All White Jury, All White Justice

At the end of July, 2008 in a small town in Pennsylvania, two drunken white boys (ages 16 and 17) attacked Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant, striking him repeatedly with their fists then kicking him in the head once he lay on the ground. According to one report, by the time help arrived, Ramirez lay convulsing in the middle of the street, foam running from his mouth. As they ran away from beating and kicking this man to death, witnesses heard the one of the white boys say to a woman who was with Ramirez: ” ‘You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you’re gonna be laying effin next to him.’ ” These facts are not in dispute.

And yet, the two white boys – who were charged as adults with homicide and racial intimidation – were acquitted yesterday. Here’s a short report from CNN (3:21) about the verdict:

One of the experts in this clip, Avery Friedman, contends that this is a pretty clear-cut case of jury nullification. In other words, the all-white jury in this case effectively nullified the law by acquitting these two white thugs. This kind of result: white justice by all-white juries, is a common feature of American justice, although it is most often associated with the South during the Civil Rights struggle. For example, in the Emmet Till case, an all-white jury refused toconvict (typo corrected – thanks for catching that Alston!) the Klan members who had all but confessed to kidnapping and murdering Till. In the recent Pennsylvania case, the all-white jury failed to convict two white men in the murder of a Mexican immigrant. As Friedman says, “the only reason he is dead is because he was Mexican.” The murder of Emmet Till fifty years ago, and the white justice handed out by an all-white jury, proved to be a catalyst for a social movement for racial equality. I can only hope that Ramirez’s death sparks another such movement.

Thanks to Victor Ray for his comment about this case.

[Updated 5/14/09: Sign the Luis Ramirez Hate Crime Petition sponsored by MALDEF.]



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