On the 19th of July, Jezuba hosted the final part of our Asian American Voices series. At this webinar, we were delighted to have Annette Choy, author of A Wrongful Eye, present to the audience about her work on the US criminal justice system. Through this presentation, she was able to detail the process that she used to write her book, the harsh realities of the criminal justice system that she drew upon for her book’s content, as well as the significance of her book in our daily lives when dealing with bias and discrimination.
Choy wrote the book over the course of a year. In the process of writing the book, she researched many historical examples of wrongful convictions and interviewed many people involved with them. Through this process, she realized that she had many misconceptions about incarcerated people. And in realizing this bias, she began to increase her understanding of the ingrained biases within our thought processes, and how those distortions can show up in the criminal justice system.
According to Choy, there are two systems of thinking: there is unconscious thought, where biases can show up because we’re not thinking through a situation, and there is rational thought, where we can think through these biases and counter them. It is important to keep in mind that we can always keep our biases from controlling our behavior. However, she argues, if these biases are not kept in check, they can lead to us developing a sense of “other,” where someone who does not belong to a certain group such as one’s race, class, or ethnicity is viewed as an “other” and is therefore more likely to be the target of unjust convictions and incarcerations.
Choy states that in the past 30 years there have been over 2000 exonerations for reasons such as misidentification, wrong application of science, false confessions, and the use of informants, during the investigations and trials. As examples, bite mark evidence and bloodstain-pattern analysis have been used to wrongfully convict people. “Experts” analyze these types of evidence to convince a jury of a person’s guilt, when in reality this evidence is very unreliable. In her book, Choy describes in great detail various examples of how these flawed and even criminal techniques used by police and prosecutors have wrongfully convicted the innocent. It is likely that bias is a large factor in who is targeted with these techniques and who is convicted.
After Choy’s initial presentation, she had a dialogue with the audience, where Choy answered many questions about her book writing process, what she learned from writing A Wrongful Eye, as well as her thoughts on bias and other issues within the criminal justice system. She was asked if she thought structural changes should be made to the criminal justice system that help counter unconscious bias, such as not letting juries see defendants or know what race or gender they are. Annette responded that she thought the most important change was getting people to recognize and overcome their own biases.
We are grateful to Annette Choy for taking time out of her day to have this discussion with us, and thank all those who attended our Asian American Voices sessions. We hope that everyone was able to take something out of the discussions that we hosted and learn more about how the justice system is far from being fair and unbiased.
As a future program, Jezuba is looking forward to hosting an in-person event in collaboration with other non-profits such as Good Good Eatz in October. Jezuba is raising funds to buy meals from local Oakland small businesses for elderly and unserved communities in Oakland.
We hope you will support our goal and join us in the celebration