When Will Youth of Color Receive the Same Due Process as Officer Darren Wilson?

Mae Quinn, JD, Professor of Law, co-authored with Marsha Levick, University of Pennsylvania and Temple Law Schools

It’s been several weeks since Michael Brown was shot by Officer Darren Wilson. The investigation and grand jury proceedings continue as community members in Ferguson, MO and supporters around the country call for justice in Michael Brown’s name. But what exactly will justice and due process look like in the wake of his death?

It turns out that justice, like so much of what happens in America, has two faces. Michael Brown’s shooting – and the image of his young black body left lying for hours in the summer sun – has become a symbol of the many forms of unfairness suffered by youth of color across America. Officer Wilson’s treatment serves as a powerful counterpoint – the other face of justice.

If you had to choose between the protections afforded Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and the treatment provided to most young black males in America, which would you demand for your child?

By all accounts, Officer Wilson is receiving exemplary due process before charges, if any, are filed against him. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch insisted upon a careful and thorough review, including a multi-week investigation and a grand jury process where “absolutely all” there is to know about this case will be laid bare for consideration. The grand jury will be provided with “every piece of evidence, every piece of paper, and every photo” relating to this killing, including any mitigating information that might be helpful to Officer Wilson. And in the event that he is charged and then arrested, we can reasonably assume Officer Wilson will have well-resourced and skilled legal representation.

The process afforded Wilson is readily contrasted to that received by most young men of color suspected of crimes in St. Louis County and across America, whether they face allegations in the same Circuit Court where Wilson’s grand jury sits or in the juvenile justice system. For them, justice is rarely, if ever, so deliberative or fair.

Young men of color facing felony charges in St. Louis County Circuit Court are generally arrested first, taken to jail, and thereafter provided with a cursory preliminary hearing; most cases are bound over for further prosecution. Lawyers assigned to represent poor youth are part of one of the most under-resourced, overwhelmed public defender’s offices in the country. Rarely will “every piece of evidence, every piece of paper, and every photo” be produced by the prosecution for purposes of probable cause determination.

Read full article on Huffington Post

  • Shelton

    This article very true. There is no equality in the judicial system for young black youth. They are labeled before any consequences are given. Everyone in human and color shouldn’t matter BUT with the judicial system color plays a part 90% of the time.

    • John Reynolds

      No, lawyers play a part 100% of the time! Therein lies the problem…