Kiera Wilmot was arrested for felony charges involving a science experiment gone wrong at school. Despite her impeccable school record, she was arrested and released pending charges from the prosecutor’s office. After immense pressure from some national media, including NewsOne, the public, and concerned citizens, the prosecutors decided to drop the charges against her. Finally a small taste of justice.
Unfortunately, that dismissal is far from enough.
In today’s digital age, once something is in a database or on the Internet, it is there for eternity.
In other words, FOREVER.
It is hard to erase or delete information if that database has been sold or disseminated to someone else; it is almost impossible to retract once the information has been created.
That is the long-term damage that Kiera may face in her future.
Her criminal arrests can follow her everywhere whether it has to do with filling out college applications, applying for an apartment, or any other instance where a background check is warranted.
In other words, Kiera will have some serious explaining to do: Why were you arrested? What was the outcome? Should we believe your version of events? Are you a terrorist threat? Are you dangerous? Why would we want a person who was arrested at our school?
These are real-life questions she may face unless all records of her arrest are expunged from EVERY database. But remember, in our digital age, once something is out there, it is hard to take back.
How does this translate to other youth across the country?
Unfortunately, for most Black youth whose cases surely do not get national media attention, they are stuck with a criminal history even when they are innocent of the crime.
This happens all too often with our young people who get labeled as criminals, and that label stays with them until they die.
So there are many Kieras out there. Many children get arrested and charged for alleged crimes. They are arrested, booked, mugshots and fingerprints are taken, and then they are placed in the system. A disproportionate number of these children are Black and/or poor.
The statistics don’t lie.
In my criminal law practice, I’ve witnessed White teens’ parents being called to pick them up when they are caught shoplifting, drinking, or smoking marijuana. For those teens, they are considered to be “a typical teenager,” or instead of being called a “thief,” it is said that they “were just pulling a prank.”
These youths are rarely arrested.
Unfortunately, for Black youths, the very same officers will arrest them, and now they are criminals and convicts — that is a long way from the teenage pranksters title of their White counterparts.
An example of disparities in prosecution are found in statistics for drug arrests. According to recent statistics, Blacks account for only 14 percent of drug users; however, 37 percent of the people arrested for drugs are Black!
That, in and of itself, shows you the disparity in arrests and why there is a higher number of Blacks in prison, on probation, or parole and “in the system”: Blacks are not doing more crimes but are arrested and convicted almost three times as much as the other races.
That is why you should care.
Kiera’s story is the same story of countless others but those others did not get the media attention, legal assistance, and help like she did.
When we see an injustice, it is our duty to stand up and fight for justice and fairness. There is power in numbers. Your voice alone may not be heard, but when you stand with 10, 50, or 100 others, your voice is multiplied and cannot be ignored.
Let your voice be heard. Stand, shout, and fight against any injustice. Not only for Kiera, but for those like her in your community.
Eric L. Welch Guster is founder and managing attorney of Guster Law Firm in Birmingham, Ala., handling criminal and civil matters, catastrophic injuries, criminal defense, and civil rights litigation. Mr. Guster has become a go-to lawyer for the New York Times, NewsOne, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Black America Web, and various radio programs about various court issues and high-profile cases.
Follow Guster on Twitter @ericguster.