There has been a lot of talk lately about self-defense shootings of black suspects by white people being treated differently than if it had been a white person harmed by an African-American. The perception is nothing new. I recently had occasion, for another reason, to review a story about one of my cases that I had written in the late 1990s. The following is an excerpt from my assessment of a trial I had participated in a year before.
The quote: Johnny Cochran, NAACP-coordinated picketing, a white versus black thing. I hate it when that happens. I worry about it sometimes, but probably more than I should.
Cross-racial shootings bring the same concerns whether I’m speaking for white good guy who shot black bad guy, or vice versa, both of which I’ve done several times.
A little more than six months before this trial, I testified for a black man charged with first degree murder and standing before an all-white jury after he had shot a white man in self-defense. That jury found him not guilty, and did so during the O.J. Simpson civil trial in the courtroom next door to where the Simpson case was being adjudicated. Justice was served.
This time, I spoke for a white man charged with first degree murder and standing before a largely black jury after he had shot a black man in self-defense. I knew how much pressure there had to be on the black jurors, and knew what they’d face if they acquitted and went home to a community that had heard Johnny Cochran and the media say that (defendant) Hubbard had killed a black man for no good reason.
The jury was out for about an hour and 40 minutes before they returned their verdict and found Blake Hubbard not guilty. One juror said later that they’d reached the acquittal verdict unanimously during their first five minutes of deliberation.
Call me a starry-eyed optimist if you will, but my opinion hasn’t changed in the 17 years since I wrote that. I’ve learned to trust the jury. Get the facts in front of them, and they’ll do the right thing, the forces of media bias and hate-mongering notwithstanding.