Lady Justice is supposed to be blind -- but it seems that judges and juries definitely aren't when it comes to noticing whether or not a defendant in a felony trial is black or white.
According to The Innocence Project, which works tirelessly to right judicial wrongs and expose general flaws in the entire legal system, here are some of the cold facts about race and justice in America:
- If you're black, you are seven times more likely than someone who is white to be wrongfully convicted of murder.
- If you're black, innocence is no protection against a conviction for sexual assault. You're three times more likely than someone who is white to be wrongfully convicted.
- If you are black, and you are wrongfully convicted but lucky enough to (eventually) be exonerated, it will still take you about three years longer to gain that exoneration than it will someone who is white and wrongfully convicted.
- Slightly more than 60% of the exonerees in this country who have been proven innocent through DNA testing are black.
- Over 50% of those who were sentenced to death and later exonerated via DNA were black. The other 50% of exonerees includes all other races combined.
What's at the root of the numbers? In many cases, it's nothing more than poverty and the fact that blacks in America are more likely, in general, to live in impoverished neighborhoods than whites. Those neighborhoods tend to be the focus of police efforts -- and police often aggressively prosecute poor blacks for minor crimes that they might let slide in a white neighborhood (especially marijuana offenses).
Ultimately, that means more black Americans have criminal records in the first place -- which means that if they are subsequently charged with a serious crime, they tend to be regarded as less trustworthy and more "obviously guilty" than whites.
Poor Americans have always struggled under the unequal weight of what is supposed to be a system that guarantees equal justice for all -- but poor black Americans struggle even harder. Regardless of your race, however, it's important to understand that innocence is no guarantee of a "not guilty" verdict. You need experienced legal representation to assist you as promptly as possible.