Injustice in the Courtroom


A bunch of you asked me on FB and Twitter if I’d write a little bit more about the trial yesterday, so here is the more extended version.

I drove down to Murphysboro, IL yesterday (this is their courthouse above) to testify on behalf of a young woman that has been part of our congregation since she was a teenager. It is a case that’s been dragging on since her senior year of college at SIU, and yesterday was the sentencing.

It’s not unusual for me to be in court with one of the younger members of my congregation. I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that even the smallest offense can turn into an epic punishment for someone that doesn’t have the luxury of being white.

That reality was on full display yesterday. Usually when I go as a character witness to speak on behalf of someone, I am aware that they did something wrong. I am not sitting on the stand pretending that what they did was okay, or that because I am their pastor the offense should somehow go unpunished. Instead, I’m there to let the judge, jury, and lawyers know that this is a real person, who has a real family and community, and that we are there for him/her as an extended support system. I’ve seen firsthand the difference that makes in how they are treated. When the defendant (especially non-white defendant) comes up by themselves, with nobody there to advocate for him or her, they often receive unusually harsh treatment. That is a ‘no duh’ to some of you, but a shock to others. To the second group, I could tell you some stories that you wouldn’t believe.

Anyway, this case felt different, because the offense of this young woman was so minor. And even when you listen to the prosecuting attorney’s side of the case, you find yourself wondering if there was really any offense at all, other than having the guts to defend and stand up for herself.

When this young lady was 21 she was hanging out with a couple friends at the local Panera, and they convinced her to come hang out with them at a bar for awhile. She is not the bar type, and rarely drinks, but decided to go with them for awhile. When she got there she still had her coffee from Panera, and the bouncer asked why she had that. She told him she wasn’t going to be drinking, and asked if she could bring it in. He told her it was fine.

They hung out for awhile, and when they left she still had her coffee. There was a new bouncer at the door, and he told her she couldn’t leave with the coffee cup, for fear that it might have alcohol. She told him that it was just coffee, and that the other bouncer had given her permission, and proceeded to exit. He slapped the coffee cup out of her hand, and that was when things got crazy. They exchanged words, and after he called her a black b#*# she slapped him. At that point two other bouncers got involved, and they beat her up pretty good.

It finally got broken up, and she and her friends just wanted to leave. But there was a cop there by that point, and he was buddies with the bouncers. He wanted to make an example out of her, and according to some of the early testimony of one of the bouncers, they told him to just leave it alone – that it was over and done with. But he went out and pursued her and started harassing her. She didn’t like how he was talking to her, so she tried to take out her phone to record him. He slapped both the phone and purse out of her hand, and told her that she better not get smart with him or else. She collected her things and asked if she was under arrest, and he said no. But then, just as she was about to leave, he changed his mind and arrested her, and put her in jail for 36 hours.

That seems like it should be the end of the story. Even then I would have seen it as unfair that she went into jail for 36 hours while there was no accountability for them. But it was far from the end. This cop decided that he was going to make an example out of her for being smart with him, and went on a warpath. He went back and wrote a number of citations, adding on as the weeks went (something that seems illegal to me… i’m still working on how that happened). When I asked her lawyer how that happened, he said that it seemed like the cop had it out for her and wrote up as many offenses as he could think of, and kept adding on with the hope that something would stick.

When all was said and done, he wrote her up for 7 offenses – a felony for assaulting an officer, 3 misdemeanors for assault and battery (the 3 bouncers), 1 misdemeanor for trespassing (during the altercation with the bouncers she was pushed outside, and then came back in), and 2 misdemeanors for resisting arrest. When you hear of seven offenses you think of someone who robbed a store, not a petite 21 year old woman who got into it with 3 full size bouncers (one of whom is particularly massive).

She found a lawyer that was well known in the community to defend her, and ultimately used up all her savings on the defense trial (a travesty by itself – she is the first person in her family to go to college, and took hard earned money that should have gone to her social work degree and used it on this crazy trial). He defended her case before a jury, and was shocked by the outcome. She was found innocent of the felony, which was a no-duh. He claimed that she kicked him, but there was zero proof of that. But the jury found her guilty of all six misdemeanors.

The defense attorney said it was one of the most shocking things he has ever witnessed in his 40 years of law in Murphysborough. She has an impeccable track record and has never had even a small brush with the law. He said he couldn’t find a single explanation for the jury’s decision other than the fact that the officer was so determined to make her suffer.

Her case is one of those places where you could see racism being played out both in subtle and obvious ways. The assistant prosecuting attorney (APA), who I got to see in full action yesterday, was dripping with contempt for this young lady. It is so bizarre. I don’t know what was happening in her heart, or how her actions play outside of the courtroom, but she struck me as an absolute racist. She repeatedly painted a picture of this young woman being dangerous, irresponsible, and reckless.

