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Congressional Black Caucus: The Trayvon Martin Case and Justice and Mourning the Passing of John Payton

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Let me thank the gentlelady again for her leadership--I like to call her Dr. Christensen--and for, as my colleague from California indicated, for allowing us to have a vote on a regular basis on behalf of all of America, my constituency, and certainly on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which I'll never step away from its definition as the conscience of this Congress, but the conscience of America.

I want to thank my colleague, the Honorable Barbara Lee, who knows what justice and fighting for freedom is all about. I'm reminded of the very unique history of Oakland, California, and I think of the movement of justice through the Black Panthers of early years, who did many things; but I remember them for their early breakfasts and nutrition programs, and I call that justice. Let me just thank her for her leadership on this and on many other issues.

To my colleague from the District of Columbia, the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton, let me thank her as well. Let me indicate that this is Emancipation Day. As I understand, there's a big parade. And President Lincoln, just a few steps away from us, signed the freeing of the slaves in Washington, D.C. You don't know the history of the District of Columbia until you hear it from Eleanor Holmes Norton, and I thank her very much. And I know of her friendship and closeness to John Payton.

One of my dear friends and former Federal judges that I know Eleanor Holmes Norton knows, Judge Gabrielle McDonald, likewise came to a similar history. We have talked. I was an Earl Warren legal scholar. And so I know the journey that so many have traveled.

So this is a personal statement as I rise to salute John Payton and also acknowledge his wife, Gay McDougall. And I want to say this on behalf of my husband, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee, a graduate of Yale Law School and who knew Gay very well, and I knew her. What a perfect match and a family of justice fighters, of human rights fighters, of individuals who could be as eloquent on the question of HIV/AIDS, international plagues and devastation that impacts so many vulnerable communities, here they are discussing the worldwide siege of AIDS upon individuals but, likewise, can come home and march along the road of justice here in the United States of America.

I learned in law school that the law--and I know that Congresswoman Holmes Norton still teaches--I know the law is a jealous mistress. I would say to you that I found that out. Obviously, I'm now in the United States Congress. But I love the law. I love the purpose and value of lawyers. And I encourage young lawyers that if they want to read a story of sacrifice and someone who epitomizes that it's a jealous mistress, read the history of John Adolphus Payton, born in 1946 and passed this past March 22 in Baltimore, Maryland. He, obviously, is from California, but with a law degree from Harvard Law School. That means that the world was his oyster, and it

was open to any manner of choice that he could have made in his lifetime. He was a Federal clerk, but he managed to start his life at WilmerHale, which used to be, I believe, Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, which is where my husband practiced law here in D.C. for a number of years.

What I like most of all is that his reach was so far on the Independent Electoral Commission in South Africa, again, looking for justice. President of the District of Columbia Bar, but he found his way to his calling. He found his way to answer the opportunities that he was given.

Being a 1977 graduate of Harvard Law School, he stood on the shoulders of Thurgood Marshall, a graduate of Howard Law School. He stood on the shoulders of the giants that graduated from law school in Arkansas and the other giants that graduated from Howard, and I think he found his comfort level at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, becoming the sixth president.

My classmate, Elaine Jones, served in that capacity for a very long time, graduating from the University of Virginia Law School. Today, in the wonderful tributes, she was part of that wonderful memorial service that was held here in Washington, D.C., along with a number of other giants.

Let me just say to you that when we think of justice, we have a combination, from the civil rights leaders to the fallen; Dr. King on the balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. But do we know all the lawyers that were part of the matrix of justice, from Thurgood, who held the hand of Dr. King and a number of civil rights leaders, one after another, some of our giant lawyers down in Alabama and Mississippi who were there to bond them out, to petition their case.

In the likes of those, John Payton became an unselfish fighter for justice,
from his, what I call, victory of Richmond v. Croson, in a 5 4 decision--it was a victory--where he attempted to maintain the affirmative action plan that established just a simple process of assisting businesses to receive opportunities. I want you to know today that because of lawsuits like that, we are suffering in cities all around America because there were those who believed that just a smidgeon of opportunity was too much.

Right in my own city of Houston, under the General Services Administration that I hope will be cleaned up--and I know there are good people there--we have Gilbane, a major company, using stimulus dollars and having no concern about the in-depth minority participation of small businesses--the GSA hopeless and helpless at being able to do anything--and having a nondiverse workforce. Gilbane. Let the number go out as an example of what John Payton was fighting against.

