I am really thrilled about my latest piece to run in Essence Magazine. It was fueled out of the horror of seeing just about every recently elected African American elected prosecutor coming under fire for things that occur in offices nationwide on a regular basis. It’s clear to me, especially seeing how the Florida Legislature has stymied the citizen driven/voter approved Amendment 4, that the old guard does not want change. We as voters have to be wise not only in choosing our District/State/Commonwealth Attorney, but also our mayors, police chiefs, and commission members. If they do not support reform, then the reform minded elected prosecutor is often left twisting in the wind.
A record number of women of color have been elected to District Attorneys positions in the past four years. In 2014, a Women Donor Network study found that 95% of elected prosecutors were white, with 79% being white men. Since that study was released, African American women have been elected as District Attorneys in major metropolitan cities like Orlando, St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, and New York.
Now that they are in office – are the standards the same for them as their white male counterparts? There has been great discussion about the wide latitude prosecutors have to exercise their discretion; do African-American female top prosecutors have that same level of freedom?
This week, Essence.com published my article on the Freddie Gray case, discussing the issues in Baltimore from a prosecutor’s point of view. With the announcement that the Department of Justice will be investigating the Baltimore Police Department’s practices, it is more critical than ever that we watch, listen, and see what the evidence says.
Fairness. Justice. Equality under the law.
As African-Americans, these are words that we believe in; desperately fought for, marched for and worked hard to have applied to us. With the turbulent times we have seen in the last year, have we gotten to the point where we believe that there is no way the criminal justice system can work for us? Are we rushing to judgment? Are we doing the same thing that we accuse the criminal justice system of doing?
Here is an interview I did with Doug Donovan from the Baltimore Sun, regarding Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and the pressures she’s currently facing. Feel free to weigh in!
As one of the youngest African American prosecutors in the nation, Mosby has faced added pressure in a city boiling with police mistrust from the black community.
“When you’re an African American prosecutor you’re going to have the scrutiny of your own people who will say, ‘Now that you made it, what are you going to do?'” said Melba V. Pearson, president of the National Black Prosecutors Association. “And you’re going to have law enforcement saying, ‘Whose side are you on?’
“That’s the challenge of being an African American prosecutor,” added Melba, a prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Fla. “You walk a very fine line.”