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Home / Beyond the Bay / Racial bias in MS? Black father faces 20 years for leaving child in hot car, white mother off the hook
Racial bias in MS? Black father faces 20 years for leaving child in hot car, white mother off the hook
A Mississippi lawyer claims racism and gender bias have led prosecutors to charge his client with manslaughter in the hot car death of his eight-month-old daughter, while a white mother who made the same accident walks free.
Joshua Blount’s baby daughter Shania died in May, after he forgot to drop her off at her grandmother’s house and left her in his hot car all day while he worked at his job at a restaurant.
After her death, the 25-year-old grieving father was charged with second-degree murder, which was later downgraded to manslaughter.
Just a week before that deadly incident, a mother just 90 miles away in the same state committed the same mistake, leaving her 2-year-old daughter Caroline in her car for eight hours while she worked. However, the 37-year-old mother in that case, Amy Bryant, has not been charged with any crime.
Blount’s lawyer Carlos Moore says racism and gender bias play into whether police decide to charge a parent in these saddening incidents.
‘We have an African-American male who, I believe, gets less of the benefit of the doubt than anyone in the criminal justice system,’ Moore told CBS News.
Professor Matt Steffy of the Mississippi College Law School believes Blount’s charges are unfair.
‘It appears to be a coin flip,’ Steffy said. ‘If you meet the right gender and race expectations, you are treated like a grieving parent. Otherwise, you are treated like a criminal and face 20 years in prison.’
Newly released surveillance footage shows the moment Blount and a friend return to the car at the end of his shift to find baby Shania inside unconscious. Blount, right, breaks down into shaking as his friend, left, runs off to get help.
In both cases, the parents were rushing to work. Neither was drunk or impaired and prosecutors have not alleged that either left their child in the car on purpose. Furthermore, the same Mississippi laws applied to both parents.
While the mother in baby Caroline’s case has faced no legal consequences for her actions, Blount now faces up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted of manslaughter.
Even Blount’s girlfriend, the mother of their child, has said she forgives him and wants the charges dropped.
Blount himself takes responsibility for his daughter’s death but says he did not do it on purpose.
‘I take full responsibility, but I did nothing on purpose,’ Blount said. ‘It was just a tragic accident.’
In surveillance footage obtained by CBS News, Blount and a friend are seen walking out to his car after his shift to find little Shania unconscious inside.
At seeing this, Blount is immediately emotional and starts to shake, while his friend runs to get help.
‘It felt like every part of me was just torn into pieces,’ Blount said.
‘Everything just crashes. It just felt like your whole world just shut down, knowing her last words were” Daddy”‘.