Christopher Darden For Judge? I Don’t Think So.

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Attorney Christopher Darden and actor Sterling K. Brown.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but ever since I watched Sterling K. Brown star as Christopher Darden in FX’s limited series “The People v. O.J.,” I have had to stop myself from romanticizing the real life Christopher Darden.

I was just a teenager in 1995 when the former O.J. Simpson prosecutor lost the trial of the century that saw Simpson, the former NFL player and actor, acquitted for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

I didn’t know Christopher Darden and never in my life would I have thought that our paths would have crossed.

But that all changed in 2019.

It was right after Darden recused himself from representing Eric Holder after he and his family began receiving death threats after he took on the high-profile case. At the time, Holder had pled not guilty to murdering beloved rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle. He has since been convicted of murdering Hussle and is serving out a 60 years to life sentence in prison.

At the time I was working to get criminal charges filed against a man named Ed Buck who had two Black men die in his apartment of methamphetamine overdoses. Buck was a white, wealthy, and well known Democratic donor who was seemingly beyond reproach. It turned out that Buck got his kicks from preying on unhoused Black men, most of whom were gay. He would use his money and apartment to lure the men in so that he could play out his Tuskegee like fetish and shoot them up full of meth and other drugs.

26-year-old Gemmel Moore died July 27, 2017, on the floor of Buck’s West Hollywood apartment. At the time the sheriff’s immediately wrote his death off as an accidental overdose. Young Black man, fatal overdose in an old white man’s apartment. But not just any old white man — a wealthy and politically connected white man.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Six months after then Los Angeles County District Jackie Lacey declared that she wouldn’t criminally charge Buck, 55-year-old Timothy Dean’s lifeless body was taken out of Buck’s apartment after another fatal overdose.

It was only after a third Black man barely escaped with his life, that Ed Buck was finally arrested and charged.

Buck was eventually charged with two counts of distributing methamphetamine resulting in death, maintaining a drug den, distributing methamphetamine, and solicitation of prostitutes. But in the court of public opinion, white privilege was on trial. Buck was a white man accused of causing the deaths of two Black men and nearly killing others.

Ed Buck isn’t stupid. While he had white attorneys representing him in the wrongful death civil cases lodged by the families of Moore and Dean, he quickly hired two Black male attorneys to represent him in his criminal case. One of those attorneys was Christopher Darden.

I understand that the Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” Our justice system was designed as an adversarial process, so defense counsel is needed to vigorously oppose prosecution and keep the system balanced.

However, I believe that attorneys should always act morally when deciding what defense to use for a criminal defendant. Vigorously representing one’s client should never come at the expense of ethical considerations.

Christopher Darden will never get my vote because I watched him weaponize Gemmel Moore’s HIV-positive status in order to defend Buck.

To me, it was despicable and akin to the days of attorney’s using the AIDS panic defense used to defend people charged with killing gay men.

On day one of the trial, the defense’s cross-examination of Gemmel Moore’s mother, Ms. LaTisha Nixon, tried to paint her out to be a homophobic mother who thought her son had AIDS.

From there, the defense tried to convince jurors that the numerous Black men they saw stumbling out of Ed Buck’s apartment weren’t in a stupor from all of the drugs he had pumped into their system, but because they had AIDS.

It became very clear early on in the trial that Darden was fixated on AIDS and making sure the jury had a negative connotation everytime they heard the word.

The only relevance HIV had in this trial was that several of Buck’s victims testified that Buck was HIV-positive and that he specifically asked them of their status and knew that they were positive when he did what he did to them.

The defense repeatedly used phrases like “full blown AIDS” and at one point, contrary to the medical examiner’s testimony, tried to insinuate that HIV was the reason for Gemmel’s pulmonary edema — a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs making it difficult to breathe.

In Darden’s defense of Buck, he used a paid expert named Dr. Marvin Pietruszka, who was impeached but not before he wasn’t even able to tell the jury what AIDS was the acronym for.

From the witness stand, Dr. Pietruszka diagnosed Gemmel Moore with AIDS and asserted that his HIV status was the reason for his death and not all of the meth thatwas in his system.

And I quote, “My opinion is that Mr. Gemmel Moore died of a medical condition,” said Dr. Pietruszka. “He was young and he was about 26 years old. He was recently diagnosed with HIV. His pathology demonstrated complications of HIV in the form of pulmonary edema, a complication that is found in AIDS.”

Thank goodness the jury saw through Darden’s homophobic defense and the judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. After Buck’s conviction, not surprisingly, Darden was no longer representing Ed Buck.

I am not a lawyer. I understand that the law is not about morals but rather about rules and procedures.

I don’t need to be a lawyer to tell you that when it comes to electing judges in Los Angeles County, it’s not the law that matters, it’s the court of public opinion. It’s the opinion voters have of the person running for office.

For some it may be Darden’s role in prosecuting O.J. Simpson, or his endorsement by former district attorney Gil Garcetti. For others it might be his recently ended membership in the Republican Party or his willingness to represent the man who killed one of America’s most beloved rappers. For me it’s about a man who lacks moral integrity. Period.

In 2024, we want more Black judges but we also want people who have demonstrated a commitment to integrity on and off the bench.

I’m not voting for Christopher Darden, and neither should you.

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