Originally posted Thursday, June 28, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump saw his spotlight rise after representing Trayvon Martin’s family after Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, creating a national uproar. He later represented families of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, victims of police shootings.
He has since been busy working on a raft of civil rights cases and has kept his name in the news. He recently oversaw a team of experts to try to figure out, as the title connotes, “Who Killed Tupac?” on A&E. He just finished up a test run of four episodes of TV One’s “Evidence of Innocence” focused on innocent people improperly imprisoned. Next month, he will be part of Jay-Z’s docuseries “Rest in Peace: The Trayvon Martin Story” on the new Paramount Network (formerly Spike).
Crump, who came by the AJC last week for an in-person interview, felt the A&E series “uncovered evidence never seen before that identified the gun used in the murder and why the L.A. police department never turned it over to the Las Vegas prosecutors. They didn’t want to solve the crime. We think that where they found the gun in the backyard of a popular Crip member ties back to the person who is largely believed to have killed Tupac Shukar. His family was devastated they never prosecuted anybody, which was arguably the most public drive-by shooting in the history of the world.”
He has increasing doubts the case will ever be solved as the clock ticks past 20 years. “As time goes on, you lose a little faith each year,” he said. “There is I think enough evidence for prosecutors in the Las Vegas metropolitan police to make a conclusion to give the family some peace of mind.”
As for his TV One show, which was shot in Atlanta, “it’s part of my life mission to educate people on the criminal justice system and the legal system itself... It’s about wrongfully convicted individuals who have been exonerated by clear and convincing DNA evidence. They spent 10, 20, even 30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.”
The Innocence Project, he said, estimates there could be up to 20,000 people in prison who are wrongfully imprisoned, many people of color.
“We picked cases that had the greatest impact,” he said. In the first episode, a woman was told to take a 15-year plea deal for a murder she didn’t commit although she had an alibi witness. She was a poor black woman and openly gay. It wasn’t until 14 years later that good lawyers were able to prove she was not the murderer and she was released.
“It happens every day,” he said. “We are trying to appeal to future prospective future jurors... Don’t just take the police and district attorney’s word as gospel and disbelieve the poor person of color who said they didn’t do it.”
He said he hopes TV One received enough viewership to give them more seasons. “We really want to keep doing this series,” he said.
Rushion McDonald, Steve Harvey’s former right-hand man, produced the series. In a text, he wrote: “The response to EOI has been tremendous. It was much more than we expected in the ratings and viewer reaction in the social media. Ben Crump has been at the forefront of promoting the series. Hopefully we will get some good news on a pick up.”
As for the Trayvon Martin documentary series, it’s based on the book written by Martin’s parents, who he represented. “Jay-Z really took it to heart as a new father,” he said. “He understands parents of color’s worst fear is that their child will never make it back home, harmed by people who are supposed to be authorities.”
He said you get to see Martin from the perspective of time: “Did he get assassinated on the street, then get his character assassinated in the courtroom?”
A lot of those cases led to NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to highlight those issues. Naturally, Crump is supportive and appalled that NFL owners will stop them from doing so next season. “These are American citizens and should have the right to express the rights like any other Americans,” he said.
I do want to note that during the interview, Crump said Tim Tebow kneeled during the National Anthem to protest abortion. That is a falsehood spread on the Web. (Tebow kneeled in prayer before, during and after games but not during the anthem.)
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.