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Blacks on the witness stand in Georgia in 1962: The Unsworn Statement

The unsworn statement

Slaves in Georgia suffered indignities even in church.

Jay, I read your your twitter

I was very interested in the one picture you posted about how slaves collecting the offering in church had to have one hand behind their back to keep them from stealing.

Most jurors didn’t know about the unsworn statement”

When I was in Georgia in the Summer of 1963 and again in 1964 through 1966, there was something called the “unsworn statement.”  I don’t know if it exists anymore.  It stemmed from the days of slavery when you could not have a black person take the “great oath” as they were deemed incapable of adhering to it.  [1]  Even so, occasionally the white man needed black man’s court testimony; for example, when the black man was present when Captain Bob and Mr. John made a business deal but now argued over terms and the black man was present while he was serving them dinner.  So they put him on the stand and he told his story.  Cross examination was not allowed since he wasn’t under oath.
In modern times it was used by white attorneys to put black defendants on the stand to give a “lawsy, lawsy Mr. White Man, I sho is a bad n***** and sho am sorry for whut I done did.”  The equivalent of the “slow plea” today.

However, the attorney for whom I worked, C. B. King,  [3]used the unsworn statement for a very different purpose.  We would put a defendant on the stand who couldn’t withstand a good cross examination and that defendant would tell his story.  The DA was not allowed to cross-examine.  Most jurors didn’t know about the unsworn statement and felt that since the DA didn’t cross-examine it might just be the truth.  Hey, it was one of the very few ways that we could get an all-white jury (all juries were all “all-white juries” at that time) to believe a truthful African American client.

all juries were all “all-white juries” at that time

 

Dennis Roberts, Attorney at Law

370 Grand Ave., Suite 1 

Oakland, CA 94610-4892 

(510) 465-6363 (Phone)

(510) 465-7375 (Fax)

roberts_dennis@sbcglobal.net

http://www.TheOaklandCriminalLawyer.com

 

***

Reference notes:

[1].  Interestingly enough, Aboriginies in Australia have basically the same law at present:

Unsworn Statements and Traditionally Oriented Aborigines. Aborigines may be particularly disadvantaged in the courts either as defendants or as witnesses.[519] These difficulties may prevent an Aborigine adequately presenting his or her version of the facts to the court both in evidence in chief and in cross-examination. In particular, problems arise with cross examination through incomprehension of questions or reluctance to reject suggestions or propositions put by persons in authority.[520] The option of an unsworn statement may assist in resolving this problem. A Select Committee of the Legislative Council (SA) investigating these questions reported that:

The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, supported by three Adelaide counsel … submitted … that a special case could be made out for Aboriginal defendants in particular for whom the unsworn statement ought to be retained. They referred to a number of judgments in which it had been recognised that Aboriginal persons faced special problems in relation to the administration of justice. In oral submissions to the Committee, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement emphasised that, because of these particular difficulties, cross-examination was not necessarily a tool which could always be used effectively to establish veracity. Consequently the abolition of the unsworn statement would help neither the Aboriginal accused nor the interest of society as a whole.

[2] A slow plea happens when a defendant has a bench or “judge” trial, knowing he will be found guilty.  Facts are often agreed to before trial.  A “slow plea” trial is done just to preserve one or two issues for appeal.  Sometimes issues are waived if trial did not go forward. Often the judge will not order jail time to be served until after the appeal has been decided.  As a defendant is entitled to a jury (even if that defendant is black) a slow plea is the choice of the defendant.

[3] The first courthouse in the deep South was named after C.B. King: “The C.B.King United States Courthouse is located at the corner of West Broad Avenue and Washington Street in the original downtown section of Albany. It was named in 2000 for Chevene Bowers King, a pioneering African American attorney, civil rights leader, and politician in Georgia.” http://www.gamd.uscourts.gov/court-info/court-locations/newark

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Someone posed as a member of Anonymous to bully Leagle.com into not posting his conviction online

A Seattle man was arrested Friday after authorities say he threatened Dallas-based Leagle.com to remove a court decision he was involved in.

Leagle.com is a website that aggregates state and federal court documents, including this Seattle man’s 2011 conviction for fraud and obstruction in Canada. He ran a scam to make credit cards in his name and then used them to shop at luxury car dealerships, according to previous articles.

Read more here.

