Lawmaker: Black jurors wanted death for white murder suspect

Story courtesy of NYist

Though Pennsylvania will say that it doesn’t take racial concerns into account when administering the death penalty, one of the state’s black Republican congressmen says the prosecutor in the Rittenhouse Neck andesville murderer was motivated by race.

Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus, who represents the Pittsburgh area, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he thinks the white jurors who gave 57-year-old Clarence Cooper a death sentence in September were biased because the father of the accused, Michael Morton, is black.

“I think it’s almost impossible to feel for Mr. Morton, of course, when you think about his life,” Rothfus said. “Mr. Morton has been murdered twice. I certainly don’t wish what he has gone through and his loss on anybody. However, the circumstances here make it even more difficult for any one of us.”

Rothfus said that “white tears” led the jurors to sentence Cooper to death while the deputy attorney general was on his way to a breakfast at George Washington University — she got out to use the bathroom — and they never reviewed the testimony about Cooper’s actions before and after his arrest.

“Cooper was found guilty of stabbing his girlfriend 15 times; his family members found that the only time he let go of her was when he was strangling her to death,” Rothfus said. “Somehow I find it strange that the district attorney seemed so intent on finding the most severe sentence possible for this individual, and we don’t hear any noise from the NAACP about this case.”

Cooper is a longtime servant of the Ouida S. Stockade of the Apostolic Faith. In 2015, Fulton County prosecutors initially charged Cooper with drug possession, his brother with criminal conspiracy to possess drugs for sale, and his housekeeper with the same offenses. But upon reviewing new evidence, prosecutors re-opened the original homicide case against Cooper and upped the charges to first-degree murder and conspiracy charges. In 2018, Cooper turned himself in to police and was found guilty of aggravated assault and related charges.

On Saturday, Cooper’s brother, Michael Morton, spoke to press about the state’s handling of the case.

“The jury did not address the truth of the evidence,” he said, adding, “I do not believe the juror reached his decision on the basis of race alone.”

Morton said he hopes for a new trial for his brother.

“This case would not have been sent up to death row if it had been a white mother and her black son,” he said. “This is the jury… when we got the charges against Mike Morton up the chain, we started talking to the DA and the DA thought it wasn’t the justice system working and he started thinking, ‘This is too much.'”

Michael Morton, in his own lengthy victim impact statement, said the rape and murder of his daughter Amber in 1987 at age 8 were about much more than just revenge.

He told the court that the inability to stop it didn’t matter, as what mattered was the impact the crime had on his family. His daughter, he said, “had the same longing, the same need to be loved and cherished by me. She wanted to know, ‘Dad, I have something to live for.’ This was her legacy for her whole family. This was her legacy. Her legacy for me.”

“When I look at my family now, I see two very different people because of Amber’s murder, but I also see two very different people with the desire to protect our society from a crime of this nature,” Morton said. “What we’ve been fighting for is the same thing that I fight for every day in Washington, D.C. We fight to restore the humanity of the people in this country.”

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