July 14, 2010

Baby mama unites "dysfunctional" court

At best, this term ["baby mama"] reflects popular slang, referring to a mother who is not married to and may or may not have a continuing relationship with the father of the child or children. Even [the defendant, who is African American] acknowledges this phrase is sometimes used with reference to non-African Americans. It also appears that both parties agree the phrase, at a minimum, can be offensive depending on the context of its use.

Looking at the [sentencing] hearing transcript as a whole, we do not believe that the circuit court's use of the phrase "baby mama" makes it highly probable or reasonably certain that the circuit court actually relied on race when imposing its sentence.

— Majority opinion at ¶¶55-6

[The defendant] also contends that the term "baby mama" was "racially offensive." The parties dispute whether the term "baby mama" has a racial connotation, but both agree that the term has recently emerged in popular culture. As the Seventh Circuit has explained, "[t]he use of slang in discharging the awesome duty of sentencing is regrettable." In addition to diminishing the proper decorum of the courtroom, the use of slang should be guarded against because it may be subject to unintended interpretations.

I conclude that there has been no showing of actual bias or the great risk of actual bias. Generally, "baby mama" is a slang term referring to the unmarried mother of a man's child, and the court was considering [the defendant's] relationship with a woman who fit that definition. Thus, based on the above, I conclude that [the defendant] has failed to meet his burden to demonstrate that the sentencing court actually considered or appeared to consider an improper factor, racial stereotypes, when imposing the sentence.

— Concurring opinion at ¶¶111-12

State v. Landray M. Harris, 2010 WI 79.

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1 comment:

Scot1and said...

Despite the Court's agreement in the outcome, pundits such as Jeff Wagner are telling their listeners that the Gableman's election was dispositive of the outcome for this case.