Society

Massachusetts High Court's Ruling Makes Sense

| by Mark Jones
In the heart of Boston, the Massachusetts State House stands as a symbol of the state's government.In the heart of Boston, the Massachusetts State House stands as a symbol of the state's government.

A Massachusetts high court's ruling to throw away the gun conviction of Jimmy Warren was a good decision.

On Dec. 18, 2011, Boston police officers arrested Warren while investigating a break-in in Roxbury, according to WBUR.  Police were told that the suspects were three black men wearing a red hoodie, a black hoodie, and dark clothing, respectively.  

Warren and his friend were spotted walking near a park that day.  Both were wearing dark clothing and ran when police approached them.  Police eventually caught Warren.  Though they did not find anything on Warren when they searched him, police found an unlicensed .22 caliber firearm in a yard near the site of Warren’s detainment. As a result, Warren was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm, according to WBUR.

Five years later, Massachusetts courts say that Warren’s arrest was illegitimate.

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Police did not have the right to stop Warren in the first place.  His being a black male wearing dark clothing did not justify the stop, even though his appearance technically matched the description given to policemen, according to WBUR. 

The description given to police officers was far too vague to spur any action.  For this reason, courts ruled the stop unjustified.

Court justices believe that Warren’s story supports the tragic reality of racial profiling that occurs in the city of Boston and the rest of the United States.

A study conducted by the Boston Police Department showed that black individuals were 8 percent more likely to be stopped by Boston police than whites.  Additionally, black individuals were 12 percent more likely to be searched or frisked than whites after being stopped.

With the recent ruling, Massachusetts officials intend to decrease statistics such as these.

Boston NAACP president Michael Curry was extremely pleased with the court’s ruling.

“This is huge for advocates who have been trying to get courts to recognize racial profiling across the country,” he told Boston Globe writers.

The ruling affects more than Warren and those following his case specifically.  Massachusetts high courts have made a point to say that this decision should influence future rulings for similar cases, as well. 

Courts also said that the fact that Warren ran from police should not be used against him, according to WBUR.

“The finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for [what police call ‘Field Interrogation and Observations,’ or stops] suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt,” wrote Justice Geraldine Hines, according to The Boston Globe.

Though the case originated five years in the past, the Massachusetts high court’s ruling should have effects lasting well into the future. For the sake of justice and racial equality, justices were right to throw out Warren’s gun conviction.

Sources: WBUR, Boston Globe, BPD / Photo credit: Tony Fischer/Flickr

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