Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ramarley Graham:The next sad chapter


Father Richard F. Gorman
Community Board #12 (The Bronx)

BRONX, NEW YORK, AUGUST 14- On the 15th of May this year, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven L. Barrett, after hearing evidence in the trial of Police Officer Richard Haste for manslaughter in the shooting of Ramarley Graham on 2 February 2012, ruled that the indictment of Officer Haste was dismissed in light of the improper instructions given to the grand
jury that had voted to indict the Forty-seventh Precinct cop. 

Justice Barrett decided that the grand jury may have come to a different decision if its members had fully considered that Officer Haste’s fellow Police Officers had informed him that Ramarley Graham was armed. The grand jury had been directed by prosecutors in the Office of the District Attorney of Bronx County not to give any weight to this fact in considering whether or not to indict Officer Haste. A second grand jury was quickly empanelled to weigh a re-indictment of the Police Officer and was clearly told this time to take into account that Richard Haste was warned that Mr. Graham possibly had a gun. 

On Wednesday, 7 August 2013, this second grand jury declined to present a second indictment of Police Officer Haste for manslaughter. Understandably, the family of Ramarley Graham, most particularly his parents, Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham, reacted with great indignation and resentment to the ruling of this second grand jury.

Among other actions undertaken, there was a rally this Saturday afternoon past, 11 August 2013, on Laconia Avenue directly in front of the main entrance of the Forty-seventh Police Precinct to which Officer Haste and his colleagues involved in this tragic incident had been assigned.

Reflecting on this serious and sad matter that has held such a foremost place in the recent life of Bronx Community District #12, I would like to share a few thoughts and feelings with my neighbors and fellow Bronxites. First, and most importantly of all, irrespective of any legal issues at argument or of any personal opinions concerning the parties to this matter, the shooting of Ramarley Graham is a tragedy. A young man is dead. The facts that may have led up to it aside, the loss of any human life always involves pain, always entails grief. Ramarley Graham’s Parents and other loved ones are now deprived of his presence and his company. As I said, whatever else that can and
should be said about this unhappy episode, let us not forget or be
insensitive to the human cost at stake, not only to the young man who is dead but to those who must survive and go on in the wake of his passing. The loss of a loved one is always a heartache that is practically unbearable to abide and to accept. 

Our sympathy and compassion must not be absent or withheld from those who mourn. Further, I can likewise understand the frustration of the Graham Family and others who question the vitality and the veracity of a legal system that appears not be working on behalf of their interests and needs. There is no argument, even from those involved in law enforcement and the judicial process, that our system of laws and courts is far from perfect. It definitely has its defects. It also depends upon the work of people, folks just like the rest of us, who work hard and honestly and who attempt to do the best that they can with the resources allocated to them. People are not perfect. The only two perfect human persons ever to walk the face of this earth, so far as I know, are Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. All the rest of us have our weaknesses, shortcomings, and flaws. No system, judicial or otherwise, reliant upon people can be any more perfect that the people who comprise it.

This being said, while not unflawed or unfaultable, our system of laws and courts is the envy of the entire world. It may not always get the job done or accomplish things as we would wish, but, more often than not, it works. Moreover, realizing that mistakes can and are in actuality made, it provides for appeals and various means by which one can seek justice and pursue the satisfaction of one’s cause. In the immediate case of Ramarley Graham, his Parents can, and have been successful in seeking, a review of what has taken place in The Bronx by the United States Department of Justice (U.S.D.O.J.). The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has determined that it will investigate whether or not the shooting of Ramarley Graham violates any provisions of our Federal Civil Rights laws. Additionally, the possibility of a civil action on behalf of the Graham Family can be instituted. Reports are that such an option is seriously being pondered at this time. If feasible, a civil cause of action should be introduced.

However, in the upset and unrest of the moment, let us not fail to
remember an equally important truth  --  viz., that the members of the New York City Police Department (N.Y.P.D.) are, by and large, truly “NEW YORK’S FINEST.” You and I are able to live comfortably in our homes, shop on our commercial strips, pray in our Churches, have our children educated in our schools, and live in relative safety because of the dedication of the men and the women of the N.Y.P.D. Even as they were preparing to accommodate the Graham Family’s decision to have a demonstration in front of the Forty-seventh Precinct on Saturday, the Supervisors and the Officers of the “4 -7” and Patrol Borough Bronx (P.B.B.X.) were investigating a murder a mere stone’s throw away from the Precinct on the intersection of East 233RD Street and Paulding Avenue. Is New York City  --  and Community Board #12 (The Bronx)  --  safer than was the case ten years ago?  ABSOLUTELY . . . . . and the most significant factor in this development was the commitment of our Police Officers to serve and to protect us, even at the cost of their own personal safety, physical well being, and life.

This essential point must be borne in mind as well, even as the adjudication of the Ramarley Graham shooting continues. I conclude by expressing genuine thanks to Franclot Graham, Constance Malcolm, and their supporters for the peaceful and dignified manner in which they conducted themselves this Saturday past. I trust that they know that they have been, are, and will always remain uppermost in our thoughts and prayers. I likewise give thanks for the fine and professional performance of our Police Officers. My special appreciation goes to Assistant Chief Carlos Gomez, Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Bronx (P.B.B.X.) and his leadership team for their presence and thoughtful attention during some rather difficult days.

Closer to home, my hat is off to Deputy Inspector Brian Mullen, Commanding Officer of the Forty-seventh Precinct, and all of our local Police Officers for their sensitive care and comportment, in particular our Community Affairs Officers Dave Belle and Jason Soto.

I pray that all in Community Board #12 (The Bronx), as we continue to face the challenges of each day, will continue to act with calm dignity and to strive for peace in our neighborhood.

Until next time, that is it for this time!

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