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Stephon Clark slain anew by DA

Slain by police, Stephon Clark also subjected to character assassination by District Atty. Ann Marie Schubert

Stephon Clark was shot more than 20 times in his grandmother’s backyard by Sacramento police who said they thought he brandished a gun, that turned out to be a cell phone. Photo courtesy Stephon Clark family

Slain by police, Stephon Clark also subjected to character assassination by District Atty. Ann Marie Schubert

By MARK HARRIS, Special to California Black Media

The death of Stephon Clark has shattered the Sacramento African American community. This past week our worst fears became reality when we learned that both District Atty. Ann Marie Schubert and Attorney General Xavier Becerra failed to bring charges against the police officers that shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark.

Atty. Mark T. Harris.

Unfortunately, Sacramento has developed a shameful legacy relative to the killing of unarmed African American men. Once again, our justice system has reinforced that reputation.

First, in April 2016, Sacramento police offices shot and killed Daizon Flenaugh, a mentally ill Black man who police said was exhibiting “strange behavior” and ranting incoherently before they took his life. No weapons were found on Flenaugh at the time of his death.

In July of the same year, Joseph Mann was shot several times by Sacramento police after he “appeared agitated” and threw a plastic water bottle at them before attempting to flee. Unlike the circumstances surrounding Flenaugh’s killing, there were several video and audio transmissions that bolstered arguments that police were acting with malice toward Mann.

In March 2018, Stephon Clark, who was unarmed when police shot him to death, became the latest victim of the Sacramento Police Department.

None of the officers involved in the three shootings faced criminal charges.

District Atty. Schubert in a subsequent news conference Attorney General Becerra both implied that Clark sought his own “death by police officers.” Our top legal officials who we entrust with the judgment and wisdom to stand up for our rights and protection justified their decision with irrelevant evidence that Clark  “researched ways to commit suicide”  days before police officers tragically killed him.

Reasonable people might differ over many of the sad facts pertaining to the death of  Clark. However, what is beyond dispute are the following: First, at worst, Clark was accused of vandalizing automobiles; second, he was unarmed; thirdly, he was trying to enter his grandmother’s home at the time of his death — not fleeing a police chase leveled up to the pursuit of someone suspected of domestic terrorism.  Fourth, he was shot several times in the back or side of his body which would lend strong support to the theory that he was not approaching officers at the time of his death as claimed.

The best forum for the consideration of these four factors, relative to any law enforcement culpability in the death of Clark, would have been in the legal sanctum of a courtroom. There, under the watchful eyes and ruling of a judge, the entire range of evidence pertinent to his death could be presented before a jury in a criminal trial.

A civil suit, on behalf of Clark’s children and family, will proceed. However, that is not close to the best means for answering one key questions by DA Schubert and Becerra’s exoneration of the Sacramento Police Department. The move literally slams the door of justice for the Clark family. Schubert’s and Becerra’s decisions are now solely dispositive as they relate to an impartial inquiry into Clark’s death. Neither Schubert nor Becerra should be executing the responsibilities of a judge or jury. Their conclusions are doing just that.

Let’s pretend for a minute that either Schubert or Becerra had instead made the proper decision to bring charges against the officers. Those officers would have had the right to legal counsel and to have their actions considered by a jury in a legal process following the constitution and the rules of criminal procedure and evidence. In other words, they, and Clark’s family would have had their full “day in court” where all of the facts pertaining to Clark’s death could be considered.

Isn’t that the criminal justice process we are told we must have confidence in? We are reminded time and again, that justice is both fair and impartial, theoretically favoring no one.  I guess DA Schubert and Attorney General Becerra don’t want to take any chances with the fate of the officers who took the life of Clark. After all, an independent jury of their peers may have found them to be criminally culpable.

I would hope that we can take Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg at his word when he said the City of Sacramento is in need of substantial police reform.  Further, I would hope that he and the entire city are not just now waking up to that realization. After all, those who are economically disadvantaged, andBlack or Brown, have been telling city leaders the same for a very long time.

Mark T. Harris Esq. is a Sacramento-based attorney, lecturer and director, pre-law studies at the University of California at Merced; and the co-founder Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, a community-based organization in Sacramento.





Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.


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