What: Grim Sleeper Verdict
From: Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders (BC)
Contact: Margaret Prescod, Founder, BC, 323 646 1269.
The so-named “Grim Sleeper” murder trial has ended with guilty verdicts on all counts. We know that for the impacted families who have not only suffered the torture of losing a loved one in the most brutal way but who then had to wait decades before the arrest of the suspect, and through 5 ½ years of pre-trial hearings and months of trial, will now get some respite and justice.
While many are relieved to have gotten to this stage, we must not forget that there has to be justice for the 35 Black women whose photos were found in the home of the suspect and who remain unaccounted for, and for the 200 Black women in South LA who remain missing, 100 of whom are thought to be serial murder victims. A dedicated Task Force must continue the investigation. These cases of murdered and missing women must not remain, as they are now, under law enforcement’s general cold case unit. Further, compensation laws must be revised and/or adjusted to ensure that none of the victims’ loved ones was discriminated against, and a scholarship fund should be established for the children of the victims.
As community campaigners, we are working to establish a permanent, public memorial in memory of the victims. We are continuing in our efforts to ensure that all the victims are remembered with care and dignity – each one is some mother’s daughter, some father’s child, with family who loved her and a community that will not forget her. The BC has consistently made this case since we began campaigning for justice in 1985.
We are encouraged that the Prosecutor whom we criticized for the way she described the victims in her opening statement when she said the victims “were ready to sell their bodies and souls for a hit”, was respectful in her closing language which reflected the message of the BC. She said: “They were daughters and sisters who were loved by their families; they were women who no matter their troubles did nothing to deserve their fate… None of them deserved to be brutally dumped like trash as if their lives had no meaning.”
There must be accountability for past racism and corruption in the law enforcement investigation into these murders. None of the victims, indeed no person, should ever have been referred to by law enforcement as NHI (No Humans Involved). None should have been stereotyped as sex workers or drug users. Race, sex, occupation, and vulnerability should have no bearing on our rights to life, protection and justice. All those who contributed to the criminal negligence explicit in the NHI label and other aspects of the investigation must be held to account.
The wider community, including the media, must stand with the families and campaigners and reject the devaluing of the lives of some of us. If Black lives don’t matter, eventually neither will the lives of most others. The devaluing of our lives is rooted in the slaughter of Native Americans, the very Constitution of the US, the eras of slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow, and the deportation and erection of walls against Brown immigrants.
It is not possible to disconnect this case and these victims from the killings of Black and Brown people occurring across the nation. This devaluation of the lives of some of us is reflected today in murders of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Brother Africa, Sandra Bland, Martha Anaya, Josephine Monique Vargas, Amber Monroe, and scores of First Nations women. Also in the serial murders of: Deborah Jackson; Henrietta Wright; Barbara Ware; Bernita Sparks; Mary Lowe; Lachrica Jefferson; Alicia Alexander; Princess Berthomieux; Valerie McCovey; Janecia Peters and all the other Black women in South LA who remain missing and presumed serial murder victims.
We know we are up against serious obstacles. These include: recent racist and otherwise discriminatory emails circulated by law enforcement officials in Southern and Northern California; law enforcement illegality, corruption and racism, some of which were reflected in charges brought by the Department of Justice against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials; police murders of Black, Indigenous and Brown women and men; police serial rapes of impoverished women; and corrupt relationships between prosecutors and police. All of this on top of communities devastated by poverty, racism, criminalization, and a war on drugs and on families on welfare first introduced by Clinton, which have filled jails and prisons, leaving mothers and children with no safety net and increasingly homeless.
Justice may begin with the conviction of the murderer/s, but it doesn’t end there. The BC will provide details about our next steps after the penalty phase of the trial. The economic and social conditions that left the victims vulnerable to attack as well as to racist and sexist profiling must end. There is much more to be done, and we intend to see it done.