Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Black Folks Need Justice Too
Let’s face it. The criminal justice system sucks. It’s full of corruption, set up to assist those with the resources to pay their way out of trouble and embedded in a long history of racial inequity.
Yes, I said it. The criminal justice system is compromised due to the degree race and racial discrimination plays in the way people are filtered through the system. The disproportion of black and brown people who end up serving time in prison is not solely the result of the crimes they commit. Many are handed severe sentences despite the preponderance of evidence that proves innocence.
It was a series of cases proven foul that led to the passage of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act. Floyd McKissick, State Senator from Durham, and others pushed the law to limit the death penalty. It came after considerable evidence to support the claim that race seriously impedes the judicial process.
Recently, the North Carolina Senate rewrote the Racial Justice Act by approving a bill titled No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty. Republicans claim the action is not a repeal, but, Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh, told the News & Observer “it is an utter and total repeal.”
“The Racial Justice Act has very little to do with race of justice,” Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, argued on the Senate floor. “Instead, it’s turned out to be a Trojan horse, a back-door attempt to end the death penalty in North Carolina.”
The new bill removes language that contends race is a “significant factor” in the handing down death penalty decisions. It’s yet another example of what happens when perspective is hindered by the smothering grip of politics swayed by pigeonholes.
Those who backed the change failed to concede mounds of corroboration of how race, in North Carolina, undermined numerous cases. The murder case of Daryl Hunt is an example of how the judicial system failed to guard the rights of a man later proven to be innocent. If you’re not familiar with that case, I suggest a pause to view this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16miEJ-tKjM
The Racial Justice Act hoped to shield others from the pain caused by a system unable to see past the race of the person accused. It called for a moratorium until the state fixed the untidiness. Far too many were assumed guilty when the evidence failed to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Critics of the Racial Justice Act will point to the disparity between blacks and whites arrested for violent crimes. Their contention is that the gap is the primary consequence of more blacks being arrested. They claim that the Racial Justice Act is no more than an attack on the death penalty.
What those critics are unable to concede are the myriad of cases that uncover a system that unfairly prosecutes blacks. The case of Daryl Hunt isn’t the only example of prosecutorial misconduct in North Carolina. The cases of James Johnson, Terrance Garner and Erick Daniels expose how district attorney’s have moved to convict when there was evidence to prove someone else committed the crime.
This combined with recent rulings related to evidence submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation is enough to place the breaks on the death penalty in North Carolina. What is happening in the state, and across the country, is cases were men and women are proven to be innocent after years of time in prison. Some have been proven innocent after being executed.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, those too blind to see are incapable of implementing legislation to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Black and brown people are unguarded due to the deep-seeded stereotypes that classify them guilty before they set foot in a courtroom.
Laws are constructed to protect people from the assumptions made by those incapable of moving past their preconceived notions. It’s the potential of human error that forces the implementation of statutes designed to prevent the force of human error. They are imposed to correct systematic slip-ups.
What Republican legislators failed to confess in reversing the Racial Justice Act is the pervasiveness of evidence that speaks to the necessity of an adjustment due to human error within the criminal justice system. Beyond the question of race is the matter of protecting the rights of those accused of crimes. The system is to offer a fair trial. Those arraigned are assumed innocent until proven guilty and they are to be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
There is no adjustment based on race. The preponderance of evidence shouldn’t take on a different meaning when the person on trial is black or brown. The prosecution team isn’t empowered to treat the evidence differently when the person isn’t white.
The system is for all the people. When it doesn’t work, fix it! We did just that, but the good ole boys decided to do it another way.
I can’t wait for next year’s election. Let’s get ready to send their ass to the back woods where they belong. Until then, call them and tell them we took down the sign long time ago.
You know, the one that says “White Only”.