AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR COMMUNITY, and addressed to our Superior Court and Supreme Court Judges of Washington State:
The Seattle King County NAACP is aware and concerned of the Washington State Supreme Court’s Order regarding the modification of jury trial proceedings issued on June 18, 2020. The order can be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20Orders/Jury%20Resumption% 20Order%20061820.pdf. This order will allow Washington State trial courts to begin using video technology as part of Voir Dire, i.e. the jury selection process. The order states in part:
The use of remote technology in jury selection, including use of video for voir dire in criminal and civil trials, is encouraged to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure. Any video or telephonic proceedings must be conducted consistent with the constitutional rights of the parties and preserve constitutional public access. Authorization for video- conference proceedings under CrR 3.4(d)(1) and CrR 3.4(d)(1) is expanded to include jury selection, though the requirement that all participants be able to simultaneously see, hear and speak to one another does not require that all potential jurors be able to simultaneously see one another.
This means the Washington State Supreme Court will allow trial courts to implement procedures that require potential jurors to participate in the jury selection process through the use of video technology. Potential jurors will presumably be able to participate through Zoom or some other similar technology.
The Supreme Court’s order is a perfect example of the systemic racism in the criminal justice system. People of color, especially those in lower income groups, will be unable to participate as potential jurors if they do not have access to broadband internet access and the hardware capable of utilizing the technology selected by the trial courts.
There are many articles written about the “digital divide” in America. This is to say, articles about the different technology available to different socioeconomic groups in the United States. For example, the Pew Research Center published an article on May 7, 2019, detailing the digital divide. You can find the article here: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/07/digital-divide-persists- even-as-lower-income-americans-make-gains-in-tech-adoption/. It states, “Thirty years after the debut of the World Wide Web, internet use, broadband adoption and smartphone ownership have grown rapidly for all Americans – including those who are less well-off financially. But even as many aspects of the digital divide have narrowed over time, the digital lives of lower- and higher-income Americans remain markedly different.” The article goes on to say, “With fewer options for online access at their disposal, many lower-income Americans are relying more on smartphones. As of early 2019, 26% of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet at home. This represents a substantial increase from 12% in 2013. In contrast, only 5% of those living in households earning $100,000 or more fall into this category in 2019.”
The effect of the Supreme Court’s order will be to decrease the number of potential jurors from communities of color. I do not believe the Supreme Court is intentionally engaging in racism. However, I think their order is an example of the systemic racism inherent in the criminal justice system. They have enacted a policy without any input from the communities it will affect the most and the result of this change will be to decrease the number of minorities included in the pool of potential jurors.
This order was issued without any input from stakeholders in the criminal jury trial process right after the Washington State Supreme Court issued an open letter that states, “The devaluation and degradation of black lives is not a recent event. It is a persistent and systemic injustice that predates this nation’s founding. But recent events have brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness a painful fact that is, for too many of our citizens, common knowledge: the injustices faced by black Americans are not relics of the past. We continue to see racialized policing and the overrepresentation of black Americans in every stage of our criminal and juvenile justice systems. Our institutions remain affected by the vestiges of slavery: Jim Crow laws that were never dismantled and racist court decisions that were never disavowed.”
The procedure authorized by the Washington State Supreme Court is similar to the Jim Crow laws of the past. This procedure allows those who can afford the technology to participate in the criminal justice system as a potential juror to the exclusion of those who cannot.
This procedure is wrong because the effect will be to decrease the participation of an already underrepresented community in the jury trial process as potential jurors. This process decreases the chances of Black and Brown people ever having a jury of their peers. Part of the jury experience is interacting and discussing with each other and watching body language, this will be almost impossible.
President of Seattle King County NAACP
Last year, the Seattle King County NAACP made history! Not only was I voted in as the LGBTQ Chair (the first in the organization's 112-year history), but the chapter also participated in Seattle Pride for the very first time.
This year, however, our community has been in chaos. Not only are we battling the COVID-19 pandemic, there have also been three recent shootings, including the tragic loss of Lorenzo Anderson. These trying times have me asking the question: What does Pride mean to me when our brothers and sisters keep getting killed in these streets?
With that said, myself and the Seattle King County NAACP have made the conscious decision not to participate in any Pride events this weekend. Our safety as Black individuals is constantly being challenged, and I implore this community to stand in solidarity with the Anderson family and all those who have so unjustly lost their lives.
We must have Integrity over Pride and pray that everybody stay blessed and stay safe.
DeAunte' Damper, NAACP LGBTQ Chair
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, you continue to not know your City, you continue to not understand the Black community, you continue to disrespect the African American Community. The NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in Seattle, must continue to be at the City's table, as we effect real change for our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.
