Vincent given 65 years McGee family decries downplay of racist provocation in Barrett murder case
By Earnest McBride
Jackson Advocate Contributing Editor
The most appalling aspect of the Vincent McGee courthouse drama is the complete absence from court proceedings of the white racist provocations and white supremacist acts that played a crucial role in every incident McGee has been charged with since his teen years, McGee’s family and their associates say.
The closest relatives of McGee, 23, convicted last Thursday in the death of white supremacist Richard Barrett, also denied news reports attributed to Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest that they were prepared to testify against McGee if he had insisted on going to trial. McGee was given a 65-year prison sentence last Thursday after entering a plea of guilty to manslaughter, arson and burglary offered by the prosecutor instead of going to trial on the previously announced capital murder charges, where he faced a possible death sentence.
Rankin County Circuit Judge William Chapman sentenced McGee to 20 years for manslaughter, 20 for arson, and 25 for burglary, all to be served consecutively because of habitual-offender laws that apply in his case. Prosecutor Guest said Vincent will be eligible for parole at age 75. Defense Attorney Mike Scott, however, says McGee may qualify for parole after 30 years, given the current rules at MDOC. Scott, assigned the case as a public defender, said Vincent faced a death sentence or life behind bars as a habitual offender, if he had not accepted the plea.
Vincent had admitted to stabbing Barrett shortly after his arrest in April, 2010. And if he had only pled guilty to the charge of murder or manslaughter, Scott said, the prosecutor would have asked for up to forty years each on the burglary and arson charges under the habitual offender statute. The law requires that the full sentence would have to be served. Scott also pointed out that the state’s two habitual-offender statutes left no possibility for leniency or mercy.
Under the “little habitual” statute (99-19-81), the defendant is required to serve the full term of the sentence. Thus, the option of concurrent sentencing was not open to McGee. If McGee had gone to trial and admitted to a fit-of-passion motive, Scott pointed out, the prosecutor could have opted for the “big habitual” (99-19-83), invoked when a violent crime is committed, and requested a sentence of life without possibility of parole.
Attorney Chokwe Lumumba, who was preparing to enter the case as McGee’s co-defense counsel but was never formally retained by either the family or the short-lived Vincent McGee Defense Committee, says there is still a chance for a post-conviction appeal to be made on McGee’s behalf. Lumumba urged McGee’s family and any civil rights advocates to continue to get a better measure of justice for him. A defense committee capable of raising funds to cover basic expenses is very important, he said. “The sentence of 65 years is tragic and excessive,” Lumumba says.
“Such a harsh sentence exposes a lot of the bias within the legal system. It exposes the fact that Rankin County is a place that has no real compassion for black people. But it also exposes the frailties of the system, period. Here was a poor man who had nobody able to pay the funds needed for an adequate defense attorney who would have represented him fairly. The case would have required a huge amount of time, the kind of time that would put a lawyer out of business if he didn’t get paid for it. “Richard Barrett was a notorious white supremacist and a racist provocateur.
He organized hate groups and had this organization called the Nationalist Movement that pinpointed blacks specifically as their targets. We can’t be happy when any man has died, but a man who subscribes to that kind of ideology and has that pattern of behavior can easily create a situation that leads to conflict and provokes somebody. I don’t really know the facts of the case, but that certainly appears to be what happened.” Speaking out on Rip Daniels Show Vincent’s mother, Tina, his sister Daphne McGee, and his stepfather, Alfred Lewis, were emphatic in saying they had not told the prosecutor that they were prepared to testify against McGee, as the Associated Press reported July 28 with quotes attributed to the district attorney.
Speaking on Rip Daniels’ “It’s a New Day” talk show broadcast at 10:50 a.m. on WMPR-FM 90.1 in Jackson last Thursday morning, Tina McGee said she wanted to make it quite clear that no one in her family had any intentions of testifying against her son and that he had not confessed to murder. Ms. McGee, whose house is only three doors up the street from Barrett’s house several miles beyond Pearl’s city limits in Rankin County, said on air that Vincent had never told her that he killed Barrett. He had told her, she said, “that they had got into an altercation in Barrett’s house and he said he had stabbed him, but he didn’t say he had killed him.”
