A lot of people are upset this week with the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office’s decision to give the white driver who struck and killed a black child a mere slap on the wrist.
According to police and court testimony, Billy Bailey showed little caution on Dec. 19, 2012 when he whizzed past a stopped school bus on Old Hollow Road. His vehicle collided violently with 11-year-old Hasani Wesley, sending the boy, who was attempting to board the bus, flying several feet into the air.
Many in the black community were astonished when DA Jim O’Neill threw the book at Bailey, charging him with involuntary manslaughter. See, black folks are accustomed to the local DA’s office only giving a darn when victims are white and the perps aren’t. Bailey’s trial for the felony charges ended in a mistrial earlier this year.
We all were expecting that O’Neill and his assistants would retry the case with the same gusto; his office intimated as much.
Alas, our expectations were not met. (Seriously, are they ever at the so-called Hall of Justice?) Citing new evidence that would virtually disqualify a key witness from the initial trial, prosecutors signed off on a sweetheart deal for Bailey on Monday. He pleaded down to a misdemeanor and was hauled off to do 30 days in jail – 30 DAYS!!!
We understand that the DA was in between a rock and a hard place. Questions have been raised about the driving record of the woman who was driving the bus – something the local media would rather harp on rather than the driver who actually killed Hasani. Those questions would have posed a challenge for prosecutors during a retrial, but wasn’t this kid worth the fight, worth the effort to try?
What the DA’s office saw as a prudent move, is seen by many in the black community as a reckless disregard for black life.
We’ve seen the DA’s office sweat and toil to convict black folks with little or no evidence (Ask Darryl Hunt about that.), but when the shoe is on the other foot, the Office refuses to be over exerted.
Remember, O’Neill and his assistant DAs had the energy and the will to help kill the Racial Justice Act – claiming that the bias it protected defendants from did not exist.
We don’t know if those in the DA’s office are naive or duplicitous to the fact that they are major parts of the racial bias that is embeded in legal system.
It starts when prosecutors pick who to charge, what to charge them with and with what level of vigor use.
Now, had a black driver struck and killed a white child, we think the DA’s office would have run a marathon to have the driver convicted of felony charges. Unfortunately, a sprint is all they were willing to muster for young Hasani.