Heather Mac Donald warns felons will use California's 'systemic bias' defense to avoid accountability

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Convicted felons may soon be pouring out of prison and onto California's already crime-ridden streets thanks to a law ratified in September 2020 by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Manhattan Institute fellow and essayist Heather Mac Donald noted in the Wall Street Journal Monday that because of AB 2542, the so-called California Racial Justice Act, "every felon serving time in the state's prisons and jails can now retroactively challenge his conviction and sentencing on the ground of systemic bias."

"To prevail, the incarcerated prisoner need not show that the police officers, prosecutors, judge or jurors in his case were motivated by racism or that his proceedings were unfair," wrote Mac Donald. "If he can demonstrate that in the past, criminal suspects of his race were arrested, prosecuted or sentenced more often or more severely than members of other racial groups, he will be entitled to a new trial or sentence."

Around the time of its ratification, Newsom suggested that Democratic Assemblyman Ash Kalra's AB 2542 demonstrated that California "is dedicated to leading the nation on confronting and addressing systemic injustice."

The governor's office noted further that AB 2542 was a "countermeasure to address a widely condemned 1987 legal precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of McCleskey v. Kemp."

Leftists apparently regard the precedent set in McCleskey as problematic because it "has the functional effect of requiring that criminal defendants prove intentional discrimination when challenging racial bias in their legal process."

The need to cite actual proof, according to the governor's office, amounts to "a high standard ... almost impossible to meet."

California's 2020 law, alternatively "establishes a new state cause of action that simply presumes that the justice system is biased, obviating the need to show individual discriminatory intent," wrote Mac Donald.

AB 2542 amended the state's penal code to enable convicts to challenge a criminal conviction if they can show that

  • Anyone involved in their case, including judges, attorneys, police, and jurors, "exhibited bias or animus towards the defendant because of the defendant's race, ethnicity, or national origin";
  • "Race, ethnicity, or national origin was a factor in the exercise of peremptory challenges," even in the absence of "purposeful discrimination";
  • The defendant received a more serious charge or conviction than similarly situated defendants of other other races or national origins; or that
  • The prosecution "more frequently sought or obtained convictions for more serious offenses against people" of the defendant's race and national origin.

In practice, this will help liberate felons or help suspected criminals dodge greater accountability.

Russell Austin has been accused of fatally slashing a pregnant 25-year-old woman, Erica Johnson, and killing her unborn child. Mosby, the head of a robbery-prostitution ring previously found guilty of multiple murders, is on the hook for the gang-related killing of Darryl King-Divens.

Facing the death penalty in Riverside County, Austin and Mosby both filed challenges under the California Racial Justice Act in order to avoid a "death qualified" jury, claiming black defendants were 14 times more likely to have death sentences brought against them than white defendants in similar cases.

Mac Donald indicated that critical details can be glossed over in the racial comparisons advanced in such challenges.

"If a defense expert seeks to show that defendants from one racial group were sentenced more harshly in the past than defendants of other races, he can ignore criminal history in composing the comparison groups," wrote Mac Donald. "He can ignore the heinousness of the crimes committed by the two groups. As long as they were charged under a similar statute, they will be deemed sufficiently comparable to build a case for prosecutorial racism."

Despite the clear potential for abuse, Claudia Van Wyk, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Capital Punishment Project suggested in January that cutting suspected killers like Austin and Mosby slack over the perception of "systemic racial bias" is "exactly how the California Racial Justice Act is meant to work."

Mac Donald underscored that this scheme, which defense lawyers have already rushed to exploit "will produce unequal justice for victims as well as offenders."

"Racial disparities in prosecuting and sentencing reflect disparities in criminal offending," noted the Manhattan Institute fellow. "In Los Angeles, blacks are 21 times as likely as whites to commit a violent crime, 36 times as likely to commit a robbery, and 57 times as likely to commit a homicide, according to police department data."

Mac Donald highlighted how this data is the result of reports from victims and witnesses who are disproportionately black.

Ultimately, victims like Erica Johnson and Darryl King-Divens may be denied justice in the name of "racial justice."

