Sunday, May 01, 2011

Douglas Knickrehm: The Case for “Lil Boosie” – Guilty until Proven Innocent in Louisiana

Criticism of “Free Boosie” Movement Trades Liberty and Compassion for the Heavy Hand of Big Brother

                       By Douglas Knickrehm

Two days ago I came across the article “Free Boosie movement stupid, calls for release of murderer” by Chris Grillot. It was so appalling and misleading I felt a response was necessary. The sad fact is the basis of the American justice system has been perverted in the case of Torrence Hatch aka “Lil Boosie”. Based on Grillot’s title alone, we can believe he presumes Hatch guilty.

This plays directly into the hands of the DA who manufactured the charge against Boosie. In a jury trial, especially one with a high profile defendant, public perception can be a tool for either side. If Grillot’s attitude is the prevailing mindset in Baton Rouge, I fear for anyone accused of a crime there. Fortunately, this attitude is wrong and Grillot’s article provides a perfect example to dissect.

Before we start I’ll provide a brief background for those who may not know who I’m talking about: Lil’ Boosie is a rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is currently facing a first degree murder charge. He is not to be confused with Lil’ Wayne, who has had his own legal troubles and will be mentioned in the next paragraph. Sorry to those who knew this info, but my mom told me she was confused by the two so I thought I’d clarify for the older crowd.

Grillot’s enthusiasm for arresting and locking away “criminals” triggered the first alarm for me. Specifically, when Grillot writes, “Wayne was finally locked up”. This is the first of many phrases that seem to applaud putting people in cages (prison) for petty crimes. He then complains about people wanting the “gun-toting, tear-drop-tattooed criminal to be released”. 

This is a pure ad hominem attack based on subjective judgments. In most states people are allowed to possess the guns Lil Wayne had in New York. Had Wayne been in Louisiana, he would have been within the law. He had a registered firearm, but the gun laws in NYC are so draconian it’s nearly impossible to keep up with every regulation. The Bloomberg administration likes to make examples out of high profile figures violating his laws, so Lil Wayne (like Plaxico Burress a few years back) did time for simple possession of a firearm. Finally, having tattoos does not make someone a criminal, or even a bad person for that matter. There’s a clear bias here (and in American culture) against those who live outside the cookie cutter box “mainstream” America sets.

This brings us to Grillot’s criticisms of the “Free Boosie” movement. First of all, Lil Boosie should not have been arrested, let alone sentenced to two years in prison for a marijuana charge. It was his third offense, but it’s time we reconsider filling government cages with people who smoke weed. Once again, this is an example of the law turning people into criminals without the person committing any actual harm to anyone else. Boosie eventually had his sentence doubled to four years after he violated his probation awaiting sentencing. He is not a drug dealer, he is a rapper. He makes his money doing shows.

There are only so many shows a man can do a month without breaching the boundaries of his probation. It’s reported that all shows must be cleared by the judge for Lil Boosie to perform. If these clearances are anywhere close to the glacial pace of the judicial system they would still hinder his touring abilities. Still, the judge felt Boosie’s violation was severe enough to double his sentence from two to four years. On paper, two to four years does not sound bad, but you must consider this is a man’s life we are talking about. He lost two years of his life for smoking weed and carrying a gun. The laws in Louisiana seem to represent the interests of those enforcing them over those subject to them.

Grillot states, “Boosie does not seem like a person you would want to free”. Why? At this point he has given nothing but highly questionable laws as reason for putting someone in a cage. Consider this: have you ever in your life a) drank while underage b) smoked a joint or c) possessed a firearm? Do those merit a cage? Based on the prevailing logic in Louisiana these actions do. Grillot again states “something we’d like” was jail time and a first degree murder indictment. The murder indictment is based on the testimony of one admitted murderer. In exchange for his testimony against Hatch, he will receive a lighter sentence for actually killing someone.

Boosie faces the death penalty on the strength of the murderer’s words. There is no physical or monetary evidence linking Boosie to the murder he allegedly paid for and “mastermind”. The DA’s case rests on one testimony and portraying Hatch as menacingly as possible to the public. It is important to point out the clearance rate in Baton Rouge has fallen from 77% in 2006 to 40% in 2010. Hallor (the District Attorney) could use a big name conviction to mask his poor performance over the past four years. But this is just speculation.

Our culture has become way too comfortable accepting the powers that be and assuming that the government has a monopoly on justice. Just because the DA files charges does not mean we should presume Lil Boosie is guilty. Criminal law in this country is supposedly based on the presumption of innocience before guilt, but when the suspect in question is an “unsavory” tattooed rap artist we turn the tradition of law on its head. I thought the time when the law was used to assassainate “undesirables” (especially black people) had passed. The prosecutor’s office of East Baton Rouge shows this is not the case. Put the image you’ve conjured in your head about “Lil Boosie” away for a second and consider that another man, Torrence Hatch, has been living as a subject of the state for nearly 2 years over a marijuana charge. He’s been in a cage. Now he’s the subject of a fraudulent murder indictment, which could potentially end his life. And you have the nerve to belittle the “Free Boosie” movement?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Doug Knickrehm lives in the Bronx, NYC where he is a student at Fordham University. His issues of interest include race, economics, and drug laws.

He be reached at  or @beachousewishes  on twitter


J Rock said...


J Rock said...