Former Minneapolis police officer, Kim Potter, got an absurdly light sentence yesterday for the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright - just two years, when the sentencing guidelines called for six to eight years. The judge who delivered the sentence, Regina Chu, asked for sympathy for the white police officer with the gun, telling the young man's family it was his killer for whom she shed actual tears.
Compounding the degrading, dehumanizing treatment of this already traumatized, grieving family, Judge Chu saw fit to weaponize the words of the first Black president of the United States, Barack Obama, in justifying her outrageous request for people in the courtroom to put themselves in Potter's place.
"As President Barack Obama once said, learning to stand in somebody else's shoes to see through their eyes that's how peace begins. and it's up to you to make that happen," pontificated Chu from the bench, pleading for sympathy for the white woman who's gun killed a 20-year-old Black man pulled over for an expired tag and an air freshener hanging in his car.
Joy Reid noted some quotes from Black leaders about the utter hypocrisy and murderous double-standard woven into our justice system before inviting The Nation's justice correspondent, Elie Mystal to weigh in on the sentencing.
His raw, unvarnished response was gut-wrenching and deeply on-point.
MYSTAL: Joy, this country hates us. This country hates black people and we know it. We talk about it. We joke about it. We know what we're up against. But sometimes that hatred that this country has for us really comes out and just takes your breath away, just grabs you by the neck and takes your breath away and today Judge Regina Chu was that hatred, that icy hate around our throat. She was the spit in our face today, to have the unmitigated gall to stand up there, sit up there in her courtroom and plead, cry out for sympathy for the killer in front of that boy's mother. I don't have words to describe how offensive that is, how hurtful that is, how unjust that is almost goes without saying.
People are like oh, she made a mistake, Potter made a mistake. Yeah, we have a sentencing guideline for this kind of mistake, it's called six to eight years. Why did she get two years? Somebody needs to answer me why she got two years. Of course, we all know why she got two years. Because she was a crying white woman. That's why she got two years and not the six to eight years that her crime cried out for. You know, she wants, Judge Chu wants us to look at things through Potter's eyes, I say no! I will look at things through Daunte Wright's eyes and I can imagine what the last thing Daunte Wright saw. I've been in the situation where that might have been the last thing that I saw. Those are the eyes that I will remember and I would encourage others to remember and I would encourage others to reject Judge Chu and instead, think about Daunte Wright.
Reid pointed to the obvious, despicable, racist imbalance of it all:
- Mohamed Noor, a Black Muslim police officer convicted of killing a white woman by mistake was initially sentenced 12.5 years. It was reduced to five when his murder conviction was overturned, leaving only the manslaughter conviction.
- Crystal Mason, a Black woman, was sentenced to five years for VOTING after she'd been released from jail.
- Z'Kye Husain, a black teen involved in a fight with a white teen, was the only one tackled and handcuffed by police in a New Jersey Mall this week. The white teen was simply seated on a couch and permitted to go about his day.
Mystal felt moved to wonder how he was supposed to introduce his own young sons to the reality they faced as eventual Black young men in this nation that considers their lives not only expendable, but outright threats.
MYSTAL: As you know, I have two Black sons and told you last night, I'm having difficulty trying to figure out. I got a 9-year-old. He's such a pleaser. He loves people and people love him. When do I show him your interview with Z'Kye? When do I show him Judge Chu's sentencing of Kim Potter? When do I tell my 9-year-old just how deeply this country hates him? When is it appropriate for me to explain for him even should he be shot to death for an air freshener, this country will sympathize with his murderer? When do I bring that up to my boy? I have to tell him. I've got to protect him. I have to tell him at some point what this country will do to him. When is that appropriate to have that discussion?
People need to understand your interview with Z'Kye yesterday and this sentence are part of a continuum. They're on a linear track because it's the same thought process that led those cops to manhandling and physically restraining Z'Kye while letting the white kid walk away. That's the same thought process Kim Potter had when she pulled out whatever, whatever she could find to make the Black man stop, make him stop. That's all she cared about. She didn't care about his life. She didn't care about his health. Judge Chu, "Oh, she wasn't trying to hurt him." No, she WAS trying to hurt him. We can debate what he was trying to hurt him with. She was TRYING to HURT HIM. That's what happened. And it's what is going to keep happening because there are not enough people in this country who care about stopping it.
Reid herself has three Black children, and could clearly feel the marrow-deep emotion of what Mystal expressed.