Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice

Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice

Paul Butler

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 1595585001

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Paul Butler was an ambitious federal prosecutor, a Harvard Law grad who gave up his corporate law salary to fight the good fight—until one day he was arrested on the street and charged with a crime he didn’t commit. The Volokh Conspiracy calls Butler’s account of his trial "the most riveting first chapter I have ever read."

In a book Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree calls "a must read," Butler looks at places where ordinary citizens meet the justice system—as jurors, witnesses, and in encounters with the police—and explores what "doing the right thing" means in a corrupt system.

Since Let’s Get Free’s publication in spring 2009, Butler has become the go-to person for commentary on criminal justice and race relations: he appeared on ABC News, Good Morning America, and Fox News, published op-eds in the New York Times and other national papers, and is in demand to speak across the country. The paperback edition brings Butler’s groundbreaking and highly controversial arguments—jury nullification (voting "not guilty" in drug cases as a form of protest), just saying "no" when the police request your permission to search, and refusing to work inside the system as a snitch or a prosecutor—to a whole new audience.

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him to stay in school . . . but kids are hardheaded. When these jurors looked at this other young man in chains, all these memories came back. Those memories seemed relevant to the case, regardless of what the law said. The law responded to these problems by locking that man in a cage. But for once these jurors had some power over the law, and when they got a little power they used it the best way they knew how. JURY NULLIFICATION: A PRIMER When a jury disregards the evidence and acquits an

department suffers from a “culture of misconduct.” This chapter is about the benefits and limits of citizen cooperation with police and prosecutors. I focus on the “Stop Snitching” movement because it is so little understood, and so crucial to public safety and the fair administration of justice. Why should you, the law-abiding citizen, want to reduce the reliance of law enforcement on snitches? Perhaps the most important reason is to prevent anyone else from ending up like Grandma Johnston.

It was my first time walking through the prisoners’ entrance at the courthouse. My handcuffs made it seem especially authentic. Normally, at the main entrance, I don’t even have to go through the metal detectors. The U.S. marshals require defense attorneys to do that, but we prosecutors just show our ID’s and breeze through. Not that day. Inside the courthouse I was placed in a holding cell, alone. I was officially behind bars. My friend Renée Raymond, a public defender, came to see me.

leave until I did. The encounter lasted approximately one hour. It ended when one officer interviewed my neighbor, who confirmed my residence.28 The police claimed that they stopped me because they do not often see people walking in my neighborhood. I believe that I was stopped because I am black. The officers also were African American, a fact that does not for me weaken the racial explanation. If I am right, however—if my blackness was the reason the officers found me suspicious—the police

of control. My sense of justice always has been big and bulging. What my own personal prosecution expanded is my sense of injustice. Sometimes I still hate the woman who falsely accused me. She tried to destroy me. I was innocent. Really. Maybe you don’t completely believe me either. That’s another effect of my prosecution. I’m not as innocent as I was before. I have a record. We need our criminal justice system to understand. Detroit? She did a terrible thing. That is different, however, from

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