FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Had It Been Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson Would Have Gone Ape-Shit

It seems close to impossible to get a policeman, any policemen, convicted of unlawfully shooting an African-American. For that matter, it’s pretty damn hard to get an overzealous, gun-toting private citizen convicted of the same crime. We need only consider George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

So in those relatively rare instances where the legal system plods along as intended, and justice finally does seem to “prevail,” and a violent person is convicted by a jury of unlawfully taking the life of a young African-American, it hurts all the more when the perpetrator—the person found guilty by a jury of his or her peers—walks away without being punished.

It hurts all the more. In March of 1991, a black teenage girl, 15-year old Latasha Harlins, was shot and killed by the owner of a convenience store in Los Angeles. The owner of the store, a 51-year old Korean woman named Soon Ja Du, claimed that Latasha had placed a bottle of orange juice in her backpack and was going to leave the store without paying.

But eyewitnesses, along with physical evidence obtained at the scene, indicated otherwise. While the girl had, in fact, placed the orange juice bottle in her bag, she had money clutched in her hand, ready to pay, when she was accosted by the store owner, who had aggressively grabbed the girl’s backpack.

Clearly, this teenage girl fully intended to pay for the beverage. However, after being “assaulted” by the woman, Latasha reflexively responded in a manner that made sense. She struck back, in effect, defending herself. And then, in a show of defiance, she angrily threw the orange juice on the counter and proceeded to walk out of the store.

At this point, the proprietor removed a handgun from behind the counter, followed Latasha a few steps, and shot her point blank in the back of the head, killing her instantly. Although she tried to claim that, “fearing for her life,” she had shot Latasha in self-defense, the testimony of two witnesses, plus footage from the store’s security camera, told a different story. In truth, she sneaked up on Latasha and “executed” her.

The jury found Soon Ja Du guilty of “voluntary manslaughter,” a crime that carries a maximum sentence in California of 16 years in prison. But instead of jail time, the judge, one Joyce Karlin, sentenced Ja Du to five years probation, 400 hours of community service, and a fine of $500.

If I’m not mistaken, in 1991, $500 was also the maximum fine you could be assessed for littering. So, very broadly speaking, it could be said that blowing the head off a black teenager, and illegally discarding your sandwich wrapper, were now rendered equal in the eyes of the Law.

In the matter of Latasha Harlins, with the State vs. Soon Ja Du, the jury had performed its duty admirably. The jury had spoken. And Judge Karlin went and made a mockery of it. Two centuries earlier, Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have allowed such a thing to happen to Sally Hemings, the slave woman he was bedding. Even back when slavery was still legal, there was such a thing as “justice.”

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

March 25, 2019
Dave Lindorff
The TSA’s Role as Journalist Harasser and Media ‘Watchdog’
Tanya Golash-Boza – Michael Golash
Epifanio Camacho: a Militant Farmworker Brushed Out of History
Robert Fisk
Don’t Believe the Hype: Here’s Why ISIS Hasn’t Been Defeated
Jack Rasmus
The Capitulation of Jerome Powell and the Fed
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s Moves to the Right
John Feffer
After Trump
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9/11
Dean Baker
The Importance of Kicking Up: Changing Market Structures So the Rich Don’t Get All the Money
Lawrence Wittner
What Democratic Socialism Is and Is Not
Thomas Knapp
Suppressing Discussion Doesn’t Solve the Problem. It is the Problem.
Stephen Cooper
“I’m a Nine-Star General Now”: an Interview with Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson
Andrew Moss
Immigration and the Democratic Hopefuls
Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail