The evidence speaks…and justice was served! The best moment as a prosecutor is to give a family closure. I am glad this ended in a guilty verdict.
First row L-R: Miami Central Vice Principal Lita Thompson, Melba Pearson, Ronald Dowdy, Gera Peoples, Sgts Louis and Pierre, Principal Gregory Bethune.
Back row: Markenzy Lapointe, Bruce Brown and Brian Kirlew
Not pictured: Pastor Carl Johnson.
This past week, the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA) hosted a series of panel discussions entitled “Real Talk: Lessons Learned from Trayvon Martin”. The panels were geared towards young African American men attending high school and middle school. Both Atlanta and Miami held these discussions in recognition of the two year anniversary of the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Six high schools in Atlanta participated, including Benjamin Banneker, and Southwest Dekalb High.
In Miami, 75 male students of color at Miami Central High School engaged in small group
discussions on the topics of Crime, Consequences, and Options. The Crime panel included
Miami-Dade Police Department Homicide Det. Closel Pierre, who talked about seeing the
tragedies that violence brings on a daily basis. Federal prosecutor and NBPA National
President Bruce Brown hammered home the importance of finding a positive influence. “My positive influence was my mom. One, because I was afraid of her, and two because I didn’t want to let her down.” Sgt. Greg Louis of the Miami-Dade Police Crime Suppression Team opened up about his own challenges of growing up in a tough area. His focus during his youth was on sports activities. Sgt. Louis reminded the boys that “nothing short term is going to last. Where would I be if I had let people talked me into hanging out instead of going to practice? Don’t let peer pressure get the best of you”.
The Consequences panel featured a state prosecutor, a federal prosecutor, and a public
defender. This panel encouraged the young men to think about the consequences of their
actions, and what the repercussions can be of being in the criminal justice system. Brian
Kirlew, a public defender, echoed the sentiments of staying away from crime, but also told the boys “America is a very forgiving place if you are willing to change your behavior. Don’t let past mistakes hold you back”. Federal prosecutor Gera Peoples took a different tactic, by informing the boys of the realities of going to prison. “Think about the consequences to your family”, he implored.
The last panel, Options, included a stirring message from Pastor Carl Johnson of the 93rd
Street Community Baptist Church, and Mark Lapointe, partner at the firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP. Pastor Johnson rallied the boys to action, stating “your ways determine your walk; get your personality on track, and don’t leave high school without a plan.” On the topic of violence he stated ” if you are confronted with violence, do not let someone draw you out of your personality and lead you down the path of wrong. Stand firm in who you are and walk away”.
Much like some students, a number of the speakers came from single parent families — but
found success through positive role models. The message that was reiterated by all of the
speakers was access. As the event closed, Principal Bethune informed the boys that all of the speakers agreed to be available at any time in the future to give guidance, and answer
The event was an overwhelming success, and will be repeated in Miami schools throughout the next few weeks. This program is critical to bringing encouragement to young men that are often labelled and forgotten.
Melba Pearson is an attorney in Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @ResLegalDiva.
She is also the Southeast Regional Director for the National Black Prosecutors Association. For more information about NBPA go to http://www.blackprosecutors.org.
Here is my point of view on the Michael Dunn verdict, and the surrounding controversy. It was published on Essence.com yesterday. Please feel free to weigh in!
So I awoke this morning to hear of two more shooting tragedies. One in a school in Roswell, New Mexico, and the other north of me in Florida.
Let me be abundantly clear. My husband and I own firearms.
Am I a sharpshooter? Furthest thing from it.
Can I handle a weapon in an emergency and hit a target? Better believe it.
Do I have an understanding and healthy respect for the power of a gun? Absolutely.
Should everyone own (and carry) a gun? Not if you will not be responsible as well as ready to take a life…because if you point a gun, you better be ready to fire. And accept the consequences of firing.
Of late, I have been involved in some heated debates over gun possession. There seems to be a viewpoint that every man, woman and possibly teen should be able to possess a gun with little to no restrictions.
