LOCAL VOICES: Jena? Plenty of injustice to march against in Sandusky

By FRED FARRIS, Sandusky The Sandusky Branch of the NAACP led a march near the Erie County Courthouse in September in support
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

By FRED FARRIS, Sandusky

The Sandusky Branch of the NAACP led a march near the Erie County Courthouse in September in support of the so-called "Jena 6" of Jena, La., to protest the actions of a prosecutor and a judicial system in the Bayou State.

The Jena 6 are six black teens who allegedly beat a white teen because some whites in the community didn't want to hang out with blacks. Some of the black kids have not had trials to date, but many in that community and tens of thousands across the nation contend they are being held to a double standard where blacks are treated more severely in the Louisiana court system.

The local "protesters" marched to show disdain for this double standard in the Pelican State.

But will the Sandusky NAACP ever march for injustice in Erie County? When was the last time the NAACP marched to show support and protest injustice for one of its own here in Sandusky or in Erie County?

There have been numerous injustices in the past locally, including the case of Andrew Johnson, which appears to be "injustice in waiting." The NAACP's cozy relationship with the Sandusky Register and with local prosecutors appears to make it so the group will never march for a Sanduskian when a Sanduskian's civil rights are violated by the same practice of "overcharging" blacks and "undercharging" whites.

A review will show the anatomy of an injustice and how that injustice can grow when those committed to civil rights look the other way.

From articles in the Register about the July 7 death of Gerald Gilliam one could assume Gilliam was trespassing on Johnson's property. This trespass is further exacerbated by facts that indicate Gilliam was going to harm Johnson. Depending on the type of harm a misdemeanor trespass charge could be elevated to a felony charge.

Some years ago, a white man, Gary Moore, shot and killed a black man, Jevin Wilson. Wilson was allegedly committing a crime on Moore's property, but Moore was never charged with murder, manslaughter or any other crime.

Johnson's "one shot" garnered all three charges.

This is a classic case of a black person being overcharged and whites being undercharged.

The Ohio Revised Code 2911.13, breaking and entering (that is in effect now) states as follows:

A) No person by force, stealth or deception, shall trespass in an unoccupied structure, with purpose to commit therein any theft offense, as defined in section 2913.01.

B) No person shall trespass on the land or premises of another with purpose to commit a felony.

C) Whoever violates this section is guilty breaking and entering, a felony of the fifth degree.

Jevon Wilson was shot and killed because he was committing a crime on a white man's property. Gerald Gilliam was shot and killed because he was committing a crime on a black man's property. Both men, Moore and Johnson, are claiming self-defense.

Why does the black man have to go to trial on three charges and the white man doesn't have to go to trial on any charge?

One of the "reasons" advanced as to why Moore was not charged is that the alleged accomplices of Wilson would not testify against Moore without a grant of immunity. The Erie County prosecutor, rather than give immunity to a petty burglar, would rather have Moore not go to trial. The prosecutor gives immunity in drug cases like Halloween candy, but in a case that involved a killing he refused to do so. Immunity is OK if you testify against a drug dealer but this prosecutor drew a line on granting immunity to try to convict an alleged killer.

Regardless of why immunity wasn't given to Wilson's accomplice, that accomplice cannot now be forced to testify against Moore because the statue of limitations on burglary expired. Moore, however, still can be charged with the same crimes Johnson now faces because there is no statue of limitations on murder.

A more definitive set of facts demonstrating the different standards in the judicial system for blacks and whites in the Sandusky area likely cannot be found.

There was no evidence, if memory serves correctly, that there was a "tussle" between Moore and Wilson or that there was a warning shot fired by Moore when the accident happened. Moore essentially said I saw someone committing a crime on my property and shot and killed him.

That's what happened to Johnson in August. I've yet to hear a suitable explanation why Moore walks free after killing a man under similar circumstances.

In either case, the state's death penalty does not apply -- for breaking and entering or for trespassing -- but a black man gets charged with murder and a white man gets a walk.

When was the last time the venerable civil rights organization's Sandusky chapter marched in Sandusky for injustice here? Something should be done to seek enforcement of state law securing the civil rights of our own citizenry. A protest march here in Sandusky by the NAACP would inform the public of the adverse effects of racial discrimination and would help to seek its elimination.

It is indeed strange that members of the NAACP and other concerned citizens can march and ballyhoo about the so-called injustices 1,094 miles away in Jena, but cannot march against injustices right here at home.

Let the local NAACP branch march for justice for both Johnson and Moore. Show solidarity right here in Sandusky.