LA: Outrageous Verdict in Donovan Jackson-Chavis Case

Revolutionary Worker #1266, January 30, 2005, posted at

The first frames of the video show a skinny young kid lying face down on the asphalt, handcuffed, utterly still. Four beefy cops surround him. They yank his limp body off the pavement by grabbing the silver chain around his neck. He is choked unconscious. They slam him hard face-first onto the trunk of the black-and-white. The blow jolts him awake. The camcorder zooms in on his face: His mouth is red-wet, and the blood smears across his cheek. His jaw is slack and his eyes can’t focus. He tries to lift his head, but it falls back down. The four cops are close around him, an unforgiving wall. Officer Jeremy Morse, on the Inglewood force for three years, grabs the back of the kid’s head and turns it to the right, spending a few seconds to position it just so. He smashes his clenched fist into the youth’s face, then wraps his hands around his throat. On the video, you can see Morse’s face clearly: contorted by a grimace, teeth bared in a snarl, he truly does look like a beast.

Revolutionary Worker, July 21, 2002

Millions of people saw the brutal police beating of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson-Chavis.

Two cops lost their jobs, and another was suspended for 10 days. Two of the cops were indicted by a grand jury for brutality, and for lying in their police reports.

You might think a good case of racial discrimination could be argued against the cops who savagely beat Donovan Jackson-Chavis.

But NO!

The cops argued that THEY were discriminated against because they are white. And on January 18—the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday—Superior Court jury gave $2.4 million—TO THE COPS!

And the only person off this incident to go to jail is Mitchell Crooks, the guy who shot the video.

Nancy Goins, Donovan Jackson-Chavis’s aunt, said, "It seems they’re getting millions of dollars for beating someone."

The City of Inglewood is just south of the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. It is a mainly Black city, with an African-American mayor and police chief. But most of the cops are white. And like many areas with a large population of oppressed nationalities, it’s bait for cops patrolling nearby areas.

That’s what happened on the afternoon of July 6. Donovan Jackson-Chavis had been riding with his father Coby Chavis when they were pulled over by L.A. County Sheriffs who, according to the department, were "passing through" Inglewood and "found it necessary" to check on the vehicle registration of a Black man in a car in front of them.

When the Sheriffs found the registration had expired, they pulled them over into a gas station to write a ticket.The Inglewood police arrived minutes later. They ordered Donovan to put his hands on the car, but he acted as if he didn’t hear them. His dad tried to intervene, but the cops restrained him. Donovan just kept on moving forward as if he didn’t even hear the cops yelling at him, as if he didn’t understand what he saw happening right in front of him. And, in fact, that’s pretty close to the way it was: 16-year-old Donovan, a very shy and very quiet Special Ed student, has a developmental disability that includes auditory processing delays that slow down how his brain processes what he hears. In other words, while Donovan hears and understands, his reactions are delayed while the sounds work their way through his brain. It takes him a while to react to things.

The cops hit Donovan repeatedly, throwing him onto the pavement. According to his father and another witness, one cop knelt on Donovan’s back, then hit him in the face with his fist. The dad said he heard one officer call his son the N-word. All this happened before the video even started to roll.

Mitchell Crooks was staying in a hotel next to the gas station. When he heard a woman scream that someone was being beaten by police, he ran outside with his video camera. Aired on all major L.A. news broadcasts, the footage was picked up nationwide.

Hundreds protested the beating, including Representative Maxine Waters, Martin Luther King III and Dick Gregory. Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. stepped forward to represent Coby Chavis. People in Inglewood spoke out about a whole history of police brutality. They told stories of being handcuffed, thrown to the ground and stomped on; having a cop punch you in the face while another takes your picture as a souvenir; being threatened with arrest for wanting to file a complaint. Or being beaten nearly to death.

Nelson Williams is an Inglewood youth gang counselor. He was in a park one day when he was assaulted by the same Jeremy Morse who beat Donovan. According to his sister, Nelson was in a coma for five days after the beating, and was never charged or arrested. No Inglewood cops have been jailed or even prosecuted for these assaults.

Jeremy Morse was fired right after the July beating. His partner, Bijan Darvish, who was holding Donovan down, was suspended for 10 days. Willie Crook, the cop who used his flashlight on the defenseless teenager, was suspended for four days, and then fired, though he was rehired as a civilian jailer by the city.

Cops Morse and Davish were indicted less than two weeks after the beating for brutality and lying in their reports. They went on trial. According to Mitchell Crooks, there were about 20 witnesses to the beating. But the prosecutors didn’t call a single one. They didn’t let Mitchell or Donovan’s father testify. The only "witnesses" at the trial were police. Davish was acquitted of the only charges against him, filing a false police report. After two hung juries, felony assault charges against Morse were dismissed by the judge.

Mitchell Crooks not only took the video, but told reporters what he saw. He also said he knew he was taking some risks, because he had an outstanding warrant from Placer County in northern California for some minor offenses like shoplifting and leaving the scene of an accident. He was right about the risks. The DA sent a squad of cops to jump him on his way to the CNN studios in Hollywood, busted him and put him on a plane to Placer County, where he had already been sentenced to seven months in jail.

Two of the cops who beat Donovan— Jeremy Morse, who now lives in Idaho, and Bijan Davish, still an Inglewood cop—sued the city. They said their punishment was more severe than that of the other cop, Willie Crook, who is Black. So they claimed they were discriminated against for being white . And the jury gave Morse $1.6 million and Davish $811,000.

In Bush’s America right and wrong are turned completely upside down. Fundamentalist Christian teachers cry discrimination when they are stopped from teaching religion in public schools. Right-wing actors say they are an oppressed minority in Hollywood. Reactionary college students say they are mistreated by liberal professors. A law has been proposed in California to make it illegal to even collect information about racial profiling. And now racist white cops who repeatedly attack and brutalize Black people and others claim they are singled out for the color of their skin.