Then, of course, his valiant fight in 2003 at the University of Michigan, the affirmative action case that is maintained today as he defended the school's use of race as their admission processes--again, not using it destructively. That is, I think, one of the arguments that is not a legal argument, but he found a way to justify--the trial court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court defending undergraduate school's use of race in their admissions processes and the loss in the United States Supreme Court by 6 3--but in any event, maintaining the fight and taking cases that were not popular.

John, thank you. Thank you, Gay, for sharing him.

And then a 2009 case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. The municipal district in Austin, my State, challenged the validity of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Payton assisted in the arguments, leading to the Supreme Court's 8 1 decision upholding section 5.

He was our firewall. On the question of section 2 and section 5, he was the holder of the truth, the arbiter, the outside partner to the Department of Justice that wanted and needed to do right.

Finally, the local attorney for the plaintiff in 2010, Lewis v. City of Chicago, in which a group of African Americans seeking to be firefighters contended that they had properly filed a charge of discrimination. It is my understanding that that case has moved along and that John prevailed so that truth would be the call of the day. It is important to hold him up as the man of armor who is nonviolent. And he held as his victory call the Constitution and the laws that were passed to help the unempowered.

I've always said that the Voting Rights Act is not the black Voting Rights Act or the Hispanic Voting Rights Act. It is the Voting Rights Act to have one vote, one person for every single American. My hat goes off to John Payton, and I salute him as a soldier on the battlefield for justice, for what is right, never wavering with his quiet demeanor, and for his strength in the courthouse.

I ask the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to stay the course. I ask you to never whimper and never weaken. And I say to you that your soldier is going on to be a general in the justice cause in a place beyond. I beg of you to carry forward.

Let me just read these citations that were in honor of him, just very briefly, from a statement from the LDF, where they spoke about the city of Chicago, the Lewis case, which vindicated the rights of over 6,000 applicants. As I indicated, that case prevailed. They called him fearless, a guiding light, a brilliant advocate, a mentor and a teacher who believed that American democracy thrives when it embraces all of our voices. Thank you to the Legal Defense Fund. And then, from one of the major law firms, partner Walter Dellinger had this to say:

John Payton was a towering figure. He was just flat-out brilliant and combined that intellectual power with a deep and empathetic commitment to justice. Everyone who knew John will remember forever his infectious good spirit and uninhibited laugh. Every encounter with John was a learning experience.

Let me close on this note because I know that John would have been in the midst of discussing this travesty of justice as relates to Trayvon Martin. Trayvon obviously was a symbol of the injustice of this Nation when police and a State prosecutor became judge and jury. I don't want to interfere with the process of justice. Mr. Zimmerman is arrested. But let us not rest on our laurels because we pushed for the arrest that should have been. We know that there will be a rocky road proceeding toward holding Mr. Zimmerman accountable.

More importantly, let me make it very clear on the floor of the House that every mode of justice that is needed for a fair trial I support. If it is to remove the judge, as the defense has asked for, let that be considered in an unbiased manner. If by chance the prosecution asks for a change of venue because this jury pool in this region will be tainted, then so be it.

But what we must also say--and let me be very clear--I, as a Democrat, and I hope my friends on the other side, are not afraid of dealing with gun violence and the overuse of guns in America, as responsible legislators should be. And so to my good friend, Bill Cosby, let me say to you that the call has been answered many times. There are many bills dealing with gun violence. There are many bills to rein in the reckless use of guns, the use of the assault weapons, the issue of individuals not being checked at gun shows and the gun show loophole. It only takes responsible leadership to move it forward. And I salute the Brady Center that will be with us in Washington tomorrow for recognizing that there are people who are willing to take a stand--not against your Second Amendment rights. God bless you for those rights. You have those rights. I celebrate those rights.

But I cannot celebrate the fact that a man that was on the Neighborhood Watch, which is the eyes and ears, was walking around with a 9-millimeter and shot dead an unarmed, helpless 17-year-old boy and snuffed his life out because we refused to address the question of everyone being able to carry a gun, whether trained or not. Mr. Zimmerman was not a police officer and should not have acted as if he was the law, the judge, and the jury.

