CAAMI Amicus Brief on Behalf of Marquis Dixon
Marquis Dixon’s appeal hearing is Friday, September 16th, and we’ll be packing the court to show the community support he has, as well as the outrage and frustration at his unjust and unconstitutional sentence. Get the latest details and share widely at the Facebook page.
Below, you can read the amicus brief in support of Marquis, submitted by CAAMI and numerous other local leaders and organizations. Further down, you can read District Attorney David Soares’ response.
Here are some of Mark Mishler’s thoughts (his words in bold) on the D.A.’s response:
D.A. Soares has had numerous opportunities to publicly agree that, under the circumstances of this case, this 9 year adult prison sentence sentence for a 16 year old is wrong. Instead, the D.A. has adamantly insisted that there is not only nothing wrong with imposing a 9 year adult prison sentence on a 16 year old in this case, but that it is the right thing to do.
For those interested in understanding how the D.A. reached this terrifying decision – that it is right to impose a 9 year adult prison sentence on Marquis Dixon – I urge people to read his full brief. In my opinion, many of the legal arguments the D.A. makes are incorrect. Also, the public policy arguments he makes are wrong and dangerous. While a few quotes do not tell the whole picture, and I encourage people to read CAAMI’s entire brief and the D.A.’s entire response, here are some significant quotes from the D.A.’s brief:
“Whether these poor choices [speaking about Marquis Dixon’s alleged poor choices] were the result of the defendant’s immaturity, an inability to remove himself from a bad situation, or because he was truly irredeemable is irrelevant; in each case, imprisonment must be viewed as vindicating society’s interests in punishment, deterrence, and incapacitation, while at the same time protecting the defendant from the perils of his own bad choices.” (D.A.’s brief, p. 11)
(That is, the 9 year adult prison sentence is for Marquis Dixon’s own benefit! And, is it the D.A.’s position that the word “irredeemable” can truly properly be applied to a 16 year old?)
“Amicus [CAAMI] spends a great deal of time in its brief informing the Court of support for revisiting the defendant’s sentence among certain elements of the community. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, the uninformed views of groups and individuals are not entitled to any weight before this court.” (D.A.’s brief, p. 14.)
“Political pressure is no idle threat to justice. . . . That is of particular concern to the People [the D.A.], since it is our ‘primary duty to see that justice is done and the rights of all – defendants included – are safeguarded’ . It is for salient reasons that the law does not commit sentencing to the will of the mob.” (D.A.’s brief, pp. 17-18.)
(That is, although history is full of examples of young African-American men being given unjustly severe sentences due to outside “mob” pressure, which is one reason why we want D.A.’s to be independent, I cannot believe there is any example the D.A. can point to in our history where a young African-American man was given an unjustly lenient sentence as a result of “uninformed” public pressure. Plus – haven’t we, as a society, generally accepted that sending young people to prison for long periods of time is generally not a good idea?)
“If Amicus [CAAMI] is serious in its concern for poor, African American youths, it should seek to appropriately punish and deter the crime that marks the lives of far too many.” (D.A.’s brief, p. 22.)
Actually, CAAMI, and many others, believe it is more effective to organize to fight against racism and the racist structures in our legal system, rather than to impose harsh punishments on young African-Americans alleged to have committed crimes.