Brandon Piekarsky, 17, and Derrick Donchak, 19, were acquitted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, ethnic intimidation, murder, and manslaughter. Both were instead convicted of simple assault, with additional alcohol-related counts against Donchak.
The simple assault conviction entails a maximum penalty of two years in county jail; without criminal records, Donchak and Piekarsky may not face any imprisonment at all.
Here's the 25-year-old man who was beaten to death. Again, his name was Luis Ramirez. Does this photo remind you too of Emmett Till?
Ramirez died in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, a small, 96% white, blue-collar town. Latino residents live there as well, since it offers affordable housing and work in local factories and fields. Ramirez had been living there for seven years.
The precise facts of this racially charged case seem murky. According to one news account,
The fight began late July 12 when a half-dozen teens, all Shenandoah residents who played football at Shenandoah Valley High School, were walking home from a block party and came across Ramirez and his 15-year-old girlfriend in a park.
Brian Scully, 18, asked the girl, "Isn't it a little late for you to be out?" That enraged Ramirez, who began yelling in Spanish and dialing friends on his cell phone. Scully admitted shouting ethnic slurs. The verbal sparring soon turned into a physical altercation as Ramirez and Piekarsky traded blows, though prosecutors and defense attorneys disputed who threw the first punch.
Donchak then entered the fray and wound up on top of Ramirez. Prosecutors said he pummeled Ramirez, holding a small piece of metal in his fist to give his punches more power. Defense attorneys said Donchak tried to break up the fight between Piekarsky and Ramirez and denied he had a weapon.
The two sides eventually went their separate ways. But Scully kept yelling at Ramirez, leading the immigrant to charge after the group.
Colin Walsh, 17, then hit Ramirez, knocking him out.
An autopsy later revealed that Ramirez died from blows to his head. He was severely beaten, and then kicked to death. But two of his assailants got off with "simple assault." A third, Colin Walsh, pleaded guilty earlier in the week to violating Ramirez's civil rights, in exchange for the dropping of third-degree murder charges.
Why isn't the corporate media all over this racist travesty of justice?
Never mind, that's a rhetorical question, since we all know why. It's just another death, for one thing, and John Edwards' affair or another cute-and-missing white girl are presented to us as if they're much more interesting and important.
But it's also more than that--Luis Ramirez was not white.
In their reports on his death, CNN and the Associated Press did mention that the jury that let off some of his assailants last week consisted entirely of white people. However, beyond merely mentioning that fact, such news outlets did nothing to question the power of whiteness in this case.
Doesn't the similar, widespread lack of interest in such facts among white Americans represent a sort of mass psychosis? A general white state of delusion? Ramirez was human, just like them, but he wasn't white. So he was, in the minds of most white people who have even heard about him, less than human.
To better illustrate how this is so, flip the script and imagine how much attention an opposite situation would get:
A white couple's car breaks down as they're driving along an urban interstate. They stop near an exit, then walk into a largely Latino neighborhood. A similar fight ensues, and the man's partner says that the teenagers who beat him to death shouted anti-white slurs as they did so.
Somehow, an all-Latino jury is assembled, and despite charges of ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, and murder, it passes down similarly lenient convictions of "simple assault" to the Latino defendants. No one gets convicted for the white man's murder.
Would the corporate media, and much of white America, be all over this story, demanding a retrial and stoking the flames of anti-immigration, anti-Latino sentiment?
Of course they would.
And since the white-framed corporate media, and white people who have heard about the Ramirez case, are not all up in arms about it, that can only lead to this conclusion--white Americans generally value non-white lives less than they do white ones.
The death of Luis Ramirez may seem tragic to white folks who actually hear about it and listen to the details. But they're just as likely to think that in a way, Ramirez had it coming. After all, he was an "illegal alien," the thinking goes, and this incident never would've happened if he had stayed in his own country, instead of breaking the law by coming here.
Actually, that's exactly how one supporter of his teenage killers put it last December, a minute or so into this video:
This woman's callous reaction to the beating death of another human being is a specific example of the common white tendency to value non-white lives less than white ones. Her focus on his residential status is a diversion from the fact that he was beaten to death. This diversion was undoubtedly made easier in her mind by the degrading associations she's absorbed from her surrounding culture about Latino immigrants.
Most white people are quick to agree that "we're all human." But they rarely see how, deep inside themselves, they actually consider people who are supposedly different from themselves, in large part because of their skin color, as less than human. As less than fully deserving of fundamental "human rights."
Obviously, other people don't see things that way. The Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) had a representative present at the trial, Gladys Limon. Like other supporters of Ramirez and his family, she was shocked by the verdict, and openly identified Ramirez's death as murder.
''It's a complete outrage. . . . This was murder. Luis Ramirez was murdered. A father, a son, a brother, a partner was murdered. The message the verdict sends is you can kill a person, you can stomp on their head until the person dies, based on their national heritage."
Nevertheless, if white America ever did pay much attention to the death of Luis Ramirez, it's already turned away. After all, there's yet another cute missing girl to worry about; this time, her name is Brittanee Drexel.
I don't mean to make light of Brittanee's disappearance, nor those of the others who make up the steady parade of pretty missing white girls. I'm just dismayed and enraged that cases like hers get so much more attention than the disappearances and deaths of people of color.
Unlike the death of Luis Ramirez, Brittanee Drexel's possible death is deemed especially worthy of attention in part because she's white. Her whiteness makes her all that much more compelling to a largely white audience, and all that much more human.
And the non-whiteness of people like Luis Ramirez makes them seem, to that largely white audience, all that much less than human.
And so it is that non-white people like Luis Ramirez remain all that much more likely to suffer racist abuse, including murder.