Rare robbery case brings cries of racism

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OStateMan

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Rare robbery case brings cries of racism

By JULIANA BARBASSA
Associated Press Writer


LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) -- Three young black men break into a white man's home in rural Northern California. The homeowner shoots two of them to death - but it's the surviving black man who is charged with murder.

In a case that has brought cries of racism from civil rights groups, Renato Hughes Jr., 22, was charged by prosecutors in this overwhelmingly white county under a rarely invoked legal doctrine that could make him responsible for the bloodshed.

"It was pandemonium" inside the house that night, District Attorney Jon Hopkins said. Hughes was responsible for "setting the whole thing in motion by his actions and the actions of his accomplices."

Prosecutors said homeowner Shannon Edmonds opened fire Dec. 7 after three young men rampaged through the Clearlake house demanding marijuana and brutally beat his stepson. Rashad Williams, 21, and Christian Foster, 22, were shot in the back. Hughes fled.

Hughes was charged with first-degree murder under California's Provocative Act doctrine, versions of which have been on the books in many states for generations but are rarely used.

The Provocative Act doctrine does not require prosecutors to prove the accused intended to kill. Instead, "they have to show that it was reasonably foreseeable that the criminal enterprise could trigger a fatal response from the homeowner," said Brian Getz, a San Francisco defense attorney unconnected to the case.

The NAACP complained that prosecutors came down too hard on Hughes, who also faces robbery, burglary and assault charges. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

The Rev. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and pastor at Hughes' church, said the case demonstrates the legal system is racist in remote Lake County, aspiring wine country 100 miles north of San Francisco. The sparsely populated county of 13,000 people is 91 percent white and 2 percent black.

Brown and other NAACP officials are asking why the homeowner is walking free. Tests showed Edmonds had marijuana and prescription medication in his system the night of the shooting. Edmonds had a prescription for both the pot and the medication to treat depression.

"This man had no business killing these boys," Brown said. "They were shot in the back. They had fled."

On Thursday, a judge granted a defense motion for a change of venue. The defense had argued that he would not be able to get a fair trial because of extensive local media coverage and the unlikelihood that Hughes could get a jury of his peers in the county. A new location for the trial will be selected Dec. 14.

The district attorney said that race played no part in the charges against Hughes and that the homeowner was spared prosecution because of evidence he was defending himself and his family, who were asleep when the assailants barged in at 4 a.m.

Edmonds' stepson, Dale Lafferty, suffered brain damage from the baseball bat beating he took during the melee. The 19-year-old lives in a rehabilitation center and can no longer feed himself.

"I didn't do anything wrong. All I did was defend my family and my children's lives," said Edmonds, 33. "I'm sad the kids are dead, I didn't mean to kill them."

He added: "Race has nothing to do with it other than this was a gang of black people who thought they were going to beat up this white family."

California's Provocative Act doctrine has primarily been used to charge people whose actions led to shooting deaths.

However, in one notable case in Southern California in 1999, a man who robbed a family at gunpoint in their home was convicted of murder because a police officer pursuing him in a car chase slammed into another driver in an intersection, killing her.

Hughes' mother, San Francisco schoolteacher Judy Hughes, said she believes the group didn't intend to rob the family, just buy marijuana. She called the case against her son a "legal lynching."

"Only God knows what happened in that house," she said. "But this I know: My son did not murder his childhood friends."

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy
 

jakeman

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Yeah, my f'n heart is just bleeding.

Here's a suggestion, don't beat people with baseball bats and maybe you won't get in trouble with the law and your friends won't get dead.

He should be charged with murder, just like the law reads. I think we have a similar law in Oklahoma, something to the effect of if someone dies during the commission of a felony, the person committing that felony is guilty of murder. One of the counselors here can clarify or correct if I'm wrong.

I wish the prosecution lots of luck with their case.
 

OStateMan

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Hughes' mother, San Francisco schoolteacher Judy Hughes, said she believes the group didn't intend to rob the family, just buy marijuana. She called the case against her son a "legal lynching."

"Only God knows what happened in that house," she said. "But this I know: My son did not murder his childhood friends."

THIS IS WHAT BURNS ME UP!! This person is so idiotic in her assertion. She is trying to make it sound like an innocent incident gone bad.

It's this kind of reasoning by a particular segment of our society, the NAACP and people in general -- No one wants to accept responsibility.

This mother can't accept the fact that her son was involved in a bat beating of a child in the brutal act of a home invasion/robbery. Her kid is now a killer and she wants to blame the victim.

