As long as society holds stereotypes among core values, implicit biases will remain at every level of the justice system
A recent headline in The Washington Post said it all: “A death penalty landmark for Florida: Executing a white man for killing a black man.”
Since the 1970s, when the death penalty was reinstated, there have been 92 executions in Florida. Of those, nearly 20 were black men executed for killing a white victim. But until Aug. 24, the state had never, in modern history, employed the death penalty in the other direction — executing a non-Latino white male for killing a black victim.
The high-profile cases that have involved the death of blacks nationwide are all too familiar. And so are the names of the non-convicted: George Zimmerman, Betty Shelby, Darren Wilson.
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These are just a few of the people who have walked free after killing an innocent black person. While family members were forced to mourn the loss of their loved one, these killers faced no consequences for their actions. The killers were from different walks of life, but with one thing in common: They all used snap judgment based on preconceived notions to kill a black man.
A recent report by the Marshall Project in collaboration with The Upshot, provides hard evidence of what many have already suspected: Killings of black men by whites are far more likely to be ruled “justifiable.” This is a creative way for the system to say, “Yes, you killed someone, but we’re going to allow you to continue living your life even though an innocent black man is dead.”
Crimes are deemed justifiable when the person attacking has reason to believe they are in danger or are witnessing a crime. This label of “justifiable homicide,” which can be categorized as “felon killed by private citizen” or “felon killed by police officer,” already presumes something about the deceased, that they were committing a felonious act.
From the beginning…