This summer, while a lot of attention was focused on the aftermath of the police killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, another young black man was shot to death by the LAPD. Following the police killing of Ezell Ford, his cousin Ceebo, among others, demanded answers about what had happened to him. He recorded a song and video which caused the police to send out a special alert; and he started organising community protests demanding justice for victims of police violence. And now, having been convicted of burglary on the basis of some very questionable evidence, this young man is facing 4-24 years in prison.
To make it clear exactly how shaky this conviction was: the key piece of evidence for the prosecution was that, after making the arrest, the police showed him to two witnesses who agreed that he was the man they’d seen running away through a window from a distance of 40 feet, and neither witness remembers hearing the police read the official disclaimer that’s meant to be used in these cases. Both witnesses described the man they’d seen as wearing white clothing, but Ceebo was wearing a black shirt on the day. When questioned about it later, they mentioned the colour of his skin and the fact that he was wearing handcuffs as reasons why they thought he was the man they’d seen.
When the case came to trial, the district attorney eliminated all black potential jurors from the jury pool. Even so, the jury were still so uncertain about the case that they filled out the paperwork for both a guilty and a not guilty verdict before deciding to convict.
Nearly a hundred years after Joe Hill was executed for a similarly sketchy conviction, the state is once again using some very dubious charges to silence a musician and organiser for speaking out against power. His sentencing is on November 20th, and his supporters are calling for people to turn up and pack the court then. For those of us who live far from Los Angeles, there’s a few things you can do to help: if you’d like to ask the judge for clemency, write a letter asking Judge George Genesta to show mercy in the case of DaMonte Marquise Shipp Sr. (of course, no-one likes grovelling to judges, but if it might make some difference to Ceebo’s sentence it’ll be worth it), and send it to [email protected]. You can also donate to help cover his legal costs, expenses while in prison, and the needs of his family here.