The Federal Supreme Court (STF) resumes this Wednesday (8) the judgment on a request for habeas corpus (HC) made by the defense of a black man arrested for drug trafficking with 1.53 g of cocaine, in 2020 in the city from São Paulo from Bauru. The police officers who arrested the man acknowledged that they only approached him because of his skin color.
Despite being a judgment on a specific case, related to a specific episode, the vote is closely monitored by organizations of the black movement, since it can create jurisprudence on the legality or otherwise of evidence obtained from racist decisions by agents. in police actions across the country.
So far, four Supreme Court ministers have already voted on the case. The rapporteur, Edson Fachin, argues that the evidence should be considered illegal, which would annul the man’s conviction in court. Ministers André Mendonça, Alexandre de Moraes and Dias Toffoli had a different understanding, and so far the vote is 3 to 1 to maintain the value of the tests.
Despite the dissenting votes, all ministers who have already positioned themselves on the subject agreed that racial profiling (that is, actions based on generalizations based on skin color) should be abolished from police action across the country. Despite this, Mendonça, Moraes and Toffoli assess that the understanding does not apply to the case in question. The votes of the other seven ministers are still awaited.
For Fachin, the case file does not have concrete elements that characterize founded suspicion (a concept provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure) for personal search. He complements by highlighting the illegality of searches based on skin color or physical appearance.
The founder and coordinator of the Mães de Maio movement, Débora Maria da Silva, is anxiously following the progress of discussions on the case in the Supreme Court. Mother of street sweeper Edson Rogério Silva dos Santos, murdered by the police at the age of 29 in 2006 in Santos (SP), she said in an interview with Brazil in fact that “the pattern of the frame” is always the same: “the black boy, poor, resident of favelas and periphery, with cap, flip-flops, shorts”.
“If there are laws, if (police officers) are trained to give this well-founded suspicion only in peripheral neighborhoods, in black and poor people, then we have to change this way. A black man in a suit and tie is also suspect because of the color pattern . He may be wearing a suit and tie, he remains a suspect. It is a pattern he has, of controlling the poor and black population in this country, and we cannot accept it”, he said.
Lawyer Agatha Miranda is the coordinator of Political Incidence at the Instituto de Referência Negra Peregum and a member of the Black Coalition for Rights, two institutions that participate in this Supreme Court trial on the condition of friend of the court, that is, they provide subsidies and information to the Court for decision-making. She explained to Brazil in fact that organizations work to convince ministers about the thesis of racial profiling.
“It is extremely important that the Supreme be able to deal with the legality of this dynamic that has been established in police action. “, he highlighted.
Miranda states that the purpose of this discussion at the Supreme Court is to reopen the debate on the legality of evidence collected from approaches with a racist bias, as well as the validity of arrests and the evidence that support them. It is possible, therefore, that the theme has an impact on mass incarceration.
“The racialization of police operations and the criminal justice system, this is very present within this issue of racial profiling. That is why a positive decision by the ministers of the Supreme Court in this regard can contribute to boosting jurisprudence at the national level, a impact on lower court decisions,” he said.
Milestone in judicial history
The lawyer does not hesitate to say that the vote in this case is historic in the Brazilian judicial system. “Recognition of the performance of an institution as important as the police having a racial bias, especially in this specific activity of personal searches, is a milestone”, she said.
Débora Maria da Silva says that she has great expectations about the Supreme Court judgment, and trusts that the other ministers will change the course of the vote, ensuring the creation of relevant jurisprudence in cases of police approach with racial components. But for her, that’s not enough. Deep changes are needed in the way the police act in the country.
“The laws on paper are very nice, but they are not in force, there is no control, there is not a different look from who has the pen in hand. Whoever has the pen in his hand has more responsibility than the one who has the rifle. The pen is more perverse, because it archives the impunities perpetuated by this institution called public security, which does not ‘insure’ the majority of the Brazilian population who pay their taxes”, he concluded.
Editing: Nicolau Soares
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