Bankole: Why did Wayne County charge a 10-year-old?
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy prides herself on following the dictates of the law, and not what others think about the decisions she makes as the chief prosecutor in Wayne County.
But it's stunning and scary how her office arrived at the recent decision to charge a 10-year-old black child from Ruth Eriksson Elementary School in Canton with aggravated assault for allegedly throwing a ball at a fellow student during an April 29 dodgeball game.
The injured student, who is white, suffered a black eye and a bruised nose, and his mother told WXYZ Channel 7 that her son has a rare medical condition that makes him vulnerable to head injury.
When I read the story and about his mother Cameishi Lindley pleading for help and raising money for his legal defense, I felt ashamed that we live in a society that would allow a child to be treated like a common criminal.
There was little chance that the student, if he were white, would face a similar charge.
“When this case was reviewed by my office, no one paid attention to the race of either party," Worthy said in a statement last week announcing that all charges are being dropped against the child. She also scolded the media for getting it all wrong. "It is categorically wrong to suggest that this was charged based on race or geography.”
Still, the decision to charge him was unacceptable. As a black woman, Worthy knows race matters in our quest for a more perfect union, which includes the charging decisions made at the highest levels of our criminal justice system. She knows public opinion matters in rebuking powerful institutions like our criminal justice system that have sometimes not treated blacks equally.
The prosecution would have been not only a national disgrace, but would have also resulted in a massive international outcry against our system of jurisprudence that has not always played fair when blacks are the defendants, no matter the offense.
Imagine the trial and the message it would convey to the rest of the world: We are a heartless and cruel nation that would prosecute a 10-year-old for a sports injury.
Imagine Amnesty International, the world’s foremost defender of human rights, putting the harsh spotlight on the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and making the case that the prosecution stands to take 21st century human rights issues to another level.
I wasn’t the only one worried about the case and the larger implications for black children growing up in a world where biases against them are so glaring. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been a significant witness to the racial battles that have defined the nation for more than 50 years, was traveling out of the country when he read the story and was disturbed about it.
Jackson would have attended the trial, because to him and others who have had a front-row seat to this nation’s epic battles for equality, the trial would have marked a seminal moment and a very dark chapter in the long running black experience.
“We are relieved that the outrageous charges against a 10-year-old African American boy for hitting a white playmate in the face with a ball during a schoolyard game of dodgeball have been dropped,” Jackson told me. “We remain mystified and alarmed, however, that charges were ever filed. This case was a clear-cut example of prosecutorial overreach and waste of time, money and a child's faith in the hands of adults who run our so-called criminal justice system.”
No child, black or white, should ever face such a ridiculous charge again.