Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Renisha McBride Verdict: How Easy is Justice when Black Life is Valued

In just eight short, simple, and sweet hours a Detroit jury returned a guilty verdict against a man who shot a Black woman in cold blood. 55-year-old Theodore Wafer was found guilty of second degree murder in the November 2013 shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride; Michigan's version of the infamous Stand Your Ground law be damned.

In eight hours a jury in Michigan proved Black lives are worth more than forgettable news headlines and a myriad of protests that are dismissed with each new crisis in the Black community. In eight hours the Michigan jury proved that if you shoot and kill someone because you feel like it, and then claim you were scared, that you sir or madame deserve to go to prison. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

The jury didn't ask a bunch of questions that forced their deliberations to take days. They didn't get hung up on jury instructions that were purposefully written incoherently. They didn't ask to review evidence and props used at trial that the prosecution used to make their point. The jury (I'm assuming since I wasn't in the deliberation room) looked at the crime, looked at the law, and in the course of a work day delivered a verdict that didn't make Black America shake its head and say a collective "I told you so."

I'm proud of that jury and I'm proud of Michigan because I know this simple ish would never take place in Florida.

****UPDATE-Wafer sentenced to serve at least 17 years in prison.***
"Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway called the case “one of the saddest cases” she has ever had.Then she sentenced Wafer to 15-30 years for the second-degree murder, 7-15 for manslaughter, which will be served at the same time, and another 2 years for felony firearm, which is in addition to the others."



Florida is my adopted state, Jacksonville is my adopted city, and that means State Attorney Angela Corey is the HBIC when it comes to prosecuting Stand Your Ground cases in and around Duval County.

You all remember Angela. The so-called special prosecutor appointed to the George Zimmerman case who after 40 some days of freedom came out during a high profile press conference and announced Mr. Neighborhood Watch was in custody, in jail, charged with second degree murder. This was April of 2012.

A year and some months later in the summer of 2013 on a late Saturday night a jury of six returned a not guilty verdict for Zimmerman. Angela Corey's first words when she spoke about the crushing defeat she promised to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law were "I'm so proud." (All sorts of remembered side eyes are appropriate to be thrown here)



Ms. Corey is the same prosecutor who promised to personally prosecute Michael Dunn to the fullest extent of the law. The man who shot at a Durango full of unarmed teenagers because their music was too loud and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis on Black Friday night 2012; just 9 months after Trayvon Martin was gunned down. In February of this year we all saw a jury of 12 return three guilty verdicts for the attempted murder of Davis's friends, but a not guilty verdict on the 1st degree murder charge for the death of Davis. A case we all will have to relive in about six weeks when jury selection for Dunn's retrial gets underway on September 22nd. Here's to hoping the second time around produces a different outcome. Surely that's not the definition of insanity.

We all know Angela Corey. The prosecutor who has apparently had pure vengeance in her heart for Marissa Alexander since the mother of three rejected a three year prison plea deal and took her chances at trial for shooting at her estranged husband and his two children after a fight. While my feelings on Alexander's case are markedly different from that of Zimmerman and Dunn (a post to come later) I do concede that there is what seems to be an element of maliciousness from the prosecution when it comes to her retrial currently scheduled for December 1st. I mean what prosecutor sends case notes, emails, and three page letters to members of the legislature, the media, and local advocates when they feel like their work is being scrutinized so tough they feel the need to defend themselves when no one was talking about them in the first place. Angela Corey and her office felt that need.

But I'm not trying to make this post all about Ms. Corey's misgivings and trial missteps as numerous as they seem to be. For one she is not directly responsible for authoring or authorizing the law used so expertly against her. Furthermore, Angela Corey is a cog in a larger construct in Florida and the United States as a whole when it comes to the criminal justice system. The problem with the criminal justice system as my cohorts have written about on this very blog in the past is its attitude toward Black victims, suspects, convicts and inmates.

There is no value on Black life. In the eyes of the criminal justice system Black life is neither worth fighting for when it is stamped out before its time nor is it worth saving when the suspect sits at the defendant's table. Let them die or lock them up and then let them die is the attitude of the criminal justice system. Either way the issues of Blackness are shut away in a box where they don't have to be dealt with on a human level.

Today a jury in Michigan took a step forward to breaking the boxed mentality of the criminal justice system and seeing Renisha McBride and Theodore Wafer for who and what they were; a 19-year-old woman whose only crime was drunkenly knocking on the wrong door for help after a car accident, and Theodore Wafer an entitled man who thought he could get away with murder because he felt like it.

I applaud the jury and the prosecution for a job well done. Florida and Ms. Corey especially please take heed.




Questions:

  1. Is "Stand Your Ground" really a problem if the Michigan jury was able to convict despite the self-defense immunity?
  2. What are your expectations for the outcomes in the retrials of Michael Dunn and Marissa Alexander?
  3. Is there any way possible for the United States criminal justice system to value Black life in the same way Black people value their own lives and thus fight justly for it? 



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