Perpetrators of Hate Crime Made to Pay Dearly

I posted a link in late February to a story by Pamela Colloff, in The Texas Monthly about the beating of Billy Ray Johnson, a mentally disabled African American, by a group of drunken, young Caucasian fellows. Johnson was found “unconscious on a fire ant mound and had suffered a serious concussion and bleeding in the brain.” Johnson “lives in a nursing home because of the injuries he suffered in the beating.”

The criminal prosecution of two of the young fellows was less than arduous and “Jurors in the criminal cases against Amox and Hicks acquitted them of serious felony charges, instead convicting them of a lesser charge and recommending probation.” Two other of the young fellows “pleaded guilty to an ‘injury to a disabled individual by omission’ charge.” None of the four spent more than 60 days in jail.

Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center pursued a civil suit on behalf of Mr. Johnson. “A jury of 11 whites and one black deliberated less than four hours before returning a unanimous verdict” awarding Johnson $9 million.

“‘The jury told all of Texas and, indeed, the entire country, that Billy Ray is a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity – that the life of each of us, rich or poor, black or white, abled or disabled, is truly precious,’ said Morris Dees, founder and chief trial attorney for the Montgomery, Ala.-based law center.”

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4 Comments

Filed under Hate Crime, Linden Texas, Morris Dees

4 responses to “Perpetrators of Hate Crime Made to Pay Dearly

  1. Ross

    Thank God for civil suits, although that doesn’t change the original verdict… Americans like to believe that the U.S. is so far away from the racist reality before the civil rights movement, but I don’t believe it’s so true. There are so many vestiges of the past living healthfully in the present. What I learned studying American Social History is that all social movements are just periods of change over time and that just as a positive movement is born, it’s adverse can be born also, especially as a response. Progress is neither positive nor negative. For some, progress is being made when we return to the past and remove what was gained by the feminist and civil rights movements…

  2. Life Long Harborite

    Morris Dees is not only “You know me’s” hero, but integrity at its best!

  3. Ross

    As I’ve mentioned before, I studied American Social History focussing on immigration and affects of industrialization and mass media on racist movements etc… And let me tell you, I was nicely surprised to stumble across the Southern Poverty Law Center in Atlanta. What a wonderful response to Jim Crow. I was left feeling that the South suddenly became so much ahead of the game… When I started studying American Social History I was searching for the lie behind all the American idealism… Something kept screaming at me that the U.S. wasn’t “the land of the free” and that most Americans really didn’t give a damn about constitutional rights for others… Growing up in the Northeast, there was this crazy sense that racism only existed in the south and that “we” fought the Civil War against the terrible racists of the South, just as there was a belief that during WWII we were fighting a war against evil represented as the Nazis. But, with a little bit of observation, you realize that that just wasn’t true… The Civil War wasn’t about rights for slaves but about competition for control over Congress and the House (# of seats) and fear of labor competition in the North if more slaves escaped to freedom… If you do a study of lynchings through 1921, you’ll find a hell of a lot of them occurring in the northern midwest, exactly where Martin Luther King’s aging movement began struggling before he was assassinated. Friends of mine of African descent who grew up in New Jersey or New York and later studied in the deep south often said that they prefered the South, because at least there you know who is your friend and who is not. But in the Northeast, everyone wants to believe that they are better and that they don’t harbour racism, so they smile at you friendily, but don’t invite you to their house, etc. That’s not to say that one side is more or less racist than the other side, but that one side maybe is just a bit more honest… Honesty wastes less times and burns less energy.

    Not a bad hero to have. And, yes, the word for today (or this week for that matter) in my household, is “integrity”. Cudos to Chris.

  4. Morris Dees is indeed one of my heroes. He has used civil suits to bankrupt KKK groups and other purveyors of hate and to gain justice for those whom were denied such by the criminal justice system.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site is a great resource for information of hate groups of all stripes.

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