I hope they fry this punk.
 

OKCPoke

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"This man had no business killing these boys," Brown said. "They were shot in the back. They had fled."

Exactly, he should have chased them down and given them his VISA and AMEX along with his security code so they could withdraw money when they needed it. There should be comments soon from our buddy Sharpton and Jackson...apparently the ambulance has not passed their direction yet.
 

CowboyJD

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Yeah, my f'n heart is just bleeding.

Here's a suggestion, don't beat people with baseball bats and maybe you won't get in trouble with the law and your friends won't get dead.

He should be charged with murder, just like the law reads. I think we have a similar law in Oklahoma, something to the effect of if someone dies during the commission of a felony, the person committing that felony is guilty of murder. One of the counselors here can clarify or correct if I'm wrong.

I wish the prosecution lots of luck with their case.
This is a pretty standard application of the felony murder rule. You commit a felony and someone dies during it.....you're responsible whether you directly caused the death or not.

This is pretty much the law everywhere.

I once represented a guy that was the "driver and lookout" in a burglary. He never even entered the building. Things went bad inside, people ended up dead. He was initially prosecuted for murder.
 

CocoCincinnati

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The Rev. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and pastor at Hughes' church, said the case demonstrates the legal system is racist in remote Lake County,
Maybe if he would spend less time blaming the legal system and more time ministering to his congreation (of whom Hughes is a part) then maybe some of the kids wouldn't be in a trouble with that legal system (including Hughes).

Both Rev Brown and this kids mother are blaiming anybody and everybody when they are the two people that could have made the biggest influence in this kids life. Not saying they are to blame but they sure as heck shouldn't be pointing any fingers.
 

OStateMan

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I suppose as long as they turned their backs and started running, it's over in the minds of many robbery/beating supporters.

How can anyone in the black community defend these jerks.

It's like the Jena 6 -- who ganged up on an innocent victim (real tough, fellas. Those are coward's odds) and the black community plays the repeat offender as a victim. Then at the BET Awards Show, presenters honor them.

And they wonder why racism is still a problem?!
 

jakeman

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I suppose as long as they turned their backs and started running, it's over in the minds of many robbery/beating supporters.

How can anyone in the black community defend these jerks.

It's like the Jena 6 -- who ganged up on an innocent victim (real tough, fellas. Those are coward's odds) and the black community plays the repeat offender as a victim. Then at the BET Awards Show, presenters honor them.

And they wonder why racism is still a problem?!

I've got lots of things I'd like to say about several of those situations, but as sure as I do, I'd get branded a racist.

The race card gets tossed out way too often. The problem is, you can't defend yourself against it. It's the Ace in a game of Spades. When you toss it, you win that trick regardless of what was led. Doesn't matter what the other guys are holding, they can't win. It is the ultimate trump card, and that's why it gets tossed so often. When you have no basis to your argument, when you are sure to lose, drop that on the table, and the game is suddenly yours.

It's a sad deal and, at great risk, I agree it just perpetuates racism. They are defeating their own cause, but sadly I don't think ending racism is their real motivation.
 

Slugger926

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It's a sad deal and, at great risk, I agree it just perpetuates racism. They are defeating their own cause, but sadly I don't think ending racism is their real motivation.
Not when the ones that are playing the race card are profitting from being racist themselves in their own way.:eek:
 

RoVerto Solo

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I've got lots of things I'd like to say about several of those situations, but as sure as I do, I'd get branded a racist.

The race card gets tossed out way too often. The problem is, you can't defend yourself against it. It's the Ace in a game of Spades. When you toss it, you win that trick regardless of what was led. Doesn't matter what the other guys are holding, they can't win. It is the ultimate trump card, and that's why it gets tossed so often. When you have no basis to your argument, when you are sure to lose, drop that on the table, and the game is suddenly yours.

It's a sad deal and, at great risk, I agree it just perpetuates racism. They are defeating their own cause, but sadly I don't think ending racism is their real motivation.
I say it for you. I believe they are just trying to get even for all the past injustices.
 

llcoolw

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First of all just because they were shot in the back doesn't mean they were running away. Maybe the shooter snuck up behind them while they were brain damaging the boy. Maybe they were running because they brought a bat to a gun fight.

They were there to buy pot, not rob anybody. With a bat? At 4am in the morning? They have a funny way of waking the 19 year old up. Black men have to go to wine country to buy pot? In California? I don't see it as a race thing at all, when you go into someone's home at 4 in the morning and with a bat, what's going to happen?

