Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Siwatu-Salama Ra's criminal convictions reversed in court of appeals

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge Siwatu-Salama Ra and one of her daughters. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Siwatu-Salama Ra and one of her daughters.

Siwatu-Salama Ra — the Detroit activist who was forced to give birth in jail last year after she was sentenced to prison for brandishing a registered, unloaded firearm to defend herself — had her felonious assault and firearm convictions reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday, according to the offices of her attorney, Wade Fink. It's the latest chapter in a case that drew local and national attention, including outcry from the National Rifle Association.

Ra's sentence stemmed from a 2017 altercation in which Ra used the unloaded firearm to defend herself, her 2-year-old daughter, and her unborn son during an argument with Chanell Harvey, the mother of a schoolmate of Ra's niece, who allegedly tried to use her car as a "battering ram" to threaten Ra. The other woman drove off and went to Detroit Police, and Ra was later charged with assault and a felony firearm conviction, which carries a mandatory minimum two-year sentence. A judge denied Ra's requests for a delayed sentencing so she could give birth, and Ra was forced to give birth to her son while wearing ankle shackles.
Ra's attorney Fink called the trial a "parade of errors" from the start, filing an appeal in late 2018 contending that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hathaway should have had the jury consider Ra's brandishing of an unloaded gun as a use of nondeadly force, rather than deadly force. He also argued that her trial attorney should have been allowed to cross-examine Harvey, who was on probation for felony assault and faced prison or jail time if convicted of another assault.

On Tuesday, a panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously reversed Ra's conviction, stating that "the trial court’s failure to give the jury instruction regarding the use of nondeadly force in self-defense was erroneous" and that the failure of the trial court to give such an instruction "probabl[y] affected the outcome of the case."
The case now heads to the Wayne County Circuit Court, where prosecutors will decide whether to pursue a second trial.

"[T]his is huge victory for the criminal justice system," Fink said in a press release. "Siwatu acted in self-defense and if this case is brought again, we intend to prove it — this time in a fair trial where Siwatu is permitted to present a defense."

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

Tags: , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2022 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation