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'By Hands Now Known' shines light on cold cases of lynchings and racial violence
In the summer of 2020, when the murder of George Floyd was igniting protests in Minneapolis and around the country, it occurred to Margaret A. Burnham that “George Floyd” was a common-sounding name. Burnham is the founder and director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at the Northwestern University School of Law, where she is also a professor.
She went into the CRRJ’s archive of Jim Crow racial homicides, and a search revealed another George Floyd. The account of the jailhouse death of this first George Floyd appeared in a 1945 letter to Thurgood Marshall from a Floridian chapter of the NAACP. Floyd, a 46-year-old turpentine worker, was arrested in St. Augustine, Florida, accused of public intoxication. When Floyd protested a second search of his person at the local jail, he was beaten to death by the arresting officer. Aside from a coroner’s report, Burnham and her colleagues could find no evidence that the officer who killed Floyd in 1945 faced any investigation.
“It was not entirely unforeseeable that we would find this name-fellow in our archive, pleading to be exhumed and put in conversation with the iconic inspiration for what would come to be known as the 2020 ‘reckoning’ with Black death at the hands of the state,” writes Burnham in her new book,By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners. “We count, and contest, because George Floyd counted. Number 1. And Number 2.”
InBy Hands Now Known, Burnham looks at three interrelated themes: The way the federal government enabled the subjugation of Black Americans through both action and inaction; the relationship between racial violence and political power; and community resistance to Jim Crow that predates the “official” Civil Rights Era from 1954 to 1967.
Burnham’s first chapter examines one such area that shows elements of all three themes: Rendition cases gave attorneys the opportunity to try to prevent the extradition of Black men and women to jurisdictions where they faced lynching or other violence. William Henry Huff, a Black lawyer in Illinois, successfully handled 77 such cases, Burnham found in her research.
In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Burnham discusses her book with the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles. She describes talking to family members of victims who never thought the full story of their loved ones’ deaths would ever be told; the way shopkeepers or bus drivers were essentially deputized to violently enforce rules against Black people in the South; and how her work in 1990s South Africa with truth and reconciliation efforts impacts her view of the potential for reparations efforts in the United States. She also contends that the lack of enforcement made the kidnapping of Black people by white people not a criminal offense, regardless of what laws were on the books.
Burnham, along with her partner Melissa Nobles of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has also made her research available through the CRRJ’s Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive. Primary source documents such as FBI interviews, news articles and jury inquests into anti-Black killings in the American South during the early to mid-20th century are available, as well as more than 900 case pages for individual incidents.
It's a long road ahead for driverless cars, says Fastcase executive
There hasn’t been much progress when it comes to driverless cars. Most major car manufacturers have sunk hundreds of billions into developing and testing driverless cars; yet the finish line seems to be nowhere in sight. So what happened?
Stressed about holiday parties? Think about skipping them, says lawyer in recovery
As we head into the holiday season, consider what you want your celebrations to look like, rather than meeting everyone else’s expectations, says Laurie Besden, a lawyer who has been sober for almost two decades.
How do you calculate damages in injury trials?
For any plaintiff who's been injured or any young attorney just starting out in the field of tort law, it can be daunting to calculate what monetary damages–and nonmonetary damages like pain and suffering–they should be asking for if they win a civil trial or are evaluating a settlement offer. Estimating what the future would have looked like if an accident had never occurred can seem more like a thought experiment than a scientific process.
But there is a science behind it, says Dr. Michael Shahnasarian, and he has written a book, The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases: A Damages Expert's Perspective, to explain the methodology.
Shahnasarian has a PhD in psychology, and he's focused his practice on vocational rehabilitation and life care planning. As an expert witness, he's participated in at least 5,000 cases, he tells Lee Rawles in this episode of the Modern Law Library podcast. The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases walks through the forensic process he and others use to estimate what someone's earning potential might have been without an accident, as well as the amount of money it may take to cover the person's living and healthcare expenses in the future.
In this episode, Shahnasarian offers advice to young lawyers interested in tort cases; gives his expert-witness opinion on how best to reach jurors with information without overwhelming them; and shares with listeners his core beliefs about the value and dignity of work.
Listeners of this podcast can get a 20% discount on The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases: A Damages Expert's Perspective by entering the code VMDCDEP22 at checkout at the ABA store. The discount code is valid until 8/31/2023.
How lawyers can unlock the potential of the metaverse
The metaverse is all the rage these days. Users can enter a virtual world where they can interact with people from all parts of the physical world, play games, engage in commerce and do a lot of other things. Some law firms have also seen the potential.
Author and lawyer Scott Turow made generational leap for new legal thriller
Author and lawyer Scott Turow’s latest legal thriller Suspect reintroduces readers to Clarice “Pinky” Granum, the granddaughter of attorney Sandy Stern—a character from the author's novels The Last Trial and his blockbuster debut Presumed Innocent.
Great Podcast. I’d love more frequent episodes.
Great podcast but should be weekly or more frequent!