BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – There has only been one prosecution under the Emmett Till Act, even though the law was passed with the promise of $135 million for police work and an army of federal agents to investigate unsolved killings from the civil rights era. Some deaths aren’t even under review because of a quirk in the law.
Still, proponents are laying the groundwork to extend and expand the act in hopes it’s not too late for some families to get justice.
The news of Sept. 2nd hit Gwendolyn Turner like a ton of bricks. Tasha Thomas, a woman she knew, had been shot and killed outside the University of Little Scholars daycare in Whitehaven. Thomas’ estranged husband had instigated the deadly encounter on the parking lot where Thomas worked.
“I was breathless and speechless to learn that another woman had become a victim of domestic violence,” said Turner, who’d suffered verbal, emotional, mental, sexual and physical abuse off and on for nearly 20 years.
“It was supposed to be a fight between two groups of African-American females. …At some point during that gathering at CiCi’s Pizza they encountered each other and a fight did ensue.
“…That fight spilled out into the parking lot and after it spilled out into the parking lot it basically turned into a flash mob resulting in the vicious attack that was on the two Kroger employees as well as a potential customer.”
– Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong
Recent events made for an all-too-real backdrop as a National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention unfolded at the Board of Education on Tuesday (Sept. 9).
Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. hosted the forum along with District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong. Also in attendance were representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, standing in solidarity with Memphis’ efforts to prevent youth violence.
There’s a harrowing moment in Mike Tyson’s one-man stage play, MikeTyson: Undisputed Truth, where he describes how he was accused, tried and eventually convicted of raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington in 1992. He talks—sensitively—about how he wasn’t the first person Washington had accused of rape and how his agent at the time, Don King, hired a tax attorney to defend him instead of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
At the end of his fast-paced soliloquy, Tyson’s high-pitched voice cuts to a halting stop, he plants himself in the center of the stage, looks solemnly into the audience, and says: “I did not rape Desiree Washington and that’s all I have to say about this.”