Dear Sandra Bland, I’m so sorry the justice system failed you. It has been a year since your life was robbed. They say so much can happen in a year, but Miss Bland... Not the way you would have hoped. Things have gotten worse. If police brutality and the absence of criminal justice reform were a form of cancer, it would be the most aggressive doctors have ever seen. Between the mistrials in the Freddie Gray's case, the lack of an indictment in your case, and the past seven days between Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas - the past year has reminded us that black families are being destroyed, black people are being murdered, and black skin is being targeted.
28-year-old Bland’s arrest came at a time where police were under national scrutiny for the way they target black suspects; her death is just one amid a sea of black lives taken by police under suspicious conditions. To add more fuel to the fire, her death was ruled a suicide, a decision Bland’s family, and activists strongly disagree with, which may reflect sentiments stemming from an excerpt from Assata Shakur’s autobiography. In it, Assata said that it is not " uncommon to find a prisoner hanged or burned to death in his cell." He goes on to explain that "no matter how suspicious the circumstances, these deaths are always ruled “suicides.”
Words from a mother.
Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, stated, “I wasn’t there. But as a mother, my inner voice is telling me that she did not do that.” Reed-Veal later went onto say, “It’s the secrecy of it all… I simply can’t have faith in a system that’s not inclusive of my family.” Police claim Bland hanged herself in her Waller County jail cell, meanwhile, Bland’s family argue that the jail was “reckless” in neglecting her safety.
On the campaign trail.
The case has commanded the attention of the nation, even for those busy on the campaign trail. Democratic Presidential Candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders issued subtle criticisms following the grand jury decision saying, “There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman.”
The Sandra Bland case is a product of the devastating culmination of social inequalities that has been perpetuated by hate and bigotry for centuries and requires more than just a few news sound bites to fully comprehend unless further evaluated. This is more than just a civil rights issue—this is a human rights issue that deserves to be properly addressed by our justice system starting with a revision in the grand jury selection and indictment process.
Is the grand jury selection process rigged?
Through the 1986 Batson v. Kentucky case, both the defense and prosecution are given a certain amount of peremptory challenges it can use to excuse a juror for any given reason, even if it is as trivial as being “too cocky.” The prosecution, unfortunately, manipulates this strategy to exclude as many minorities from jury service as possible in hopes of fulfilling what appear to be racially charged agendas.
Batson ruling historic.
While Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall agreed that the Batson ruling was indeed historic, he also acknowledged the decision “will not end racial discrimination that peremptories inject into the jury-selection process. That goal can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely.”
Lawyers, on the other hand, are not too keen on the practice dissolving because they “need to be confident that a particular juror is someone they can talk to, someone they can persuade,” according to Washington lawyer Jeffrey T. Green, who often represents the interests of defense lawyers before the Supreme Court.