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Leftist says she has questions for white people who claim to support racial justice yet still have good relationships with most of their family members

Rewire News Group senior vice president and executive editor Jessica Mason Pieklo posted a tweet on Wednesday declaring that she has questions for white people who claim to support racial justice but also have good relationships with most of their relatives.

"Honestly if you're a white person who says they're committed to racial justice and you're in good standing with most your family I have *questions* for you and they are definitely pointed," Pieklo tweeted. "Full disclosure I’m in contact with exactly three members of my birth and extended family for this specific reason," she added.

\u201cFull disclosure I\u2019m in contact with exactly three members of my birth and extended family for this specific reason\u201d
— Jessica Mason Pieklo (@Jessica Mason Pieklo) 1657161034

"That first question is how committed are you, really," she wrote. "Even the good white families are a *scosh* racist when you scratch the surface," she claimed.

Inez Stepman of the Independent Women's Forum tweeted, "This is sick and twisted and makes a mockery of family and loyalty."

"Are leftists unaware of history when it comes to their kind advocating for followers to alienate family, do they just not care, or do they actually believe it serves a good outcome?" Daily Caller editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll tweeted.

"White people love to tell other white people how to not be racist and like y'all can stop doing that. Nobody is keeping score for how not racist you are. You don't get a good grade in not being racist. Focus on your own s[***]," someone else wrote.

Leftists have been up in arms about a Supreme Court decision that enables states to ban abortions — in a piece posted last month, Pieklo described the high court's decision as "catastrophic for millions of people in this country, for the rule of law, and our democracy."

"We're officially living in a post-Roe world," Pieklo wrote. "Knowing this day would come doesn’t make the reality any easier to process. It’s tough. It’s dark. But as trite as this may sound so soon after such a devastating loss of autonomy and humanity at the Supreme Court, the fight is far from over—and I, for one, am going nowhere until it’s finished."

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Thomas Jefferson statue removed from NYC City Hall because former US president, author of Declaration of Independence owned slaves

A statue of Thomas Jefferson — America's third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence — was removed Monday from City Hall in New York City, where it stood for nearly two centuries, because Jefferson was a slave owner, the New York Post reported.

What are the details?

About a dozen art handlers with Marshall Fine Arts spent several hours carefully removing the 884-pound statue from its pedestal in City Council chambers and packing it in a wooden crate before moving it out the back door, the Post said.

The 1833 statue will be on long-term loan to the New York Historical Society, the paper said, adding that the plan is to place the statue in the NYHS lobby and reading room.

More from the Post:

Keri Butler, executive director of the Public Design Commission that voted to banish the statue, at first tried to block the press from witnessing its removal. Butler relented after members of the mayor's office and City Council intervened.

The commission also attempted to vote on the statue's removal without a public hearing on the controversial move until The Post revealed the plan.

"Removing a monument without a public conversation about why it's happening is useless. New Yorkers all need to talk about who we want to honor and why," Erin Thompson, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, told the paper.

Thompson — author of the forthcoming book "Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America's Public Monuments" — added to the Post that the removal of the Jefferson statue may lead to broader historical understandings.

"Moving this statue doesn't mean New Yorkers will forget who Thomas Jefferson was," Thompson also told the paper, "but some of them might learn from the controversy that the man who wrote 'all men are created equal' owned over 600 of his fellow humans."

Anything else?

The city's Public Design Commission last month voted unanimously to relocate the Jefferson statue.

Queens Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said at the public hearing on the statue that it made her "deeply uncomfortable knowing that we sit in the presence of a statue that pays homage to a slaveholder who fundamentally believed that people who look like me were inherently inferior, lacked intelligence, and were not worthy of freedom or rights."

While removing the statue was a discussion point for about 20 years, the effort picked up steam last year following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked often violent protests around the country — and a number of toppled and vandalized statues and monuments.

"I don't think it should exist," Assemblyman Charles Barron said at the hearing in regard to the Jefferson statue. "I think it should be put in storage or destroyed or whatever."