So to my good friends on the floor who will come up after me, let me just end my note by saying to John Payton, in instances like Trayvon, I know that your voice would have been heard on the civil rights of the question, but your voice had been heard through places where many of us were not there and did not know. And so I agree, and salute the words that were offered in tribute to you by so many of your colleagues, certainly these last words that indicate that you were, in fact, fearless; you were, in fact, a guiding light; you were, in fact, a brilliant advocate, mentor, and teacher; you were, in fact, an eagle with wings who stood widespread over America, and when there was a doubt about justice, you led the troops of the NAACP in a nonviolent, Constitutional law-saturated effort to ensure that justice would be done.

May God rest your soul for a job well done, good and faithful servant, and may your family and Gay know how much we loved you and appreciated the war that you waged for justice.

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about justice in America.

Thank you Congresswoman CHRISTENSEN, and my other CBC colleagues. I appreciate your leadership in convening this Special Order on Justice, Trayvon Martin, and our good friend John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

How ironic that in the span of a couple of months in a historic election year, we lose one of our precious youths to a senseless and irresponsible act of injustice; while at the same time, a man who in the tradition of the late, great Justice Thurgood Marshall, dedicated his life to paving the long, winding road of justice so that the Trayvon Martins of the world could live life, go to school, and travel Westward and Eastward, as they pleased.

That did not happen in Trayvon's case, and that is why I believe these issues of justice are of the utmost importance. It is necessary to figure out the best possible way for this Congress to be involved in addressing racial profiling and hate crimes.

Before we begin I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the family of Trayvon Martin. I was pleased that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) have begun to investigate the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon.

And as most of us are surely aware, there was finally an arrest in the case last week of the man with the gun, who shot the boy, which will get the wheels of justice to start turning.

I hosted a rally in Trayvon's honor in Houston, TX and just returned from another rally in Miami held several weeks ago. There were hundreds of men, women and children all asking for justice. ``I am Trayvon Martin'' and ``We are all Trayvon Martin.'' This case has captured the nation's and indeed the world's attention, as many folks around the world ask what's going on in the United States, the nation which touts liberty and justice on its coins, dollars, and in our engagements with those in the international community.

John Payton, the sixth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, left us late last month, at the age of sixty-five. But his legacy did not leave.

John Payton was one of the most formidable advocates of his generation, and he litigated and argued some of the most important civil rights cases of his time.

In a legal career that spanned private practice, government service, and public interest law. He led the litigation department of the venerable Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering law firm, served as corporation counsel for the District of Columbia, and until the very end, led the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

A true warrior for justice, John litigated case before the Supreme Court, such as, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, in which he won a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a monetary judgment against the organization under Mississippi's secondary boycott law;

City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., in which he ably, albeit unsuccessfully, defended a minority contracting municipal ordinance; and perhaps most notably, two cases in which he defended the University of Michigan's pursuit of diversity in admissions,

Gratz v. Bollinger, and Grutter v. Bollinger. Most recently, in 2010, John successfully argued and won Williams v. City of Chicago,an employment discrimination case against the city's fire department. Under his leadership LDF won five Supreme Court cases, including a successful defense of the recently extended Voting Rights Act.

I had the privilege of knowing John Payton for many years. It is said that success has many parents, while failure is an orphan. There were many who were responsible for the 2003 landmark affirmative action cases that saved diversity in higher education, thereby keeping the doors open to selective colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools. John litigated both cases in the trial courts, in the court of appeals, and in the

Supreme Court. He argued Gratz, and his work was essential to the victory in Grutter.

John's was a passionate voice for racial and social justice. But even in the toughest cases--in which the odds were stacked against his side particularly in the current Supreme Court--John's work and his voice were no less forceful, excellent, and passionate.

When the Supreme Court struck down Richmond, Virginia's minority contracting program in City of Richmond v. Croson by a narrow 5 4 vote, it was in spite of the Herculean effort put in by John Payton and his staff.

It is important to recall that the U.S. Supreme Court has narrowly approved of congressionally mandated racial preferences to allocate the benefits of contracts on federally sponsored public works projects, while generally condemning similar actions taken by state and local entities to promote public contracting opportunities for minority entrepreneurs, which came about because of years and years of de facto and de jure discrimination; some of it documented, but certainly much of it not. Bad actors usually do not leave their scripts lying around.

