[BRIANA MARELA FOURTH AMENDMENT SONG]
BRIANA MARELA VOICE MEMO: My name is Briana Marela, and when I first heard about this project I was hanging out with my mom in Seattle. And I started talking to her about how I would approach the idea of writing a song about a constitutional amendment. We started talking about some different amendments and then started focusing on the Fourth Amendment. I started doing some research and I ended up finding a legal term associated with the Fourth Amendment called 'fruit of the poisonous tree.'
[BRIANA MARELA SONG: There's poison in the roots / When you take what you took from me...]
BRIANA MARELA VOICE MEMO: I named my song after it. It means that evidence found by being searched illegally is deemed tainted evidence and cannot be used against someone in court. I had a realization that the Fourth Amendment is basically about having consent in the way you were treated by the government. And so my song references that by way of romantic consent, as a parallel.
[BRIANA MARELA SONG: What is brought forth in the name of love / Bona fide, can't be right, it's useless / I keep my heart safe in guarantee / Everyone's got something to prove / I have reason to believe, you're hiding something / Privacy, security...]
BRIANA MARELA VOICE MEMO: The first lyrics I wrote for the song were "When you take what you took from me."
[BRIANA MARELA SONG: When you take what you took from me...]
JAD: That was Briana Marela with her song Fruit of the Poisonous Tree inspired by the Fourth Amendment. Gotta say it's one of my favorites. I'm Jad Abumrad. This is More Perfect, Season 3. This season, we decided not just to make some podcasts-- we decided to put together an album of songs inspired by the amendments to the U.S. Constitution. There are 27 amendments. These amendments outline our rights as Americans. They show a country that is constantly evolving and changing. We reached out to a bunch of musicians and asked them to create a song inspired by one of these amendments. Thirty-five different musicians responded. Because some amendments actually ended up with multiple songs. And we have created 27: The Most Perfect Album. You can hear the entire thing at the mostperfectalbum.org. Mostperfectalbum.org. The entire thing is on that website, along with all kinds of good information and some beautiful design. Album's also on iTunes, Spotify all the places. Here on the podcast. The More Perfect team are telling stories about the amendments. Sort of audio "liner notes" to accompany the songs. And for this liner note, producer Sarah Qari did some bundling. She took the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth-- and stuck 'em together.
SARAH: When you read the Fourth through Eighth Amendments of the Constitution, what you’re really looking at, according to Professor Burt Neuborne, who we heard in Episode One, is a story.
BURT NEUBORNE: You have an absolutely perfect chronological history-- or chronological picture...of the law enforcement process.
It’s a story about how the Constitution is supposed to protect people when they come face to face with the police.
BURT NEUBORNE: The Fourth Amendment deals with investigation.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.
BURT NEUBORNE: The Fifth Amendment--
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...Fifth Amendment
BURT NEUBORNE: deals with… interrogation…
JEFFREY WRIGHT: [No person] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…
BURT NEUBORNE: The Sixth Amendment--
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...All criminal prosecutions
BURT NEUBORNE: and Seventh Amendments--
JEFFREY WRIGHT: In suits at common law.
BURT NEUBORNE: ...both deal with adjudication...
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, an impartial jury and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense
BURT NEUBORNE: and the Eighth Amendment deals with punishment.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...excessive bail shall not be required nor excessive fines imposed nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
BURT NEUBORNE: It's a seamless story of the law enforcement process and the creation of protections at each stage in the process. So you can't investigate without a probable cause and a warrant, you can’t interrogate by making somebody incriminate themselves. You can’t adjudicate without giving somebody due process and a lawyer, and you can't punish in a way that's cruel and unusual. No other bill of rights anywhere has this kind of organized and thoughtfully developed set of protections.
But, we know-- that so often...these amendments don’t work the way that they’re supposed to.
SARAH: could you just tell me your name and how old you are.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Christopher Scott, I'm 47 years of age.
SARAH: How many years ago now was it that you got arrested?
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Like 23 years ago or something like that. It was April the 17th, um 1997.
Back in 1997, Christopher is 26 years old, he lives in Dallas. He has a girlfriend, and two kids. And he works in the produce department at the local grocery store.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Just living the everyday life of -- every person want to live. Having employment, being independent, and being able to support your family.
One night, he’s at his friend Claude’s house.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Ok… Well Claude Simmons called me…
SARAH: Claude was struggling with a drug addiction, he didn't want to be alone, so he called up Christopher, Christopher came over, and he ends up taking Claude out on a drive around the block...
