26-year old Siwatu-Salama Ra is an African American woman who for the most unbelievable reason has found herself behind bars.
Ra was charged with felonious assault with a firearm after she brandished an unloaded, registered weapon in the face of an assailant, Channel Harvey.
Ra had gotten into a disagreement with Harvey which had led to the latter ramming her car into’s Ra’s which happened to have Ra’s two-year-old daughter inside.
According to Ra’s attorney’s, the mother who was also pregnant feared for her daughter’s safety and also for the safety of her mother who was on the porch, went into her car and brought out her fully licensed gun which she brandished at the assailant with the hopes that the assailant would be scared and leave.
This worked, but it also brought trouble as Harvey took a picture of Ra with the gun and went to the police station to file a report.
Ra also went to file a report, however, because of the laws present in Detroit, Michigan, the first person to report is given the benefit of a doubt and their story is allowed to have more weight.
Also, there are the charges which carry a mandatory 2-year prison sentence, meaning the judge in the case did not have any discretion as to the sentence to be meted out on Ra.
According to Ra’s attorney, Victoria Burton-Harris, the issue stemmed from the relationship between Ra and Harvey’s nieces who went to the same school but had gotten into a fight which had led to Harvey’s niece being banned from Ra’s niece’s house. Harvey brought her over regardless and things escalated from there. Burton-Harris said:
Siwatu called her sister herself and found out from her sister that there was no permission given for this young lady to be at the family home that day visiting, and therefore Siwatu informed the young lady that she needed to call her mother to come back and pick her up….
And so, the mother arrived about 10 minutes later to pick the child up. She was very upset, irate even. She pulled back up to Siwatu’s family’s home. She started yelling, using profanity. She was very angry. She started demanding answers. “Why can’t my child be here? These girls have made up. Your niece has come to my home over the last two weeks. I don’t understand.” And she testified at trial that she thought she had a right to be on that property and to demand answers as to why her child was not welcome there. And that’s where this incident started.
Ra’s who’s baby is due in June, will now have to give birth in prison and various human rights groups are fuming at how the case was handled arguing that the jury wasn’t informed of the mandatory sentence to Ra and that with a blizzard coming and the possibility of having to continue deliberations even in the storm, the jury tried to hurry things up and perhaps did not consider all the angles.
Ra at her sentencing stated that she feels the colour of her skin might have played a role as the prosecution argued that under the circumstances Ra could not have been scared, a point that Ra disagrees with: “The prosecutor convinced the jury and judge that I lacked fear and that’s not true,” Ra said. “I was so afraid, especially for my toddler and mother. I don’t believe they could imagine a black woman being scared — only mad.”