At one point yesterday, as the APA was going on a diatribe about how dangerous the defendant was, the defense lawyer finally interrupted. He stood up and said, “Your honor, in 40 years of practicing law i’m not sure I’ve ever defended someone with a more pristine record. She put herself through a great high school, she is the first in her family to graduate college, and she’s going to enroll in graduate school once this gets resolved. She has a long track record of volunteerism in the neighborhood where she lives. She has 11 letters of recommendations from a wide array of people who know her, including doctors, lawyers, and clergy. She has her pastor here, who is attesting to her nobility and character. When you see a young woman who has such a sterling record, and then there is one instance where her character is called into question, doesn’t that make you wonder what’s really happening here? The accusations being made by the APA are just ludicrous. On top of that, the record already states that the bouncer is the one who initiated the physical confrontation. At what point do we stop calling her a criminal and admit that this whole thing is just plain ridiculous?”

The judge asked the ASA to respond, and her words sent a chill down my spine. “This may not be the most egregious offense we’ve seen from a college student, but that doesn’t change the fact that she made a poor choice. If she would have kept her mouth shut none of this would have ever happened. We have to make an example out of her.”

Remembering those words floods me with anger, even as I write them right now. “If she would have kept her mouth shut?” Really? Did the APA really just say that? That was what the defendant was guilty of? Opening her mouth? And now you are going to make an example out of her?

Right then the judge should have said, “Of course that is true. This is a witch hunt. It is ludicrous.” But he didn’t.

In fact, that is some of what burns me the most. The judge seemed like he was kind hearted and sympathetic. He was very moved by the fact that I came, and mentioned it a number of times. He publicly stated how impressive her record was, and wished her luck in her future endeavors. He told her that he hoped she got into a good graduate school, and said he was impressed with who she was, and that he believed she would make a positive impact.

But kind intentions aren’t enough. He let her hang on the two counts of resisting arrest, and those are real. They will have real consequences.

The defense lawyer pushed the judge on this very fact, holding him to his words. He asked the judge to overturn the ruling on the two counts of resisting arrest.

Do you want to know what the claim of the officer is of how she ‘resisted arrest?’ The officer claims that she went limp when they tried to put her in the car. That’s it.

The defense lawyer gave an impassioned plea. Even if she did go limp – and that seems arguable – it doesn’t actually match the minimum description of resisting arrest from an officer of the peace. He begged the judge to dismiss those two counts, and to let her move on with her life.

But he didn’t. Even as he thanked me for coming, and even as he acknowledge how impressive it was that she has 11 letters of recommendation, and even as he noted that she has any level of a track record that would even remotely suggest she is a troublemaker or violent, he refused to waive those 2.

The defense lawyer told me later that not only could he have done it, but that he should have done it. There was nothing substantial in the evidence to even make the claim or resisting arrest. From a legal standpoint – not just a moral one – the right thing to do was to overturn those. But he protected the status quo, and she will be the one to suffer.

There was other stuff too. I could go on and on. When the pictures of her bruises were shown – pictures I personally saw and that were obvious signs of her having been beaten up – the ASA claimed that her skin is too dark and that the pictures shouldn’t count as evidence because it can’t be proven that they are actual bruises. Dear Lord that woman made me crazy…

At the end of the day I know that this young woman will be able to overcome the two misdemeanor convictions and keep moving forward. But she will never forget the way the ASA talked about her and demonized her. When the trial finally ended she just hugged me and sobbed uncontrollably for what felt like hours. No words were exchanged, but I knew exactly what she was feeling.

I need to end this because I am getting too worked up again, and the little one is crying. This will be my final word for now. It breaks my heart not only that this happened to her, but that some version of this happens to hundreds of young people everyday. There is a narrative that gets pushed onto them – a narrative that claims they are dangerous, reckless, and a threat to society. It is an unequal narrative biased towards some and against others, and it is unjust, racist, and wrong.

Because of that, something little like getting into it with a bouncer can turn into jail time and a potential felony. Something bigger, like making the kind of mistake that many of us white folks made when we were the same age, quickly escalates into serious incarceration time and the vicious cycle outlined by Michelle Alexander in the “New Jim Crow.”

I was reading a blog post from Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic today (thanks Deepak for sending that my way), and he put words to something that I deeply feel but often struggle to articulate:

“Our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes.” (From his post “Black Boy Interrupted“)

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104 responses to “Injustice in the Courtroom”

  1. As Dr. Perkins would say… just because we have law, does not mean we have justice… Honestly, I usually read your post, Daniel; but, this was hard for me to finish(SIU is my alma mater, too). Racism is alive & well… it is a heritage that still needs lots of redemption and so many whites are naive to it & it’s collective effects. I see it in the city… but, when I go downstate I feel it even more… ugh.

    1. There is no JUSTICE in IL. anymore. NONE . Take the STEROIDS away from law enforecement, And BOUNCERS, or you could be next…………..

