Mrs. Rosetta Miller-Perry

By Rosetta Miller-Perry

When it comes to America’s judicial system, there’s seldom equal treatment for Black defendants. The white mass murderer (that’s what he is) Payton Gendron was indicted last week on hate crimes and weapon charges. First, if a Black man went to a supermarket  mostly frequented by whites, opened fire and killed 13 people, most of them white, it’s highly doubtful he would have been brought in alive. The police would have  gunned him down, and no one would have blinked or questioned police behavior,

Gendron is pleading not guilty, and his attorney claims she hopes to resolve the case before trial. What that means is she’s going to seek a plea deal, something to  save her client from possible execution in the future. It’s hard to imagine there’s a scenario where someone who kills 13 people can get any kind of plea deal, but apparently his attorney thinks it’s possible. She’s no doubt gambling she can successfully make some sort of claim regarding his mental state, and get the hate crimes aspect dismissed or downgraded.

There is no question regarding this man’s guilt. His background is steeped in racism. Investigators say he drove for more than three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, to that grocery store chosen for its location in a predominantly Black neighborhood. He wanted to kill as many Black people as possible. He was motivated by white supremacist beliefs which he described in online diary entries.

Gendron wrote as far back as November about staging a live streamed attack, practiced shooting from his car, and did reconnaissance on the store two months before carrying out the plans, according to the writings.

This doesn’t seem like a man whose mental capacity is so limited he doesn’t know right from wrong. This is a cold, calculating, racist killer who no doubt would have killed even more people if he’d gotten the opportunity. Yes, he’s entitled to a fair trial, but he’s not entitled to be treated any differently or better than any other mass murder suspect. He certainly shouldn’t be able to strike any kind of deal for a reduction in charges, and no one should feel any pity for him. 

In addition, given the way the death penalty has routinely been applied in this nation, even if Gendron is convicted on all counts, he may well never be executed. Here’s a stat on just one state. In South Carolina, since 

1912, 282 people been executed.. 208 of them were Black, according to the state Department of Corrections. Of the 37 people currently on death row in the state, nearly half are are Black. Meanwhile, Black residents make up only 27% of South Carolina’s population.

Now whatever you think about the death penalty, it’s impossible not to wonder if race plays a factor in death penalty sentences when you see those numbers. it’s pretty obvious Black defendants aren’t getting any special deals or plea bargains in that state. it’s also easy to extrapolate those figures to the general United States population and see that far more Black and poor people get executed than upper class ones convicted of the same crimes, mainly because folks with resources can hire high-powered attorneys who work out deals to keep them from being subject to the system’s full penalties for the crimes they’ve committed.

There are certainly inherent problems with the death penalty, starting with the fact far too many innocent Black folks end up on death row. The Innocence Project’s website has a lengthy and detailed history of wrongful convictions for Black defendants, as well as numerous stories of defendants being lynched before even getting a trial. The judicial system is so flawed it can be legitimately argued the death penalty should only be reserved for the absolute worse defendants, and used only in cases where there is zero doubt as to their guilt.

That would certainly apply to Payton Gendron, just as it did to Dylan Roof. Roof DID get the death penalty for his horrific mass killing of nine Black members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. His most recent appeal was denied last year by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He’s another racist empowered by becoming immersed in white supremacist literature and doctrines. Roof remains on death row in Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a moratorium on federal executions last summer while the Justice Department conducts a review.

But the bottom line here is there should be absolutely NO plea bargain for Payton Gendron. He should get the full penalty available under the law for multiple first degree murders, hate crimes and weapon charges. He doesn’t deserve special consideration from any court, nor does any other white racist. And let’s hope that the same measures taken to ensure that these reprehensible defendants are brought in alive to stand trial is done for Black defendants, no matter what crimes they are accused of committing.