Monday, March 2, 2009 at 8:28AM The Blogmother
“Baby mama” does not refer to any particular race. It is currently a trendy pop-culture term for a single mother, as evidenced by the recent Hollywood movie (released on DVD in 2008) titled “Baby Mama,” involving Saturday Night Live actress, Tina Fey, playing the role of a white single mother. At worst, the “baby mama” comment here is an awkward attempt by the trial court to sound hip to a defendant when explaining how his idleness and lack of ambition are negative character traits especially in contrast to the mother of his child. BRENNAN, J. (dissenting)
One of my lawyer buddies passed this jewel down.
A Caucasian judge’s comments on the African-American defendant’s lifestyle and his “baby mama” could lead to a reasonable perception that the sentence was imposed at least in part because of race, a three-judge panel of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held.
In a published decision authored by Judge Joan F. Kessler, the court said that it did not believe the Milwaukee County circuit judge intended his remarks to be racially offensive in State v. Harris, 2008AP810. In fact, the court emphasized that the judge properly considered numerous appropriate sentencing factors before ordering Landray M. Harris to serve two years of imprisonment and three years of extended supervision for possession with intent to deliver 7.21 grams of cocaine.
Rather, the judge erred during the allocution when he asked Harris if he had a job and Harris admitted he was unemployed, staying at home with his infant daughter while the child’s mother balanced work with college classes. WISBAR
This has to be one of the most hysterically funny ( yet pathetically sad) court decisions I have ever read in my life, and I've read far too many. The ultimate issue is whether the sentencing judge discriminated against the defendant during sentencing on the basis of race and gender. There was definitely gender discrimination, but its the discussion of the etymology of the term "Baby Mama" that sends things off the tracks
So a drug dealer who is 21 years old who has never had a job in his ENTIRE life and who went from living with his Mama to living with the mother of his 1 year- old daughter got popped for possession with intent to distribute.
During his sentencing, the trial judge used the term "baby mama" in the following exchange;
THE COURT: Where are you working now?
THE DEFENDANT: I'm unemployed right now.
THE COURT: You're unemployed still?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Have you gotten a job since January?
THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: You're kidding.
THE DEFENDANT: No.
THE COURT: What do you do all day?
THE DEFENDANT: I just stay at home with my daughter and that's it.
THE COURT: Where is her mother?
THE DEFENDANT: At work.
THE COURT: So the mother works and you sit at home, right?
THE DEFENDANT: Yeah.
THE COURT: And watch the child?
THE DEFENDANT: I got all types of things goin'. My personal family.
THE COURT: Where does the baby's mama work?
THE DEFENDANT: Metro Market.
THE COURT: Did she finish school?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Is she going to college, too?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Where do you guys find these women, really, seriously. I'd say about every fourth man who comes in here unemployed, no education, is with a woman who is working full-time, going to school. Where do you find these women? Is there a club?
THE DEFENDANT: No.
OH. IT. GETS. BETTER!
THE COURT: You're sure?
THE DEFENDANT: I ain't find her at -- she not the club [type].
THE COURT: Oh, she's not the club type.
Later in the sentencing, the trial court stated: "Mr. Harris sits at home, gets high while his baby mama works and goes to school. I swear there's a club where these women get together and congregate."
This however isn't the hysterically funny part. Watching these appellate judges wrestle with origin and meaning of the term "baby mama" while also attempting to describe the defendant's work ethic.
Judge Kitty K. Brennan dissented, arguing that Harris had not met his burden of showing that the “sentence was based on clearly irrelevant or improper factors.” Brennan said that “baby mama” is merely a “trendy pop-culture term for single mother” without any particular racial connotation.
“At worst, the ‘baby mama’ comment here is an awkward attempt by the trial court to sound hip to a defendant when explaining how his idleness and lack of ambition are negative character traits especially in contrast to the mother of his child,” Brennan wrote. WISBAR
Then I got to the footnotes and they cited the Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia I died. They threw this tidbit in the footnotes:
The phrase “baby mama” is said to have originated in Jamaican creole as a reference to an unmarried mother and is now common in American hip hop. See Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_mama (last visited December 17, 2008). Urbandictionary.com offers several definitions for a “baby mama,” including: “The mother of your child(ren), whom you did not marry and with whom you are not currently involved. [As in,] ‘Oh her? She ain’t nothing to me now, girl, she just my baby mama. So, can I get your number?’” See http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=baby%20mama (last visited December 17, 2008).SOURCE
I know the law clerks had a blast with this one. Needless to say, I am as mystified as the sentencing judge. How can someone so clearly lacking in ambition with no inclination for an honest days work end up living off a woman with a job going to school full time? That however is discriminatory based on gender and should play no role in sentencing. I'm not a judge, he is.
I have nothing against stay-at-home Dads. I am against stay at home Dads who get high all day while they are supposed to be watching their children. I thought drug dealers didn't use their own product?
I am marginally miffed that in the age of Jerry Springer "baby mama" now equals Black.
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