The research trip: Les Green, Agatha Walker, Raymond Cone

Family Court privacy

Les Green.montage
Les Green (X3); the woman in the lower right is Agatha

Back in February 2020, I had planned a research trip to the Broome County Clerk’s office to look at a particular law case. But the March sojourn was postponed for some reason.

The story of the trial appeared in the Binghamton Press, starting on 27 Oct, p. 5. “Negro minister to go on trial.” “The Reverend Raymond Cone, negro minister, charged with being the father of a child born out of wedlock of Miss Agatha Walker, 25 years old*, of 14 East street, a teacher in this Sunday school**, will go on trial in Children’s Court tomorrow before County Judge Benjamin Baker.”

In late September, my friend Cee and I went to the clerk’s office, and I was assured that the information I sought would NOT be there. This is contrary to what I was told 19 months earlier on the phone. In any case, we could not find it. We were directed to the Family Court office.

The person I talked with said that the boss was away, but that I could provide a narrative. So I wrote a request for the trial transcript. I was told back at the county clerk that I might well be denied because Family Court records are sealed for reasons of privacy.

Thank God it was Thursday

But we were given a glimmer of hope by a lawyer who gives advice once a week in the county courthouse. He pointed to  22 NYCRR 205.5, Privacy of Family Court records.

Frankly, I’m not seeing it in the text, but he had researched a similar case in June 2021. He explained that my request could be denied because Family Court records are sealed. But I could appeal to a state appellate judge. I might note, for instance:

1. All of the parties – Raymond Cone, Agatha Walker Green, and the child, my father, Les Green, are all deceased.
2. I am directly related to the participants.
3. Many of the details, including the conclusion by Judge Baker in January 1927 that Rev. Cone was acquitted, was widely known because it was published in the Binghamton newspapers.

* She was actually 24, and 23 when the event occurred on January 6, 1926
** I understand she headed the Sunday school

Chauvin is guilty, guilty, guilty- and now?

“We can be better than this”

Derek ChauvinBefore I heard that Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter, I was sitting in front of my computer, waiting for about a half-hour. My wife was downstairs in front of the TV, likewise waiting. I’m sure my daughter was doing the same on her phone.

When I heard the news, I felt a little numb, to be honest. No fist pump. But I did exhale, as though I had been holding my breath. Maybe, unconsciously, I was.

Though I only watched bits and pieces of the trial, I felt distraught, primarily over the re-traumatization of the people who watched George Floyd die, afraid to interfere with four cops on the scene. And I was infuriated when the defense suggested that the gathering was a “distraction” to Chauvin.

To be honest, I decided that he’d be found guilty of the manslaughter charge. But finding a cop guilty of murder? Certainly, the prosecution made the case.

But this got me wondering what it means for the future. This was a case featuring about three dozen prosecution witnesses, including several police officers.

A change is gonna come?

I keep hearing this case is an “inflection point.” What the heck does that mean? “An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy, or geopolitical situation and can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result.”

So does this signal real change? Or is it a one-off, involving an act so egregious, and seen so widely, that the jury HAD to convict? And just wait for the appeals after sentencing. The alternate juror, speaking to CBS News, acknowledged that, at least in her mind, the violence from last summer, and the potential for more, was on her mind. Undoubtedly, Maxine Waters’ ill-timed remarks, made before the jury was sequestered, will surely be introduced as well.

I suppose I should appreciate the conviction as perhaps a small gain for police accountability. Still, as one advocate said, there are “no victories today,” for “justice would mean George Floyd is still with us.”

Nearly 29 years ago to the day, the streets of Los Angeles were filled with people rioting after the police officers who beat Rodney King were found not guilty.

The litany of unarmed black citizens injured or killed at the hand of police officers who were acquitted or never charged, just since then, is staggering. Do I need to repeat it?

Moreover, the verdict doesn’t erase the fear that “many of us, particularly Black people, have of interacting with police.” Put another way, being black isn’t exhausting;  racism is exhausting.

The verdict is in. The work continues.

Change the trajectory

Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian wrote this: “Until we find collective solutions, until we admit and grapple with our tortured racial history, we will continue to suffer the effects of this pernicious malignance consuming the soul of the nation. Now is not the time to shrink from the task, though, nor is it the time to give in to cynicism.

“It is the time to join with all who believe in the promise of America. It is the time to say, “we can be better than this.” It is time to redouble our efforts to build a more perfect union. Justice is so beautiful when it is applied fairly.”