WASHINGTON, DC — This week, Pamela J. Meanes, President of the National Bar Association (NBA), traveled to West Virginia State University and participated in the school’s Black History Month program as a keynote speaker. President Meanes highlighted the injustice that continues within the criminal justice system in West Virginia and across the country.
In March 2013, five police officers fired on Wayne Jones, a 50-year-old mentally challenged black man, while he lay on the ground, after officers confronted him as he walked down the street by himself. According to officers, Jones stabbed one of them. However, according to news reports the officer’s alleged stab wound was found to be minor and did not require medical attention. Meanwhile, Jones died from the officers’ gunshots.
Jones’ death was ruled a homicide and a grand jury declined to indict the five police officers involved in the fatal shooting. According to Jimmie Smith, West Virginia Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, the death of Jones was a result of 23 gunshot wounds, “with injuries to multiple organs, including his brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidney and stomach”.
In May 2014, the NAACP of Jefferson and Berkeley counties of West Virginia held a press conference calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a federal investigation into the shooting death of Jones. The Jones family filed a $200 million civil suit in compensatory and punitive damages for the death of Jones, however, a U.S. federal court dismissed the case, holding that the use of deadly force by the five police officers was reasonable and justified.
One of the benchmark initiatives of the NBA is to educate communities on their Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights and to hold police departments and offending officers accountable and responsible for their actions.
“African American communities nationwide should be protected from police officers’ use of excessive and/or deadly force,” stated President Meanes. “We plan to educate as many citizens to ensure they are aware of their rights and are able to protect themselves from any injustices from local law enforcement.”
While the legal community and the public at large has closely followed developments on the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin (Sanford, FL), Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY), and Mike Brown (Ferguson, MO), the NBA seeks to bring light to additional victims that have died through the use of excessive force.
In order to ensure equal protection under the law for all, the NBA will continue to call on police departments across the country to reform their policies on how they interact with African-American and urban communities, as well as individuals who have mental health challenges — such as Wayne Jones of West Virginia.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION
The National Bar Association was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges. It represents the interests of approximately 60,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students.The NBA is organized around 23 substantive law sections, 9 divisions, 12 regions and 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. For more information, visit: www.nationalbar.org
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERISTY
West Virginia State University is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). This accreditation is reviewed in-depth by the HLC. WVSU is in the process of an extensive internal study process. This effort is in preparation of the HLC site-visit in April 2015 where the University will host a visiting team from the Higher Learning Commission. The team will review the institution’s ongoing adherence to the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. WVSU was first accredited in 1927. Of all West Virginia’s higher education institutions, West Virginia State University has the longest record of continuous accreditation. For more information, visit: www.wvstateu.edu