Listening to Broderick’s aunt

patterson outburstBy Alan Bean

Americans of a conservative bent are having a hard time with the Trayvon Martin saga.  The story suggests serious flaws in our system of criminal justice.  The conservative mind has no problem with George Zimmerman stalking a young man he considered suspicious and isn’t troubled by the fact that Zimmerman killed an unarmed man yet wasn’t arrested. 

But there are also narratives that those of the liberal persuasion tend to ignore because they reinforce the punitive consensus.  Take, for instance, the story of  Broderick Patterson, an eighteen year old Black male who was recently sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Eric Forrester, a seventeen year old White male.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been following the story for the past two years.

The Black-on-White nature of the slaying conforms to a familiar pattern, but this case goes deeper than that.  When the sentence was handed down, young Broderick directed a profane tirade (see the article below) at everyone associated with his sad fate.  The jury received the brunt of his venom.

The defendant and an accomplice were in the midst of burglarizing the Forrester home when Eric arrived home.  The purpetrators accused one another of being the shooter.  They said the gun went off by accident. 

But why was Broderick Patterson amazed that a jury would think his crime worthy of such a harsh sentence? 

The defendant’s family was naturally upset by the verdict, storming out of the courtroom in apparent protest.  Did they too believe the jury was being overly punitive?

Not necessarily.  Broderick’s aunt told reporters she blames the system for her nephew’s fate.  According to the article in the Star-Telegram, “she blamed the juvenile justice system for allowing Patterson to go free after he began having problems with the law.  He had been arrested for three felonies, including the severe beating of a special-needs student at Southwest High School, and was on probation for another burglary at the time of the shooting.”

Prosecutor Christy Jack dismissed any suggestion that the system had failed. 

“I think it showed we have an amazing juvenile justice system,” she said. “We gave him chance after chance after chance.”

But according to the aunt, that was precisely the problem.  The system gave Broderick too many chances.  How many times did he have to prove he was a threat to public safety before serious sanctions were applied?

And this is precisely the question that leaves liberals fumbling for a coherent response.  What do we do with the Broderick Patterson’s of this world?

In many jurisdictions, zero tolerance policies are being hailed as the answer.  In Chicago, for instance, a student advocacy group is charging that 2546 students were arrested on property controlled by the Chicago Public Schools in the six months running from September 2011 through February 2012.  Those arrested included 1915 African Americans, 540 Hispanics and 75 Whites.

The Chicago Police Department questions the accuracy of these statistics, noting that they cover all misdemeanor arrests on school property, including those made at night and on the weekends.

Is Zero Toleance the answer?  If Broderick Patterson had been arrested, adjudicated and incarcerated after his first felony, might Eric Forrester still be alive?  Moreover, how many Broderick Patterson’s are our public schools forced to deal with?

In fairness, it should be noted that the arrest figures from Chicago cover misdemeanor offenses, most notably “battery causing bodily harm, which 366 people were charged with. Another 358 were charged with “physical contact” battery and 313 with ‘reckless conduct.'”

Are all the young people arrested in the Windy City potential Broderick Patterson’s, or is his case exceptional?

We can safely guess that a solid majority of the Chicago arestees weren’t nearly as troubled as young Mr. Patterson.  Keep in mind that Patterson was only 16 when he was charged with the murder of Eric Forrester, and he already owned a serious rap sheet as long as your arm.  This young man was violent and mentally unstable, an obvious menace to the community.  His lack of empathy for his victim and apparent unwillingness to take personal responsibility for his actions make it likely that he is a full-blown psychopath.  His aunt acknowledged as much when she asked why Broderick hadn’t been taken off the streets before his increasingly violent behavior claimed an innocent life.

Reform advocates could allege that the 2546 violent students arrested in Chicago are victims of racial profiling, and there is likely some justice in this charge.  But even if minority students are being singled out and White students are getting the benefit of the doubt, we’re looking at an astonishing degree of physical violence. 

Several of my close family members are teachers and school counselors, often working in the special education field.  Although they aren’t allowed to name names or provide precise details, these people are perplexed by the number of troubled students attending our public schools.  Increasingly, I am told, students hurl profane abuse at teachers and classmates, constantly disrupt the classroom, ignore instructions, and, in some cases, wander the halls at will because no one in the building can deal with their defiance. 

When parents enter the picture, they frequently make excuses for their offspring.  These descriptions are anecdotal, of course, but I get similar reports from teachers across the country. 

