Prosecutors, defense attorneys, activists and former police officers will discuss the deaths of unarmed minorities at the hands of law enforcement at a forum at the University of North Carolina School of Law today.
The forum, organized by law school professors, will include three panels examining civil rights, self defense, and the use of force from legal, historical and activist perspectives, said Associate Professor Tamar Birckhead, one of the organizers.
Sherillyn Ifill, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which has requested a new grand jury to consider charges in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., is scheduled to give the keynote speech.
The organizers’ goal, in part, is to present the legal context -- including issues related to grand juries, civil rights litigation and police training -- under which such violent deaths have happened, Brickhead said. It is important to understand the system in order to propose how to improve them, she said.
"Those of us who teach law are especially challenged to think about the significance of events like the death of Michael Brown,” Birckhead said, “and the failure of the criminal justice system to provide what I believe is a meaningful forum in which to determine accountability.”
The day-long event is sold out and will be attended primarily by law students, academics from local universities and members of non-profit and religious groups. It will be streamed live and can be accessed through the law school’s website.