Durham Lawyer Reveals What Systematic Racism Looks Like

I love Twitter.

Twitter is the social platform that speaks to me and my ADHD-addled brain the most. Information flying in and out at real-time speed, 140 characters forces you to say something important/funny/profound in a concise manner, the occasional opportunity for notoriety, and stream-of-consciousness thoughts that can only be captured by Twitter’s ease of use.

That last factor is what brings me to today’s post. Yesterday, amid the perpetual swirling of a chaotic and confusing discussion about race relations (ignited by Black History Month, the CIAA, the LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance and general southern racial tensions), a friend of mine and former counsel T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) had apparently had enough.

A criminal defense lawyer by trade, Greg routinely handles cases from the trenches. Robberies, assaults, drug possession etc. So it’s no surprise that he sees first hand on a daily basis what the effects are on a community when the legal system (whether actively or implicitly) works against that community.

Yesterday, a case involving a client produced an all-too familiar scene, one that he could no longer keep quiet about. Here, I present his series of 40-some tweets (with Greg’s permission, of course) that tell a story that is hidden from the eyes of the public, but one that rings true for so many.

(I’ve edited his words for continuity, grammar and punctuation, but his words are verbatim otherwise. See the entire thread in it’s original form here)

I get asked – often – if I hate police. I don’t.

I look at “police” generally like I look at teachers. When a teacher decides to rape a student, we don’t demonize all teachers. Same with teachers who are woefully inept at teaching. But, at the same time, no sane person denies there are teacher-rapists and teachers who suck at their job. I view police the same; I’m willing to take a leap of faith and assume you’re competent, until you prove otherwise.

Soooooo that brings me to court today.

Client is a 17 year-old black male, “YBM” in defense lawyer parlance. My YBM is charged with reckless driving to endanger, a very serious offense. He’s terrified. Cried in my office explaining the situation. He insisted he was just trying to avoid an animal that darted into the road, and swerved to the right. I pull the shuck, and read the officer’s narrative of what happened:

“Neighbor saw driver doing donuts in street, nearly hit wife. Skid marks show clear 360° circles. Driver claimed he was trying to avoid hitting cat.”

Re-read that: “clear 360° circles”.

Thankfully (how fucking sad is it that “thankfully” is the appropriate word here?) his mom didn’t trust the officer, and took pictures which she kept and sent to me (most of which were useless. People take pictures of a lot of useless shit when they’re terrified, by the way).

Now go back and re-re-read: “Clear. 360°. Circles.”

What. The actual. Fuck.

Do I hate police? No. I hate raging incompetent cowboys with badges financed by my tax money who clearly haven’t had an eye exam recently.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

The DA was kind enough to dismiss the case without putting up a fight. My YBM client’s family is out what they paid me. Client himself is traumatized. And basis for police mistrust gets a fresh exhibit. While the officer who (wrongfully) charged him – and pretty clearly lied on official court documents – will face *0* repercussions.

This is what police brutality looks like. It’s not just people having their rights violated and the shit kicked out of them. It’s an innocent 17 year-old black kid trying to be a good human being and not running over a cat getting thrown headlong into our court system. It’s having to come up with money you don’t have, to defend yourself against charges that shouldn’t have been filed. And recognizing that – but for photographs that someone had the foresight to take immediately – you’d have been convicted based solely on the word of a law enforcement officer who swore an oath to serve and protect who then lied to the court with impunity.

The state doesn’t care of course. For every one case dismissed, hundreds more plead guilty. Court costs are $188 and up apiece. A day’s worth of traffic cases can finance an ADA’s salary for a year. Likewise for a clerk or judge.

Guess what that means for legislators? They can cut preexisting court funding and put it somewhere where it’ll buy them more votes. So you’ve got a court system that ends up somehow being underfunded despite charging a shitload of money for minor offenses; police rerouting more and more people (predominantly young and black) into the court system, patting themselves on the back (all for protecting us from eeeeeevil 17 year-old YBMs trying not to hit cats while driving). While the politicians fiddle as their constituents burn, because people naively assume things like this would never happen.

Welcome to the clusterfuck that is our criminal justice system. I filed to run for the State Senate because of this bullshit.

It doesn’t matter if you put an R or a D or a U beside your name – this is wrong.

Sorry for taking up your timeline. For reasons I still don’t understand, I’m *still* in disbelief that this shit *still* happens, when I know better. I’m now going to clog my arteries with BoJangles in the hope/prayer that I won’t still be flamingly pissed after lunch.

“clear 360° circles”

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

I decided to reproduce this because it’s a candid look into the micro-inequalities (hooray for new words) that quietly exist within our society. When people talk about racism being a system that benefits a certain person over another, this is exactly what that system is. Not using the N-word or moving people to the back of the bus. It’s a systematic and clandestine effort between multiple moving parts that allows prejudice to manifest itself, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Yes, we’ve moved on from fire hoses and separate water fountains. No, the underlying hatred and ignorance hasn’t changed a bit.