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Me and Claude make about three or four blocks around the corner, just talking…
SARAH: and while they are doing that…
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I see cops everywhere. They’re like, circling the blocks and speeding off, just...it’s like they’re looking for people.
SARAH: He says that because he and Claude are both black, driving around late at night, seeing all of these police officers around... it made him nervous.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I told Claude, I say look, I’m gonna park my car in your driveway, go in the house, sit down for a minute, and when they leave, I’ma go home.
SARAH: So they go back to Claude’s house, get inside...
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I sit on the couch. I’m watching TV. Next thing you know--
[SOUND FX: PHONE RINGING]
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: The phone ring. it’s the Dallas police department.
SARAH: The cops say to him, we’re outside your house.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: They want the two guys that they saw getting out of the car to come outside.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I was like, man, what? Why they want us?
SARAH: They hesitated at first. But Christopher says they eventually got up to open the door…
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: But before...before we were even able to go out.
SARAH: The police--
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: The cops run in…
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I look up, I got 7, 8, 9 millimeters guns pointed at me.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Fourth Amendment. Search and seizure.
BURT NEUBORNE: The Fourth is designed to protect your privacy.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects…
BURT NEUBORNE: When you first come into contact with a cop.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...Against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: We laid on the ground for approximately, probably about 20-25 minutes, just laying there.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause
SARAH: Did they show you a warrant?
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: No.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: ...Supported by oath and affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: They went in to check the house.
SARAH: Searched his car.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I mean they tore my car apart. And they couldn’t find anything… I’m like, what are they doing?
SARAH: At this point, they had no idea what was going on.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: and then they escorted me to a police car. And immediately put me in handcuffs once I got in the police car. They said, we’re taking you down to the CAPRS building. Crimes against persons.
SARAH: At the police station... Christopher is taken in for questioning.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: They take me to the interrogation room. And I’m still not being told what I’m being charged with, what I’m being questioned about, or nothing.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Fifth Amendment. Grand jury, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, due process, takings.
BURT NEUBORNE: The Fifth is designed to protect you when the cop has you in custody and is asking you questions.
SARAH: The fifth is the one that gives you--
MOVIE TAPE: You have the right to remain silent.
MOVIE TAPE: You have the right to remain silent, now what else.
MOVIE TAPE: Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.
SARAH: And did they read you your rights and whatever, like, you have the right to remain silent and all that?
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Nope, I didn’t get my Miranda rights read to me until I left interrogation.
SARAH: At some point that evening, when they’re at the station--
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: The cop tells me, a lady is gonna come identify you.
SARAH: Christopher is taken to this room. And handcuffed to a bench, next to this big window.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Real big glass window. And they walk the lady straight up to the window and pointed at me, and and me and the lady can see each other. And the police officer said, ‘This is the guy that killed your husband.’ Now, I couldn't hear it, but I read her lips, She said, ‘yeah.’ That’s him. And I’m like now, I know she didn't just say what I thought she said. And I go back in there, and I say ‘Look sir. Whatever y'all saying I did, I didn’t do.’ And they say ‘Well you know what, Mr. Scott. We’re tired of BS’ing with you. You’re going to be charged for capital murder.’ I say, ‘Capital murder? I say, ‘Sir, I ain’t killed nobody!’
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: So I go in the restroom. I can’t cry because I’m so scared, tears won’t even come out my eyes. I literally pinched myself as probably hard as I ever could. And it hurted. So right then I said, it’s real.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Sixth Amendment.
BURT NEUBORNE: The Sixth--
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Seventh Amendment.
BURT NEUBORNE: And the Seventh, are designed to protect you when they've decided to charge you.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury...and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
SARAH: Sixth Amendment is for criminal cases, Seventh is for civil...but they both say that you get the right to a jury and a lawyer.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I said, “I don't even know what capital murder means. What does that mean?” “Well your lawyer will tell you,” and I say, “My lawyer?”
SARAH: Christopher is appointed a lawyer and that same day in his cell he meets with the guy.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I could tell by his body language that he feel like I was actually guilty. He said, but periodically, I’ma come talk to you about the process, and this that and the other...None of that never happened. None of that never happened.
SARAH: Christopher says he talked to the guy for maybe five minutes...
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I didn't see him anymore until my trial began.
SARAH: And so, starting from that first conversation that you had with him, all the way to the trial…. How long were you in jail?
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Maybe a couple of months.
SARAH: First day of the trial, during jury selection.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I’m sitting in there, I’m dressed in my suit, you know, I’m trying to look respectable and trying to keep a good face for my girlfriend, ‘cause she’s there, trying to show that I am still strong, even though I’m weak at this time.
SARAH: Now the Sixth Amendment guarantees a trial by a jury of your peers. What that means legally is always up for debate, but the spirit of it, the spirit of the word peers, basically means that the jury should represent the group-- the people that live around you. But at some point, Christopher looks over to the jury box and he realizes that every black member of the jury pool has been dismissed.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: I had a all-white jury panel. And I saw that, and said, now how did this happen? And I looked at my attorney and I said, how did this happen?
SARAH: In the most technical sense, the Sixth Amendment is present. But somehow... it still doesn’t protect him.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: That trial lasted about four hours, probably about four hours. Capital murder case-- four hours.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: My deliberation lasted for about 30 minutes.
SARAH: That’s it?!
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: That’s it. So they come back and the judge asked the jury panel, have you came up with your decision? And the jury foreman say yes your honor. And the decision is guilty. Christopher Scott you are guilty of capital murder. Just like that.
SARAH: Now years later...Christopher Scott would be cleared of all of these charges. Unequivocally. So, in that moment, these amendments, the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth-- they let him down. But, there is this one moment at the trial, where you could argue that one amendment ever so faintly rings out….
[SOUND FX: RING]
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Eighth Amendment.
BURT NEUBORNE: The Eighth says once they've convicted you and they want to punish you. How can they do it? Can they be cruel and unusual. And the Eighth Amendment bars cruel and unusual punishments.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: The only thing that I appreciated the most that my judge did for me. She asked me, why shouldn't I seek the death penalty? And my only words was: How could you kill an innocent man?
In this moment, it almost feels like spirit of the Eighth Amendment is what changes Christopher’s fate.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: ...She said Mr. Scott, you saved your own life today. We’re not going to kill you, we’re going to give you a capital life sentence. And I almost thanked her.
Because although he was going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit-- he says that this sentence...it feels like mercy.
CHRISTOPHER SCOTT: Because I’m like, well you are not going to kill me, that mean I can fight for my freedom again.
JAD: Christopher Scott spent 12 years in prison before being exonerated in 2009, after someone else confessed to the crime. He’s since founded an organization called “House of Renewed Hope,” which tries to help exonerate others who have been wrongfully convicted.
In the story of the events of that night, there are some places where Christopher Scott’s account and the Dallas Police Department’s differ. What we’ve presented here is largely based on Christopher’s experience, as he tells it. When we reached out to the Dallas PD for comment, they did not offer a response.
We’ll be back in a minute.
JAD: Hey this is More Perfect. I'm Jad Abumrad. We've put together an album of songs for the season based on the 27 amendments to the US Constitution. Sarah Qari just brought you some liner notes from Amendments Four through Eight. And we started off the episode with the Fourth Amendment song from Briana Marela. But that leaves songs Five through Eight, we haven't talked about those yet, we haven't heard 'em. So I wanna play you excerpts now.
MORE PERFECT PRODUCER KELLY PRIME: [Mic interference] Ooh, I heard that one.
JAD: Starting with this woman.
TORRES: I'm Mackenzie and I play music under the name Torres.
KELLY PRIME: Cool, and what amendment did you choose to write about? I wrote about the Fifth Amendment.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Fifth Amendment. Grand jury, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, due process, takings.
TORRES: So the Fifth Amendment as I understand it-- it's the one that protects a person from from--
JEFFREY WRIGHT: No person should be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.
TORRES: Double jeopardy. And from self incrimination. But the last part--
JEFFREY WRIGHT & TORRES: Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
TORRES: --Is the one that I chose to focus on for this song.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Takings.
JAD: That last part of the Fifth Amendment is often referred to by just that word, takings. It's what you always hear being debated when the government decides to seize private property for public good, like a park. Or more controversially, for a high rise, Mackenzie chose to write about this part of the Fifth Amendment, connecting it to the story of Dred Scott.
[TORRES' FIFTH AMENDMENT SONG: Dred Scott...]
JAD: That was Torres with a song about the Fifth Amendment. On to the Sixth, which comes from a band headed by a guy that you may recognize from the movies.
EZRA MILLER: This is Ezra Miller from Sons of an Illustrious Father. We chose the Sixth Amendment.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Sixth Amendment: right to speedy trial by jury, witnesses, counsel.
EZRA MILLER: Because I think reading through them, we recognized both its importance and how rarely in our time it was observed or adhered to.
[SONS OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS FATHER'S SIXTH AMENDMENT SONG: Been there for a while, they can't hold you / Without a fair and speedy trial, they can't hold you]
EZRA MILLER: And we use various examples in the song from current events to illustrate and demonstrate that this, like many of the other amendments, has lost its meaning and application in this country.
[SONS OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS FATHER'S SIXTH AMENDMENT SONG: Supposed to have the right to a public trial / An impartial jury / Supposed to be speedy / Supposed to be fair / So then how do they explain the bodies chained to walls in Chicago's Homan Square...]
JAD: That's an excerpt from the Sixth Amendment song from Ezra Miller and Sons of an Illustrious father. Brooklyn-based trio. On to the 7th.
THEO HILTON: Hello this is Theo Hilton from Nana Grizol. I was excited to write a song about the Sevent Amendment--.
JEFFREY WRIGHT: Seventh Amendment: Jury trial in civil lawsuits.
THEO HILTON: Because even though it's a part of the Bill of Rights, very few people know what it does. I conceived of this song using an analytical framework known as racial capitalism.
[NANA GRIZOL'S SEVENTH AMENDMENT SONG: The early on and celebrated / mostly unincorporated / access to a jury in a federal civil case...]
JAD: That was the Seventh Amendment song from Nana Grizol, a band based in Athens, Georgia. That included a couple of members of a great experimental rock band from from my era. Neutral Milk Hotel. Remember them? For the Eighth Amendment. We got a song from a local NYC surf-rock band named High Waisted, who were once apparently named the 'best party band' by GQ Magazine. Here is frontwoman Jessica Louise Dye setting it up.
JESSICA LOUISE DYE: I chose to write a song about the Eighth Amendment because I thought it just so obviously already sounded like song lyrics.
JEFFREY WRIGHT & JESSICA LOUISE DYE: Excessive bail shall not be required nor the fines imposed nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
[HIGH WAISTED'S EIGHTH AMENDMENT SONG: Got my back against the wall / Strapped in, I can't fight/ Another wrong to make it right...]
JAD: High Waisted's take on the Eighth springs out of the two most debated words in that amendment, "cruel and unusual." Those words contain a lot of stuff. The idea of mercy is tucked in there. The idea of what is just as a punishment, tucked in there. We the people are supposed to be protected from punishments that are cruel and unusual, but those words-- those are hard words. What is cruel? What is unusual? What if a punishment is cruel but not unusual? Are we protected from that?
[HIGH WAISTED'S SIXTH AMENDMENT SONG: Don't be cruel...]
JAD: These are the kind of questions people ask about the death penalty, which is what Jessica says the band was thinking about when they wrote the song.
JESSICA LOUISE DYE: Over 17,000 people have been executed while on death row. And 32 states still have the death penalty which is why I am just-- my mind is boggled with the idea that these inmates, their last bit of freedom is the freedom to choose how they're going to die. And I can't imagine being the captain of your own soul and being forced to decide. How you're going to travel into the next world.
[HIGH WAISTED'S EIGHTH AMENDMENT SONG: I am the master of my fate...]
JESSICA LOUISE DYE: I wanted the song to have an eerie, haunting, creepy, stick-with-you kind of vibe, like a siren song luring you in with this beautiful melody. And then building to this freakout, the realization that this amendment is so important and involves so many people that have to carry the weight and burden of death. And I think that's why I was most drawn to the Eighth Amendment. And why this song kind of is a little bit different of a sound for me and for my band, High Waisted. We usually tend to write things that are more pop and this lured me into writing this...psych jam.
[HIGH WAISTED'S EIGHTH AMENDMENT SONG PLAYS]
JAD: High Waisted with a song about the Eighth Amendment.
Now we only played excerpts of the songs here in the podcast, but you can hear the whole things-- all of the songs, in their entirety, at the mostperfectalbum.org. The mostperfectalbum.org. If you go there, there is a whole site which we worked really hard on. Which tells you not only all about these bands. But all about the amendments. What the words mean. How they've been used throughout history. We're hoping it's going to be really really useful to people so check out the mostperfectalbum.org. Help us spread the word. You can find the album itself 27: The Most Perfect Album, on iTunes, Spotify, anywhere you can download music.
More Perfect is created by me, Jad Abumrad, Suzie Lechtenberg, Julia Longoria, Kelly Prime, Sarah Qari, and Alex Overington with help from Michelle Harris, David Gebel and Nora Keller. Thanks to Jeffrey Wright, the amazing Jeffrey Wright, for reading the amendments for us.
Thank you guys for listening. I'm Jad Abumrad, signing off. On our next episode we'll be exploring the Ninth, 10th and 11th Amendments.