Disputes prior to City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson generated divergent views as to whether state affirmative action measures for the benefit of racial minorities were subject to the same ``strict scrutiny'' as applied to ``invidious'' racial discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause, an ``intermediate'' standard resembling the test for gender-based classifications, or simple rationality.

In Croson, a 5 to 4 majority resolved that while ``race- conscious'' remedies could be legislated in response to proven past discrimination by the affected governmental entities, ``racial balancing'' untailored to ``specific'' and ``identified'' evidence of minority exclusion was impermissible.

John had done the best that could be done, and a Supreme Court increasingly hostile to programs and efforts specifically designed to include African Americans and others who had been historically excluded from opportunity was on its way to becoming a forum in which they were unlikely to win.

Yet John, in the aftermath of Croson, tirelessly traveled the Country, meeting with attorneys in the public and private sectors in an effort to properly craft contracting programs and to ameliorate the effects of the decision. John did not accept defeat. He simply went back to work.


We stand here on this House Floor to discuss the role our federal government plays in hate crimes enforcement. Hate crimes are real. The loss of life and the impact these types of crimes have on our country, our community, on a family, and on the individual is something that we should never tolerate.

We are here today to shine a spot light on the tensions and issues which arise from these types of crimes. We are here today to ensure that those who act with hatred in their hearts to harm another based upon their race, sexual orientation, gender, disability, ethnicity/nation origin or religion will be brought to justice.

The term ``hate crime'' was coined in the early 1980s but the motivations behind that term are centuries old. ``Hate crime'' is not a distinct federal offense; however, the Department of Justice does investigate and prosecute crimes of bias as civil rights violations, which fall under its jurisdiction.

The actions by the Department of Justice are meant to buttress efforts by state and local authorities, which handle the vast majority of hate crime cases.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes.

Today, headlines across the country are reporting the tragic story of Trayvon Martin. Nearly a month ago, Trayvon woke up on a sunny Florida morning filled with life. He was the typical American teenager, who was spending time with his

family and friends. By the end of the day he would be laying alone on a cold sidewalk in a pool of his own blood. Trayvon could not have known that morning that he would be shot by a man who accused him of walking ``suspiciously.''

Trayvon was not climbing out of a window, kicking a front door, or picking a lock. He was walking on the sidewalk, talking on the phone with his girlfriend. The man who killed him was not arrested, which means that Mr. Zimmerman was not given a drug test and he was not fingerprinted.

The on-scene investigator literally had to take Mr. Zimmerman at his word that he shot Trayvon Martin in self defense. By reported accounts the on-scene investigator wanted to arrest Mr. Zimmerman and was told not to ..... a trained law enforcement officer was suspicious of Mr. Zimmerman's claims. He wanted to do what law enforcement officers are trained to do ..... arrest the suspect and determine the truth of the assertion made.

I called for Mr. Zimmerman's arrest and again am pleased that at least Trayvon's family has an opportunity to have some justice.

We need to get to the bottom of this. Again, I hosted a rally in Houston supporting the Trayvon Martin family's call for justice. I attended another rally in Miami. I have spoken on the floor. And I am working diligently to ensure that people like Trayvon, who can no longer speak for themselves, have an advocate.

Mr. Zimmerman should be judged by his peers. That is why we have a justice system. I wish to remind everyone here today of other hate crimes ..... lives that should not have been lost and lives that cannot be replaced; however, the families of these victims fought for an attained justice.

It is my fervent hope that Trayvon's family can one day say they received justice. I commend his parents for their strength. I can not attest to the guilt of Mr. Zimmerman, we have a justice system which calls for innocence until proven guilty. I call for the wheels of justice to begin to churn.


On June 26, 2011 in Jackson, Mississippi, 49-year-old James Anderson, a black man, was killed in what initially appeared to be a hit-and-run accident. However, surveillance footage which captured the crime on film recently revealed that Anderson was brutally beaten by a group of white teens, and run over by a Ford F 250 pickup truck in the midst of an alleged racially motivated hate crime. It is of great concern that in 2011, in a time when our country's race relations and tolerance have so greatly progressed, that such hatred based purely upon race still exists.

