that Hernandez’ dogs were not aggressive and were not trained to be aggressive.

The jury found Hernandez not guilty.

Kenneth M. Phillips, The Lillian Stiles case (Texas v. Hernandez)

I had never heard of the one bite rule before in my life. I’m actually horrified that this is defacto law in Texas. The legislature did update the laws after the verdict in this case, but the laws remain woefully lax when it comes to holding dog owners responsible for the behavior of their animals.

We had a trained pit fighting dog break into our yard and attack one of our dogs a few years back. Our dog (Corona) never recovered from that attack and died shortly afterwards. I wondered why the cops told us privately afterwards that if we wanted the attacking dog put down, we should have done it ourselves while we had the chance. These laws and the rulings in the above case prove the point. If you expect justice for injury from another person’s pet, be prepared to exact it yourself while the offending animal is on your property. There is nothing that the other person can do about it in Texas. It’s an animal trespassing on your property, so you can kill it. Weird, isn’t it?

Charges in fatal dog attack not likely, sheriff says

The story as it appeared in the Austin American Statesman (which has since removed it from the archive -ed.):

AUSTIN, Texas — The owner of six dogs that fatally mauled an elderly woman as she worked in her yard will likely not be charged with a serious crime, Milam County Sheriff Charlie West said Monday.

West said that he has consulted with District Attorney Kerry Spears and that they have been unable to conclude that owner Jose Hernandez committed a felony.

“There are no laws that apply,” West said. “We are still looking, but it is going to be hard to make anybody responsible for it.”

Five of the dogs were euthanized Monday; the victim’s husband shot the other dog.

West has said that Hernandez apparently kept the six pit bull-Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs in a pen behind a 3-foot chain-link fence. It was not clear how they got out of the pen.

Hernandez could not be reached Monday, two days after the dogs attacked and killed Lillian Stiles, 76, as she was tending her yard and flowers atop a riding lawn mower. Her body was taken to Dallas for an autopsy, which officials said had not been completed Monday.

Stiles’ husband Jack was inside their house north of Thorndale, Texas, about 50 miles northeast of Austin, watching a football game when the attack occurred. Two passersby, Weldon and Maurita Smith, saw Lillian Stiles’ body in her yard and tried to help.

Weldon Smith also was attacked and injured before Jack Stiles shot one of the dogs.

West said the euthanized dogs were sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services for rabies and other testing.

West said Hernandez is cooperating with the investigation and has said that his knee-high grandchildren have played with the dogs.

He said investigators have no indication that the dogs were being used for fighting and that a veterinarian who examined them said they had no signs of “war-like injuries,” such as cuts or broken bones.

“To him (Hernandez), the dogs weren’t vicious,” West said. “They were just pets.”

In 2003, the most recent year with available statistics, 288 people were hospitalized for dog bites and one person died, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Hernandez’s house, down a dirt driveway from the road that runs in front of the Stiles’ property, appeared empty Monday afternoon. A nearly full 50-pound bag of dog kibble sat on the screened porch and the gate one the fenced yard had a metal “T” painted with the visage of a bulldog — the Thorndale school district mascot.

The Stiles’ next-door neighbors reported seeing a big black dog near Lillian Stiles around 3:40 p.m. Saturday as they returned from Cameron.

“Oh, they’ve got a new dog,” Lauren Shumaker said she told her husband, Don. The couple said they had never seen a pack of dogs along the road.

Jimmy Hinistroza, pastor at San Gabriel Evangelistic Christian Church, lives immediately north of Hernandez’s house and said he saw two of the six dogs at the church’s property line early Saturday afternoon. He shooed a black Rottweiler away, he said, but the other one — a pit bull — “kept staring at me.”

“I’ve seen those two dogs many a time,” Hinistroza said. “I’d never seen the pack. I never knew this man had other pit bulls. If I’d have known, I would have talked to him because I know what pit bulls can do.”

Children routinely hike several acres of turf behind the church on Sunday afternoons, he said, but he temporarily barred anyone from going outside Sunday because the shot dog had yet to be found; the dog’s body turned up in the Stiles’ back yard.

“It could have been worse if all those children were out there,” Hinistroza said.

Hinistroza dedicated his Sunday sermon to Lillian Stiles, whom he described as a fixture on her rider mower, tending a lawn and garden that “looks like a little paradise,” Hinistroza said. “We all loved her.”

The following is a letter I wrote expressing my outrage at this travesty.


To: Kerry Spears [District attorney for Milam County]

This is an outrage. According to the reports that I have heard, the dogs were kept behind a fence that was just over 3 feet tall, they attacked in a coordinated pack (as if they were used to hunting together) and they killed a woman in her own front yard. They also attacked a would-be rescuer.

…and there isn’t anything to charge the dog owner with? Manslaughter? Criminal negligance? Anything? The fence was of insuffcient height to keep the animals contained, they had been trained to attack in a pack (or had been foraging enough to have learned the behavior) and they have a registered owner. I don’t know what else is needed to charge the man with SOMETHING.

I for one am sick and tired of this mantra that we “don’t have a law to cover this” (as if dog attacks are something new to the 21st century) You are tasked with upholding the law and seeing that justice is done in your county. This woman’s death will be on your heads as much as the dog owners if nothing is done about it now.


If you also feel the urge to send a comment to the District attorney in Milam county, you’ll have to send it by fax or snail mail. Only the Sheriff’s office has a working email address. Even the commissioners court is without internet service, apparently. Talk about not being in the 21st century.

“She smiled all the time,” he said. “She was so beautiful.”

theeagle.com