Reader challenges district attorney on conclusion regarding police officer case

Published 6:49 pm Saturday, January 2, 2010

Michael Jackson is dead wrong in concluding that the subject victim of the alleged police rape lied to the grand jury. The grand jury acted on the information produced by the D.A.’s office. The D.A.’s office failed to present available evidence necessary for the grand jury to deliver an indictment against Chris Harris, the police officer that allegedly raped a young African-American woman. The victim’s chief witness waited for hours to testify but she was never called by the D.A. The ABI investigation established that the officer also had sex with a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old.

That evidence was not orally presented to the grand jury. For 200 years the rape of black women was legal. Men of all colors, ages and status could rape even black girls and women at will, with impunity. Indeed, the victims were portrayed as lewd, over-sexed and deserving of the violence they were forced to endure. The law has changed but the reality remains painfully the same in some places.

Last year, Michael Jackson allowed three 20-year-old men to receive youthful offender status and probation although they plead guilty to first-degree rape. The victim and her family were told that their convictions would be posted to alert other possible victims. After a year of not being posted the victim and her family became very concerned. For the first time they learned from Sheriff Harris Huffman that under the plea agreement with the D.A., the rapists were not required to be posted. They only had to report changes of address to him once a year. Incredibly, these self-confessed rapists only received probation and it was unsupervised. In Alabama you can receive a higher bail for stealing a car than for raping a woman and stealing her dignity.

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The rapists who I refer to were released on a $20,000 bond. A young man who lived with me was given a $60,000 bond for stealing a car. As my beloved partner J. L. Chestnut would say, “Lord help us. Lord help us all.”

I do give the grand jury credit for recognizing Mr. Harris committed a wrong. Why should his name be concealed from the public? A man with a badge and a gun who approaches women for sex while on police duty can be a serious problem. Whether it is rape or consensual sex it can be a thin line under certain circumstances. When rape was legal, it also was deemed consensual. White male rapist had the power of the gun and the law. We can ill afford to extend that power to police officers, black, brown or white. Anything less than termination, Chief Riley, is unacceptable. Other officers on the Selma police force have committed theft and were not terminated. Clearly, there is a double standard of justice that persists in Selma in spite of the “color change.” In 2010, let’s work for real change that we can see and believe in.

Rose Sanders