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Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio found guilty of criminal contempt of court

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s own words were the linchpin in the case against him, his quotes cited more than 20 times in a federal judge’s ruling that found him guilty of criminal contempt of court.

In a verdict filed Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said evidence demonstrated Arpaio’s flagrant disregard for another federal judge’s order that halted his signature immigration round-ups.

Read more here.

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Anxiety and addiction have more in common than a lot of people realize. They can both fester for years, sometimes flying under the radar and rearing their ugly heads in times of crisis. Anxiety exacerbates stress while addiction poses as a coping mechanism — and left unchecked, especially combined, the two can make every other facet of life almost too much to bear.

Fortunately, there is always hope. We spoke to a few recovering addicts who told us about their struggles with anxiety and addiction, and how going to treatment to get to the root of their problems changed their lives for the better.

 

Addiction

Photo credit: Pixabay

Anxiety at work led Alonzo to return to old habits

So often it’s our professional lives that cause us the most stress. We live to work, work to live, and if there are any money or workload issues along the way, we’re left to our own devices to adapt. Alonzo had three years of sobriety under his belt when he relapsed, and he said job anxiety was a major factor.

“Overworked, staying late. Normally at the bar is where most of the contractors would meet, so we would drink and snort cocaine and make bad decisions,” he recalled.

It was his wife who noticed the biggest change in him — not only with his risky behavior, but his overall attitude.

“She recognized my passion for helping others stopped,” Alonzo explained. “It was all about work, work, work, money, money, money. When she started seeing it was just all about me, she started saying, ‘I see you going in the same direction. You probably want to put that in check.’”

When he decided to enter addiction treatment, Alonzo made the commitment to himself to make sobriety stick. He noted that an important part of his recovery was accepting that we all struggle sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with letting others know.

“I had a problem with being vulnerable,” he confessed. “It’s OK to be weak. That’s when you tell somebody, ‘Hey, I’m really struggling.’ That’s really when you’re strong, because you won’t fall. You’re just being vulnerable and being open and saying, ‘Hey, I’m having a tough time right now. I’m having a tough time handling this situation.’”

We all like to believe we can handle whatever life throws at us, but the truth is each of us needs help sometimes. Perhaps the real secret of anxiety is that there’s strength in numbers… if only you reach out.

 

“While I was out there using, I was full of anxiety, suffered from low self-esteem, emotional immaturity and was narcissistic. On the other hand, underneath all that was a decent, compassionate man. The more I reflected on my life and attitudes and was willing to change, that man came forward.” – Jeff, mental health and recovery advocate

 

Treatment helped Matt see the truth about his substance abuse

Matt said his alcohol addiction fell into a vicious cycle:

“Every couple of years or so, I just continued to relapse. My relapses were short but devastating to the family, of course.”

Despite the recurring bouts of drinking, he explained he wasn’t ready to truly accept that there was a problem. After some long talks with his wife, Matt agreed to enter alcohol rehab despite his reservations — and it was there that he finally found clarity.

“I’ve come to the realization after some sessions with my therapist that the issues that were causing me to relapse were ones I didn’t even know about — things that I could remember, but I really did not understand the gravity of how that could impact someone’s life,” he said.

Not only does he better understand his past and the way it affected his life later on, Matt has come to realize that the future can be much, much brighter.

“I’m very optimistic and excited about the fact that I can go back out there and not live in that state of anxiety that I didn’t even know I was living in,” he said. “As an alcoholic, you learn how to adapt to the way you feel, and it feels normal.”

Even those of us who haven’t been diagnosed with a substance use disorder or anxiety can feel inspired by Alonzo and Matt’s journeys. They were stuck in lives that made them miserable, but they made the decision to fight back and ultimately, they overcame. Recovery and happiness are within reach for us all, so don’t ever hesitate to ask for help finding them.

 

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The Dean of Yale Law School pontificates about why law students do not protest and doesn’t know what she’s talking about; a note about the life of C. B. King and other black lawyers in the south in the Sixties

Dennis Roberts, 17 July 2017

There was no end to the shit C B King lived through. Poisoned his dog. Shot up his house at least twice. What’s funny is the dean of Yale Law School wrote a piece in the most recent issue of Time Magazine [Dean of Yale Law School: Campus Free Speech Is Not Up for Debate] with Donnie Jr., and his recent problems [Donald J. Trump Junior] [1] on the cover.  Gerken was talking about the reasons that though there have been many disruptions in colleges, protests against speakers who are loathed, this hasn’t happened in law schools (not just Yale).

