“It don’t matter if you’re Black or White”
—Michael Jackson, 1991
“If he had been charged in Memphis, Shelby County, he’d probably be doing a residency at the Tennessee Dept of Corrections”
—Vern Braswell, 2020
This case involved a White lady who after killing her husband, claimed she was a battered wife. Ms. Zimmerman said she stabbed her husband in the back in self-defense. On the day he was killed, he tape recorded a meeting with Ms. Zimmerman as “protection against Laurie in the event she accuse(d him) of any type of verbal abuse or if she physically abused (him)”. During the tape recorded meeting, she stated that since she had filed an order of protection against him, now she had his “ass and little dick in a ringer” After the meeting ended, the tape recorder was turned off.
Shortly following the meeting, neighbors found Mr. Zimmerman on their front porch bleeding and not breathing. Afterwards, Mr. Zimmerman was pronounced dead by first responders. He died from a single knife wound to his back that extended into the chest cavity. Ms. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder.
While the circumstances surrounding the Braswell case were different, there are remarkable and amazing similarities in the issues and how the Court of Criminal Appeals resolved the issues in both cases (that is, until they got to the rulings).
In Zimmerman, the trial attorney did not admit evidence that the victim was a heavy drinker and intoxicated on the night he died because he forgot.
In the Braswell case, the trial attorney did not admit one of the only witnesses who had first hand knowledge of the Braswells intimate practices because he forgot.
In Zimmerman, the trial attorney made opening promises that he would present battered wife evidence, but he didn’t.
In the Braswell case, the trial attorney made opening promises that he would present evidence that Braswell engaged in erotic asphyxiation with another woman, but he didn’t.
In Zimmerman the district attorney reminded the jury that the trial attorney did not present battered wife evidence.
In the Braswell case the district attorney reminded the jury that the trial attorney did not present evidence that Braswell engaged in erotic asphyxiation with another woman.
In Zimmerman the trial attorney lied to the jury by saying that he had presented battered wife evidence during the trial.
In the Braswell case the trial attorney lied to the jury by saying that he had presented evidence that Braswell engaged in erotic asphyxiation with another woman.
In Zimmerman the Court looked down on the trial attorney for “matters … the defense should have routinely placed into evidence … [that] were never placed into evidence”.
In the Braswell case the Court said virtually nothing about matters that the trial attorney never placed into evidence.
In Zimmerman the Court looked down on the trial attorney and emphatically said he “has a duty to use witnesses who may … persuade the jury to … convict on a lesser offense”.
In the Braswell case the Court said it didn’t matter that expert Dr. Nichols, witnesses Cheryl Wallace, adult club security guard Dennis Smalls, plumber Patrick Taliferro, Ms. Jackson, Darnell Gardner, Attorney Leslie Ballin, Judge Glen Wright, the woman who was an intimate partner wirh the Braswells that prosecutors kept from the defense, and Monique Lane, another intimate partner with first hand knowledge who presented appeal testimony that totally backed up and mirrored Braswell’s trial testimony, did not testify at trial – even though they were all willing and able to testify for Braswell at trial. To repeat, this did not matter to the set of all White Judges!
In Zimmerman the Court looked down on the trial attorney and said that if the jurors would have heard the appeal witnesses give testimony that backed up Zimmerman, they would have had a chance to find her guilty of a lower charge.
In the Braswell case the White judges said it didn’t matter that the trial attorney left out all of the aforementioned appeal witnesses who all gave testimony that backed up Braswell’s claims. They never bothered to mention that the jury could have found Braswell guilty of a lower charge.
In Zimmerman the Court made excuses for the White defendant by saying “it is a rare situation indeed where there are not some inconsistencies in the pretrial statements made by any defendant” in determining why she should get relief.
In the Braswell case, here’s what the Court said about the Black defendant, his “statements to the police, his friends, and multiple other witnesses following the victim’s death differed from his testimony at trial” in determining why he should not get relief.
In Zimmerman the Court cited three deficiency errors in the White case that “standing alone would not have justified … a new trial” but their cumulative error requires a new trial.
In the Braswell case the Judges denied the Black defendant where they cited three deficiency errors, four “if deficiency it doesn’t matter” errors, and about seven mind blowing issues that the Court refused to declare as errors. No new trial.
In Zimmerman the Court said they were granting relief to the White defendant because although there was “considerable evidence indicating guilt of the crime charged … there’s a thin line between second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter” and if the jury would have heard the left out evidence they might have “been more favorable to the defendant”.
Braswell did not get the benefit of that “thin line” that the White defendant got.
In the Braswell case the Court denied relief to the Black defendant because “of the strong evidence supporting [Braswell’s] conviction for second degree murder”. They said the deficiencies did not result in harm to Braswell at trial. The Court never mentioned the jury being more favorable to the Black defendant if they would have heard from the left out witnesses.
They did not care how the jury would have perceived the case only how they perceived the case!
God bless you.
Justice For Vern Braswell
& Black Defendants Matter
Please show your support for Vern being granted a Clemency release:
1) because of the injustices in his case
2) so he can continue working on his prison reform proposals and prison reform research and
3) because of his mother’s rapidly failing health
by clicking the link below to send an email to TN’s Gov Lee & the Clemency Unit. You MUST include your info in the email.
EMAIL THE GOV. & CLEMENCY DEPT
MEDIA COVERAGE OF VERN’S CASE
If you want to join Vern’s family in helping to get Justice For Vern please contact, follow, and visit at J4VernBraswell@afmfm.org
This was composed in conjunction with Black Defendants Matter. BDM is responsible for researching and publicizing the Braswell case.
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STATE of Tennessee, Appellee, v. Laurie ZIMMERMAN 823 S.W.2d 220
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Originally posted here.
Reposted with permission.
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