  2. This is reminder that we don’t have to go far to experience mind-blowing racism. I’m so upset for this young lady. Can we do something for her? Our actions will not make this experience go away, but maybe we can provide some support for her. Can we raise money to help cover what she lost on this trial?

    1. Thanks Bryan for the message. I’ve been really encouraged by the response of people to assist in any way possible. I think we’ll set up a fund through the church to help her with the expenses. I’ve also had a lawyer already reach out and offer to represent her appeal process pro bono, which is really cool

      1. Mary Helen Yeck Avatar
        Mary Helen Yeck

        Please let me know where to send money to help with her expenses. I am appalled that this happened and want to help.

  3. That’s a good idea @btradtke. I’m also thinking of something like that – like putting her in the middle of a circle and having the community heap words of truth, praise, and encouragement over her. And then having some others write prayer letters to the APA and her supervisors and the judge… faith-rooted organizing style.

    1. Thanks Misuzu, I like both of those ideas. I’ve been really trying to figure out what an effective, faith-rooted organizing response would be. The human side of me just wants to burn that place down and make this ASA have to look in a public mirror for her racism. But i’m not sure what the best way to respond is to this

  4. Yes, please let us know what we can do.

    1. Thanks for your note. I think we are going to set up some kind of fund to help her with legal expenses if you are at all interested in that.

  5. @btradtke, sign me up for whatever you guys decide to do. This is outrageous. My mom is going through a crazy trial as well. About 10 months ago I reported my license plates as stolen because they somehow fell off my car (and hid under the snow?). About a month ago my mom was driving my car when a cop pulled behind her (they were on a red light), he decided to look my license plate number and discovered hey were “stolen” (even though I was the rightful owner). My mom continued to turn and go into the library’s party lot to return some books. However, before she was even able to get out, the cop car pulled up behind her and asked my mom to stay in her car. She did. The cop asked f the license plates were stolen and my m said no (she didn’t know I had reported them as stolen) once she called my dad to let him know what was happening, she realized I had the proper documentation (police report) in my glove compartment. The cop asked for her license, but she doesn’t have one (she is not a resident). She made sure to mention that she has a Mexican drivers license, but she couldn’t show it because it got stolen (which is also true- and she has another police statement for that). He said that license didn’t count, yet apologized for even pulling her over and gave her a ticket for not having a license. It upset me so much! She has been driving her whole life and has never gotten a ticket!!! I went to court with her and When she went up to talk to the judge, she didn’t even bother to ask whether my mom was guilty or not, she immediately said she would have to pay a fine (of about $2000 or time in jail) for a mistake made by the officer. She will have to go back twice with lawyer (paid for by savings).. It’s ridiculous

    1. Sorry to hear about your mom’s experience. Frustrating…

  6. Hi Daniel–you just followed me on Twitter and I thought I’d check out your site, and I’m so glad I did. Thanks for posting this; this is enraging and horrifying and important. My heart hurts for your friend, and how badly she’s being treated by a system that’s ostensibly supposed to treat her justly. How sickening.

    I wrote a young adult book (coming out next year– that explores faith, racism and the court system, and while this disgusts and saddens me, it doesn’t at all surprise me.

    Looking forward to reading more from you.

    1. Hi Kelly – I just sent you a message on Twitter, but wanted to thank you here as well for your thoughtful comments. Glad to have connected with you here

    1. Thanks Ms. Ellis! I’ve had the chance to meet your husband a few times, and he actually spoke at our church a couple years ago. But I don’t believe I’ve yet had the fortune to meet you. I look forward to our paths crossing at some point!

  7. Daniel,
    Thank you for writing this. I am more human for having read it.
    Somehow, as troubling and sickening as this is, I need to read and know this reality is part of my world.

    Blessings, courage and strength to the young woman.

    1. John, hi! It’s been a long time… thanks for taking the time to read and respond, and to do so in such an authentic and vulnerable way. Blessings…

  8. Wow! As I read this, I could feel my blood pressure rising. Not only because of this incident but also because of my own experience with the Jackson County “justice” system. I’ve never seen such a racketeering 3-ring circus as Jackson County and a couple of judges and the states attorney office. It’s appalling to think this is our justice system at work. I’m sickened over her experience and the others I’ve read here also. What has become of the judicial system in southern Illinois?

  9. Thanks Traci – i keep having the same reaction!

  10. […] so much to all of you that have reached out or replied to my description of the “injustice in the courtroom.” It’s been really meaningful to see the way so many have rallied around this young […]

  11. I grew up in Murphysboro in the late ’50s through early 70’s… Racism was very real then and it obviously continues to this day. I am saddened by your story but very glad that you told it! As a fellow clergyperson, it is often our hard duty to hold the ones who cry because the system is unjust. Well done, thou good and faithful servant!!

