The death has been referred to as an “accidental discharge.” But there is nothing accidental about the death of an unarmed Black man by law enforcement. Our system is designed to maximize interactions between Black and brown people and police officers, which all but ensures that harm will happen. This is enforced through the practice of over-policing, initiatives that have justified increased levels of policing for the sake of the greater good, but often with adverse consequences (Scientific American).
The U.S. positions itself as a just country with a superior legal system where people are always considered innocent until proven guilty and always granted the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. Except this isn’t true at all. Despite the promise of the Sixth Amendment, we do not have an effective right to trial because today, the overwhelming majority of cases will never see a judge.
If you’ve participated or watched protests unfold in cities across the country this past year, you may have noticed that law enforcement looked more like members of our military than neighborhood police. And that’s intentional, as, over the past decades, the U.S. has made it easier for law enforcement to access surplus military equipment for everyday use.
In the U.S., it’s legal to be kidnapped and incarcerated without being convicted of any crime. You haven’t confessed. You aren’t considered dangerous or liable to flee before your court date. You have not been proven guilty so you must, by this country’s legal code, be considered innocent. You are nonetheless told you will be incarcerated indefinitely. Your trial date may be scheduled for a few weeks from now – – or, it may not arrive for years.
It happened. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court Monday evening (NPR). Judge Barrett, who is 48 years old, is likely to serve on the court for decades, solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority. It also gives her immediate power in several upcoming hearings this November that disproportionately impacts the livelihood of communities of color. This is the first time a Supreme Court nominee has been confirmed without a single vote from a major minority party since December 1869 (WSJ). Now that it’s official, inquiries on whether or not Biden, if confirmed, could expand the court, have snowballed into comprehensive calls for action.
Pervis Payne, a Black man who was convicted for murder 33 years ago, will be executed in December, despite DNA evidence that could prove his innocence (CNN). While the execution of an intellectually disabled person is unconstitutional, the court didn’t recognize Payne’s disability at the time of his trial (Tennessean). The Innocence Project, a legal organization that works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, is trying to stop Payne’s execution. As of today, “375 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 21 who served time on death row” (The Innocence Project).