At the same time, conservative state legislators blame teachers for the growing chaos in our public schools.  Teachers and administrators in high-status neighborhoods are commended for their great work; educators working in low-income, high minority schools are blamed for poor academic performance and classroom management issues.

Low income families are struggling these days, and the strain can be seen in the children.  Doctrinaire bromides, from the right or the left, offer no real solutions; in fact, they are part of the problem.  Teachers, parents, police officers, social workers and everyone else living near the front lines of social dysfunction deserve our prayers and support.  Sure, these people mess up on occasion, but they are wrestling with probems that defy simple solution.  Sometimes there are no good answers, just varying shades of bad.

I don’t raise these concerns because I think I have the answers.  I don’t.  I can’t wrap things up with a pretty bow and walk away.  My great fear is that we are in the midst of a deep social crisis that culture war talking points can’t begin to touch . . . and culture war talking points is all we’ve got.  

It takes objective compassion and clear-eyed analysis to come to respond creatively to the Broderick Patterson’s of our world.  What do we do when a twisted young man brutalizes a helpless special-needs student?  I don’t know.  But liberals like me can’t just pass over Broderick and his kin in our search for stories that are a better fit for our ideology.   

Teenage killer curses at jury after sentencing

By Dianna Hunt


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‘ & –>FORT WORTH — Convicted killer Broderick Patterson erupted with anger and a stream of obscenities Friday after jurors handed him a life sentence in the fatal shooting of a Southwest High School student during a burglary.

“This is bull—-,” he said, standing up briefly before being surrounded by bailiffs.

“I love you, Mama. … You jurors — f— all of y’all. … F— the state. F— the jury. F— the news.”

He was hustled into a holding cell area off the courtroom but continued to rail.

“I know y’all can hear me out there,” he said. “F— all of y’all.”

The jury in state District Judge Robb Catalano’s court deliberated about six hours over two days before sentencing Patterson, 18, to the maximum life sentence for the slaying of Eric Forrester, 17, who interrupted a burglary at his Wedgwood home when he and his sister arrived for lunch.

Prosecutors Robert Huseman and Christy Jack said Patterson’s aggressive reaction was not a surprise to law enforcement authorities.

“His behavior in the courtroom validated the jury’s verdict and confirmed what we knew all along,” Huseman said. “He is the definition of danger.”

Sherry Pulte, Patterson’s aunt, told reporters after the sentencing that she blamed the juvenile justice system for allowing Patterson to go free after he began having problems with the law.

He had been arrested for three felonies, including the severe beating of a special-needs student at Southwest High School, and was on probation for another burglary at the time of the shooting.

Pulte, Patterson’s mother and several family members and acquaintances left the courtroom hurriedly after the outburst. One man in the group pushed a Channel 4 cameraman who had been waiting at the elevators.

Jack said the juvenile justice system handled the young man as it should.

“I think it showed we have an amazing juvenile justice system,” she said. “We gave him chance after chance after chance.”

Patterson was 16 at the time of his arrest and was certified to stand trial as an adult. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the offense, he was not eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without parole. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

A co-defendant, Clifton Elliott, who was also 16 at the time of the shooting, was also certified to stand trial as an adult and is awaiting trial on a capital murder charge.

Both teens admitted burglarizing the home but said the other had been holding the gun when it discharged accidentally. The shooting was captured on a chilling 911 tape recorded through a cellphone that Forrester placed in his pocket.

His sister, Kali Forrester, testified this week, and her anguished 911 call was played for jurors.

Kali Forrester fled the home after her brother found the burglars upstairs and returned to find him shot in the head on the kitchen floor.

Family and friends of Forrester packed the courtroom every day and testified that Forrester was a kind young man who was devoted to relatives, friends and church.

Forrester had been to the senior prom just two days before the shooting, and his mother, Debbie Forrester, testified that the prom photo was the last picture ever taken of her son.

He had been looking forward to a hiking trip, friends told jurors. The family said they complied with his wishes to be an organ donor.

The Forrester family did not want to comment after the jury decision except to thank the prosecutors, judge and jury.

Huseman said no trial date has been set for Elliott.


One thought on “Listening to Broderick’s aunt

  1. I can tell you that these types of kids are in our classrooms everyday. I am a high school teacher who was cussed out because I would not give a student special treatment during a test. HIS WORDS…. Fuck art! No one gives a shit what you are saying! He disrupted the class. What will happen? Oh, probably an hour of after school detention. Wonder why there are problems? There are no consequences for actions! And yes, I am quitting the profession of teaching because it’s not teaching but referee duty without the ability to issue penalties. I am DONE.

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