Of even greater concern is the way in which this case was being handled. Of the group of seven teens involved in the brutal attack, only two have received any charges as a result of the incident; 19-year-old Deryl Dedmond, the driver of the truck who intentionally ran Anderson over has been charged with murder, and John Aaron Rice, one of the teens involved in the beating, has been charged with simple assault. Given that this appears to have been a hate motivated crime, attention should be paid to the intent of the other teens involved in the attack.

The driver was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. He would have received the death penalty, however, the Anderson family does not believe in the death penalty and requested that his life be spared.

What began as a hate crime has evolved into a family expressing a level of compassion that their loved one should have received. I was unnerved by the possibility that some of the parties involved who may have had similar motivations as those charged, were allowed to roam freely without taking on any responsibility. I was pleased by the recent announcement that the Department of Justice has charged three related defendants with federal hate crimes.

We must always remember that hate crimes involve the purposeful selection of victims for violence and intimidation based upon their perceived attributes. Such targeting for violence removes these actions from the protected area of free expression of belief and speech as enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The crimes are

investigated and prosecuted at both the Federal and State and local level, depending upon the facts of the case and the needs of the investigation. A young African American teenage boy was shot to death on the street by an adult male who felt that he was walking ``suspiciously'' and who may have uttered a racial slur. This must be investigated.

In 2008, law enforcement agencies voluntarily reported 6,598 single-bias hate crime incidents (involving 7,775 offenses, 8,322 victims, and 6,219 known offenders) to the FBI. Almost half (48.5 percent) were racially motivated and 19.7 percent were motivated by religious bias. Bias against sexual orientation and ethnicity or national origin accounted for another 18.5 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively

Only 44 percent of hate crimes are reported to the police.

More than 80 percent of hate crimes were associated with violent crimes--a rape or other sexual assault, robbery, or assault.

Between 2000 and 2003, an annual average of 191,000 hate crime incidents were reported by victims.

An estimated 3 percent of all violent crimes were perceived to be hate crimes by the victims.

Nearly 50 percent of hate crimes in 2009 were motivated by race.

Of the 6,604 hate crime incidents reported to police in 2009, 1,700 involved intimidation.


Texas' violent history dates to the late 19th century when it was among the South's most lynch-prone states. At least 355 people, most of them blacks, died in Texas mob violence between 1889 and 1918.

Laws outlawing mob and less lethal hate crimes have since been passed, but incidents with possible racial components have continued to occur--even in Jasper, a city with a black mayor and a population that is 45 percent African-American.

In Texas, Austin came in fourth among cities in the number of hate crimes reported in 2006, according to an FBI compilation that canvassed agencies representing 85% of the nation's population. Documented are 7,722 criminal incidents involving 9,080 offenses resulting from bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability. Of 5,449 ``crimes against persons,'' intimidation accounted for 46% of hate crimes, simple assault 32%, and aggravated assault 21.6%. Three murders and six rapes were reported. The report lists offenders as 58.6% white, 20.6% black, 12.9% race unknown, and the rest as other races.


Let me remind you of James Byrd. On June 7, 1998, Byrd, 49, accepted a ride from three men named Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King. He had already known one of them. Instead of taking him home, the three men beat Byrd behind a convenience store, chained him by the ankles to their pickup truck, stripped the man naked, and dragged him for three miles. Although Lawrence Russell Brewer said that Byrd's throat had been slashed before he was dragged, forensic evidence suggests that Byrd had been attempting to keep his head up, and an autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive for much of the dragging and died after his right arm and head were severed when his body hit a culvert. His body had caught a sewage drain on the side of the road resulting in Byrd's decapitation.

King, Berry, and Brewer dumped their victim's mutilated remains in the town's black cemetery, and then went to a barbecue. A wrench inscribed with ``Berry'' was found within the area along with a lighter that had ``Possum'' written on it, which was King's prison nickname.

The next morning, Byrd's limbs were scattered across a very little-used road. The police found 75 places littered with Byrd's remains. State law enforcement officials along with Jasper's District Attorney Guy James Gray and Assistant Pat Hardy determined that since King and Brewer were well-known white supremacists, the murder was a hate crime, and decided to bring in the FBI less than 24 hours after the discovery of Byrd's remains. One of Byrd's murderers, John King, had a tattoo depicting a black man hanging from a tree, and other tattoos such as Nazi symbols, the words ``Aryan Pride,'' and the patch for the Confederate Knights of America, a gang of white supremacist inmates. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer which was intercepted by jail officials, King expressed pride in the crime and said he realized he might have to die for committing it. ``Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!'', King wrote.

