‘Wicked’ Bible Verse Doesn’t Make Fleeing Suspect

BOSTON (CN) – Refusing to waver on its finding that black men have a right to run from police, the highest court in Massachusetts refused to give prosecutors a second hearing.

There is no copy of the Dec. 1 rehearing denial on the case docket, but the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the development in a statement, linking to a brief it filed the week prior.

“In the face of a national call for police reform, it is impossible to ignore that behavior of many Americans might be impacted by a fear of racially discriminatory policing,” the brief said, filed by Kevin Prussia, an attorney for the ACLU at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

September’s ruling had relied on a police-commissioned study that Boston authorities disproportionately police black people and communities. Citing these findings, Prussia scoffed at the commonwealth’s suggestion for the court to instead endorse a biblical verse about how “the wicked flee, even when no man pursueth.”

“The commonwealth’s rehearing petition now asks the court to excise these citations, and strike its analysis of the possibility that a black person might flee from the police due to fears of mistreatment,” the brief states. “The commonwealth suggests that the Court would do better to follow the Biblical verse that ‘the wicked flee.’ But ignoring the lived experiences of Bostonians in favor of proverbs would promote neither accuracy nor justice.”

The September ruling at issue, Commonwealth v. Jimmy Warren, vacated a conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm based on the finding that police had no reason to stop the man.

Flight is not necessarily probative of a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilt,” Justice Geraldine Hines wrote for the court. “Rather, the finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for FIO encounters suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt. Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity. Given this reality for black males in the city of Boston, a judge should, in appropriate cases, consider the report’s finding in weighing flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus.”

Reacting to the denied rehearing, ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose called the Warren decision “one of the nation’s most significant cases on race and policing since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement,”

“By upholding its historic ruling in this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has confirmed that state courts play a vital role in protecting civil rights and civil liberties,” Rose said in a statement. “We hope the Boston police and other departments around the state will take this decision to heart and move toward full implementation of body worn cameras, police-civilian receipts, and other measures to improve police accountability and police-civilian relations.”