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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A new blog of note

I just came across the new prawf blawg on race, law and culture entitled blackprof.com.  Contributors include Devon Carbado, Paul Butler, Tracey Meares, Richard Banks, Spencer Overton, Darren Hutchinson, Sherrilyn Ifill, Dorothy Roberts, and Adrien Wing.  This is, as far as I know, the first African-American law prof blog, and it promises to be both stimulating and instructive.  (Hat tip to Doug at SLP). 

The always provocative Paul Butler has an interesting post here about reactions to Lil Kim and Martha Stewart's sentence and post-conviction reception in society.  He writes:

It's, unfortunately, old news when a hip-hop artist goes to prison, although Kim is the first prominent woman artist to do so. What's interesting about Martha Stewart's post-prison celebrity is how her incarceration seems to enhance her stature. That is also familiar from hip-hop culture. It's partly a function of the USA 's policy of mass incarcertion. When so many people go to prison for minor stuff (as did Stewart) it breeds less respect for the criminal law. On the radio this morning hip-hop stations paid tribute to Kim like she was a soldier marching off to war. People didn't seem to be excusing the crime - she rather blatantly lied to a grand jury - but rather questioning the utility of the punishment.

I'm no celebrity tracker but I wonder if it's true that Martha Stewart's stature has gone up post-conviction; she was quite the legendary figure before she was indicted.  If anything, her stature has only gone up relative to its decline during and after the trial, but it is still a far cry, isn't it, from where she stood in society prior to the trial?  Also, while I agree with Butler that the potential periods of imprisonment these non-violent offenders faced may have been too much punishment, I doubt most people would have much sympathy for the claim that their prosecution and convictions were themselves unwarranted.  Indeed, Kim and Stewart's punishment vindicates that no one is above the law, even if you're a wealthy, famous woman.  And as long as poor zhlubs are going to prison for similar crimes and with similar histories, there's not much reason to treat Martha or Lil Kim differently.  My sense is that the protests against the sentences of Martha Stewart or Lil Kim were based more on celebrity worship than the larger claim Butler makes, namely that we punish too many for too long in prison.  But maybe there's some other evidence of which I'm not aware.

Posted by Dan Markel on September 20, 2005 at 01:34 AM in Blogging | Permalink

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Comments

I think Stewart's stature has gone up, in a populist sense. Among the boardroom, it might not buy much cred, but among the throngs of Martha worshipers, I think it has lead to two factions: the "Martha was singled out and persecuted" faction and the "Wow, I didn't think she could do it" faction.

I'd also dispute the notion that, "Stewart's punishment vindicates that no one is above the law, even if you're a wealthy, famous woman."

The general consensus among most people that I know was that Stewart was singled out *because* of her celebrity status and that she wasn't guilty of anything that hundreds of rich, white, non-celebrity men do day-in/day-out. So in that sense, it seemed like justice wasn't being served. But those are old arguments...

Posted by: Dave! | Sep 20, 2005 1:18:59 PM

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