Friday, July 09, 2010

Good Court, Bad Court

This week has seen two diametrically opposed dolings out of "justice" in courts in the USA.

In Massachusetts, Judge Tauro held that DOMA unconstitutionally interfered with a) the rights of married couples within Massachusetts, who were legally married under state law but unable to exert those rights federally (tax, etc.) because of DOMA's definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman (violating the due process clause); and b) Massachusetts' ability to implement its own laws (violating the Tenth Amendment). This is the initial victory that a lot of marriage equality advocates were hoping for, planning to build on slowly but surely in the style of the civil rights movement toward desegregation, rather than the big federal Prop 8 trial in California (a really interesting article about that here).

In L.A., however, something much worse happened. I don't know if you know about Oscar Grant. He was an African-American man who while being held down by the police, was shot in the back by a transit policeman on the BART - the train system in San Francisco. I watched the video shot by witnesses once - I don't ever need to see it again, but if you google it, you will find it. The police tried to take away the phones and cameras that shot the footage. What is chilling about this is that for this officer's "safety" and a fair verdict, the California authorities moved the trial from Oakland, where it should have happened, to L.A. L.A. where, apparently, there has not been a guilty for murder verdict in a police-shooting-a-civilian since 1983. 1983. Because that's "fair," you see. And, despite the fact that he reached on the wrong side for his taser - he in fact reached for his gun - somehow the jury bought it that it was involuntary manslaughter. Watch the video, and see what you think. But honestly, I have no idea how they came to that conclusion. That poor man, and his poor family. There aren't words, really, to describe how awful it is. And it's also hard not to come to conclusions about how justice depends on what colour you are.

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