On Laquan McDonald and the racialized culture of the criminal court system.
The Gang Crimes Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office in Cook County, Chicago was where the most bullish state’s attorneys worked. Many were nicknamed for their ferocity, sounding like their own gang of sorts—“Dirty Dog” Richardson, “Beast-Man” Miller, William “Billy Club” McManus, to name a few. These were the types of men who comfortably put both feet up on their desk and welcomed you to their office with the soles of their shoes.
Nameless mug shots of a stream of black and Latino defendants acted as wallpaper for their office.
Nameless mug shots of a stream of black and Latino defendants acted as wallpaper for their office—a visual souvenir of convictions and conquests. This wallpaper provided a striking, racialized backdrop to the practice of criminal law and was my first introduction to the criminal courts and criminal justice. Nearly all the prosecutors who built and exhibited this showpiece were white; in contrast, nearly every mug shot in the mural was a person of color. I moved backward several steps so that I could see the entire wall, and then I paced reverently along it, as though I were scanning a memorial of the dead.