Too bad one got away. If my kid couldn't feed themselves anymore because of this, I wouldn't stop until I got the third one. I didn't realize the law was old. I thought it was commonly used.

Ostate, I like the last line on your post.
 
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I've got lots of things I'd like to say about several of those situations, but as sure as I do, I'd get branded a racist.

The race card gets tossed out way too often. The problem is, you can't defend yourself against it. It's the Ace in a game of Spades. When you toss it, you win that trick regardless of what was led. Doesn't matter what the other guys are holding, they can't win. It is the ultimate trump card, and that's why it gets tossed so often. When you have no basis to your argument, when you are sure to lose, drop that on the table, and the game is suddenly yours.

It's a sad deal and, at great risk, I agree it just perpetuates racism. They are defeating their own cause, but sadly I don't think ending racism is their real motivation.
Eh, don't tell the NAACP but they are not the final authority on who is racist. Anybody who defends these losers is an embarrassment and not credible in the eyes of most americans, and outside of the black community, (I have no idea how most black people feel about the NAACP) I don't think many people give much credence to the NAACP. I'm sure they do plenty of positive things for poor black families, but their politics are pretty transparent.

Best part of the article - "This man had no business killing these boys," Brown said. "They were shot in the back. They had fled." Ya, why don't you ask any black man what he would do if somebody beat there son in the head w/ a baseball bat genius.
 

Cimarron

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A white man defending his family against intruders (who happen in this case to be black) is a racist? A group of men (who happens to be black in this case) breaking into a home (beating almost to death someone sleeping in bed) is a victim of race?

If the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and others are TRULY sincere about improving race relations they would want this scum convicted!
 

RoVerto Solo

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A white man defending his family against intruders (who happen in this case to be black) is a racist? A group of men (who happens to be black in this case) breaking into a home (beating almost to death someone sleeping in bed) is a victim of race?

If the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and others are TRULY sincere about improving race relations they would want this scum convicted!

I think this case is being call racist because of the application of the murder felony law against this 22 year old black man. They are saying if he was white the prosecutor would not be charging him with murder.

They are not saying he is not guilty of certain crimes, just not murder. They are saying he should not be punished so much.
 

Cimarron

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I think this case is being call racist because of the application of the murder felony law against this 22 year old black man. They are saying if he was white the prosecutor would not be charging him with murder.

They are not saying he is not guilty of certain crimes, just not murder. They are saying he should not be punished so much.
Others on this board have shown other similar situations. I think if these 3 men hadn't first tried to beat someone to death, then the murder charges probably wouldn't have been brought up. But in this case taking a baseball bat to someones head while sleeping is attempted murder and raises the bar on this case!
 

NYC Poke

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I think this case is being call racist because of the application of the murder felony law against this 22 year old black man. They are saying if he was white the prosecutor would not be charging him with murder.

They are not saying he is not guilty of certain crimes, just not murder. They are saying he should not be punished so much.
This is exactly what they're saying. They're picking the wrong case to make a point, though. They should pick one more sympathetic.
 

jakeman

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I think this case is being call racist because of the application of the murder felony law against this 22 year old black man. They are saying if he was white the prosecutor would not be charging him with murder.

They are not saying he is not guilty of certain crimes, just not murder. They are saying he should not be punished so much.
And they ignore the law when they say it.

It seems to me that a white man has been charged with murder in OKC because his attempting to elude the police resulted in a death as a result of an accident that did not involve the suspects vehicle. The police pursuit vehicle struck a vehicle not involved in the pursuit, and the officer died. I don't think this is as rare of an occurrence as they are letting on.


Some of the criminal defense experts may be able to correct me here.
 

NYC Poke

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And they ignore the law when they say it.

It seems to me that a white man has been charged with murder in OKC because his attempting to elude the police resulted in a death as a result of an accident that did not involve the suspects vehicle. The police pursuit vehicle struck a vehicle not involved in the pursuit, and the officer died. I don't think this is as rare of an occurrence as they are letting on.


Some of the criminal defense experts may be able to correct me here.
It is not rare for prosecutors to bring heavier charges than the case warrants as leverage to produce a plea on lesser charges that are perhaps more appropriate and produce a satisfactory result for all concerned. It's litigation strategy, plain and simple.
 

RoVerto Solo

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It is not rare for prosecutors to bring heavier charges than the case warrants as leverage to produce a plea on lesser charges that are perhaps more appropriate and produce a satisfactory result for all concerned. It's litigation strategy, plain and simple.
The strategy sure pissed off a few people in this case. :D