Thursday, October 15, 2009
The KKK has threatened Heather Ellis,who faces 15 years for cutting line at Walmart.
This was in a e-mail I got.
Dr. Boyce Watkins
as you know, I sent you an email the other day about the case of Heather Ellis, a young woman in Kennett, MO who is now facing 15 years in prison for cutting line at a local Walmart. My assistant Shauntay told me about the case after seeing Heather's plea for support on local television down in Memphis, TN. As the father of a college student, I can readily empathize with what her family must be feeling.
I reached out to CNN, who agreed to cover the case (the video is here is you want to see it: http://blip.tv/file/2723952). The KKK has gotten involved, threatening Heather and her family when they were going to hold a rally in town. The head of the NAACP in the area, Rev. Jessie Bonner, informed me that he received some resistance when attempting to file permits for the rally, and he believes that many of the town's officials might be colluding to violate the civil rights of many African Americans.
Also, we discussed the issue on AOL Black Voices, and I spoke with Rev. Al Sharpton, who found the case very interesting (I'll speak to Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson this week to get their takes). I've got some ideas on how we can use this terrible situation as an opportunity to achieve lasting change in the system (I welcome your ideas that you can share on the support form for Heather's case). Injustice against African Americans is like having 10 million roaches in your house - you can't kill them all one by one - you need a wider blast radius to clean the entire house.
I have 3 objectives in this case:
1) To help this young student - She deserves our support. But the many emails I receive every day are reminders that Heather is not the only one who needs our help.
2) To get the US Justice Department to investigate all of the cases tried by Stephen Sokoloff, the prosecutor in Heather's case. Sokoloff has been accused of unleashing harsh and unfair treatment on people of color in this county for a long time. Whether this is true or not should be determined by an independent third party.
3) Further push the bigger issue to the United States Justice Department in hopes that we can convince them to create broader and more effective infrastructure to investigate violations of civil rights that are occurring throughout the country.
My heart cries for every mother who emails me about how the justice system has unfairly taken the life of her child. Many people plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit primarily because they have inadequate counsel, no money and have been threatened with a massive sentence if they choose to fight the charges (it's happened several times in my own family). This is hardly a humane way to administer justice.
If you would like to help Heather, please visit www.SaveHeatherEllis.com and sign the petition. The signatures will be submitted to the Attorney General of Missouri and the Attorney General of the United States. We will also put forth other initiatives before her trial date on November 18th. If you have legal or other expertise that you would like to lend, please let us know on the submission form. Perhaps if we work together, we can make a difference - but I certainly can't do much by myself - I really need all the help you can offer.
God bless you and take care,