Update on Dymond Milburn

by Shaker Sunless Nick

One of the trials in the Dymond Milburn case, in which a 12-year-old girl was arrested for "resisting arrest" after she was allegedly attacked and beaten severely enough to be hospitalized by three police officers who were responding to a report about prostitutes in the area, has come to an end:
GALVESTON — A deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict Monday in the case of a girl accused of assaulting a police officer after officers allegedly mistook her for a prostitute.

…[Judge Roy Quintanilla] declared a mistrial in the case, and Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said that, based on discussions with jurors after trial, the state won’t prosecute the case again.
Not an acquittal, but at least Milburn isn't going to have to going to be prosecuted yet again. Well of course, she is, but I'll get to that later.

The prosecutors claim that:
Milburn knew the men were officers, because they wore badges and had "police" displayed on their shirts.
Uh, huh, an odd kind of plainclothes officers then. But even if they're telling the lily-white truth (remember that phrase, we'll need it again), that doesn't exactly explain why they mistook a 12-year-old black girl for any of three white women. The story also talks about a complaint of two men dealing drugs, but doesn't mention their races—but even if they happened to be black, that's just as far away from a 12-year-old girl.

Which brings us back to the question of what they were doing there in the first place.
Police should have admitted they were wrong to detain Milburn, [her defense lawyer Anthony Griffin] said, but prosecutors said it was the officers’ duty to investigate the complaint.
By arresting—or kidnapping—a child who could not possibly have resembled any of the suspects complained about? That's some attention to duty there.

The officers claim she swore at them, ran away, and hit one of them in the face—yet any of that would be contingent on them going after her in the first place. And none of their claims offer a reason why they did so, why they assumed that this girl was conversant with the comings and goings of local prostitutes and drug dealers, or why they needed to inflict the injuries described in the Milburns' lawsuit (PDF; trigger warning) in order to defend themselves.

And the lawsuit is of course why Milburn will be prosecuted again, because even as the plaintiff, she will be attacked; not just by the cops' lawyers, whose job it at least will be, but by apologists and the media. The victim-blaming, cries of liar, and accusations of gold-digging began very soon after her case made the news—and it'll get worse once the focus on her trial of them rather than theirs of her.

Because Dymond Milburn is inconvenient. She stands in contravention to the "white truth" (there's that phrase again)—the one that positions black people, and other POC, as aggressive figures—the one that says she must have been the aggressor on that night, or lacking evidence of that, then it must be her quest for justice that's the act of aggression. The one that says no black girl can be allowed to stand as the victim.

And Another Thing…

The various news stories about the Milburn case attract commentators claiming that no matter what, there must be some "other side" to the story. And of course there is. But it's not the side that says the police were right to assault a 12-year-old and then harass her through the courts.

It's the one that says so what if she had been a prostitute like they said she was when they attacked her? They claimed it, they didn't deny they claimed it, so it's fair to assume they thought it. Which implies that their treatment of Milburn was the SOP when it came to prostitutes; at the time this case first hit the news, Jill from Feministe brought that up:
Police offiers and other people in positions of power can victimize and abuse sex workers with almost no fear of retribution or legal consequence. The police beat up a 12-year-old girl because they thought she was a prostitute, and, if the news report is accurate, have said as much. Had she actually been a prostitute, that treatment would have apparently been acceptable.
...but that angle has died down since then. And it shouldn't have.

Most of the comments in the stories above condemn the officers' actions. But much of that condemnation is based on Milburn not being what or who the officers assumed. Which at least implies, even if the writers don't intend it to, that if she had been a 12-year-old prostitute, then beating her into hospital would have been more defensible. I've certainly made that implication in things I've said, regardless of my actual views.

A case like Milburn's implies a long line of victims of similar violence. Her story could be used to bring their stories to light, or to drive them further into shadow. I know which I think it should be.

[H/T to Shaker AbracaDeborah.]

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