Law School

CB King

***

First, for context, a few of her comments, along with this editor’s editorials:

Gerken states, as if she has never been in a courtroom or litigated a case – – and certainly never one against Dennis Roberts: “There may be a reason why law students haven’t resorted to the extreme tactics we’ve seen on college campuses: their training. Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. That’s why lawyers know how to go to war without turning the other side into an enemy.” Maybe that’s the difference between Berkeley and Yale, Dennis having been a Berkeley man.

Proving she is so, so out of touch, Gerken states: “We need to return to what were once core values in politics and what remain core values in my profession.” Our core political values appear to have disappeared soon after the constitution’s ink dried: “Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” … As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant….” Jefferson and Adams were both lawyers

Lastly, the statement that so offended Dennis: ” The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, Thurgood Marshall was able to do things in court that a black man could never do in any other forum, like subjecting a white woman to cross-examination. Marshall was able to practice even in small, segregated towns in rural Maryland during the early days of the civil rights movement. The reason was simple: despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost.”

Back to Dennis …

***

Gerken’s theory is this bullshit that law students are taught to consider both sides of issues and be polite, etc.  No Dean, law students don’t protest as they are 1) generally conservative and 2) scared to death of the Bar Character and Fitness Committee. And to make her point Gerken talks about how Thurgood Marshall was always treated with respect in the rural area of Maryland where he sometimes practiced – the white lawyers treated him this way BECAUSE HE WAS A LAWYER. [2] I think this is total bullshit tho she cites a biography.  [3] What a fucking idiot.

CB King had his skull split open by the Sheriff because he sat where the white lawyers sat; Judges and lawyers generally refused to use courtesy titles like Mr King or Attorney King. It was “CB”. This was not friendship. It was disrespect to “put him in his place” He couldn’t use the County Bar library as he couldn’t join the County Bar and had to go to Ohio for law school as there were none in the south that would admit blacks.

Law School

C. B. King, after having his skull bashed open

Oh he could use the federal law library, a locked little room in the post office where the federal court was. But you see the ONLY key was with a guy who was on vacation, was ill, he lost it and they had to change the lock and the like. When we had a trial though told by the judge that our case would go out first so we better be there at 8:30 oh suddenly another trial came first but “come back at 1:30” tho there was  no way it could finish by 1:30 but they held us around till noon and then at 1:30 kept us till 4:30 but we’ll be sure to get our case on “come back tomorrow” and the same game until they ran out of chickenshit misdemeanors to put in front of our trials.

Poisoned his dog. Shot up his house at least twice.  Had his skull split open by the Sheriff

Gerken is the Dean of Yale Law and she knows nothing about the lives of black lawyers in the south. Embarrassing. The best part is that Drew Days III [4] who worked with us one summer was Solicitor General under Clinton and then went back to his professorship st Yale Law. He must be retired but she must know of him and could have called him before she wrote this dumb shit about Marshall to suggest that black lawyers throughout the south were treated with courtesy and respect by the white lawyers (and I assume judges) because they are LAWYERS. No Dean, at least in C B King’s case to them he was a N***** with a law degree. And that was true of every black lawyer in the south that I ever met. It was just a miracle that they couldn’t find grounds to disbar him as they would have loved to. I’ll write the Dean tomorrow and nicely tell her she should do a little research before she makes these kind of dumb generalizations.

***

Ed note: We look forward to publishing that letter to the Dean right here.

 

Updated Post: Dennis Roberts’ Open Letter 

 

July 22, 2017

Time Magazine
Viewpoint
225 Liberty Street
New York, N. Y. 10281-1008

Dear Viewpoint Column:

I am reproducing a letter I sent to the Dean of Yale Law who wrote a Viewpoint column in your issue with Donald Trump, Jr. on the cover, July 24, 2017.  Since you do not want attachments I hope this will copy.  Meanwhile I will also print it and mail it to you.  Her column disturbed me greatly.  Her notion of why law students do not demonstrate is ludicrous.  More important, her notion that even in the racist south in the early days of the civil rights movement, the white lawyers treated black lawyers with courtesy and respect because they were lawyers is nonsense.   Anyhow, here it is.  I did not copy my letterhead as that usually comes out with very bad formatting.

