To his credit as a columnist, The News & Observer’s Barry Saunders in a recent commentary brought up an issue that is rarely touched upon by the media… the cruelty that seems embedded in our state’s criminal justice system. In his article, Mr. Saunders alluded to Anson County Prosecutor Michael Parker’s treatment of a mentally retarded defendant when he wrote, “Parker spitefully refused Dix workers’ request to take him to the State Fair.” However, Parker carried spite much further by directly interfering with Brown's placement by sabotaging the arrangements at an assisted living facility that had been painstakingly arranged by social workers after his 14 years of wrongful incarceration. Thereafter state employees involved in helping Brown find appropriate housing had to work in secret to prevent District Attorney Parker from intervening.
Is the cruelty exhibited by Michael Parker typical? Yes, and it can be found among police officers serving on the front lines of the urban battlefield to judges sitting behind the benches, and even among ancillary workers in the social/criminal justice field. Is the cruelty exhibit by Parker to be construed as Christ-like behavior? No. People who call themselves Christians and act like heathens are as phony as the currently trumped up charges against Crystal Mangum and those leveled against Mike Nifong by the State Bar. It takes more than attending church to embody the true spirit of Christianity.
The vendetta justice treatment of Crystal Mangum is an example of the cruel and malign attitudes of many in the justice system. The vindictive/retribution motive empowering the backlash by all state officials and staff against Ms. Mangum has its roots in her role in the Duke Lacrosse case. Even though she was the victim in that incident, the state, Carpetbagger families, and the media defined her as the villain. Cruelty in the present problems engulfing Ms. Mangum began on the night of February 17, 2010. Police were summoned to her apartment in response to a 9-1-1 call placed by Ms. Mangum’s daughter who feared her mother might be killed after Mangum’s ex-boyfriend began punching her in the face. When Crystal’s true identity became apparent to police, she was designated as the instigator, aggressor, and offender, and her ex-boyfriend, with a past history of physical violence against women, became the vulnerable victim of the altercation. Then the Durham Police Department got creative and manufactured a crime (which they called “arson”) and laid the blame on Ms. Mangum. A specific incident of police cruelty manifested itself by their commands given to Ms. Mangum to “stand up” while she was lying facedown on the floor with her hands cuffed behind her back. Police reports referred to this as Ms. Mangum refusing to follow commands. (Ask yourself, would a true Christian, in emulating Jesus Christ, taunt a helpless woman lying facedown with her hands cuffed in back, by ordering her to stand up? Is that what Christianity is about?)
What is so tragic about this entire incident is that Durham Police harbored unjustified animosity towards Ms. Mangum based solely on her role in the Duke Lacrosse case, and they abused their power by exacting revenge based on fraudulent and trumped up charges. Most serious was the attempted first degree murder charge. No where in the Durham Police reports is there anything to substantiate such a charge. Likewise, the charge of identity theft was a stretch, to say the least. Ms. Mangum was concerned with how the authorities would respond if they knew her true identity and realized her link to the Duke Lacrosse case. The events that transpired that night validated her concerns, as she was hauled off to jail and placed under a $1 million bail, despite being the victim of domestic violence.
Magistrate B. Wakil acted cruelly towards Ms. Mangum by imposing a $1 million dollar bail on someone who was definitely not a flight risk or a threat to society. By issuing that unreachable bail Ms. Mangum languished in jail, unable to report to work at her full-time job. Because of the bail set by Wakil, Ms. Mangum lost her source of income (with its health benefits), which meant she was unable to pay rent for her apartment (which she lost). Behind bars, she was unable to attend classes at NCCU where she was enrolled in the graduate program working towards a Master’s degree; she was dropped from the courses after she obtained a loan to pay for tuition, books, and supplies. In jail, she was unable to take care of her three children, and she lost custody of them.
Wakil was merely a cog in the wheel of the injustice visited upon Ms. Mangum, but her role in unnecessarily and brutally disrupting Mangum’s life was instrumental and cruel beyond measure. Nothing in the police report could support such draconian treatment. While Ms. Mangum struggles, trying to keep her head above water, Magistrate Wakil goes on with her life, without accounting for the wanton damage to that of another.
