Monday, November 23, 2009

Dr. Boyce: Things You Don’t Know about Heather Ellis

Setting the record straight with Heather Ellis

by Dr. Boyce Watkins 


Jury selection for Heather Ellis continues
Heather Ellis case one in a long line of Missouri's racial injustices

This Nov. 4, 2009 file photo shows Heather Ellis, left, arm-in-arm with her mother, Hester Ellis, exiting the Stoddard County Justice Center in Bloomfield, Mo. (AP Photo/Corey Noles, Dexter Daily Statesman, File)

This week, for the first time, I had the chance to speak with Heather Ellis.

Heather was not previously allowed to speak, since her attorney told her to remain silent. I can tell you that after speaking with Heather for nearly two hours, she is a fine young woman. She is NOT the kind of person who needed to spend any time in prison, and I am glad she took the plea deal from the prosecution. Let me explain a few facts about the case that you may not know:

1) Heather is not admitting guilt: Anyone familiar with the criminal justice system in America should understand that there are times when you have to plead in order to make something go away. There was no smoking gun implicating Heather Ellis; there was only the risk that the jury (which her high powered attorney, Scott Rosenblum, considered to be the worst jury he'd seen in 26 years of practice) was going to send her to prison or jail.

Like most of us, Heather is not a person who wants to go to jail for any significant period of time. I personally worried that she would be abused if left in the presence of the very officers who'd attacked her on the night of her arrest, not to mention the criminals she would be incarcerated with. If she were my daughter, I would have told her to take the plea.

The good thing was that her fight led the entire nation to talk about issues that we would never have discussed otherwise. Anyone who doesn't agree with her decision needs to go put their own child on trial with up to 15 possible years in prison and see how much yapping you do then.
2) There is no evidence of an assault on an officer and she was not convicted of these felonies: According to Heather (whom I believe and I'll tell you why in a second), there was one police officer who was dead set on the idea of pursuing and harassing her. He followed her closely out of the store, referring to her as a b*tch and a ho. He then told her to "go back to the ghetto." That is when Heather turned and asked him why he was harassing her instead of chasing real criminals. That is when he said, "Because I want to harass your stupid a**." That is also the officer who, without warning, tackled Heather and dragged her to the police car.

The reason Heather's story is credible is because this officer had been fired from another job for sexual harassment and had lied on the witness stand in the past. Her attorney's research uncovered the officer's dirty past, and Heather discussed this issue in more detail in our conversation.
3) This was not a jury of her peers: Heather's father, Pastor Nathaniel Ellis, told me that he had wanted to push the trial to the very end. What changed his mind, he said, was seeing his daughter break down in tears over the idea of going to jail or prison.


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