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Justice Sotomayor Cites Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander in Powerful Dissent on Police Powers

HeadlinesJun 21, 2016
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The Supreme Court has ruled evidence of a crime can still be used in some cases even if police obtained it illegally. While the 5-3 ruling deals a blow to civil rights in favor of police powers, it is likely to be remembered largely for the powerful dissent penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice on the court. In a ruling that cited Michelle Alexander, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sotomayor wrote that "it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims" of police searches. She concluded her argument: "By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are 'isolated.' They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but. I dissent." The words of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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