The first trial of police, Michael Slager, focuses on race and violence in America

The mistrial that brought an end to the first trial of Michael Slager, the man who as a police officer shot Walter Scott in the back, killing him, after a traffic stop for a broken tail light is the latest in a series of events that reminds us that racism isn’t done in this country.

The fact that the jury was unable to come to a verdict, despite the clear evidence, is a good cause for minorities to wonder if justice is possible for them in this country.  And high-profile cases like the one in South Carolina are not the only signs of trouble.  Consider the case of former Marine, Stephen Mader, a white police officer in West Virginia who was called to a woman’s home to help her deal with her ex-boyfriend whom she reported to 911 as drunk and armed.

The woman said that her ex, Ronald Williams, had a gun, and while she told the 911 operator that he had unloaded the gun, Officer Mader wasn’t informed of that.  When he arrived on the scene, he found Williams with the latter’s hands behind his back.  Mader ordered Williams to show his hands, at which point Williams brought them forward to reveal a pistol that he held at his side.  Williams demanded that Mader shoot him.

This all sounds like so many other cases of a white officer using lethal force against a black suspect, but things didn’t turn out quite as expected.  Williams was shot dead, but not by Mader.  Mader had his weapon drawn, but was attempting to convince Williams to drop his gun when four other officers showed up.  One of them, seeing Williams “waving a gun around,” opened fire.

And the end result of all of this?  Mader was fired, according to him for putting his fellow officers in danger.  Town officials have said that Mader was dismissed for “illegal searches in a vehicle, to the use of profanity with citizens and then also contaminating a crime scene of a potential homicide investigation,” and he’s considering legal action in response.

A reaction to this climate of injustice is to be found in an article by Elie Mystal, an attorney who writes for Above the Law, titled, “Here’s How Black People Could Use Jury Nullification To Break The Justice System.” His argument is that as long as officers like Michael Slager keep avoiding being found guilty of murder or manslaughter, even when the evidence is clear, black members of juries should throw chaos into the system by refusing to convict any defendant when the victim of the crime was white.  In his view,

NOBODY CARES if they can’t get an indictment against a police officer whose only crime was the murder of an African-American. But let’s see how Preet Bharara likes it when he can’t get an indictment for political corruption (defendant accused of taking advantage of the system? Acquit.). Let’s see what happens in Brooklyn when they can’t evict anybody ever again (refusing to pay rent to a white man? Acquit.). Let’s see what happens in Hollywood when you can’t bring a case against pirates (stealing the white man’s movies? Acquit.).

This all sounds like an extreme solution, right up to the moment when we remember that minorities have been treated this way again and again for decades.

The idea that our criminal justice system actually secures justice is one thing that protects us from endless feuds and revolutionary movements.  And it only works when all of us can feel confidence that the system operates for each of us.  If we value rights, we have to understand that they will be preserved best when we all work together for the rights of every American, regardless of race or class or other position in society.  And we’re not doing a good job of that.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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