Justice denied to Hambrick family

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Once again, the criminal justice system has flagrantly manifested its failure to afford justice which we, as Americans, are taught is a constitutional tenet that should cover all citizens of this country. Again and again, it has been shown that evidently the desire and practice to offer justice too often doesn’t apply to African Americans and people of color—as if we are not considered or regarded as full American citizens. While there are those who are quick to make admirable speeches about the credibility of the judicial system in this country, all too often it just doesn’t seem to be working for people of color.

It is a growing concern among many citizens that the police, questionable lawyers, judges, and courts seem to be working together to maintain a system teeming with racism and noticeably practicing improprieties catering to certain people. Systemic legal loopholes and technicalities have made it possible for so many people to avert the punishment they deserve, as well as aiding in incarcerating people who are innocent. While we are told we have the best criminal justice system in the world, it may be a ‘front’ keeping us from correcting the many detrimental flaws that literally keep Lady Justice blind.

It is apparent for all of us who are ‘awoke’ that justice seems to weigh on a multitude of factors. It works disproportionately in favor of those with influence, money and power over those who may be financially disadvantaged or people of color. These factors have created a status quo that we seem to accept without question or blatant righteous indignation. We see it played out over and over with no real attempts at consistent legislation to correct this egregious practice.

Make no mistake, when you have five people committing the same identical crime and have five different outcomes based on factors such as one’s economic status, race, address, or who they know—you find justice applied unfairly and subjectively. The elders would say that a ‘fly is in the ointment.’ Common sense dictates we should have a nondiscriminatory system that works across the board. It should apply to all parties equally without legal entities (lawyers or judges) working subjectively using esoteric loopholes and ominous interpretations to alter outcomes.

We must examine and hold law enforcement agencies accountable. They must be honest and transparent in holding their law enforcers accountable and culpable if questioned concerning gross negligence in their enforcement of the law. Officers or other officials should not have unwritten immunity when questioned about gross improprieties.

This being said, consider the Daniel Hambrick killing in Nashville, Tennessee. An officer, Andrew Delke, shot Hambrick in the back several times during a chase—attributing to his death. The rationalization was that Hambrick had a gun in his possession, but available videos showed that at no time did the assailant point it at the pursuing officer. Does running away while holding a gun justify being killed?

Does a misdemeanor traffic stop warrant a person being shot to death, especially if they do not present a threat to others? Naturally, the pain, hurt, and anger of the deceased loved ones is warranted. The family wants answers and justice. Of course, the family expected a jury trial. But then they were blindsided when a plea bargain was established. The family claims this option wasn’t presented to them until after the fact. The charge was lowered from first degree murder to manslaughter, and sentencing Officer Andrew Delke to three years of incarceration. Is this justice, or manipulation of the judicial system in subtly supporting one of its own?

Some legal parties assert that the plea bargain may have been in the best interests of the Daniel Hambrick family’s case. They say a jury trial likely would have resulted in Delke being found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter anyway as opposed to first degree murder. There was even speculation of the possibility of a hung jury—or even a lesser charge of criminal negligence warranting a sentence shorter than the three years that comes with manslaughter.

The Hambrick family, many organizations, and the community as a whole are enraged at the gross disrespect of circumventing what they felt should have been due process of the law. Officer Andrew Delke publicly apologized and asked for forgiveness from Hambrick’s emotionally charged mother and family. However, this was emphatically dismissed, refused and alluded to as disingenuous and staged. The emotional and heated outburst of hurt from Hambrick’s mother and family warranted the courtroom be cleared. The family’s basic argument was that they were deprived of the right of a jury of citizens to adjudicate Delke’s outcome. They asserted that their feelings were dismissed and disrespected.

When one looks beyond emotional dynamics, the real issues focus on questionable, influential considerations favoring Officer Delke. No one is questioning that policeman are not necessary. It can be a hard and taxing job. But make no mistake, there are policemen who may be racist, apathetic or who think they are above the law. They must be addressed. In fact, the scariest scenario is that many officers manifest open season on people of color.  They adhere to practices, policies, and procedures they were taught and that are sanctioned by their law enforcement agencies.

The machinations in the Daniel Hambrick situation can be considered unsettlingly disrespectful, and highly questionable by many people’s standards. But it leaves us to address blatant discrepancies and practices that should be questioned or amended in future cases.

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