  12. Daniel, let me assure you it is NOT the color of your skin when it pertains to the Court House / legal system in the Jackson County area. I am “white” as you put us in your story- I have very little respect for our legal system here as you can get your charges dropped depending on who you know. It is a very UNJUST system and from the laws, police departments, lawyer , states attorneys office, judges…..and the clerks office CROOKED.. that’s all I can say- my main question is… how did your friends case end up in the county’s hands in the first place? If it happened in Carbondale as you say and your friend is a college student, it should have been a city ordinance violation. As I said before, the students are given priority and special rules… as we wouldn’t want to deter students from staying at our Pristine.. ( sarcastic) College…. just my comments and feelings- but please understand, RACE is not the card that was played here…. as you said, it is friends of a Cop… lol what a disgrace…IM TOTALLY EMBARASSED TO ADMIT I LIVE IN THE AREA!

    1. Thanks for your message. I’m certainly not meaning to cast aspersions on the whole area or assume a certain attitude by the masses. But in this particular case it was very difficult to watch and experience

  13. Daniel: Very moving. I sympathize with you and the young lady. Obviously, there were things both sides could have done differently. The most important thing now is to move on with forgiveness. The greatest injustice every done by a court of law was to send Jesus Christ to His death. A man who committed no crime — like your friend — who was condemned to death, death on a cross. Some of His last words were “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.” That same Savior who was condemned to death was exalted by the Father and now sits at His right. In my life, I have experienced injustices by “other courts,” people who had some type of authority over me. I respected their authority — not their decisions — as the Word of God tells me and left “their decisions” in the Father’s hands, as Jesus did on the cross. The Father has always brought me out with a “high hand” and greatly exalted me with victory after victory. He will do the same for this young lady. He who sits on the throne in heaven is greater than all. Forgive and let God do His part.

    1. “Obviously, there were things both sides could have done differently.”

      In all honesty, what could this student have done differently? The ones who hold the power in this situation are the bouncers, the management, the police, the prosecuting attorney, and the judge. At every step of the way not one of them managed to snap out of their maintenance of the system to say “This is wrong. This isn’t worth our time, and she’s done nothing wrong.”

      We’re making this about the wrong person if we thing it’s about the defendant.

  14. Tom, thanks for your message. I follow what you’re saying, and agree with most of it. But I think we disagree with what and how the Bible tells us to respond to these kinds of things. Jesus said that its better for a person to have a millstone tied around his neck and thrown in the ocean than to harm a child, and urged his disciples to welcome all children in his name. He turned over the tables of the temple when they exploited the foreigners and charged exorbitant rates for offerings. I don’t think the response to injustice is passivity, but instead a God-focused, active response that protects the one harmed and calls attention to the principalities that are perpetuating the injustice. Maybe that’s how you see it too… I don’t mean to make assumptions about where you are coming from

  15. Emma Bankhead James Avatar
    Emma Bankhead James

    I was born and raised in Murphysboro and after high school I left NEVER to live there again. And as I visit I never stay long. Nothing has changed and if one really looked around you’d see that Murphysboro is dying. Most people that leave don’t return. I would never live there again nor my childern….

    1. Thanks for sharing Emma. Even as I hear your experience, I find myself wanting to be careful that I don’t portray my experience there as some type of broad view brush of the town. I’m sure there are many wonderful people there, as well as many wonderful law enforcement and legal folks… I’m just speaking to the specific experience I had. Not sure if that makes sense, but i felt the need to share that

    2. Kerry (Sims) Brockhagen Avatar
      Kerry (Sims) Brockhagen

      I don’t live in Murphysboro anymore, either, and I agree with the observation that there has been and still is a lot of bigotry in Southern Illinois. But Emma, I hope you didn’t feel that from everyone; many people do judge others only by the content of their character. I always admired you and hope you’re doing well. Daniel, I’m so sorry to read your story, and I pray that this can be a catalyst for further change in the area. Thank you for bringing it into the light. Please let your young friend know that I’m keeping her in my prayers.

  16. As someone who lives in Carbondale, IL which is right next door to Murphysboro, IL, I do know that racism still exists here.
    That being said however, I also know that while there are wonderful, honest people on the Carbondale police dept. (CPD), I also know from reading articles and stories on FB pages such as Justice for Molly and Justice for Dacquari(not sure on his name) that the CPD also has some NOT so honest people in it’s force and that there were major injustices done in these two cases I just mentioned!
    I am so SORRY and SAD to read of yet another! Tysm for sharing this Daniel!

    1. Hi Wendy, I addressed this in the comment above, but i very much agree. I have no doubt that there are wonderful, honest people in Carbondale and Murphysboro

  17. Ok I just finished and am crying and trying to remember that I am a devout Christian woman!
    I may have missed something though Daniel cuz I didn’t see what her punishment is; do you know?

