Michael’s Arrest a Symptom of Greater Injustices
Every day, we see that impoverished black children often do not receive the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of the law. This is why we stand up for children’s right to be “innocent until proven guilty.”
“Michael’s” school day started like any other. He had breakfast with his family. He walked his usual route to school. He wore the special shirt he was given for making the honor roll again.
Halfway through algebra, the police arrived at his classroom. They claimed Michael committed an armed robbery earlier that morning. He was handcuffed in front of his classmates and taken to jail.
His tears and pleas of innocence were ignored. He spent the night in a cell alone and afraid.
Michael’s LCCR team got to work right away. We sent our investigator out to canvass the neighborhood where the crime occurred. What we learned was astonishing:
- Several witnesses said the suspect wore a plain black t-shirt. Michael’s shirt was bright blue, with big yellow letters saying “Honor Roll.”
- The crime happened a full 15 minutes after Michael arrived at school that morning.
- Michael’s arrest hinged on a single witness who said she thought she saw Michael in the area of the crime.
In a different neighborhood, an honor roll student like Michael would never have been arrested on such flimsy evidence. But for poor children of color, sometimes no matter how hard you work to stay out of trouble, the justice system finds you.
Michael’s LCCR’s team presented its findings before a juvenile court judge, who immediately dismissed the case and released Michael home to his family.
Michael is happy to have this ordeal behind him, but the trauma he experienced left him feeling unsafe and vulnerable. We connected him with a therapist to help with that.
It’s a sad reality that Michael could be considered one of the “lucky ones.” Had this occurred in another parish, Michael would likely have been assigned a defender who was juggling hundreds of other cases; who didn’t have access to resources like an investigator; who only had minutes to work with Michael prior to entering his plea. This is how the innocent end up in prison. This is how young lives are ruined.
This is also why we listen to our children, believe in them, and work tirelessly to defend their rights.
Your support makes the success of Michael and kids like him possible. Thank you!