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by mary shelton
Friday, Feb. 16, 2001 at 9:49 AM
Last week, the political prosecution of Bernell Butler came to a close as a jury acquitted him of six felony and misdemeanor charges, and convicting him of one added lessor charge of misdemeanor simple assault.
The courtroom became silent, as the clerk of the court repeated the verdicts of not-guilty in the case of the State of California v Bernell Butler. He was acquitted of four felony charges including domestic assault and assault with a deadly weapon, as well as two misdemeanor assaults involving the Rev. Paul Munford. The jury found him quilty of a lessor simple assault charge which had been added to the jury instructions by prosecutor Brian Sussman.
"I knew I was innocent. They were selectively prosecuting me, throwing all these charges at me, and hoping they would stick," Butler said, after hearing the verdicts. His wife, Ramona Butler who had recanted her allegations of domestic abuse during the trial embraced him as did his son, Jerel Butler. Butler added that he is going to urge the State Attorney General Bill Lockyer to do an investigation against the Riverside County District Attorney's office to see if it engaged in any wrongdoing. Attorney Mark Blankenship was happy with the verdict, and said it was a victory to get acquittals on every charge originally filed by the prosecution.
A male juror said the jury could not convict Butler on any of the charges. While three of them believed that something may have happened, they did not believe that a crimal act had been committed regarding either incident. "It was hard believe given the description of the assault on the videotape, that there would not have been more evidence of serious injuries," the juror said, regarding the alleged assault involving Ramona Butler. On the simple assault charge, nine had wanted to acquit but bowed to the wishes of a staunch minority to avoid a hung verdict. They all agreed that if the simple assault charge had not been an option, they would never have convicted him of anything.
The case involving Butler was a highly charged political trial. Every day, prosecutors flocked and sat and snickered inside the courtroom. At the reading of the verdict, there were 30 prosecutors in the courtroom, and all of them filed silently out, frowns on their faces, upon hearing the verdicts of acquittal. Criticism had been expressed against them for sitting in a courtroom for hours on the tax payer's dollar. When asked how much the typical salary was for a entry DA, one prosecutor refused to comment, suggesting that a freedom of information act request be filed. However, according to the Human Resources dept. for Riverside County, the entry salary range for a prosecutor is $26-32/hour with supervisors making up to $52/hour.
Judge Edward D. Webster, a former prosecutor, appeared upset at the verdict, as he had been for most of the trial. Harsh criticism has been launched his way about his handling of both the trial and his temper, which he lost in front of the jury several times. This was his final criminal trial after 16 years on the bench, and he is heading off for a stint in family court.
The trial ended one stage of the DA's incessent selective prosecution of activists and relatives of Tyisha Miller who have protested against her death at the hands of four police officers in December 1998. Butler still faces a trial on misdemeanor charges stemming from the Nov. 1, 1999 prayer vigil which took place on the 91 freeway. That case has trailed the other one for over a year.
Butler will be sentenced on March 30 on the assault conviction, and faces up to six months in jail and/or a $1000 fine.
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by Fellow Freeway Protester
Monday, Feb. 19, 2001 at 4:07 PM
As I predicted, it looked like the forces of reppression were losing this battle, and they lost. The jury in this case obviuosly saw what frivolous charges these were that the Riverside D.A. had filed against Bernell Butler. The state Attorney General's office needs to investigate the Riverside D.A.'s office for evidence of corruption, racism and dereliction of duty in its selective prosecutions(persecutions) of Bernell Butler and other Tyisha Miller family members, and of many of those who protested on the 91 Freeway, while failing to prosecute the four cops that evidence clearly shows committed pre-meditated, racially-motivated murder on the night of December 28, 1999, and take appropriate action to clean it up. Bill Lockyer also needs to review the evidence in connection with Tyisha Miller's murder, and re-consider filing first degree murder charges against all four that pulled the trigger and the superior officer present as an accomplice for his failure to intervene, or otherwise prevent the attack.
Still, it was good to see Bernell Butler at the Riverside Black History Parade with a smile on his face. It was long overdue and he has good reason to be happy, for now. But, as indicated above, this is not over. The Riverside D.A's office is still engaging in its corruption, and four murderers are still at large, one of them working in the Sheriff's Dept. of San Bernardino County where he has access to everyone's computer records. Aluta Continua-the struggle continues!
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