A controversial book released by Yorkshire Publishing, “Guilty When Black,” is raising eyebrows in nation where law enforcement and police unions have long been considered protectors of the people. The question is: which people are they protecting?
In Oklahoma, as many states, where police oversight and qualified immunity are staunchly guarded and where choke holds and racial injustice get nothing more than a passing nod, the book is a microcosm of life on the streets of the Black community.
Author Carol Mersch follows the case of Miashah Moses, a 23-year-old Black girl in Tulsa. In 2013, Moses left her two nieces, 4-year-old Noni and 18-month-old Nylah, alone in their apartment for eight minutes while she took out the garbage. During that time, a fire broke out and
killed the girls.
The tragedy sparked a fallacious criminal case against the distraught Moses. Held in jail for years on an unpayable $500,000 bond, she was charged at one point with second-degree murder by prosecutors who argued that she willfully neglected the girls by fleeing the apartment to buy drugs and started the fire by leaving a pan of grease on the stove.
The case was weak: The supposed drug dealer testified that Moses was not the woman he met that day, and copious evidence surfaced that the building’s faulty wiring had caused similar fires. But Moses’ pro bono attorney never told her about the defective wiring and instead pressured her into a plea bargain and a 15-year sentence in Mabel Bassett women’s prison, a callous place.
Through Moses and her family, Mersch maps society’s very uneven playing field: the benefit of the doubt and lenient sentencing that White defendants receive for actions similar to Moses’; the poverty that puts Black people more often in harm’s way; police corruption that sent innocent defendants to prison, and cases such as the shooting of a black suspect, Eric Harris in 2015 by white Reserve Sheriff’s deputy, Robert Bates, who mistakenly grabbed his Smith & Wesson instead of his Taser and shoots Harris point blank in the back while another officer had him pinned to the ground with a knee on his head.
The author sets these misfortunes against a history of racial injustice in Tulsa dating back to the 1921 Race Massacre, the largest slaughter of Blacks in US history. The animosity still lingers.
As a nonfiction expert, Mersch uses her mastery of journalistic storytelling to craft an authentic and compelling piece based on six years of painstaking research and interviews. The result is a troubling look at justice that is anything but colorblind.
“The nooses have long since left the trees,” says Mersch, “but their specters hang like ghosts in the halls of justice.”
SOURCE Yorkshire Publishing
Rod Washington Writer, filmmaker, model railroader, dreamer, posting videos and articles about trains. Also, posting railfanning videos and updates about his own model railroad layout via his webpage, the rail project (coming soon).