Column Written 18 November 1996
Copyright 1996 Mumia Abu-Jamal

In what has become known as the Gammage case, the acquittal of the white cop charged with the manslaughter killing of Johnny Gammage sent ripples of shock through the Pittsburgh and national Black community.

Policeman John Vojtas proffered an "I was just doing my job" defense, which played quite well to the all-white, imported, Lackawanna County jury.

Vojtas' acquittal all but guarantees the acquittal of several other suburban Pittsburgh cops who will be retried after a recent mistrial.

The case is an echo of what has been occurring with deadly regularity in cities across the United States.

In New York, Puerto Rican youth Anthony Baez is choked to death by a cop, Francis Livoti, who, although found "not innocent" by a judge, is acquitted.

He was "just doing his job."

The same day of the Vojtas acquittal, a white cop in St. Petersburg, Florida is cleared by an all-white grand jury in the shooting of an 18-year-old Black youth during a traffic stop.

He was "just doing his job."

Again and again, in city after city, a Black or Latino youth is killed, and the killer cop, if charged at all, walks free: Freed, more often than not, by all-white juries or grand juries, or judges.

In case after case after case, they are 'Just doing their jobs.'

What is their "job?"

There are two ways of answering this question.

1. Their job is what they say their job is, i.e. keep the peace, protect the weak, etc. 2. Their job is what they actually do, i.e. create social disorder, repress the weak, and protect the interests of the status quo--Be a defender of the wealthy and powerful.

How else could killer cops be acquitted when they say in their defense that they are just doing their jobs, unless they really are doing their jobs--and that job is terrorizing, and killing Black, Brown and poor youths?

What are they telling you?

They are also telling you that courts are halls of illusion, like the halls of mirrors in the spook house, places where things are not as they seem.

Until we truly understand this, we will continue to be shocked when we see the face of injustice in U.S. courtrooms.