 

 

July 20, 2017

Dean Heather Gerken
Yale School of Law
127 Wall Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511

 

also by email: heather.gerken@yale.edu

 

Dear Dean Gerken:

 

I am writing to you because I take serious issue with your “Viewpoint” article in the July 24, 2017 issue of Time Magazine. First let me introduce myself. I am still practicing law, and have been doing so since 1964, some 53 years at the Bar. Along with Michael Tigar and Gerald Lefcourt I did all of the pre-trial motions in the Chicago 8 and Angela Davis cases. I represented Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement. The case went on for 13 years, three times to the Ninth Circuit and twice to SCOTUS. I tell you all of this so you will understand that I have been around a long time and have seen many things.

Let me start with your explanation of the reason there are no disruptive protests at law schools while there are at undergraduate schools:

“There may be a reason why law students haven’t resorted to the extreme tactics we have seen on college campuses: their training. Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. That’s why lawyers know how to go to war without turning the other side into an enemy.”

Let me suggest that law students, aside from being usually more conservative, do not demonstrate because the conduct of every law student is governed by two great fears: the Character and Fitness Committee of the State Bar and a bad recommendation from the Dean. Those are the reasons they do not engage in disruptive demonstrations, not because law school teaches them to behave as “righteous” people demonstrating “the rituals of respect” or to “recognize the best in the other side.”

Let me summarize a few of your points: “we demand that they imaginatively and sympathetically reconstruct the best argument on the other side.”… “The rituals of respect shown inside and outside the courtroom come from this training.”… “Thurgood Marshall was able to practice even in small segregated towns in rural Maryland during the early days of the civil rights movement. The reason was simple: Despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland Bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost….”

I must conclude that you have been in academia your entire career and have never litigated a case. Most of us who have ever practiced law know just how disrespectful and even vicious lawyers can be to each other. Far too often we do in fact “go to war … and do turn the other side into an enemy.” Prosecutors are generally better than civil lawyers in terms of their ability to “show respect” to the criminal defense lawyer trying a case against them. Generally this is because the criminal bar is smaller than the rest of the bar. We meet and deal with them every day and both sides realize that you don’t want to develop a reputation as a fool or a liar if you expect to deal cases with the same prosecutor. Prosecutors also need to maintain a good reputation for exactly the same reason. But many civil lawyers can be the most uncivil people it will ever be your misfortune to encounter. This is not necessarily true of the older lawyers, but many of the young ones, out to make a “name” in the firm, can be vicious. They lie, they hide evidence, they stubborn perjury. I have dealt with enough of them to feel comfortable in making that statement.

But let’s talk about Justice Marshall. I can’t imagine where the author got the notion that “despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland Bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost”. Perhaps the author learned it from speaking with the white Maryland bar. Perhaps even Justice Marshall told him that to sound temperate as a Justice. But unless white rural Maryland lawyers are shockingly different than white lawyers in the south generally, at a time when Justice Marshall was practicing, this is an incredible and frankly unbelievable statement.

In 1963-1966 I worked for Attorney C. B. King in Albany, Georgia. He was the only black lawyer in all of southwest Georgia from the fifties when he returned home to practice until the late sixties. He was the most brilliant and fearless man I ever met. He needed to be fearless because his home was shot up on several occasions and his dog poisoned. Battery acid was put on his car seat while in court burning through his trousers. I don’t think these were necessarily done by members of the bar, but you can never be certain in an environment where the Judge in neighboring Terrell County, W. I. Geer, running for re-election, had campaign posters which read: “Re-elect W. I. (don’t want the n***** vote) Geer.”

Did the local white bar treat C. B. King, like Marshall, “as a lawyer, first and foremost”. Did they extend the many courtesies, the “rituals of respect” lawyers show each other? Let me give you a few examples of how Attorney C. B. King was treated despite doubtless being the most brilliant lawyer in that part of the state. Could he use the county bar library? Of course not, he was black. Black southern lawyers had extensive and expensive law libraries because they were denied access to the law libraries used by the local white bar. There was the federal law library in Albany so clearly a black lawyer should have had access there. However, it was kept locked and the man with the key was either “on vacation”, “home ill”, “the key was lost” and other variations of an excuse to keep Attorney King from gaining access.

