Mock trial pits Sanders versus Sanders

Published 9:05 pm Friday, March 2, 2018

By Adam Dodson | The Selma Times-Journal

Selma’s annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee continued its tradition of promoting racial advancement with a mock trial, which pitted husband against wife with Hank and Rose Sanders arguing on different sides of the case.

Taking place every Friday night of the weekend-long celebration, those who organize the mock trial choose to focus the topics related to racial injustices.

The issues chosen could be from the present day, such as an argument over modern police brutality, or from the past, such as Jim Crow laws.

According to Sen. Hank Sanders, an organizer of Jubilee events, previous arguments discussed come from various topics all centered around racial advancement, including law enforcement discrepancies, government ignorance and age-old cases argued in real courts.

Sitting on the trial was Judge Collins Pettaway. This year’s case chose to focus on a vast amount of grievances built up from over two centuries of mistreatment.

The 2018 trial came in the form of a class-action lawsuit representing women and young girls who have been sexually mistreated dating back to the era of slavery, going through the Jim Crow era and into the modern day.

This class-action lawsuit is being brought against the United States government. The list of grievances span 229 years.

Representing the plaintiff was Rose Sanders and Renetta Perkins.

Representing the U.S. government as the defendant was Senator Hank Sanders and Martha Morgan.

While they took time to get volunteer jury members from the audience, the main purpose of the event was to give Selma residents and visitors a chance to immerse themselves in important legal racial issues.

“We try to discuss voting rights issues. It can be from something recently or it can be something from the past,” said Senator Sanders. “This year we chose to focus on all black women and children who have been oppressed or mistreated.”

The court also organized “expert witnesses” who could act out first-hand accounts of racism and sexual mistreatment.

This included someone pretending to be a former slave, who had to endure sexual assaults of her own person and of her family members.

The attorneys representing the case argued for their respective sides; however, this does not mean the mock arguments  are made match up with their own legal or political beliefs.

Attempting to make a logical argument, rather than an emotional argument, Hank and Morgan attempted to convince the people of the jury that while the sexual misconduct is tragic, it does not mean the federal government is responsible.

“We do not deny the violence against women, but it is our position that the U.S. government is not the right one to sue,” said Morgan.

“Who you should be going after is the white men in the states, if any are still alive, and not the United States government. We have been trying to do the best we can.”

However, Mrs. Sanders and Perkins represented a different perspective about the matter.

During their argument, they say that the federal government turned a blind eye to the grievances African-American women have endured over the past two centuries, arguing that not only did they ignore it, but silently condoned it.

“Not only did they view black men as bestial, not only were black men considered sexual predators for white women, but black women were property and targeted to be used sexually,” said Perkins during her argument.

While the case used real arguments, cases and people, the trial itself held no legal weight, instead it is supposed to serve as a discussion ground for people of all races to receive more experience in dealing with matters of race.

The faux jury at the Jubilee trial agreed with Mrs. Sanders and Perkins that the federal government is responsible for the sexual abuse and mistreatment of multiple women in the class-action suit.