An officer investigating the case also testified that witnesses said King referenced The Turner Diaries after beating Byrd. Brewer and King were sentenced to death. Berry received life in prison.

John King--accused of beating Byrd with a bat and then dragging him behind a truck until he died. King had previously claimed to have been gang-raped in prison by black prisoners and, although he had no previous record of racism, had joined a white-supremacist prison gang, allegedly for self-protection. The testimony phase of his trial started in Jasper, Texas on February 16, 1999. He was found guilty of kidnapping and murder on February 23 and was sentenced to death on February 25.

Lawrence Russell Brewer--another white supremacist convicted of murdering Byrd. Prior to the Byrd murder, Brewer had served a prison sentence for drug possession and burglary, and he was paroled in 1991. After violating the parole in 1994, he was sent back to prison. According to his court testimony, he joined a white supremacist gang with King in order to safeguard himself from other prisoners. A state psychiatrist testified that Brewer did not appear repentant for his crimes. In the end, Brewer was also sentenced to death.

Shawn Allen Berry--the driver of the truck, Berry was the most difficult to convict of the three defendants because there was a lack of evidence to suggest that he himself was a racist. He had also claimed that his two companions were entirely responsible for the crime. Brewer testified that it was Berry who cut Byrd's throat before he was tied to the truck, but the jury decided that there was little evidence to indicate this. As a result, Berry was spared the death penalty and given a life sentence in prison.


Matthew Wayne Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and subsequently murdered near Laramie, Wyoming. He was attacked on the night of October 6 October 7, 1998 and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Colorado, on October 12, from severe head injuries.

During the trial, witnesses stated that Shepard was targeted because he was gay. His murder brought national as well as international attention to the issue of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.

Russell Arthur Henderson pleaded guilty to felony murder and kidnapping, allowing him to avoid the death penalty. Aaron James McKinney was convicted of felony murder and kidnapping. Henderson is currently serving two consecutive life sentences and McKinney is serving the same but without the possibility of parole.

Matthew Shepard, oldest son of Dennis Shepard and Judy Shepard, was born in Casper, Wyoming, on December 1, 1976. Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, 21 year-old Shepard met McKinney and Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. Subsequently, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. McKinney and Henderson also found out his address and intended to rob his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered eighteen hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who at first thought that Shepard was a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive, but in a coma.

Shepard suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. As he lay in intensive care, candlelight vigils were held by the people of Laramie.

He was pronounced dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998 at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck.

The two men had attempted to get their girlfriends to provide alibis. In court the defendants used varying rationales to defend their actions. They attempted to use the ``gay panic defense'', arguing that they were driven to temporary insanity by alleged sexual advances by Shepard. At another

point they stated that they had only wanted to rob Shepard and never intended to kill him.

The prosecutor in the case charged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard's trust to rob him. During the trial, Chastity Pasley and Kristen Price (the pair's then-girlfriends) testified under oath that Henderson and McKinney both plotted beforehand to rob a gay man. McKinney and Henderson then went to the Fireside Lounge and selected Shepard as their target. McKinney alleged that Shepard asked them for a ride home. After befriending him, they took him to a remote area of Laramie where they robbed him, beat him severely (media reports often contained the graphic account of the pistol whipping and his smashed skull), and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney's truck. Shepard begged for his life. Both girlfriends also testified that neither McKinney nor Henderson was under the influence of drugs at the time. The beating was so severe that the only areas on Shepard's face that were not covered in blood were those where his tears had washed the blood stains away.

Henderson pleaded guilty on April 5, 1999, and agreed to testify against McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he received two consecutive life sentences. The jury in McKinney's trial found him guilty of felony murder. As it began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

Henderson and McKinney were incarcerated in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins but were transferred to other prisons due to overcrowding.


On Christmas Day 1987, Loyal Garner, a Florien, La., father of six, was arrested for drunken driving. Garner protested that he was sober, and asked for field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, but police took him to the county jail in Hemphill.

