Friday, May 16, 2008

Dibor Roberts denied justice

The jury in the Dibor Roberts case returned a verdict that I can only describe as contemptible, finding her guilty of resisting arrest and felony flight from a law officer as a result of a brutal attack upon her by Sgt. Jeff Newnum of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department.

Greg Nix of Larson newspapers has an interesting insight, suggesting that the trial could have come down to the prosecution painting a picture for the jury of "'angry black woman' v. 'respectable white officer.'" He adds, "I grew up in the South so running the 'angry black woman' strategy is nothing new and generally works for getting convictions."

Perhaps he's right, and the decision was essentially racist. Or maybe the prosecution succeeded in picking jurors who bow down and bang their heads on the floor every time they see a uniformed government employee. Or the result could have resulted from a little bit of both factors.

An appeal is possible, of course. Also, the Maricopa County chapter of the NAACP has asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene, and Roberts reportedly plans to sue, so she may yet get a measure of justice in this case.

But it bothers me that a creature like Jeff Newnum, who apparently has so little control over his emotions and such an inflated sense of his place in the world, probably walked out of the courtroom feeling vindicated, with a license to assault the people of Yavapai County.

Update: Dibor Roberts was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation. Her attorney, Stephen Renard, said, "This is flat out the lightest sentence I have ever seen for a Class-5 felony, period." That suggests Judge Michael Bluff may have had reservations about the prosecution or the severity of the "offense" committed by Roberts -- especially since he reduced the resisting arrest charge from a Class-6 felony to a Class-1 misdemeanor.

But she still has a conviction on her record.

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Blogger linearthinker said...

A couple questions come to mind.

Has Newnum ever taken steroids, and if so, how long ago?

When Roberts chose to drive on, what speed was she traveling?

We'll probably not get an answer to the first, although I'm sure the second was covered at trial.

Seems the sheriff could have called for an intercept, backed off if she was travelling at a reasonable speed, and a vastly different outcome would have resulted. Two or three lit up patrols would put the lie to the question of legitimacy of the stop. Some deep breaths all around, and a reasonable solution reached.

Easy for me to second guess. I'm not a black woman speeding across rural Yavapai county in the dead of night.

The judge seems level headed. Interesting to see what happens if it's appealed.

May 17, 2008 2:16 AM  
Anonymous tarran said...

If the judge were truly sympathetic, he could have ignored the jury's findings and entered a verdict of "Not Guilty".

Judges can and on occasion do do that if they decide that the jury erred in convicting the defendant.

May 17, 2008 12:08 PM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

I don't know about Newnum's steroid use, but I can tell you that Roberts slowed down to the speed limit and obeyed the traffic laws, including stopping at a stop sign, before she was forced off the road.

I agree -- the judge could have gone with a directed verdict. It's possible that the slap-on-the-wrist sentence may have been a compromise between his conscience and his need to continue doing business in the tight legal community of Yavapai County.

May 17, 2008 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you that there are only two possible interpretations- jurors that are racist, or jurors that appease law officers.
Both scenarios are equally frightful.

Thank goodness the judge practiced some level of judicial review, seeing that the entire case was a load of crap.
The reason he didn't enter a not guilty decision is probably because he didn't want to jeapardize his reelection- a decision that seems spineless until you consider that if he weren't reelected, then he wouldn't be able to perpetuate his power of judicial review in order to CONTINUE administering law in a manner that is just and fair.

May 19, 2008 6:20 AM  
Anonymous rebel8h said...

What I find bothersome (aside from the original incident itself)is that the judge did not summarily dismiss the charges against Ms. Roberts, and direct charges against the deputy, the sheriff and the prosecutor for their egregious violations of her rights and failure to meet their responsibilities as public servants.

May 19, 2008 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair, if are to second guess the Sgt. by saying "he should've known she wanted to pull over in a lit area," then one has to second guess Roberts also. She should've known, when he pulled along side her, that he was HIGHLY LIKELY a Sheriff Deputy. She blew it and her supporters are ignorant of how policing works.

The only circumstance that makes this "case" special is that she was dumb enough to do what she did. Yavapai County is NOT the only place in the world with unlit roads and black people.

The Officer has more of a right to safety than the traffic violator due to the dangerous nature of the job. Period. That's case law.

February 19, 2009 4:52 PM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

"The Officer has more of a right to safety than the traffic violator due to the dangerous nature of the job. Period. That's case law."

Sorry, but if you want to give somebody special rights for the danger they face, try commercial fishermen and lumberjacks. The Department of Labor lists those jobs as more dangerous than law enforcement. Besides, police work is voluntary; nobody gets drafted into it, and nobody is entitled to special consideration because they wear blue polyester shirts to work.

If the law feels it appropriate to grant the police special consideration, that's good reason to treat the law as illegitimate and reconsider the wisdom of allowing the police to run around loose.

February 19, 2009 6:31 PM  

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