The NAACP Seattle King County supports the demands of Black Lives Matter and will walk with them on Friday June 12th for: all law enforcement at demonstrations to turn on their body cams for the entirely of their shift, divestment of $100 million from the police force and put towards community needs, and that community oversight be part of the police contract bargaining process. Please join in this national strike and silent march starting at Judkins Park in Seattle at 1pm.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5, 2020
CONTACT: Carolyn Riley-Payne, President, Seattle/King County NAACP
EMAIL: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
The NAACP Seattle King County, under the leadership of President Carolyn Riley-Payne, invites you to our NAACP Prayer Vigil to honor the men and women who've been killed due to police lethal force. The following is an ask from our NAACP Religion Chair, Ezra T. Maize:
In light of recent events, crises and devastation that we have experienced in our City, the Seattle King County NAACP and clergy of Seattle have organized an 8-hour Preach-A-Thon and Prayer Vigil in honor of men and women who were murdered due to police brutality.
Our mission has always been to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. This event will take place on Saturday, June 6, 2020, beginning at 12:00 p.m, and end at 8:00 p.m. at Cal Anderson Park, 1635 11th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122.
As the Religious Chair of the Seattle King County NAACP, under the leadership of President Carolyn Riley-Payne, I will be preaching and praying for 8 hours in memory of victims who have lost their lives due to police lethal force. We solicit the support of not only pastors, City officials, community leaders, organizations, but especially you as we pray for healing.
As leading pastors within our great City, we are asking pastors, after every hour of preaching, to volunteer in lighting a candle and praying for the victims' families that will be memorialized during that hour. We solicit your time, support, but most assuredly, your presence to help make this a success. If you are able to join us in lifting your voice in prayer during this event, you may contact Ezra at 646-860-8750.
We do apologize for such short notice, as we well know situations such as these are unpredictable.
Yours in Christ,
Ezra T. Maize Religious Chair, NAACP
Saturday, June 6, 2020
12:00 p.m, through 8:00 p.m.
Cal Anderson Park, 1635 11th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122
The Seattle King County NAACP is relieved the City of Seattle did as we requested in making the right decision to withdraw its motion to terminate the Consent Decree. The NAACP agrees with the City Attorney that the City's best approach is to address those concerns that Judge Robart cited. Until the City meets its obligations to address the deficiencies in Police Accountability, it should not be released from Federal oversight. We will continue our demands and will be watching, working and listening to ensure the City of Seattle's and Seattle Police Department's full accountability.
The Seattle King County NAACP opposes the City of Seattle and Justice Department’s motion to release the Seattle Police Department from remaining Consent Decree oversight. We join with other community organizations and the office of Councilmember Kshama Sawant and ask that the Court DENY the motion.
In May 2019 the Court sharply criticized the city’s “longstanding inability to address officer accountability”. The Court ordered that before the City could be released from federal oversight, it had to respond to those deficiencies, including the closed-door appeal process for officers who have been fired or disciplined.
The Police Department Chief asserts, “We’ve come a long way from where we’ve started with the federal Consent Decree,” touting the Department’s body-worn cameras, “full and unfettered access to all records”, a review board that reviews use of force; and remarking use of force is down to less than 2 percent of overall calls. Even if what the Chief says is true, there have been no significant strides made to engage community—especially those communities most negatively impacted by police accountability issues. It should be noted, the City did not engage members of the community in making its’ assessment, or even to develop the promised framework.
Instead of engaging members of the community to develop the framework, the City has engaged with the Department of Justice in a motion to be released from the Decree. It cannot be overlooked that the current Department of Justice under the Trump Administration has significantly withdrawn support for consent decrees nationally. In this regard, the role of the Court, as a part of the checks and balance of our government, is essential in ensuring that all accountability measures are effectively put in place regardless of who is in the Executive Office.
Additionally, the City makes the motion during the Covid-19 global pandemic health crisis, when most of the City and Washington state are closed, our communities are under the Governor’s Order to stay at home, and our most vulnerable communities, if not all communities, are struggling through devastating economic, mental, and physical health stresses caused by the crisis—with communities of color impacted by disproportionate infection and death rates. The City’s motion is truly an insult to the Community and flouts the Court’s order to address the deficiencies in officer accountability. Upon this premise, the City expects the Court and Community to trust it will make “top priority” reform in the area of disciplinary appeals and public transparency in the next round of collective bargaining negotiations without having federal oversight.
And, while the City’s use of force might be down, the NAACP overwhelmingly agrees with other community organizations that communities of color—most affected by the health crisis, are still experiencing police abuses including excessive use of force. For us, things have not changed. In June 2017 Charleena Lyles, pregnant, was shot by the Seattle Police while inside of her home, in front of her three young children. In December 2018 Iosia Faletogo was shot in the head by Seattle Police after a traffic stop. In May 2020, Shaun Fuhr was shot in the head running away from Seattle Police while he was holding his toddler.
The NAACP condemns the premature motion to end the Consent Decree and its’ police accountability oversight. The City’s motion fails to address the specific concerns of the Court to ensure that police accountability provisions are secured; its motion neglects its’ duty of transparency and respect to the residents it represents and is obligated to protect from unconstitutional policing. Until the City meets its obligations to address the deficiencies in police accountability it should not be released from federal oversight.