Walter Scott and the presumption of guilt for black Americans

THE WASHINGTON POST, 6 DECEMBER 2016, FEAT. PROF. SETH STOUGHTON:

To blame the jury that deadlocked and prompted a mistrial Monday in the case of a white South Carolina police officer who shot Walter Scott dead, hitting him with five bullets as Scott fled a routine traffic stop, is to miss the larger, grotesque point.

It is a point that activists and people of color have been attesting to, and protesting about, for decades now. The point is, simply, that the presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of our criminal-justice system, at least in theory, is rivaled by another American tradition — the presumption of guilt that weighs upon black Americans and the devastatingly disproportionate punishments it wreaks upon its victims. It can be seen in the way black men are so often described as hyper-aggressive superhuman threats by prosecutors looking to convict them or police officers seeking to justify a use of force against them.

<Read More>