Creators of “participatory defense” – a community organizing model for people facing charges, their families, and communities to impact the outcome of cases and transform the landscape of power in the court system
People of color killed by police are often known, remembered, and honored through their names connected to a hashtag. There are also those who survive the shooting, tasing, or beating by law enforcement; we just don’t know their names simply because they survived. They face the added insult of then being charged with a false crime such as resisting arrest or assault on a police officer. Henry Sires, pictured below, was almost killed. Henry Sires was almost a hashtag.
We are sitting with Henry’s family during his trial, and through a new site called almostahashtag.org, are reporting updates from the courthouse. Check out the site and follow our social media posts using the hashtag #almostahashtag and #freeHenrySires. Henry is the first case we are sharing through this new site to bring attention to those who almost became a hashtag. If you have a case that you want profiled, email us. We are trying to bring the movement on the streets that is calling to an end to police violence to also step into the courts, where the violence of the criminal justice system continues.
Before retiring as a public defender, Aram James handled thousands of probation violations. In his essay, he writes that to fully evaluate Judge Persky’s sentence of Brock Turner, the public needs to account for what being on probation really means to those convicted of a crime.
(Graphic by Quynh Nguyen)
Former Stanford student and potential Olympic swimmer Brock Turner, a 19-year-old freshman at the time of this incident, was convicted in March of three felonies: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. The victim was a 22-year-old female college graduate, from another university, who attended the same alcohol-fueled Stanford fraternity party as Turner. Continue reading →
Through the Washington Defender Association and the Incarcerated Parents Project, we had the honor to spend a week in Washington state to work with four very different families who had one thing in common — they were each fighting a court system that was trying to keep their families separated, and the most powerful weapon they had to win reunification was the power of their own story. Through their courage they were challenging the criminal court system (Daniel), immigration court system (Gladys), Dependency Court (Brian), and trying to secure a federal prison transfer (Derina and Gina). We spent time with Daniel at the Chehalis Detention Facility, as he tries to win clemency from his sentence which will have him spend the rest of his term in adult prison and away from his young daughter. We sat in the family home of Gladys who is in a immigration detention center facing deportation and being a nation away from her children. We worked with Brian to tell his remarkable story of how he has turned his life around so he can reunite with his two boys that the dependency system is trying to take from him permanently. And we got the opportunity to sit with Darina, a wonderful 7-year-old who is doing everything in her power to get the federal prison system transfer her father from Texas to Oregon, so she could build a stronger relationship with him.
It was a remarkable week. Check out this highlight reel to meet some of the amazing families!
On July 21st, San Jose joined a #FreedomNow national day of action with the Black Lives Matter movement. The rally held at City Hall was lead by families who had lost loved ones to police violence. Joining the action were Santa Clara County Public Defenders Jennifer Redding and Sajid Khan, who both spoke about racial injustices they say daily in the court system. Below are Khan’s remarks to the crowd.
Santa Clara County Public Defender gives a speech at the San Jose #FreedomNow Black Lives Matter rally.
My name is Sajid Khan and I’m a public defender here in San Jose. I grew up and live here in San Jose and went to San Jose High School 20 blocks from here, the same high school that the late Phillip Watkins went to and played football at. His murder by police shook me because I am him and he is me.
As a public defender, the stories we’re here remembering are all too familiar: police intruding in the lives of minorities for no legitimate or necessary reason or not peacefully and appropriately responding to calls for intervention.
I, and we as public defenders, will keep fighting in our county courthouses to ensure that these deaths we’re mourning do not go in vain. Continue reading →
As a community organizer who works with families whose loved ones are facing the criminal court system, Charisse Domingo has sat through many sentencing hearings in Santa Clara County — the same court system that housed Brock Turner’s trial and sentence. But unlike the Turner case, the outrage at the court system she has repeatedly witnessed was about how punitive sentences tore apart the lives of families of color. In her essay, she writes while she understands the impulse to recall Judge Persky as an effort to challenge white privilege in the courts, it will ironically only further increase incarceration rates in communities of color.
(Graphic by Adrian Avila)
Like many people, I read Brock Turner’s victim’s statement with lumps in my throat. I teared up at the vivid descriptions of her painful experience. Every word was demanding. I wish I could turn back time for her –back to the Saturday night dinner she enjoyed with her family, pick up the remote and put on the show she was going to watch on tv, open the book to the page she probably dog-eared from the night before, return her to the last moment she remembered feeling safe. In this future going forward where their fates are forever linked, my hope for her is that one day, her thoughts allow her to float back to a carefree and peaceful place, free from his name.Continue reading →