Saturday, March 23, 2019
Hi everyone! This week, we debut a new column, “The Melanin Memorandum.” The Melanin Memorandum will cover three to five legal stories that impact people of color. Here’s this week’s entry:
Story #1 – Death Penalty Dealt Serious Blow
What happened: This week, Kentucky moved one step closer to abolishing the death penalty. According to Public News Service, a KY bill that would end death sentences in the state has growing, bipartisan support. While Kentucky hasn’t executed a prisoner in ten years, the death penalty remains legal in the state.
Why it matters to POC: Most people know that the death penalty is racially biased. According to the ACLU and Equal Justice USA, the death penalty harms both defendants and victims of color. Those who kill whites are more likely to receive a death sentence than those who kill POC. Jurors are more likely to sentence POC to death. So, ending the death penalty is a racial justice issue.
Story #2 – SCOTUS Questions Racism in Jury Selection
What happened: This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Flowers v. Mississippi. The defendant, Curtis Flowers, was convicted six times (not a typo) for murders that occurred in 1996. His current claim argues that the assigned prosecutor struck all of the prospective Black jurors. Over thirty years ago, the Court ruled that jurors cannot be struck based on race. (See Batson v. Kentucky.)
Why POC should care: Studies of jury bias have often found that white jurors judge criminal defendants (and civil plaintiffs) of color more harshly than their white counterparts. This is true even when race is not an issue in the case. For POC to truly be heard in court, juries must be non-biased. Luckily, most SCOTUS watchers believe that the Court seemed deeply troubled by the events and is likely to rule in favor of Mr. Flowers.
(P.S. - - In case you doubt the significance of this case, it moved Justice Thomas to ask a question for the first time in three years, which is really saying something. (No pun intended. Okay, maybe intended a little.))
Story #3 – SCOTUS helps Trump Detain Immigrants
What Happened: This week, the Supreme Court ruled that the current administration can detain and deport legal immigrants for committing crimes – even if those crimes occurred years earlier.
Why POC should care: The orange person in the White House has made it his mission to make life as hard as possible for those not born in this country. Unfortunately, most immigrants from the U.S. come from Mexico, China, India, the Phillipines, and El Salvador. So, now that the administration has the authority to go hard after legal immigrants who commit crimes, brown folks are sure to suffer.
That’s all for this week. More to come!