Tag: prosecutors

“My Life as a Black Prosecutor” via Marshall Project/Vice.com

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I was approached as then President of the National Black Prosecutors Association to write an article for this collaborative project between the Marshall Project and Vice. It’s important to note, in a world where 95% of elected prosecutors are white, that diversity is a critical issue, especially in the upper echelons of the profession.  As we explore criminal justice reform, issues in policing and lifting up communities of color, it is even more critical that prosecutors reflect the communities they serve.

“The only way to help your people is to be a defense attorney.”

My father was the first to tell me that, but definitely not the last.

He went on to explain that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and all the civil-rights leaders of the 1960s had great lawyers to call whenever they got jailed for protesting. Without these lawyers, my dad explained, African Americans would never have advanced toward equality.

When I was in college and law school, I was also told that as a black woman, the only way to look out for “my people” and defend the Constitution was to become a defense attorney — and more specifically a public defender.

I followed that path, interning with the Legal Aid Society in New York City while I was an undergrad. A couple of the attorneys I met there formed their own shop, and I later interned for them during law school. But during my final year, I got an offer to become a prosecutor in Florida.

I accepted and never looked back.

Read the rest here.

 

Diversity Discussions: The New York Times

20140323-142740.jpgThis week, I was quoted in an article in the New York Times regarding a recent study that reveals 95% of elected prosecutors are white. As President of the National Black Prosecutors Association, I am proud to lead an organization that has been fighting to recruit and retain African American prosecutors for 32 years.  Diversity in the criminal justice system is one of the key components to  earning and maintaining the trust of the community. Read the article here.

Diversity Discussions….

20140519-151326-54806927.jpgBack in November, I had the honor and the privilege of speaking as President of the National Black Prosecutors Association on a roundtable at Harvard Law. Fellow participants included head prosecutors from around the country, and forward thinkers in the criminal justice world, led by the Vera Institute.  We discussed issues of racial disparity in sentencing, ways to ensure that everyone gets the same treatment for the same types of crimes/criminal history, and other ways to make our system better.  See my interview here on diversity and unconscious bias in the criminal justice system.

Diversity Discussions…

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In recent months, I have been asked regarding my opinions on issues confronting our nation regarding our criminal justice system.  I’d like to share some of these discussions with all of you, and give you the chance to weigh in.  My theme remains the same: diversity is a necessity.  There must be diversity among the actors in the criminal justice system in order for there to be balance within our system.  Perception is reality; critical messages can be lost if there is a perception that the system is unfair.

Political reporter Tony Pugh asked me what my thoughts were regarding the use of independent prosecutors to investigate and pursue cases involving police shootings.

“The true answer is to have diversity among the attorneys in prosecutors’ offices, and for prosecutors’ offices to continue working on their relationship with the communities they serve, so that there is trust and transparency in the justice process,” said Melba Pearson, the president of the National Black Prosecutors Association.

While an independent prosecutor may be a useful tool in some circumstances, “it isn’t necessarily the answer for all police shooting cases,” she said.

Some state prosecutors already have units or individual prosecutors dedicated to public officials, including police officers, who’ve allegedly committed crimes.

“This may be a good option to expand upon,” Pearson said.

Read the rest of the article here and weigh in!
M.