In an unusual statement yesterday, the seven justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday called on their fellow judges and lawyers to do something about "the inequity and injustice that is the legacy of slavery, of Jim Crow, and of the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans."
Although they included themselves in that admonition, the justices, in fact, have been doing something about that, through their decisions in recent years, such as:
Commonwealth vs. Warren, 2016: A cop's hunch and the fact a black man was wearing a hoodie were not enough probable cause to detain and search him - even if he did try to run away from an officer:
We do not eliminate flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis whenever a black male is the subject of an investigatory stop. However, in such circumstances, flight is not necessarily probative of a suspect's state of mind or consciousness of guilt. Rather, the finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for FIO encounters suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt. Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity. Given this reality for black males in the city of Boston, a judge should, in appropriate cases, consider the report's findings in weighing flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus.
Commonwealth vs. Robertson, 2018: The court ordered a new trial for a black man convicted of murder because the judge in the case did not question whether the prosecution was using its allowed challenges to prospective jurors to exclude blacks. Also see Commonwealth vs. Fuentes, Commonwealth vs. Jones and Commonwealth vs. Ortega, both of which involved similar jury-selection issues.
Commonwealth vs. Williams, 2019: Believing the justice system is biased against black men was not enough reason to exclude a possible juror from a black man's trial, that a juror with "firmly held beliefs shaped by her life experiences," can still be part of a fair trial, the court ruled.
Commonwealth vs. Meneus, 2017: Being one of several black men standing on a corner after gunfire was not by itself enough reason to frisk one of them.
Boston Police Department vs. Civil Service Commission, 2019: The Boston Police Department was told to stop testing prospective promotion candidates with a hair-based cocaine test that black officers had long said produced false positives for them.