Two court judgments in the US — and one in Australia — yesterday illustrate that progress is being made, but a lot more needs to be done, in addressing the racism of the justice system.
The US Supreme Court overturned the 1987 conviction of Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is black and was accused of murdering a white woman. The prosecutors in the original trial purposefully selected an all-white jury (they write a “B” next to the names of black prospective jurors), a clearly racist practice that continues to this day — black prospective jurors are turned away far more often than white ones in the US.
Also in the US, a police officer has been found not guilty in relation to the death of Freddie Gray, a black suspect who was thrown into the back of a police van with no seatbelt, with his arms and legs shackled. Gray’s neck was broken by the time police arrived at the station.
And in Australia, a court will her evidence about the murder of three Aboriginal children in the New South Wales town of Bowraville, after The Australian‘s excellent podcast and numerous stories brought the matter to the national consciousness. A white man has previously been charged with the murder of two of them but was acquitted — all three have never been heard together, despite remarkably similar circumstances surrounding the deaths of each. The murders happened in 1990-91, and no one has ever been convicted. Whether the murders of three white children would have gone unpunished for 25 years is an open question.
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