Racial profiling? Like Meek Mill, we can't believe it.
Last Thursday, the young and gettin' it rapper, born Robert Williams, lost a lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department and its individual officers.
Williams argued that the officers turned his dream into a nightmare on October 31, 2012. Feeling like a young king with his record riding high on the charts, Williams was headed to the airport in a Range Rover with three other African Americans when he was pulled over, cuffed, and detained for 10 hours, causing him to miss the release party for his debut album, "Dreams and Nightmares."
The officers, one of whom has since been fired for lying about traffic stops, claimed that they smelled marijuana, and that the car's occupants were only detained while a search warrant was obtained.
Williams doesn't seem too traumatized by the experience. After repeatedly uttering the phrase, "I quit," before clarifying that he "quit everything ... except for music," he seemed to take it in stride in later interviews.
"They ain't from where I'm from," Mill stated after the verdict. "I (don't) really expect them to understand what I go through." He also used the one-of-a-kind hashtag #iwasntsuprisedattheverdicttho. (Note to self: Use that.)
Those of us who have argued law to laypeople would easily say "amen." Though we have a right to a "jury of our peers," peers doesn't refer to race or socioeconomic background. These trials are a constant battle to get laypeople, often with varying backgrounds, to identify with a client and the facts of the case and to understand the law.
As the old adage goes, "When the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law is against you, argue the facts. When both the facts and law are against you, argue louder."
"I'm not saying, feel sorry for his financial situation," Mills' attorney said. "But the law is the law."
Justified Stop and Search?
The jury passed a note to the judge, which was read aloud after the verdict, which noted, "Although we voted unanimously that Mr. Williams' Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, we feel strongly both the plaintiff and defendant were in the wrong and made mistakes," The Associated Press reports.
In order for a stop to comply with the Fourth Amendment, police officers need reasonable suspicion of a crime. The officers in Mills' case stated that they stopped the
Maybach Curtains Range Rover because of its tinted windows, not because of the color of the occupants' skin.
Williams disagreed, and noted on social media that the officer had been fired for lying about other traffic stops.
The officers then obtained a warrant to search the vehicle after allegedly smelling marijuana. No drugs were found, and Williams also passed a drug test, reports the AP.
Williams and his attorney argued that the incident was motivated by his company (three other African Americans), rather than the oft-used pretext of an odor of marijuana. But the mostly white jury disagreed.
One might think that a lawsuit against a cop who had been fired for lying about traffic stops, and who, according to the Inquirer, had racked up more civilian complaints than any other officer, would be a lay up. But lawyers for the city argued that there were two officers present, and that any reasonable officer in that situation would have conducted an investigation.
- Can the Police Legitimately Search My Vehicle Without a Warrant? (FindLaw)
- Police Traffic Stops and Vehicle Searches: FAQs (FindLaw)
- Civil Rights During a Traffic Stop: 5 Reminders (FindLaw's Blotter)
- What are my Rights During a Traffic Stop? (FindLaw's Blotter)