Black California Inmate: I Was Convicted By Racist, All-White Orange County Jury
Henderson--who is 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds--claims Orange County's "racist" criminal-justice system convicted him in 2010 of robbing a man for a measly $60 near Tustin, and then sentenced him to nine years in prison.
It is true that white-collar criminals in Southern California can steal millions of dollars annually for years, and then get merely probation or home detention as punishment.
It's also true that Henderson's defense lawyer negligently forgot to file a state Supreme Court petition before a statutory deadline, and then told him it was no big deal because he wouldn't have won any legal points anyway.
In May, Henderson took matters into his own hands and asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to consider his complaints about his conviction: His defense lawyer not only sucked, but was also in league with the Orange County prosecutor and the judge; the alleged victim suspiciously changed the stolen amount from $37 to $60; he was never offered a plea bargain; and the judge gave a faulty jury instruction.
He also didn't like the composition of his jury.
"It is my understanding under the Constitution that I was to be tried before 'a jury of my peers,' yet in a jury of 12, there was not one African-American citizen present to judge me," wrote Henderson in his complaint. "I wish to state [that my] counsel was a 'friend of the court' by allowing this travesty of justice to happen; truthfully, counsel wasn't an active advocate."
According to the inmate, Orange County is known as one of the most racist areas in the United States.
On May 31, Henderson, who was already a convicted felon before the Tustin-area robbery, got more bad news. That's the day U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zakefsky essentially ruled his complaint legally incoherent and dismissed it. But Zakefsky told the inmate he's not barred from filing a new complaint that makes clear arguments the court can consider.
"In any amended complaint, Petitioner must explain the ways in which he believes the evidence [against him at trial] was deficient and provide factual support for that explanation," wrote Zakefsky.
The inmate has an uphill battle. A California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana already reviewed the case. It's finding? Prosecution evidence compiled with the help of the Tustin Police Department was "overwhelming."
Upshot: Henderson, a 45-year-old man who'd previously been convicted of attempting to rape a person incapable of giving consent to sex, will continue to serve his punishment in California's out-of-state prisoner program at La Palma Correctional Center in Elroy, Arizona.