The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Latasha Harlins Murdered 25 Years Ago

Mar 28, 2016

Twenty-five years ago, Latasha Harlins was killed because of a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. Harlins was 15 years old when she entered a market in South Central Los Angeles in 1991. She had two dollar bills in her hand to pay for the orange juice. When store owner Soon Ja Du saw Harlins putting the bottle into her backpack, she grabbed Harlins’ sweater. Harlins broke free in a struggle with Du. Harlins left the bottle on the counter, and turned to walk away. Du pulled her gun and shot Harlins in the back of her head, killing her in the store.

This struggle and the shooting had been recorded on a videotape by the store security camera. The jury found Du guilty of manslaughter. Du faced a possible 16-year prison term.

But Judge Joyce Karlin had the final say and used her power to release Du with no prison term. Judge Karlin said that there were mitigating circumstances. She said “Did Mrs. Du react inappropriately? Absolutely. But was that reaction understandable? I think that it was. This is not a time for rhetoric. It is not a time for revenge. It should be a time for healing.”

A California state appeals court later unanimously upheld Judge Karlin’s sentence, confirming that a person found guilty of slaughtering a black person can be freed with no jail time.

Du’s murder of a young black woman, the Judge Karlin’s freeing Du and her reasoning in freeing Du, and the California court system’s backing of Judge Karlin’s decision were all ghastly racist.

In 25 years, nothing has changed in the political and legal system that still exists.