In October of 2006, the Jackson family of Solomons, Md., would be rocked, when their 21-year-old son, Brandon (pictured), was reportedly jumped by 7 to 8 White males. Six years later, Brandon would be sentenced by a nearly all-White jury to 12 years in prison for attempted murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a weapon for defending himself against one of the “victims.” Struck down but buoyed by faith, Brandon’s mother, Gloria Fisher, spoke with NewsOne about how she won’t stop until she gets justice for Brandon.
The Day That Changed Everything
While Brandon helped his employer move furniture at her house in Jackson, N.J., he allegedly noticed that a fight had broken out at a party across the street. After walking toward the altercation to investigate the melee, one of the individuals involved, who is said to have been visibly intoxicated along with the raucous group, began fighting with him.
According to Gloria, Brandon quickly shut the aggressor down and attempted to return to the house he came from.
But that would be just the beginning.
The aggressor — now allegedly armed with 7 to 8 other White males in tow — followed Brandon and then reportedly began stomping and kicking him while yelling, “Kill the n*gger!”
According to Gloria, Brandon pulled out his 3-inch work pocket knife in self-defense, forcing the group back, but it was the homeowner’s call to police that would finally force the motley group to stand down.
On the police report, even though the officer would list the incident as a “racial offense” and Brandon would sustain injuries to the back of his head and knees and even had a fingernail bitten off, he would later be the only one charged with aggravated assault and illegal weapons possession.
Watch Gloria discuss what happened to her son here:
The Beginning of a Nightmare
It wasn’t until April of 2009 that Brandon’s case would go to a grand jury. By then, the charges would somehow be trumped up to include attempted murder.
Even though Brandon’s lawyer would manage to get a statement from the homeowner, proving that he had indeed been attacked by the group of White teens, the prosecutor’s office reportedly refused to give this vital information to the defense attorney. Brandon’s trial would then be postponed yet again before finally taking place in September 2011 — almost 5 years after the trial first began.
Just as the homeowner’s statement was not given to the defense attorney, the toxicology reports — allegedly showing the high levels of alcohol that were present in the “victims’” blood — would also be withheld from the case, even though the key plaintiff would reportedly sue the homeowners at the party for allowing him to leave with such a high level of inebriation. Soon after, Brandon, who had never been in trouble with the law before, would be the one who would be repeatedly pressured by the prosecutor and judge to take a plea deal and admit to the charges that would give him 5 years in jail.
In order to get Brandon’s mom to pressure him to take the plea, the prosecutor, according to Gloria, showed her a photograph of the plaintiff. The plaintiff was reportedly shown heavily bandaged with tubes that seemed to protrude from all over his body as he lay on a hospital bed.
But there was a problem. According to Gloria, none of Brandon’s DNA could be found on the knife, but the prosecutor would continue to link Brandon to the wounds the victim sustained, disregarding the actual facts.
Gloria explains, “We have a letter from a lab tech that stated that the knife was presented to her twice. The first time it [the knife] only had the [DNA of the] individual that was slashed — none of Brandon’s DNA — but the second time, the seal was broken and Brandon’s DNA was also on the knife. So clearly there was evidence of tampering, but there was so many things that the judge allowed the prosecutor to do, but blocked the defense attorneys, throughout the course of the trial.”
Consequently, Gloria also refused to persuade Brandon to take the plea deal.
“The defense attorney and the public attorney would pressure Brandon to take a plea, because [according to them], the jury wouldn’t relate to his level of distress or feeling that his life was in danger,” Gloria said. “[They said] that he didn’t have a valid self-defense because the individuals involved would tell a different story, which is what happened.
“They did tell a different story, although the facts remained the facts. And [even though] a witness admitted to racial slurs, and another witness admitted to punching Brandon, that was all played down and what was emphasized and played up was the injuries to the individual even though they did not link to Brandon.”
To gain insight in to how often Black males are forced in to taking plea deals, NewsOne spoke with Managing Attorney of Guster Law Firm Eric L. Welch Guster, and according to Guster, this type of court shenanigans is par for the course.
“All too often, young men are forced to take plea deals because of incompetent or unprepared lawyers. What we find in many major cities is that there is a lack of competent, qualified counsel and these young men are told that a plea deal is their only option. I have seen cases where defendants were NEVER visited by their attorneys, the attorneys never reviewed police reports or other documents, and the defendants were told that a plea deal is their only option,” Guster said.
“Statistically, only 15 percent of lawyers ever have a jury trial during their career. 15 percent!!! So many urge clients to enter guilty pleas because they are afraid of going through a trial. There are so many public defender offices with lawyers who are either overburdened with cases or who do not care.”
Overtly annoyed by Gloria’s and Brandon’s “disobedience,” the judge allegedly told Brandon and his family that he would receive the maximum sentence possible if found guilty, while the prosecution reportedly continued to show the “victim’s” hospital photo to the nearly all-White jury to drive their point home that Brandon was a violent and aggressive criminal.
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Brandon’s trial would be postponed once again to February 2012.
Still, Gloria and Brandon hoped that a new hiring of lawyers from Newark, N.J., would get them the justice they so feverishly desired. Instead, according to Gloria, the new hires would further upset the judge who seemed — by this point — “borderline hostile” in showing her disdain toward Brandon. Consequently, the judge would grant Brandon’s lawyers only five weeks to review Brandon’s attempted murder case.
When Brandon and his defense team returned to court and he was found guilty by a jury that were NOT his peers, the judge, true to her words, gave Brandon the maximum possible sentence.
“The judge gave him 8 years for the individual with the more serious injuries and 4 years for the person who admitted to punching him that was slashed on the back and they are set to run consecutively, even though they all occurred in the same incident,” Gloria says.
“Normally, when the occurrences are all within the same incident, it’s concurrent because it’s all combined, but instead the judge scheduled him for 8 years, and 4 years, and then 2 years of probation. So with disregard for the 5 1/2 years the case took him to go to trial, she still sentenced him to 12 years.”
When NewsOne reached out to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office, Mike Paulis wouldn’t go on record to make a comment, but he did say that he stood by the jury’s decision to sentence Brandon to 12 years.
Not surprisingly, the case has taken a toll on both Mother and son. When asked about the effects of the neverending trial and devastating verdict, Gloria was almost inconsolable, saying she is the only thing keeping her son going behind bars:
“This is not a bad kid getting caught doing something bad. This is a good kid being accused of doing something that even the accuser knows did not happen. How do we get justice for our kids when it is so manipulated — whoever tells the best lie wins. How do we get justice in those cases and why should it take years and how do we protect our kids from that? I don’t even know, I don’t know when Brandon asks me why did this happen to him, [sobbing] I can’t even answer him because I don’t know!”
Watch Gloria describe the pain the case has caused her family here: