A Community Contribution by Stephanie Grise
When Judge Wilson handed down his ruling in what St. Louisans refer to as “The Stockley Verdict,” I was shaken. That ruling, which decided the fate of a law enforcement officer on trial for taking a life, caused me to question my role in our community as an attorney committed to social justice and as an attorney of color. Reading the judge’s words and opinions, I reflected on how the prosecutors presented the case, and it hurt me deeply to conclude that the system was designed to create a presumption of either guilt or innocence depending solely on how someone looked. From the circumstances that led the officer to pursue the victim that night, to how the circuit attorney’s office decided to file the charges and present its case, it seemed to all revolve around the looks of the victim. On top of it, the judge filled his written opinion with accolades for the police officer but only dismissive and racist comments about the victim. The verdict serves as a painful reminder that the system is loaded against poor communities and communities of color.