Of course, Durham Assistant District Attorney Angela Garcia-Lamarca holds the lion’s share of cruelty and inhumanity towards Ms. Mangum because she is the prosecuting attorney. Ms. Garcia-Lamarca, as a prosecutor, is charged not only with representing the state, but also with seeking the truth… acting as a “Minister of Justice,” if you will. But she has become the hub in this conspiracy of evil by proceeding with a prosecution which is suspect, lacks merit, and trumped up. Her initial plea offer to Ms. Mangum shortly after her arrest was for Mangum to plead guilty to the false charges (eight in total, including attempted first degree murder, arson, assault and battery, and child abuse) against her and serve a two year prison sentence. What a deal. Her public defender thought she should give it serious consideration stating that if she went to trial and was convicted she could possibly be sentenced to six years behind bars. It was only after the miraculous satisfaction of her $100,000 bail by generous and benevolent bail bondsmen several months later that the prosecution’s plea offer was modified as follows: plead guilty to arson, three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, injury to personal property, and resisting a public officer in exchange for time served (three months). This is quite a drastic departure from the prosecutor’s previous offer, which goes to emphasize the non-existence of the prosecution’s case.
Ms. Garcia-Lamarca’s cruelty is also responsible for totally destroying Crystal Mangum’s life. Not being a flight risk or threat to society, Ms. Mangum should have been released without bail, so that she could continue to work, pay the bills, attend classes, support her three children, and help take care of her parents. Instead, Ms. Garcia-Lamarca took the toughest position possible to assure that Ms. Mangum would be locked up for a lengthy period of time. Now ask yourself, if Jesus of Nazareth was prosecuting the case against Ms. Mangum, would he proceed as Ms. Garcia-Lamarca? Undoubtedly not… and if he was given the identical case by police, after looking at it, he would dismiss all charges and rebuke police officers for trumping up such garbage.
District Court Judge Claude Allen’s cruelty and animus against Ms. Mangum is evident by his ruling to subject Ms. Mangum to electronic house arrest in the event that she bonded out. Ms. Mangum (who is neither a flight risk nor threat to society) should not have even been placed under bail, much less considered for monitoring and house arrest after making bond. Judge Allen gave no explanation for this cruel, bizarre and unjust ruling. But, he is not held accountable by any person or body. The Honorable Judge Jennifer Knox when confronting a suspected rape defendant who had been placed under similar conditions (requiring house arrest and monitoring if bonded out), reduced the amount of his bail to $300,000, but dropped the condition of house arrest if he bonded out. Surely, one would consider a suspected male rape defendant more of a threat to society than a female victim of domestic violence. But Judge Knox acted honorably and righteously by dismissing the house arrest condition. There is no doubt that in considering the two aforementioned judges that Judge Knox acted in the true spirit of Christianity. The same cannot be said for Judge Allen.
Crystal Mangum, a victim in the Duke Lacrosse case, has been caught up in the vindictive vortex spun in response to the call of the Carpetbagger Jihad. And this malicious fervor against Mangum and surrogates of Mike Nifong has permeated through all walks of life and levels of government… including the Jail Diversion Program. This county agency provides defendants with an alternative to incarceration while awaiting trial. Since her May 18, 2010 transfer from the Durham County Detention Center to house arrest, Ms. Mangum has been under its auspices. Although she achieved limited relief from the courts (unrestricted mobility weekdays from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm), she is still required to be at home in the evenings and on weekends.
Recently, Ms. Mangum requested to have a weekend free in order to go to the beach. Her immediate supervisor authorized her to have the freedom to enjoy this activity. Days later, she learned that the supervisor had been overruled by someone higher up in the pre-trial program’s chain. The excuse given for denying Ms. Mangum’s request is that “it wouldn’t look good.” This mean-spirited denial by the Jail Diversion Program is yet another troubling example of the cruelty that is so prevalent in the state’s criminal justice system that it has been accepted as the norm. But inhumanity was not the only driving force here… the state does not want to do anything that would make Ms. Mangum look vulnerable, innocent, or non-threatening. Keeping her tied to house monitoring on a short leash, solidifies the media created perception that Ms. Mangum is an imminent threat and danger to society… just like the affable and severely retarded Floyd Brown (as determined by Prosecutor Michael Parker). Therefore, because Ms. Mangum and Mr. Brown do not come from families of wealth, power, and prestige, the North Carolina system of “selective justice based on Class and Color” has no qualms with their being subjected to cruel treatment and punishment.
The state does have a mandate to protect its citizens from criminals and the crimes they commit. That said, in a civilized society, defendants, whether charged or convicted, deserve to be treated with basic dignity and compassion. To act in a malevolent manner against those disadvantaged by being in the throes of the correctional system is contrary to the very principles upon which Christianity is based. Ask yourself this question: “If Jesus of Nazareth was managing the Durham County Jail Diversion program, and Crystal Mangum (wrongfully charged, wrongfully placed on electronic house arrest, not a flight risk, and not a threat to society) requested to have a weekend free to go to the beach, what would he say?”