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by Dr. Boyce Watkins, KultureKritic.com
There’s nothing like using Facebook to say “I’m sorry for sending you to prison after falsely accusing you of kidnap and rape.”
That’s what happened to Brian Banks, after his accuser friended him on Facebook hoping that he could “let bygones be bygones” on a false rape and kidnapping conviction back in 2002.
After reading this story, I was infuriated. I was angry for Mr. Banks, who was in tears in the courtroom, reflecting on only God-knows-what happened to him after being sent to prison at a young age. He was a football star on his way to play college sports at the highest level when the non-incident took place. Wanetta Gibson (the accuser) ruined Brian’s life, and the system aided and abetted her in a quest to destroy this young man’s future.
Every perpetrator of this crime against justice deserves to be punished, starting with Banks’ accuser. There is word that Wanetta is going to be asked to repay the $1.5 million she was paid by the school district for what she claimed to have happened to her, but her repayment should go far beyond money. She should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and deserves a prison sentence no less severe than the time that was going to be given to Mr. Banks when the state chose to believe that he was a rapist.
The second person to pay for what happened to Mr. Banks should be the attorney, judge and prosecutors who coerced him into taking a plea deal. Mr. Banks was told that if he continued to hold on to his “illusion” of innocence and actually fight for his right to a fair trial, he could face up to 41 years. This kind of threat is similar to what was done during the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition, where anyone who proclaimed their innocence was tortured until they admitted guilt. This kind of coercive and unjust bargaining should be disallowed in the justice system altogether.
Finally, Mr. Banks deserves to be financially compensated. No amount of money can make up for what he lost, but about $10 million dollars should help ease the pain at least a little bit. There was no physical evidence whatsoever that Banks committed this rape, so there was no justification for any judge or prosecutor to consider sending him to prison. In that regard, those involved in the decision to destroy this young man’s life should be sent to the very same prison that they were willing to send an innocent human being.
The story of Brian Banks is, unfortunately quite common, particularly among young black males. It has even happened in my own family and the scenario is usually the same: Someone gets into trouble and can’t afford a good attorney. The overworked public defender, without seriously considering the evidence, tries to get the defendant to take a plea deal. Even if he is actually innocent and fights for their right to a fair trial, the defendant is then told that not succumbing to jail or prison time will result in a much harsher sentence. The person doesn’t go to prison because they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; they are incarcerated because public officials are too lazy to actually carry out their commitment to pursuing justice.
As a result of this farcical form of justice being administered all throughout America, millions of black men can’t get jobs and black families have been destroyed to no end. Politicians in Washington are asking black folks to march for gay marriage and immigration, but say almost nothing about the fact that our fathers, sons and brothers are being sent away to capitalist-funded modern day, concentration camps. This is nothing short of a true holocaust, and the broken families, violence and devastation around us serve as evidence that the impact is both deep and permanent.
What’s saddest about the story of Brian Banks is that he was one of the lucky ones. His accuser was silly enough to confess to her lie on record, and someone cared enough to investigate the situation further. But for every Brian Banks that is exonerated, there are 1,000 other innocent citizens who sit behind bars, away from the people they love. They were never given a fair trial and no one will ever take up their case. These stories will never be told.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.