In the matter of Jamar Clark

Preparing for the Grand Juries

Ron Edwards

[The question is] “whether or not the wishes of these [segregationist] states shall prevail, or whether our Constitution shall prevail.”

— Thurgood Marshall, summation of Brown vs. Board of Education, December 8, 1953

I support Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr’s approach of transparency, truthfulness, nonviolence, civility, and the Golden Rule. As a minority, our credibility is our last line of defense in the remaining civil rights battles to close the gaps and beat the still-existing obstacles regarding education, jobs, economic development, and housing.

When the Minneapolis NAACP and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis announced to the world they were not only there at the very moment of Jamar Clark’s death but had videos of it, I wondered. Grand Jury testimony will determine whether or not a trial is justified. Will their story match that of the Hennepin County prosecutor, the State Attorney General and the FBI?

The U.S. Attorney, the Department of Justice and Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) are continuing their investigations into the November 15, 2015 shooting death of Jamar Clark by police. This raises the question: How has the Minneapolis NAACP and BLM handled and protected the significant amount of evidence they claim to have in their possession as they proclaimed in their public statements.

Who had custodial control of their evidence? Who had access to it during the two months of investigations by Minnesota’s BCA and the federal government? Will their testimony result in Grand Jury determination of “justified” and no trial or “unjustified” and recommend a trial?

How well schooled in testifying for such appearances are NAACP and BLM witnesses? Do they know what will be expected of them when they testify, especially if what they say is declared bearing false witness?

This case of Jamar Clark is very important. Without the claimed evidence our community will not just be embarrassed, the credibility of the NAACP’s nearly 100 years of experience in cases before Grand Juries, whether federal, state or both, now and in the future, will be in jeopardy. I agree with Thurgood Marshall — fight within the law for “Justice for all,” and do so at “all deliberate speed,” credibly and honestly.

Has the NAACP prepared its witnesses for how to testify about what they claimed to see on that November 15, 2015 morning? Do they know what is expected when they raise their right hands and pledge they will tell the truth and nothing but the truth?

This is not about loose talk on a street corner, or bragging in a bar or expressing feelings in an intimate meeting of an organization. We are talking about meeting the demands of due process under color of law, which can be a life-changing experience.

Do they understand the protocols and the demands of a Grand Jury setting? Are they prepared to be with strangers? Are they ready to be without an attorney or counsel as they are asked questions by both the prosecutor and members of a Grand Jury that will be mostly White citizens?

How will witnesses of the NAACP and BLM hold up psychologically in giving testimony, answering with facts and not feelings? Their testimony will determine if a trial is in order.

The NAACP and BLM have a responsibility to ensure witnesses are prepared to engage well in an activity that is not an everyday occurrence. We saw this in St. Louis, when far too many citizens of Ferguson did not hold up well bearing testimony about the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death.

Jamar Clark deserves the best game plan NAACP and BLM can deliver.

Stay tuned.


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One Comment on “In the matter of Jamar Clark”

  1. A well articulated article. I was impressed – until in the end you call for the NAACP and BLM to “coach” (my word) the witnesses because Jamar Clark “deserves” a good outcome. Jamar Clark deserves nothing – he is dead, gone because he put himself in a high risk situation. Yes, if police acted inappropriately, that story needs to be told and those responsible held accountable. But the remaining society deserves that Truth be told and justice be satisfied. Coaching witnesses is dangerously close to witness tampering. They will be asked by the judge to tell the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. There is no one that doesn’t understand clearly what that means. That is all the coaching any witness who purports to seek true justice needs. Pure truth cannot be manipulated or twisted. What gets people into trouble in cross examination is impurity in their testimony. When witnesses have an agenda their stories become slanted and cannot hold up to cross examination because only truth survives. My parents taught me what it means to “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. I do not need an outside biased agency to coach me on what it means.

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