    1. She has supervision for 4 of the misdemeanors, so those are in play. She was found guilty of 2 counts of resisting arrest

  18. What a horror story for this young woman. But sad to say, this is what southern Illinois is about–not just the blatant racism, but the abusive police and court system. I wish only the best for this young lady, and hope she keeps her head up. The system failed…she did not.

    1. Thanks for the comment Angela. I have no doubt that there are more good people than bad there, just like anywhere else. But in this case I agree – the system failed her.

  19. I have a friend at the paper that would like to know the girls name. She would like to look into it. Thank you

    1. Thanks Becky – lets keep in touch. I am trying to journey through all this with the young lady and figure out what all she’s up for. As that gets clearer I’d love to brainstorm with you and other locals in the area what is the best way to do that. Thanks again

  20. Were all 12 of the jury white?????

  21. I can help with the fund raising for her legal expenses. joe karmos

    1. Thanks Joe! We are now accepting donations through the church if you are interested. If you want more details you can email me at

  22. Daniel, I am with my mom right now and read this post to her aloud and I got very choked up and now my eyes are blurry and nose runny. Thank you for sharing this. Her story is so upsetting because I think of my former middle school students in Chicago and how this is or could be their story in many ways. You are a great pastor. God bless you and this young woman.

    1. Thanks Susan – I think you are exactly right (about how it could have been one of your students… smile). Always nice to hear from you. Please tell mom i said hi!

  23. As difficult as this was to read, I’m so glad you shared it. I teach courses on race and diversity at a community college near there, and it is a continuous fight to get my students to understand that race DOES still impact people’s lives and opportunities. They just don’t see it, or have been conditioned not to see it. I hate to see an example like what this young lady went through, and I can only hope that this served to force at least someone along the way– the judge, a jury member, anyone– to take a hard look at the real inequalities people of color experience everyday. I will pray for a reasonable sentence and the most positive outcome possible for your young friend.

    1. Thanks for your message, and for carrying on the important work of education and awareness. That’s important!

  24. this post is about one of my friends in carbondale. I am shocked to hear the story in this much detail but also not surprised. Southern Illinois has an extremely racist background and the final quote about the law and legacy is the absolute truth. If you, she or someone who knows more about the trial and its details starts a petition on i will definitely support it. I will sign it, donate 10-25$ for promoting it on the site, and help out in any other way that i can to turn the tables and make an example out of this situation. We need to pool together resources to bring light onto this situation. the APA needs to receive some type of complaint on her record, my friend and the girl to whom you are referring needs to get a new trial, and/or all of her convictions repealed, and the bouncers need to be tried in court. Go to copy and paste this, link your blog. lets make this happen.

    1. Great, thanks so much Andrea.

  25. Daniel…I really wish you would reply to me as I think we need to have a one-on-one conversation. I see that you have published several posts by natives of Murphysboro, whom I recognize, and who share your concern about racism. I, too, share that concern which is why I’ve been contacting you…I also see that my post was not published, as is your right to do so on your blog but that still leaves my questions on this issue unanswered. Randy contacted me and said he had an email from you and I’d appreciate the same. This area has a lot of growing to do in many areas, it is riddled with ignorance and poverty. There are other issues which I address in my blog of the depersonalization of women and children. But I’ve also seen your sarcastic photos and remarks about Southern Illinois on Twitter and while I personally don’t necessarily disagree, I need to hear from you why that is appropriate. I feel that it only fans the flame of judgment that we both claim to try to stop. I will look forward to your e-mail at Thank you.

    1. I sent you an email, and I agree on what you said about sarcastic photos and remarks. I wasn’t anticipating that this would be so public, and I’m going to be far more careful what and how I say things

      1. Hi Daniel,

        We have far much more in common with this issue than not. I appreciate your visibility and continued effort to shed some light on these racial issues. I will e-mail you privately to discuss anything further.

  26. I’m totally up for any fund raising, community awareness, story sharing, protest, love-in, or barn raising in response to this miscarriage of justice. I am shocked and deeply shamed that this happened in our county. This is awful, a travesty, and I would love to be involved in the truth/love response by the real representatives of our community, which is the people who live here.

    1. Thanks so much for your email Abigail. I’ve been moved by how many have made themselves available to take a next step in this, something we are all still trying to discern together. I’m glad to have your info, and will certainly be in touch if there is some type of coordinated response that makes sense. Thanks again.

  27. Their is no doubt,that justice is gives me the feeling that a group of people can come together in mob action and legaly frame up an individual stress them tear down their ego and manipulate the legal system into being their strong arm.
    What a disgrace im sure this young woman will be going through the stress of battling with this legal entity for years to come either making court appearances for proof of payment or doing more jail time for warrants if she misses court then she will have to come up with bail money what a shame that happened to this young lady trying to build a life for herself and know she has spent her funds and is defenseless more or less in my opinion and has to suffer the loss of funds and has the burden of making them up for herself

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Darrell

  28. This is horrible and I am so sorry to hear. I have to admit, it scares me as well. I am still a student at SIU and have been mistreated by local authorities as well and have been told of some things that local authorities are lax on. In fact, I’ve even been told that, in a bad situation in my own home, that I would not be able to count on the local authorities to assist me in any way. It’s a scary place to live in when you can’t even count on the people that are supposed to protect you, that your taxes go to pay for, and even could be a victim of them instead. For the most part southern Illinois as a community has lost my respect.

