Urban Survival Syndrome Defense for 4 Black Chicago Teens

Urban Survival Syndrome Defense for 4 Black Chicago Teens

Urban Survival Syndrome Defense for 4 Black Chicago Teens

Urban Survival Syndrome Defense for 4 Black Chicago Teens.  A few days ago, four Black teens were taken into custody over a video they allegedly streamed over Facebook. The video depicted the abuse of a mentally disabled white teen. We see the white teen bound and his mouth blocked, and we can hear a voice say, “Fuck Donald Trump!” and “Fuck White people!” Unfortunately, the video gives us no real opportunity to see who the individual was that actually voiced these statements.

This is not about “making excuses” for black people that commit alleged crimes, rather, a journey to the truth and an examination of the facts at issue. As a survivor of sexual assault and the aunt of a young nephew who was taunted and chased by white high school teens, it wouldn’t be natural if such brutal acts were not a condemnation. To detain, distress, and harass any person is sadistic and heinous.

First, there has been speculation about the teens allegedly stealing a van and charges brought against them for an entirely different battery charge not related to the incident. I say “allege” because the incident is still being investigated and all the facts haven’t come in.

What is unique about this incident is that police may charge the teens with a hate crimealleging the teens targeted the mentally disabled teen because he is white and a Trump supporter. Although disliking someone because they are associated with, support, or subscribed to a particular political affiliation is not an element of a hate crime, when a person of a selected race or ethnicity is attacked simply because of skin color certainly may qualify and satisfy one of the criminal elements.

Urban Survival Syndrome “…as an intense fear or “a heightened sense of danger created in areas where the cops don’t come when you call and you better look out for yourself…”

Hate-based violence causes a bias crime only when this hatred is connected with antipathy for a group, such as a racial or ethnic group, or for an individual because of membership in that group. In the video, we hear someone saying, “Fuck White people,” which is not to be mistaken for I hate White people, or We hate White people. There is no evidence that the teenagers said this. When people say fuck you, it generally means, who cares about you; not “I hate you.”

According to Wicked Words, other than copulate, the word “fuck” is an alternative for saying screw comes closest, with its many extended uses, such as screw up, screw you, screw around, but it is basically a euphemism, neither as forceful nor as versatile as fuck, which appears in many more combinations. Since the teens didn’t actually say, “I hate White people,” is it a hate crime? Not necessarily. The teens never avowed themselves to any known hate group documented by Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, dissimilar to avowed white supremacistDylann Roof, who wanted the world to know that he hated a specific group of people.

If Not A Hate Crime, What About The Black Rage or Urban Survival Defense?

In the book, Criminal Law, written by John M. Scheb, J.D., LL.M., he describes a defense called The Black Rage Defense and Urban Survival Defense. These are usually offered with the hope that a defendant’s punishment will be mitigated by the social conditions they expose. In the black rage defense, some African American defendants charged with violent crimes against a white person have sought to absolve or mitigate their conduct on the basis of years of oppression and racist hostility endured at the hands of white Americans.

Proponents contend that as a result of racism, substandard education, inadequate employment opportunities, and substandard housing and medical care, African American defendants seek to justify retaliatory action against white citizens.

With every defense comes an offense, because some critics say if courts were to accept black rage as a legal defense, it could lead to an impossible task of assessing claims of #discrimination by criminal defendants of a variety of #ethnic, and even #religious, backgrounds.

Urban Survival Syndrome Defense for 4 Black Chicago Teens

John R.K. Howard pleaded guilty to a single felony count of injury to a child after he and two other teammates violently attacked the 18-year-old victim.

Similar to the black rage defense is the advocacy of an “urban survival syndrome” (product of their environment) defense based upon a defendant’s having lived under substandard environmental conditions in a deteriorated urban neighborhood plagued with drug dealers and acts of violence that often include threats of deadly force. This could make sense due to the claims of hate crimes possibly linked to Trump’s election reported across the US in 2016, white supremacist allegiance to Trump, not to mention, how White people are rarely consequenced for similar crimes such as the case of the Idaho teen football player who walked free after he sodomized a black disabled teammate with a wire hanger.

An attorney would have to argue this defense effectively because in State v. Osby1)Wally Owens, Note, State v. Osby, The Urban Survival Syndrome, 22 AM. J. CRIM. L. 809, 809-11 (1995).the defense failed and appellate curt affirmed the trial court’s decision [have a citation?]. It would be appropriate for you to know that the defense failed because the purported offense was against another black person.

DISCLAIMERThis page is for educational and informational purposes only. Information is not the same as legal advice – the application of information to an individual’s specific circumstances. This information on this page is not legal advice. This site does not provide legal services or legal advice. Although I try to make the information accurate and useful, you should consult a lawyer to interpret and apply this information to your particular situation. I am not a lawyer. My opinions are my own.


  • See Floyd, supra note 2, at 21A. The action of defense counsel to attach a catchy name suggesting an element of scientific certainty is without justification, and, whether likely to have a significant impact on the jury or not, such labeling should be prohibited unless supported. The act of attaching a “syndrome” label to evidence is something that not only lawyers, but also experts, are growing more adept at doing, and in both situations, attaching a catchy title to a defense contributes to the erroneous perception that abuse defenses are widespread. See Bonnie, supra note 1, at 1-6 (describing how the use of the term “syndrome” leads to a perception of an explosion of such cases because that term appears in newspaper reports, which are in the modem age instantly electronically searchable on a national basis).

References   [ + ]

1. Wally Owens, Note, State v. Osby, The Urban Survival Syndrome, 22 AM. J. CRIM. L. 809, 809-11 (1995).

About Quianna Canada

Quianna Canada is an anti-police brutality activist, author, and opinion writer living in the United States.
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