‘Justice for all’ means justice for everyone — no exceptions

The American promise of “justice for all” does not exclude any individuals or groups from its embrace. The cases of Courtney Clark and Rita Roberts are important for that reason. Injustice for them means injustice also for their friends and loved ones. Even the criminal justice and court systems suffer when this vital principle is unequally applied.

Courtney Clark is incarcerated at the Prison Medical Facility at Faribault, MN. He had been transferred to the California corrections system after he became a whistleblower exposing medical experiments performed on African Americans at St. Cloud State Reformatory.

His attempt to acquire justice and redress for his fellow Black inmates led to retaliation. California found the cost of his medical treatments too great and sent him back to Minnesota. As this column is being written, Courtney Clark is at death’s door.

The details of Mr. Clark’s case are contained in the public record of his formal complaints against the medical staff at St. Cloud and the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Courtney Clark suffers from excruciating and continuous pain as gangrene and other medical conditions ravage his body. His mother, a public health nurse for 25 years in Illinois and herself in poor health, seeks help in her fight for fairness and justice for her 39-year-old son.

Mr. Clark is not an angel, but his character is not the subject of this story. The system is the story. The system does not have the right in this democracy to sign off on retaliation, which has been the case for far too many African Americans in the Minnesota State Corrections facilities

That includes the death last week of Robert Mims of Philadelphia, PA, who was transferred to Minnesota and then denied medical assistance. His death is creating political fallout in Philadelphia. The system will fail its attempt to make this go away, as mainstream media will eventually catch up with us.

Rita Roberts is a 42-year-old Asian woman. On April 13, 2010, a police SWAT team knocked on her door. They said they were executing a warrant in search for weapons.

Police, court, and medical reports reveal the following when, unarmed and offering no resistance, she opened her door: She was shot in the face with buckshot that hit her in the upper parts of the body, shattering her jaw and disfiguring her face. Doctors have told Ms. Roberts officially, on the record, that she suffered irreversible damage to the nerves and ligaments of one of her arms due to how she was handcuffed and stepped on, she will continue to lose the use of her arm for the remainder of her life, and she will go blind in less than a decade.

Rita Roberts admitted and confirmed to me that there was marijuana in her home. Her mistake was to accept advice to plead guilty to a third-degree felony that disqualified her for medical recourse. A well-known local White attorney sat on her case for a year and six months, and then dropped it after her guilty plea was accepted by the court. The system crushed her from all sides, all because of marijuana and their weapons warrant mistake.

Courtney Clark. Rita Roberts. Easy to dismiss for some. But we should all care, as these cases raise serious questions about how the system can easily turn the quest for justice against justice itself.

Mr. Clark is clearly a recipient of retaliation for protesting medical practices on African American inmates used as medical guinea pigs. Ms. Roberts has received no rationale for why, after complying and opening her door, unarmed and not resisting, she was shot flush in the face with a pellet shotgun, suffering permanent, irreparable damage that will cost her sight and at least one of her limbs.

Have we so abandoned the concept of justice that “standards” accepted in non-democratic societies are now acceptable in America?

Courtney Clark and Rita Wallace are people of color, one Asian, one African American. Both seek justice and a full review of the circumstances leading to their medical conditions. What will we do to open the door to the hallway of justice so we can close the door to the dark pit of future injustice in the State of Minnesota?

Stay tuned.


Columns referenced above are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm. Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.