Ms. McGee said the report cited by Daniels over the air about Barrett’s dropping his pants and demanding unspecified sexual favors from Vincent McGee as he stood inside the house was accurate. Daniels read from notes that described Barrett as “an old queen” and then asked Ms. McGee if Vincent was aware of this. Vincent had known nothing about Barrett’s “homosexual leanings,” she said. “He worked for him and he would go by the house to use the computer. If he had known anything about that other sex stuff, he wouldn’t have gone to the house and I wouldn’t have let him go.”
Since Vincent was out on probation, she said, she would not have allowed him to go into any potentially compromising situation. Ms. McGee said she had last talked with Vincent Monday (July 25). “He wasn’t doing too well,” she said. “Because he’s getting punished while they’re doing nothing about Mr. Barrett.–the way he was and stuff, and what he tried to do.” Daphne McGee said Barrett’s attempt to subject her brother to a homosexual act was the main reason for the ensuing violence.
“Vincent had been in prison for five years and he had to fight his way to keep other prisoners from abusing him,” Daphne McGee said in an interview last Thursday. “So when Richard Barrett dropped his pants and tried to do this to him, my brother had to defend himself to keep that man off of him. The news people kept bringing up something about money. Money had nothing to do with it. If Barrett had owed Vincent money, I’m sure Vincent would have confronted him at the time he was supposed to have cheated him.
No, this whole things goes back to these white people trying to punish my brother for being involved with white girls.” Glaring racial issues suppressed by prosecutors The McGee family has been trying over the past year to draw attention to the fact that the Rankin County prosecutor’s office has ignored or whitewashed all the provocative acts of Richard Barrett, who, besides being a self-described white supremacist, was an advocate of repressive measures against nonwhite minorities. In addition, Barrett was reputed to have displayed aggressive sexual behavior toward other men, particularly among the young white skinheads he had trained in his neo-fascist Nationalist Movement.
Other right-wingers and white supremacists viewed Barrett as dangerous enough to be kept at arm’s length, in part because of this suspected character flaw. Only a week before the Barrett murder, Vincent McGee’s cousin Chris Michael, who is married to a white woman in Mendenhall, was given a bloody warning to get out of town, according to McGee’s mother. The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown. “They went to his house in Simpson County because he’s married to a white lady,” Ms. McGee said. “They cut his three dogs’ heads off and painted them black and threw them up on the porch and went into the house and tore up the house and painted KKK on the house.
It was before this incident (Barrett’s murder), probably a week before. I believe the motive was because he was with a white lady.” There had been some warnings issued to McGee’s cousin and his wife before the bloodletting, Tina McGee said. “I hear that they were told to leave from down there,” she said. “I think they wrote on the house ‘Get away from here, niggers.’ This was in Mendenhall. It might still be written on the house.” Sent to prison at 17 for dating white girl Vincent went to prison the first time six years ago primarily because he was dating the white girl, Tina and her daughter Daphne McGee, attest.
His girlfriend had cousins and uncles who didn’t relish the idea of her courting someone out of her race, they contend. “Vincent had a white girlfriend,” Tina McGee told the Jackson Advocate in April, 2010. “And he and his friend had gone to her parents’ house for the weekend. I don’t know if the parents were gone or what, but some of the other people at the house said that Vincent stole some Mexican money or something. There were other people in the house, but they said Vincent took it. And they charged him with grand larceny and he got six years. They didn’t prove that he did nothing.” Vincent McGee was sent to prison on the grand theft conviction coupled with the charge of assault on a police officer. His family says the Florence police officers who had ties with the white girl’s family were beating Vincent while he was in jail or in juvenile detention and he had only put up his arms to ward off their blows. For this, he was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, the family believes. Vincent had been released on probation in January 2010, less than two months before the death of Richard Barrett.