-- Langston Hughes, Freedom's Plow
The lawsuit targets the L.A. County District Attorney's Brady Alert System and an LASD policy relating to inmate complaints against guards. According to the lawsuit, the policies are unconstitutional, lead to injustice in individual cases and perpetuate the Code of Silence about police brutality.
The lawsuit is particularly concerned with the way the policies unfairly impact inmate-defendants in criminal cases arising from inmate-deputy altercations at Men's Central Jail. The lawsuit gives specific examples of cases in which inmates were beaten up by guards with histories of police brutality and violence against inmates. But instead of filing criminal charges against the deputies for police brutality, the district attorney filed charges against the victim-inmates, all in an apparent effort to cover-up the abuse.
Then, to add insult to injury, because of the defective policies the inmates' defense attorneys were unable to access through official channels exculpatory information about the deputies' violent pasts.
For example, it was only after inmate Jonathan Goodwin's attorney received information from an unofficial channel, the ACLU, about an existing excessive force complaint against one of the accusing guards that Goodwin was acquitted of an assault-on-guard charge.
"A trial is a search for truth, not a game of hide and seek," the ACLU lawsuit begins, and our justice system would be more fair, and thus better, if official truth-vetting channels worked according to constitutional and statutory plan.
But until they do, unofficial channels will have to do.
So while the LADA, LASD and Superior Court mull over the Douglas v. Cooley allegations, those in the civil rights community might consider the implications of a new kind of underground railroad...a path of information forged by necessity under cover of darkness but leading into the light of truth and justice.