Help needed. This case is a classic example of racial profiling in the system which has cost innocent Jerome Smith 31 years of his life already and can cost even more. Jerome must be brought home. But no one pays attention to him, no one fights for his life. Let us help this man achieve justice! We are organizing the event in New Orleans and looking for activists in New Orleans.
Today we talk to James Smith who is the brother of Jerome ‘Skee’ Smith, who was sentenced as a fifteen-year-old to life imprisonment without parole for a crime he didn’t commit.
One might think that everyone is entitled to at least a fair trial before being sentenced for murder. Well, sadly, no one gave this option to Jerome ‘Skee’ Smith. As a fifteen year-old-boy, Jerome served as an altar boy. Like many Black boys in his neighborhood, Jerome got into a few altercations with the police. He was arrested a few times. Most of these times, he was simply released because he either had a strong alibi or the victims realized upon seeing him that he wasn’t the criminal.
On October 29, 1985, Bill Long, a popular Freret Street bakery owner, was murdered and everyone in the neighborhood was in a state of shock. For Black mums, the shock was mixed with fear. Fear that their sons could be accused. According to Jerome’s school teacher, “When something like this happens, you just know they’re going to get the first Black child they can. It doesn’t matter if it’s the right one or not. I think they can’t tell the difference.” Thelma, Jerome’s mum, was more scared than most because of Jerome’s previous arrests. When someone told her that the shooting occurred somewhere around 4.15 p.m, she said, “Thank God!” Jerome was with her then.
However, for Jerome and his family, the hell began the next day, when he was arrested for that murder. It didn’t matter that he was 6 ft 1, and that he had Jheri curls, although one witness said the killer was 5 ft 1, and another said he had straight hair. It didn’t matter that Jerome and his mother arrived at the Youth Study Center, a 15 minutes’ walk away from the crime scene at 4.15, when the crime took place between 4.00 and 4.30. And it certainly didn’t matter that a service station attendant testified that Jerome and his mum had stopped for 10 minutes to get gas at around 4 p.m. What mattered most of all was that he was Black, and that a Black had committed the crime.
Jerome ‘Skee’ Smith has spent the last 31 years of his life in jail as a result. He’s spent all his 20s, his 30s and most of his 40s locked up for something he didn’t do. But we believe that justice will one day be served. For Jerome, and all wrongfully convicted Black people whose only crime is: THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN.