Rally demands equal justice system

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One of Albert Wilson's friends speaks to the crowd at McAdams Park Sunday evening, as his mother stands in front of the stage holding her phone up to livestream the event for Wilson. One of Albert Wilson's friends speaks to the crowd at McAdams Park Sunday evening, as his mother stands in front of the stage holding her phone up to livestream the event for Wilson.
Family, friends, and strangers gathered in McAdams Park for the #FreeAlbertWilson rally and to discuss criminal justice reform. Family, friends, and strangers gathered in McAdams Park for the #FreeAlbertWilson rally and to discuss criminal justice reform.
Wilson's mother and brother speak to him via phone after he spoke briefly to the crowd Sunday evening. Wilson's mother and brother speak to him via phone after he spoke briefly to the crowd Sunday evening.
"Albert Wilson Coming Home" read the t-shirts many were wearing.  His family and friends are selling the t-shirts to raise money for his legal fees. "Albert Wilson Coming Home" read the t-shirts many were wearing. His family and friends are selling the t-shirts to raise money for his legal fees.
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"Seeing these instances happening over and over and over again, it's time for a change, and it's  time for a stop," said Lamont Anderson Sunday evening at a rally to #FreeAlbertWilson. 

Dozens of Wichitans gathered Sunday evening to demand a more fair criminal justice system after they say racism and bias sent one of their own to prison for 12 years.

A month ago, a judge in Lawrence sentenced former KU student and native Wichitan Albert Wilson to prison for rape.  Sunday, his supporters gathered in Wichita demanding justice they say he and other African American men are being denied in Kansas.

"I feel like people are deserved a fair trial and Albert did not get a fair trial for more reasons than one," said Nikki Robinson, Wilson's sister-in-law. 

Robinson helped organize the #FreeAlbertWilson Rally at McAdams Park where supporters discussed what they could do to free him and change the system that sent him to prison.

They say a lack of DNA evidence, not enough time to have committed a rape, and a young man with no prior convictions does not add up to 12 years of prison time.

At trial, Wilson said he did fool around with the woman but denied raping her or ever intentionally forcing her to do anything.  KBI agents testified bruising on her legs were indicative of force.

Wilson is African American.  The woman who says he raped her is white.  The jury that convicted him was all white.

"It's 2019 and in the State of Kansas we should not have an all white jury deciding the fate of an African American man," Anderson said.

"This misconception that every black person, every brown person, every person that's not white is a threat?  That's just an untruth.  It's a myth.  And we need to stop stereotyping our people like that," said Fredericka Agnew, who attended the rally Sunday.

"I think not only did race play a role in this, but also economic status," said Robinson.

Supporters say Wilson couldn't afford his own attorney and had to rely on a public defender who they say was overworked and didn't use all the evidence available for Wilson's defense.

Both Wilson's mother and brother spoke to the crowd, thanking them for their support. Then, Wilson joined the rally by phone.

"I appreciate all the support and all the unity throughout the community.  If we just stay together we're going to get through this and I'll be home sooner than we think," Wilson told them.

"He's remaining very positive, because that's who he is as a person.  He's a very positive person.  He has a strong faith and he has a strong support system within his family and friends," said Robinson.  "And I think because he has that he's able to see that maybe something good can come out of this.  That, yes, it's a terrible situation but maybe something good could happen."

Many of those who joined the gathering had similar hopes after having their own tough experiences with the justice system.

"I have a son that's almost been in a similar situation," Agnew said.  "I didn't like it then.  I don't like what's happening to Albert, now."

The talk was not only of support for Albert Wilson, but also how those present could change what they see as an unfair system.

“In 2019 we shouldn’t make up a majority in the prisons. We’re a minority,” said Wichita City Councilman Brandon Johnson who argued for criminal justice reform, saying it is necessary to stop overzealous prosecution of black men and increase funding for public defenders.

"In the State of Kansas, African Americans make up roughly 6% of the general population.  We account for roughly 30% of the prison population," said Anderson.  

That's based on numbers from the Prison Policy Initiative and the 2010 Census

"It is the job of the judicial system to produce truth, whatever that truth may be.  But that truth has to be produced in an environment that is fair, that is honest,." Anderson said, recognizing that some may feel uncomfortable supporting Wilson because of the nature of his conviction.  He says, in Wilson's case, fairness didn't happen.  "It was not done in transparency.  It was not done in full truth."

The rally was meant as an organizing event.  They plan a mass mailing of postcards to the governor, asking for Wilson's release.  They will also begin trying to get a bill going in the legislature that would equalize spending between county prosecutor and public defender offices.

"That's why I'm here. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here," said Agnew, who believes there's hope for a more equitable justice system.  "We need to have more events like this.  I think Wichita is coming forward, we just need to pull more people together.  Not just the black community, the white community, the Hispanic community, the Asian community.  Everybody can get along.  We just need to be made aware of the situations that are taking place that are unfair."

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