Denver’s District Attorney Mitch Morrissey took to Facebook to announce he was dropping all charges against a 15-year-old girl and to blast her family for a “grandstanding social media campaign.”
Activists had lobbed the hashtag #WorstDAEver at his office and had used social media, memes, videos and tweets to decry his decision to prosecute Shani, a Denver high schooler, for what started as a dress code violation and quickly escalated into a series of criminal charges.
Shani was arrested in October for assaulting an officer. She served court ordered home detention and racked up more than 25 absences.
Video that has yet to be released from the school apparently proved she didn’t assault anybody.
Denver Public Schools dropped charges and fired the security officer and principal who handled her case, said activist Karen Ashmore, who has been involved in the campaign to force Morrissey to back off.
On March 10, Morrissey’s office dropped the first round of charges against Shani but added two more: resisting arrest and interference.
“If Shani had committed any crime against the Denver Police Department they certainly would have charged her for those crimes and more at the time that she was alleged to have committed them five months ago,” wrote her aunt Omiyale OlisaYaa Zannu on Facebook.
Shani’s family accused Morrissey, the Denver Police Department, Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver Public Schools of pushing the young woman into the preschool-to-prison pipeline by calling in law enforcement after a mere dress code violation.
Morrissey dropped the new charges after her family produced evidence that, as he tells it, proved she was not guilty.
His decision came the day of a press conference scheduled at his office to hold him accountable for wrongfully prosecuting Shani.
In recent weeks, his office has been slammed by attorneys, ministers and social justice activists for refusing to prosecute killer cops, defending a wrongful conviction and hiding records in cahoots with the Attorney General’s office from a $2.6 million publicly funded project to use DNA evidence to ensure innocent people are not convicted of crimes. Of 5,000 eligible cases, the offices only tested one.
In a video directed at Mayor Michael Hancock, who was dinged with the hashtag #mayorisapuppet, Shani’s grandmother implored Denver to end the school-to-prison pipeline and to quit attacking her granddaughter.
After dropping charges, Morrissey wrote the following:
I appreciate the opportunity to provide additional information about a juvenile case that has been a topic on social media for the last couple of days.
Leading up to today, there has been a great deal of incorrect information circulated about the facts of this case. Regardless, new evidence was presented to our office just a short time ago that has led to the decision to dismiss the case.
This new evidence actually came from the juvenile’s family, who has had it since this incident occurred last October. When our office learned of this new evidence, it was immediately investigated and verified, and within 45 minutes of receiving it, we made the decision to dismiss the case.
It is unfortunate for the juvenile that the family chose to initiate a social media grandstanding campaign, rather than provide critical evidence that would have resulted in the dismissal of the case much sooner, and provided a much better outcome for the juvenile.
Black Lives Matter 5280 said in a statement:
We would like to thank all of the community members and allies that rallied around Shani and her family today! All together, an incredible display of what community is capable of accomplishing. Without our collective voice, the charges against Shani would likely remain sending this young scholar into the school-to-prison pipeline.
While we celebrate this victory, we must offer comments on your response. We, the members of Black Lives Matter 5280, initiated this campaign for our beloved daughter … our “unfortunate use of social media” will not be blamed for the outcomes in our beloved daughter’s life. Your office and the Denver Police Department are solely responsible. The charges could have been dropped months ago preventing her from missing school and enduring house arrest.
Let us re-emphasize the importance of Shani’s case. Our children experience harsher discipline, are targeted, arrested, and charged at greater rates than White children. This must stop! We will continue to work with community to protect our children because we know that their futures are bright. We will be watching you, Denver Police Department and District Attorney Mitchell Morrissey. We Know that We Will Win!
Call the family’s social media pleas “grandstanding.” Or call it having to make noise — a lot of it — to get this DA’s office to listen to reason. Whatever you call it, the volume is amplifying against Denver’s longtime elected prosecutor who risks leaving office next winter with a legacy as the #WorstDAEver.