    1. Thanks for sharing Evelyn. That does sound like a scary reality to have to live under. Hopefully events like this will help bring greater levels of awareness and accountability, and that it will become a safer and more just place to live for everyone

  29. I guess I’ve been blind for so long I didn’t know racism was this bad in Southern Il. I just can’t believe that this young woman was treated this way in the court room. I don’t know of anyone,black or white who would not defend them selves to that bouncers words. I have so much to say but can’t find the words because it makes me so angry. I wish her all the best and will say a prayer for her.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Donna!

  30. I think Bill o’Reilly needs to hear about this. As the Grandmother of a mixed grandchild it scares me to death of what could happen because of racism!

    1. I hear what you are saying Debby!

  31. My daughter will be graduating from SIU this May and it hurts my heart this could have easily been her. She has experienced racism first hand in Carbondale and I remember the devastating effects it had on her. My heart and tears go out to this young lady I would like to offer any support possible.

    1. Sorry to hear that your daughter has had similar types of experiences Missy. Thanks for sharing

  32. This is infuriating. I am not shocked, I am terribly saddened and frustrated. The battle seems so uphill. Those who think they are showing support and can’t even see this for what it is-. Blantent- overt racism, classism, sexism.grinding salt into the bitter wounds…. Please update where I can show my support in tangible ways. Until there my prayers are with her and her community.

    1. Thanks for the note Emilie. I agree that it often feels like an uphill battle. Times like this though remind us that there are also a lot of good people as well who care about what’s right, and are willing to make their voice hear. I’m encouraged

  33. Sorry for this young woman’s experience and for anyone’s unjust treatment by the courts or anyone. I am from Murphysboro, still live in Murphysboro and am proud of our town and our people. Unfortunately, racism is still a part of our culture. We have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. Please don’t let this incident be the litmus test for the town or its people though. Although Murphysboro is the County Seat of Jackson County, this incident happened in a bar in Carbondale and was handled by a Carbondale police officer. Few of the Judges in Jackson County are actually from or live in Murphysboro. Employees at the Jackson County Court House come from all over the area. ASA’s are also not required to live in the county they serve. Injustice, yes–I have no reason to doubt your portrayal of what happened. This could have just as easily happened in in courtroom in any county. Sad

    1. Debbie, thanks so much for sharing. I believe you 100% that there are lots of good people in Murphysboro, and I agree that this shouldn’t be a litmus test by which the whole town is defined. I’ve been really encouraged how many people from your area have spoken up and offered to help in whatever way they can. It reminds me that there are people fighting for what is good everywhere

  34. How can we change racism????? I have a question………….. Is there racism in every race or do people believe that just white people are racist?

  35. Stacy, thanks for the questions. I don’t want to answer a complex question with a simple answer. Generally speaking though, most sociologists differentiate between prejudice and racism. Everyone is capable of being prejudiced… i.e. having pre-judgments about people or groups of people that shape the way we view them. Racism, in its purest sense, usually involves prejudice, but also the power to act on that prejudice in some way.

  36. Well, this sadly isn’t unheard of at all. I too have been in her situation and many others I know have been too. I don’t have a problem naming names of the Franklin Co. detectives that are famous for this same behavior. Back to this story, I am a bit of a raciest but someone of color (or anyone else) in her situation did not deserve the treatment she received. I can honestly say if I were there at that time I would have stood up for her and most likely been the one going to jail not her. I can not stand people like the bouncers, the police and the judges. It was all bought and paid for before she stepped the first foot into the court room. Tell her that I am sorry for her troubles and that she is not alone.

  37. Thank you for sharing this. I hate to hear about a young person being put through such a deeply wounding experience as institutionalized racism– and it happens to so many! It is wrong and it hurts our entire society when we teach young people of color that they cannot trust our justice system. I’ll have to say– in my opinion– that in the U.S. it seems like it is white people who benefit from racism as well as white privilege and that we should be responsible for recognizing, acknowledging and responding to it.

  38. Kathryn Winchester Avatar
    Kathryn Winchester

    Hi! I recently moved from Southern Illinois to Chicago but still, this blog was shared on a few of my friend’s Facebook pages and I would like it to go further. says I need a phone number, the author’s name and address for verification. I really think you should try and get this published in the local newspapers (if they haven’t been already). If you’d like to give me your information via email or just go to these websites yourself and try and publish it, I think it would be a really great idea. This story has angered and saddened a lot of people in Southern Illinois and even further, and I really think this story should be heard. Thank you for your time and writing such a beautiful and articulate article.

