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Injustice: Which Matters More - Race Or Wealth?

I had this story in the hopper for a while, and I'm not sure how I forgot to post it.

Sue Kennon, who is white, robbed four pharmacies in southern Virginia with a toy gun. Ollin Crawford, who is black, robbed four banks in Fairfax County with a fake grenade. No one was hurt in any of the robberies. Kennon and Crawford were both sentenced under the three strikes law since each robbery was treated as a separate offense. Kennon received a sentence of 48 years without the possibility of parole, while Crawford received a sentence of 70 years, also without the possibility of parole. Neither had any previous felonious activity on their record.

Kennon comes from a wealthy, politically connected family. They drummed up media coverage of her case and paid for lawyers who fought for years to have her sentence commuted. Two years ago, the state Parole Board decided that the three-time loser law should not have been applied to her case.

Crawford comes from a working-class family. She has no army of high price lawyers fighting for her. She remains in jail, not eligible for release until 2020.

While the different treatment (post conviction) may have something to do with skin color, I believe that it has more to do with the inequities between rich and poor in the legal system. There is no better analogy than the old "you get what you pay for" line in these two cases.

Read all about this case in the Washington Post, the Washington Times.

So my question to you for discussion is which is the bigger inequity factor: race or wealth?


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Comments (6)

I'm not sure comparing two ... (Below threshold)

I'm not sure comparing two cases in two different counties with two different judges and juries tells us a whole lot. Both got very long sentences initially. It may be that wealth was a deciding factor, but there may also have been material differences in the cases.

I'm not sure there was subs... (Below threshold)

I'm not sure there was substantial inequity in the sentancing, but in post conviction treatment there certainly has been.

Wealth is by far the bigges... (Below threshold)

Wealth is by far the biggest factor, ie. OJ. However race or social position is also a giant consideration in many areas.

You might also be seeing a ... (Below threshold)

You might also be seeing a gender inequity--sentencing for women tends to be lighter for similar crimes.

My bad. Just realized that ... (Below threshold)

My bad. Just realized that Ollin is a woman, too.

Damn my poor reading skills.

Obviously wealth makes the ... (Below threshold)

Obviously wealth makes the most important initial difference in terms of representation and the ability to take a case to trial (and appeal). Of course, most criminal dispositions are a result of plea bargains, where outside influences (such as a willingness to go to trial) favor the well-off/well-connected.

However, the system is also justifiably concerned about the use of peremptory and for-cause jury challenges that result in, for instance, a disproportionately white jury where a non-white defendant is involved.




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