In the first case of Roswell, New Mexico, a 12 year old boy brought a sawed off shotgun to school, and shot two students. No one seems to know why. A courageous teacher got right in front of the boy, and convinced him to put down the gun.
So how does a 12 year old in New Mexico get a sawed off?
Not thinking that he got it at the local gun shop…it probably came from the parents’ gun cabinet.
After the Sandy Hook shooting, there was some discussion about letting personnel carry guns into schools, or having armed security in the hallways. So if the teachers had guns (which some folks are proponents of), would the situation have ended as it did?
I submit to you that there would have been a lot more death and bloodshed.
In contrast, let’s look at the shooting in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The shooter, Curtis Reeves, is a retired police officer. He flipped out because the victim was texting in a movie theater.
Have we all been annoyed by that? Sure.
Do we feel the need to start a fight, then shoot someone? No.
I can script where this will go. His defense attorney has already claimed self defense at the bond hearing. The judge wasn’t having it and is holding him no bond until trial. Then what? Stand your ground. Again. Even though witnesses claim that the victim threw popcorn at the defendant, the defendant will claim he was in fear for his life (even though he started it), and that’s why he shot the victim Chad Oulson in the chest. I doubt this motion will be granted, especially in light of what the witnesses saw, and the woman that has come forward to say this defendant also harassed her during a movie because she was texting.
In all honesty, I will concede that gun control laws would not have changed the outcome of this situation, unless the defendant was found to be mentally ill at some point. He’s a former police officer, so he would fall into the category of someone who should be able to carry.
But looking at the extreme version of this. If the victim had a gun, then what? Shoutout at the movie theater? And what about people caught in the crossfire?
Too bad so sad?
All I’m saying is let’s be reasonable. If you need a permit to fish, a license to drive, and have to register to vote, why shouldn’t there be greater accountability for the ownership of something that, by its very design, is meant to kill? Why do we need to live in a society in which everyone needs to be strapped?
There HAS to be a middle ground, between gun ownership, upholding the Constitution, and keeping citizens safe. Let’s constructively talk about ideas, and respect that not everyone feels the same way about firearms.
Please keep the victims in your thoughts and prayers….especially the 3 year old who does not have a dad anymore because he died for texting her.
Food for thought.
As always, I am up for a good debate.
A new day is dawning.
2013 has been one heck of a ride.
In the year of Suit & Tie and Blurred Lines, twerking & selfies, major issues took center stage. To name a few:
- The Zimmerman trial and the continuing debate regarding Stand Your Ground laws;
- Gun ownership and the safety of our children due to highly publicized school shootings (resulting in some new legislation);
- Stop & frisk in NY;
- Facebook bullying and liability for the consequences;
- Hacking vs. whistleblowing, with Snowden dealing a severe blow to President Obama’s administration and the way the NSA does business.
Looking at the cultural aspects of things, the death of Nelson Mandela ended an era, and created a vacuum in some ways. Who will unite us in the same way? His funeral had a cross section of political and religious beliefs, all united in their grief of the loss of such a great man, an icon.
The untimely death of Paul Walker of Fast and Furious fame reminded us how short life is. He was going to take time off after Fast & Furious 7 to spend time with his daughter. This is a reminder…tomorrow is not promised, live TODAY.
For me professionally, it was a great year. Highlights from this year included my legal commentary regarding jury selection on the Rick Party afternoon drive show of Hot 105.1 during the George Zimmerman trial, the publication of my articles by a variety of online news outlets, including Essence.com, along with a great discussion on NPR about racial profiling while shopping.
On a personal level, I lost 20lbs on Weight Watchers and enjoyed my second year of marriage to my soulmate.
But, most importantly, I started this blog.
I feel blessed and excited for what the new year will bring. Thank you to all who have supported, encouraged, proofread, and shared.
I don’t do resolutions…they always seem to get broken. I set INTENTIONS.
I intend to learn tennis, and to serve a wider community by providing quality opinions through writing and other media.
Wishing you and yours all the best for the New Year!