Kimani Gray: Guilty Until Proved Innocent

The Nation columnist Patricia J. Williams weighs in on the police shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray, raising important questions about the demise of the presumption of innocence when young black males are involved.

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Raising important questions about the demise of the presumption of innocence when today's black males are involved, the Nation columnist Patricia J. Williams weighs in on the police shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray.

The only thing anyone can agree upon is that on Saturday, March 9, 16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot seven times by two New York Police Department officers in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The police fired eleven shots. Four hit him in the front and side of his body, three in the back.

Gray's mother says he and his friends were on their way back from a birthday party. Police saw a gang. A neighbor watching from a window says Gray was unarmed, and multiple witnesses say that Gray pleaded for his life. Police say he pulled a loaded gun. Some media reports say the officers were highly decorated for bravery. Other reports note that they had cost the department more than $215,000 in payouts for at least five lawsuits alleging civil rights violations. Police say they found a gun at the scene. A witness says she never saw a gun, and skeptics wonder whether it was a "drop" by corrupt officers.

Sharing the headlines with Kimani Gray was an upcoming trial to decide a class action lawsuit contesting the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program. One plaintiff has been stopped twenty-eight times. Of those stopped, 90 percent are black or Latino; 90 percent of stop-and-frisks result in no arrest. Many white New Yorkers, including the mayor, praise the program as having lowered the crime rate and clamped down on guns. But criminologists and the New York Civil Liberties Union, supported by FBI data, dispute any causal connection: crime has gone down by the same rates all over the United States, and in cities with no such aggressive policy. And black New Yorkers, particularly those in targeted neighborhoods, cite the living-under-lockdown difficulties of just getting to work or school on time when one is stopped, yelled at, searched -- over and over and over again.

Read Patricia J. Williams' entire piece at the Nation.

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