When C. B. King tried to sit among the local lawyers on the other side of the bar the sheriff demanded he leave. When he did not the Sheriff split his head open with a cane. No local lawyer intervened or objected. That was in 1962 and there was a photograph of his bloodied and bandaged head in the New York Times. The explanation the sheriff gave the press: “He is a n***** and I am a white man”

Generally it is a courtesy to address another lawyer with a courtesy title like Mr or Ms or Attorney preceding their last name. With Attorney King it was always “C. B.”. This was not to suggest friendship, it was one more way to try to humiliate and demean him, a way of putting him “in his place”. He used to joke that if he had another son he would name him “Mister”.

He had to go to law school in Ohio because there was no law school in the south where he could be admitted. In the Fifties his older brother, Clennon King, tried to enroll at Ol’ Miss and was arrested, beaten, and put into an insane asylum until C. B. King could secure his release through a habeas. So there was no point in applying there or at any other private or state law school in the deep south. Now Case Western Reserve where he studied taught national law as Yale and most of the better law schools do. You read cases from a variety of states to illustrate certain points. At the time that was not the practice in Georgia. There the bar exam required Georgia case law. So upon graduation he went to the office of the dean of Georgia black lawyers, Donald Hollowell, and “read the law” all summer. Years later he was told by an official of the Georgia Bar (who said he’d deny it if it were ever repeated) that he had scored higher on the Georgia Bar than anyone in the history of the bar. I tell you this so you can understand just how brilliant he was and if any lawyer ever deserved these courtesies it was C. B. King. But unlike the fantasy about Thurgood Marshall he wasn’t “treated like a lawyer, first and foremost.” To the white bar he was a “n***** with a law degree”.

One of their favorite “courtesies” was to order us to court to start a trial at 8:30 on a given morning. Although opposing counsel, usually the prosecutor, had assured us that our case would go out first it usually turned out another case (or more) would be tried before ours. This was true even if we had a felony case and they tried a white lawyer’s misdemeanor case first. It was true when we were there on a criminal case and they put on a civil trial before ours. The judge would make us sit through that trial and at noon we were told to be back at 1:30. We had to do that despite knowing there was no way that trial could possibly finish during the afternoon. But we would sit all afternoon only to be told to come back the next day where the same charade would be repeated, often several days in a row. He frequently had cases more than a 100 mile round trip away from Albany but there was nothing he could do but obey. They would have loved to disbar him and he was scrupulously careful to avoid a contempt.

When out of town there were no restaurants where he could get lunch. Did any of the local lawyers intercede on his behalf? Did any show him the courtesy of inviting him to join them for the noontime meal? Not while I was there. Local lawyers would advise the judge that they hand delivered process when they hadn’t. Local lawyers would refer to his clients as “boy” until old age when they became “uncle”. Female clients, no matter their age, were “girl”. Although he registered his protest on the record each time the judge would just smile and deny his motion.

There were one or two local lawyers who thought they were treating him as an equal. They would write him long letters arguing the legality of segregation, or come by the office wasting his time philosophizing about the futility of the movement and the arrogance of Dr. King (no relation), someone he represented in 1962 when he was jailed for leading a march protesting segregation. C. B. King was too much of a gentleman to throw them out despite my interrupting several times advising that we had a brief to get out or a client in the waiting room. The list of racist treatment by his brothers at the bar would go on for pages but let me close with a suggestion. The next time you want to pontificate about the courtesies extended to black lawyers in the south by the white bar (which of course they could not join) when Justice Marshall was practicing, sit down with Drew Days, III. He clerked for us and later went on to become President Clinton’s Solicitor General. He was also on the faculty at Yale Law School. He could tell you about the horrible racist treatment accorded to Attorney King by the white Bench and Bar.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dennis Roberts

 

Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken, Dean of Yale Law School

 

Notes:

[1] Donald J. Trump Junior https://thinkprogress.org/donald-trump-jr-potential-legal-jeopardy-f783fdab0107

[2] Maryland, despite being a “Border State” during the Civil War is commonly regarded as ambiguous in terms of being as Northern State or a Southern State.

[3] She cites Kenneth Mack’s book Representing the RaceI was not able to find any evidence in a google search that Mack discussed CB King.

[4] Days is still an active professor at Yale.

 

A brief history of Dennis Roberts

Other posts by Dennis Roberts are available at http://jayleiderman.com/blog/ search term Dennis Roberts.

 

 

 

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