Garner asked to be allowed to telephone his wife. Instead, he was taken to the jail detox room and bludgeoned.

In 1990, Hemphill Police Chief Thomas Ladner and two county deputies, Billy Ray Horton and James M. Hyden, were convicted on state murder charges and sentenced to prison.

Horton's conviction was later overturned.


In spring 1988, Kenneth Simpson, a 30 year-old black man arrested for the theft of a fountain pen, died in his Cleveland jail cell after being beaten.

Half the city police force was suspended as a result, but later returned to their jobs after being acquitted. However, Police Chief Harley Lovings remained under public pressure and resigned the following year.

The pen later was found atop a soft drink machine in the police station lobby.


In August 1987, Troy Lee Starling, 24, of Mount Enterprise was fatally shot in the neck by a state highway trooper after a high-speed chase in Rusk County.

Though the trooper was cleared by a grand jury, Starling's family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer.

Not all incidents involved bloodshed, but still revealed a sordid side of East Texas culture.

Illustrative was the hostility faced by three black families who moved into an all-white public housing project in Vidor in 1994.

The families were part of the third effort to integrate the project. They moved in only after then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros allocated $3 million to upgrade security.

But residents were soon frightened by death threats and the obvious patrols of Ku Klux Klan members through the projects displaying high-powered weapons.

The FBI later investigated alleged Klan death plots against William Hale, director of the Texas Commission on Human Rights, and Attorney General Dan Morales. Hale's group had sued the Klan, accusing it of making threats against those trying to integrate the housing project.

Still, Joe Roy, head of the intelligence project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., suggested such crimes, though stereotypical of the South, no longer are limited to one region.

``I think this is a stark reminder, this case in Texas, of what can happen in this country,'' he said. ``Education is not the sole answer, but it's one of the cornerstones of correcting it.''

The tension between the races is fueled by competition between economically marginal groups, Roy said.

``This episode is a horrendous example of the rage that is out there.''


Vidor, 1994: Civil rights groups sue the Ku Klux Klan, accusing the group of making threats to stop the integration of an all-white housing project.

Cleveland, 1988: Kenneth Simpson, a black man arrested for stealing an ink pen, dies in his jail cell after struggling with white officers, who are eventually cleared in the death. The police chief resigns under pressure the next year.

Hemphill, 1987: Loyal Garner, a black Louisiana truck driver, is beaten to death in the Sabine County jail. Hemphill's police chief and two county deputies are eventually convicted of murder, although one deputy's conviction is overturned.

Mount Enterprise, 1987: Troy Lee Starling, a 24-year-old black man, is fatally shot in the neck by a state trooper after a high-speed chase in Rusk County. The trooper is cleared but Starling's family files a civil rights suit.

In December 2005, Chris McKee was beaten by two men. McKee, who is gay, said his assailants had followed him after seeing him kiss another man, and anti-gay slurs were audible on a 911 call he made. His assailants were prosecuted under the State hate crimes legislation but they were acquitted.

In May 2006, Joshua Aaron Abbot, now 23, was acquitted in the 2005 death of 40-year-old David Wayne Morrison, a gay Denton resident who was HIV-positive. Abbott stabbed Morrison more than 20 times in the face, neck and chest with a pocketknife.

Abbott, who is straight, had gone to Morrison's residence for unknown reasons, and the pair ended up alone in Morrison's bedroom. At trial, Abbot claimed Morrison tried to rape him, and the jury ruled the defendant acted in self-defense. The prosecutors failed to prosecute the case as a hate crime because it was not clear that Morrison's sexual orientation was the sole motivating factor. However, the prosecutor admitted that Morrison's sexual orientation and HIV-positive status were key.

Since Texas State hate crimes legislation was passed in 2001, there have been few convictions. In 2007, there were only eight convictions.

These cases provide stark evidence that these hate crimes are still perpetrated.


In fact, Trayvon Martin was killed on Saturday, February 26, 2012, as he walked through a gated community in Sanford, returning from a convenience store, where he had purchased a bag of candy and a can of Iced Tea.

Mr. Zimmerman, a self appointed neighborhood watch volunteer, saw Trayvon while driving down the street and then called police, describing Trayvon as a ``suspicious'' person. I believe that a message should not be sent that needlessly gunning down a small unarmed black teenage boy on a side walk is ever acceptable.

