Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Racism, the Law, and Class Privilege

Reading an article in the local paper about a homicide/assault case that involved a boating accident, I started to think about what was being implied in the case being presented before the public(through the article) and the rhetoric, if you will, behind the legislation involved. Firstly, I noticed that some prominent society names were involved-Tatum, Cumbie... these are people with some social standing in the South(at least in this region). That led me to considering, as I read further in this article, how this case,and more pertinently the defendant, was being handled. So, apparently one person died instantly in the boat collision, caused by one Mr. Cumbie who was driving a boat while intoxicated and crashed it into a boat belonging to the Tatums (said victims). The other person suffered in the hospital, unconscious, until she died several moths later. What the prosecutors have chosen to do in this case was to charge Mr. Cumbie with homicide by vessel-which carries a sentence of 1-5 years in prison and in the second case, charge him with second-degree assault, which carries a sentence of 1-10 years. The prosecutors decided to only pursue the second degree assault charge. The first question that burdened me was why would they pursue a less severe sentence in the second charge? Is this due to this person's class status? If he were black, I have no doubt that the book would have been brought down on him harshly. The second question that burdens me is, why does the "crime" or homocide-by-vessel only carry a sentence of 1-5 years? Is the person no less dead? Is this not a homicide--at least in the second degree? Might the reasoning for this be perhaps that the people who most likely would be found in these types of predicaments come from certain backgrounds with certain class standings...It is always interesting, and really pertinent to think about these things. It is definitely something to ponder....

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