Earl Ofari Hutchinson
On June 16 the body of 17 year-old Raynard Johnson, an African-American, was found dangling from a pecan tree in the front yard of his home in Kokomo, Mississippi. The coroner ruled it a suicide. Johnson's parents, Jesse Jackson, and civil rights leaders claimed that he was lynched for dating a white girl. The hanging touched off a series of angry marches, rallies, demonstrations and loud calls for a federal investigation. It also garnered national media attention and ignited a public debate over the ancient taboo of black men having sexual relations with white women.
The same day that Johnson's death touched off the national furor, Keith Stockdale, a 15 year old African-American male, stood silently in a juvenile courtroom 2000 miles away in Rancho Cucamonga, a mostly white bedroom community 60 miles east of Los Angeles. He listened as a judge slapped him with a 46 year to life sentence. This is believed to be one of the longest sentences ever handed out to a minor in a questionable juvenile court case. Stockdale was convicted of the rape of three teen-aged white girls. Legal experts say the average prison sentence in adult rape cases where no weapon is used and the perpetrator has no prior record is is 4-6 years.The arresting officer, the judge, prosecutor, the court appointed psychologist in the case were white. Stockdale's family and supporters called the verdict a "travesty" and hinted that Stockdale was the victim of a legal lynching. Unlike the Johnson hanging, the case drew no media attention, no angry protests, and no calls by civil rights leaders for an outside investigation. The case, however, again tosses the ugly glare on the hyper-charged issues of sexual violence, racial disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice system, and the victimization of young black males.
The charges against Stockdale shocked friends and family members. The high school freshman was an above average student, played on the football and basketball teams, was not involved with gangs or drugs, and was well liked by teachers and coaches. Stockdale admits that he had sexual relations with the girls, but insists that the relationships were consensual. Stockdale's family and supporters point to these gaping flaws in the case to back their charge that it is a legal and racial travesty.
- No parent or attorney was present during his questioning
- He knew two of the three girls since elementary school.
- Two of the victims allegedly made frequent phone calls to his home.
- There was no weapon used in the alleged rapes.
- The victims claimed rape weeks after the dates the sexual acts occurred.
- There were no witnesses to support the victims accusations even though two of the sexual acts occurred on campus during school hours.
- Physical evidence that could have cast doubt on the statements of two of the victims was not submitted.
- The victims weren't given medical exams to determine if their were injuries or other physical signs of rape.
- No medical tests were conducted to support one victim's claim that she contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Stockdale. The court also ignored a report by another psychologist who found that Stockdale was not a high risk threat and recommended probation. The staggering sentence and the flaws in the case raise these troubling questions: Were Stockdale's rights fully protected? Did race play a factor in his trial and sentencing? Is there a deep racial taint in the juvenile justice system? Do white juveniles charged with similar crimes receive much less severe sentences than blacks?
Two months before Stockdale was sentenced the Youth Law Center released a report that black youth are six times more likely to be tried as adults than whites and sentenced to long prison terms even when the crimes are similar. Is Stockdale yet another victim of a racially-biased criminal justice system or is he a dangerous sexual predator? Much rides on the answer to this question.
Keith Stockdale Legal Defense Fund
Chino Hills 91709
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