Mr. Zimmerman was told by police to remain in his car. He had reported 50 other incidents to police which included previous calls about ``suspicious'' people walking. Trayvon's only crime was walking in a neighborhood that Mr. Zimmerman felt that he did not belong, was out of place, was ``suspicious.''

According to the Sanford police Mr. Zimmerman has not been arrested because he claims self-defense. To date Mr. Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed boy one month ago and has yet to be charged with a crime or arrested. He was once again shot by a self appointed Neighborhood Watch volunteer.


I have a statement from the National Sheriffs Association (NSA) which founded the Neighborhood Watch Program. According to the NSA, a Neighborhood Watch Program from Sanford has never been registered. I have authored a bill that would require anyone who wishes to participate in Neighborhood Watch Programs to get the right training. Neighbors are the ears and eyes of our Neighborhoods. The program is not at issue, it is ensuring that everyone who participates in the program is aware that they are only the eyes and ears. The police should be informed of suspicious activity and address the situation.


I will present to you this image. A young teenager walks to the store to purchase a snack. He is having a light conversation with a friend on his cell phone. He walks slowly without a care in the world. He is a perfect example of the typical American teenager.

As he returns to a friend's home he realizes that he is being followed by a strange man in a car. The teenager begins to walk faster hoping the car would stop following him. Instead, the driver pulls over. The driver, a complete stranger, exits his vehicle, approaches the teen and proceeds to address him.

The driver is not a law enforcement officer, he is an absolute stranger. The teenager screams when he sees this man has a gun. The teen armed only with the snacks from the store reacts.

The man shoots the teenager square in the chest ..... not the arm or the leg. It is a fatal shot. The stranger who shot a boy that he pursued then claims self defense and is free to continue his daily routine. I ask you simply this ..... is it more probable that a grown man armed with a 9 mm gun that has stalked then approached a child would be screaming for help or an unarmed teenager being followed by a stranger. This simply does not add up. It is moments like this that captures the public outrage.

The most disturbing facet to his case is that Mr. Zimmerman was instructed to remain in his car by police. He knew the police were on their way. He was told to stop following this 17 year old. But he chose to continue to follow Trayvon. He chose to exit his vehicle armed, and he chose to confront the teen for of all things ..... walking. And he's claiming ``self defense'' ..... Please!

Mr. Zimmerman shot this unarmed child in the chest, killing him, as neighbors frantically called 911. Everyone else who called the police remained in their homes awaiting the arrival of the police. Everyone except for Mr. Zimmerman and even so ..... he can still claim self defense and still remain free.


The lawmakers in Florida may not have realized seven years ago when they passed the ``Stand Your Ground'' law that it would be used to defend an act that our common sense tells us does not seem just. However, the lawmakers in Florida are now aware of the flaws in this law. This law is just one of 21 such laws around the country and law enforcement, to their credit, have not supported these measures. Yet, is it the law that is the problem or how it is applied.

The ``Stand Your Ground'' law gives the benefit of the doubt to a person who claims self-defense, regardless of whether the killing takes place on a street or anywhere outside one's home. In Florida, if people feel they are in imminent danger of being killed or badly injured, they do not have to retreat, even if it would seem reasonable to do so. They have the right to ``stand their ground'' and protect themselves. This could result in a blanket immunity for those who claim self defense. This is disturbing.

I call for justice. I call for justice for all of those who have been victims of hate crimes or racial profiling. I will continue to work with my Colleagues in Congress to stop these types of incidents. This should never happen to another family. That is why we convene here tonight on this House Floor--in the name of Justice.

Again I offer my sympathy for the loss of a handsome young man who to be clear was never in trouble with the law, was not a drug user, and was well like by his peers.

I also offer condolences to the family of John Payton. John Payton's advocacy on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the excluded reached beyond the United States. He worked against apartheid in South Africa, and traveled around the world in support of human rights. His marriage to Gay McDougall, one of the leading human rights lawyers and advocates across the globe, has been one of the great ``power couple'' relationships.

We have not finished the journey of justice. The road that leads to the temple of freedom, justice, and righteousness is paved but fraught with danger and life-altering detours.

I close by saying that we can achieve new heights on the great mountain of justice by endeavoring to communicate, tolerate, and work and live with each other in peace and harmony.


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