    1. Kathryn Winchester Avatar
      Kathryn Winchester is where you can submit.

  39. Do you remember the name of the arresting officer?

  40. Small wonder that the Baha’i Writings deem elimination of racism “the most vital and challenging issue”. Thank you (I think) for bringing this situation to light. Thanks also to Kathryn Winchester for posting the Letters link. This got circulated among my Baha’i friends on Facebook.

  41. Thanks for your work in this, pastor. Not just in being there for the defendant (which is the most *awesome* thing), but also for sharing openly about this.

    I’ve learned about other similar issues where someone like me is rousted from their very ordinary lives by the actions of police officers, and in every case it results in penury and permanent disruption of their lives, for circumstance or events that are not really worthy of any kind of police intervention.

    Well, of course, they’re not like me in one very special and ridiculous way–they’re not white.

    I would think that rational people would look at this situation and, after shaking their heads in disbelief, would stop doing things that contribute to this. As citizens in society, we wouldn’t criminalize ordinary social interactions. As police officers we wouldn’t use our authority to go after someone unfairly. As prosecuting attorneys we’d throw out laughable cases. As juries we’d return a verdict of Not Guilty over this stupidity. As judges we’d simply declare the issue null and void, and throw it out of court. And as citizens (again) we’d work and vote to change this system because it’s unfair.

    But, people aren’t aware, sometimes, or are swayed by threats of concealed violence. We get swayed by the idea that we need to be protected from violence and crime, and so we give the cops and the courts and the criminal justice system free reign to destroy the loves of ordinary people because we know that people like us will never be affected by it.

    We lock up an astonishing number of people in our jails and prisons. And it is frightening how often the person who is locked up is not white.

    I guess those of us who think this entire system is cock-eyed wrong can’t do much at any one stage, except to continually press for change, whether by how we vote, by what we say, or what actions we take when we interact with our community and our leaders.

    It doesn’t appear that merely expecting things to be rational will actually work to change things. We have to speak up and act up.

    It’s the right thing to do.

  42. […] response you’ve given to my recap of the experience in court last week entitled “Injustice in the Courtroom.” It encourages me to see how many of you feel both connected to the experience of this young […]

  43. Marcie Taylor Avatar
    Marcie Taylor

    Your story deeply impacted me this morning. My husband and I both grew up in Murphysboro (70’s and 80’s). And while our parents did a good job of sheltering us as children from the racism that existed in Southern Illinois, as an adult I am horrified and ashamed of having lived in a community filled with so much ignorance and hatred. Mind you, not everyone was that way. However, we all know it only takes one or two rotten apples to ruin the whole bag over time.

    In my opinion, the problem with our court system and law enforcement in general (and any political arena, for that matter) is that most of the individuals who are attracted to that type of job description, are ones who thrive on power and having the “upper hand”. If a person’s mindset is that it is within their “right” to yield power over others, doesn’t it follow that they probably consider themselves better than others? There is always an intrinsic danger in any hierarchy . . . but especially one given powers to make binding decisions involving people outside the “hierarchy”. I certainly don’t have any answers . . . this problem of perceived hierarchies/levels, whether pertaining to race, education, income, religion, and even geographical location has existed since the beginning of Creation.

    It seems to me, that innately reasonable individuals (the gentle, kind-hearted souls) without prejudices, aren’t typically very extroverted, and therefore, probably won’t go into fields that allow/require them to speak up or make decisions that will effect the rest of humanity. Luckily, there have been a handful in history that have been willing to overcome their introverted tendencies and do speak up on behalf of others. It is so sad that we haven’t come any further as a human race . . . we are truly all in this together, and no one person should consider themselves “better” than another.

  44. I am outraged by this story. Prosecutors must seek justice for citizens, even when it means not charging a particular crime or charging a particular crime. This was an abuse of power that I have seen far to often. If the conviction is appealed I will assist in drafting the appellate brief.

  45. Yolandia Crow Avatar
    Yolandia Crow

    I detest racism and everything that even resembles it!!! My heart goes out to this young lady, and of we can do something ad a community not only should we, but we are obligated to do so!!! The message I would like to send her is, To keep on mind that God may be using her for something, growing the testimony that will be hers to touch the people that she will work with one day! I know that it doesn’t make this situation any easier, but God may have someone that only she can minster to, and this may be the only path that will allow her journey to cross over theirs. Prayers for her journey and strength and wisdom along the way to play this out on the manner that God is intending. God Bless

  46. […] Editor’s Note: Pastor Daniel Hill originally wrote this personal essay on his blog.  […]

  47. I would love to discuss this story with one of the classes I’m teaching that deals with issues of race and gender. Does anyone know of other sources that discuss this case? Anything in the newspaper, other blogs, or other outlets?

