When a Black judge is judged in Mobile, Ala.
By Tommy Green
From the Mobile Beacon
Part One of a Two part Series
MOBILE, ALA. (NNPA) – On October 26, 2009, Former Judge Herman Thomas, a Black man, was found not guilty of the large number counts against him.
The jury found Judge Thomas not guilty on seven of 21 charges (five sex abuse, one sodomy, one assault).
The judge then found him not guilty on the remaining 14 counts based on lack of evidence. The jury foreman informed the judge that the jury had reached a verdict on some of the charges, but it was impossible to reach a verdict on some charges.
Judge Thomas said, “What started out to be a very stellar career turned into an epically, tragic injustice.
In 1990, I was appointed as District Court Judge in Mobile, Ala. and at that time was the youngest serving District Court Judge in the state. I was elected and re-elected to that position in 1990 and 1996.
The election in 1990 was the first time that a Black man running against a white candidate and won. In 1999, I was appointed to the Circuit Court bench and in 2000 and 2006 I was elected and re-elected.
In 2006, I was the second judge in tenure in the circuit and senior in time on the bench of any of the other circuit judges. Presiding Judge Robert Kendall died, and I made an attempt to become the next Presiding Judge. This is when most of my problems began with three judges (Rusty Johnston and Charlie Graddick and Rick Stout). They were able to convince, at the time the Mobile County D.A. (John Tyson, Jr.) to agree with them.”
“First, Judges Johnston, Graddick, Stout DA Tyson started a rumor that I was selling drugs and using defendants, young Black males on my docket to further my drug activities, which they launched a criminal investigation. The other rumors were spread that I had a fleet of 17 luxury cars, which were used to pay the defendants for working for me in a falsely-claimed drug activity. The charges were thoroughly investigated by the (1) Attorney General’s Office, (2) Judicial Inquiry Commission, and (3) the District Attorney’s office and proven to be false. During this time, I had been nominated to become the U.S. Attorney in Mobile and nominated for a federal judgeship, in 1996 and 1999, respectively. The Special Agent in charge of the Mobile FBI office reported to the media that I had passed the FBI background checks.”
Judge Thomas said, “Fifteen criminal defendants have been listed as victims in nine indictments with a total of 160 counts against me. I was exonerated of all charges. The majority of the inmates have given multiple, conflicting, contradictory accounts of what they alleged to have happened. This was an effort by three White judges and a White DA to make sure that a Black judge was removed from the bench and incarcerated for life.”
The local judges recused themselves, so a judge from another area had to be assigned to the case. Judge Claud Neilson was assigned as the president judge. He was an impartial judge who ensured that the prosecuting attorneys and the defense attorneys would follow the law.
I was covering this trial when Judge Thomas was charged with 102 counts. There was a stench to this case that reminded me of my hometown in Marion, Ark. in the 1950s. What is the benefit of charging someone with an excessive number of charges? It can influence prospective jurors. They may believe if the prosecutor has these many charges, the defendant is, probably guilty. The jurors, generally, will be drawn from the market, which has been saturated with lies, by the media. As I sat in the trial, I knew that the prosecutor had a weak case, but there have been numerous trials where the prosecutor had insufficient evidence, and the defendant was still found guilty.