  48. Well, when the SHTF in this world . . .
    And it will be doing that very shortly . . .
    And the status quo has gone to hell in a handbasket along with everything else . . . .

    . . . You know who to go drag out in the street . . .
    And hang in a tree so everyone can see.

    I mean its not exactly like you want to see people like these judges, prosecutors, and cops even remotely having a chance to influence things after we get things back up and running.

    After it actually happens, remember whats been said here.

  49. This is a horrible example of how the laws of the land were not meant to protect people of color. My heart weeps for this young woman. May God fill her life with the confidence and knowledge that will help her to be able to help others in this very situation.

  50. Reblogged this on RADICAL PROGRESS and commented:
    This is simply disgusting. Racism, police brutality, civil rights violations, and systemic injustice. Fight the power!

  51. I am appalled.

    1. I have been keeping up with this blog and I have noticed that several people have asked where this happened and lots more questions. Why wont you answer them because you respond to all the other comments?????????

      1. Stacy, I’ve tried to reply to anyone that asked a direct question of me. If there is something specific you are looking for feel free to email me at

  52. […] and affirmation that you have shared towards the young woman’s case overviewed in “Injustice in the Courtroom.” As you would imagine, there have been some really hard parts for her throughout this […]

  53. Only in JACKSON COUNTY COURT, I hate it, its a big joke that effects peoples lives,
    those judges all need to be replaced they did awful things to my daughter who also had a clean record they ruined our whole family’s lives but she was white and it was because she was a woman!

  54. Daniel – how do you think this fits into the great issue that blacks are far more likely to engage in violent crimes against whites than whites are to engage in crimes against blacks. This is not two separate issues as cases like this one are used by the black community (of which I am a member) to excuse the rampant crime in the black community.

    1. Adam, deep question… one i’m guessing you’ve thought about a lot. Seems easier to have an email conversation on that one than a blog one… if you want to talk on it more email me at

  55. Pastor,
    A lot of power comes from just acknowledging that race is an issue in the justice system. As a black male I’ve seen it an experienced it. Thank you for even recognizing that it’s a problem, a pervasive, very real issue that presents itself in the lives of many of our youth. Unfortunately, this affects out youth’s job prospects, financial stability, self-esteem, trust in the system, etc. A case like this could hurt that young woman for a very, very long time. She will be in my thoughts and prayers. But thank you for writing this.

  56. Adam– your note meant a lot. Thanks… I really appreciate your encouragement! I’m sorry for the ways you have experienced this first hand. I’m praying that as we all work together for a more just society that we’ll continue to see stuff like that happen less frequently

  57. […] back into the blog series I was doing on identity. I took a two week hiatus when the post “Injustice in the Courtroom” took on a life of its own. There was something about this young woman’s story that […]

  58. Daniel, thanks for sharing this blog, and thanks especially for you example here of fighting the good fight if faith. Christians all over the world have led the great movements of social change to more fully bring the Kingdom of God into the earth. Hearts like yours, touched by stories’ like this young woman, are being prepared to lead a new moral movement that responds to the unjust race based criminal justice and mass incarceration. Like immigration policy that abuses neighbors and strangers, race based mass incarceration does moral damage to our national soul.
    Of course, I’ve had to deal with cases like the one you have articulated over and over again. Just this past week, one of my teenage parishioners has been expelled from Western Illinois University in McDonough County facing serious legal charges under questionable circumstances. It’s too bad. These kids are sent from an inner city hell into unwelcoming and unforgiving environments plagued with histories of hellacious racism.
    But my real point is, Daniel, God has called you and us to strive to more fully bring the Kingdom. And when we look at all the victories of the people of faith who have fought for human dignity for all of God’s children, we are encouraged with the truth that it is God who has brought us into the kingdom for such a time as this! Pastor Marshall Hatch.

  59. Dr. Hatch! An affirmation like that coming from a spiritual giant like you means everything! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and to respond. It means a lot!

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  61. Cynthia Carter Avatar
    Cynthia Carter

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is time now to put action to stopping this INJUSTICE in the courtroom. My daughter and I are about to start a Blog about our personal experiences with two of her children. I understand the trouble we are faced with; the New Jim Crow (NJC) attacks against people of color. I am a 75 years old grand mother with my 94 year old mother who need to see this challenged. But, we have to come together to be a stronger force with our many talents and abilities to take a bite out of NJC. Standing and working together is the only way we can combat these thousands of injustices and convictions put on our family members and friends. With prayer and fasting, this can be accomplished! The injustice against my grandchildren was done in the State of Virginia and we are residents of Maryland. The legal system is of US Barristers.
    Made God be with us and guide us all as we begin this movement together !!!

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    that really how to do running a blog.

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  64. This isn’t a racist thing! We are white and even though our experience isn’t that big, it was the same intimidating tack ticks and injustice.
    Go to:

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