UPDATE: As you read this, know that the court has now sentenced Keon Mangun to 134 months in prison. The people who killed Miranda got one year. It is the New Jim Crow!
In her book “The New Jim Crow,” Michele Alexander argues that the War on Drugs has created a new racial undercaste comprised predominately of black and Latino men. Harsh mandatory drug sentences and legal discrimination against felons are the tools, according to Ms. Alexander, for the perpetuation of racial control. Finding a black urban drug dealer guilty of third degree murder where others, equally accountable for the fatal overdose of a rural drug abuser, receive lesser sentences, is an example of what Ms. Alexander is taking about, as pointed out in a recent Minnesota case.
A Morrison County jury recently found Keon Mangun guilty of third-degree murder. Mangun, a North Minneapolis drug peddler, allegedly sold heroin to a guy who sold it to another person who gave it to a woman who overdosed and died. The woman was Miranda Gosiak, a 19 year old living in Little Falls, MN. When she died, she was 100 miles from Mangun who never visited Little Falls or anywhere else in Morrison County, and never sold drugs to Gosiak. Nevertheless, the jury found Mangun was the proximate cause of Gosiak’s untimely death. He faces 11 years in prison.
According to a report of this tragedy by Paul Walsh, Mangun sold heroin to Christian Dahl, who along with Brandon Bedford had traveled to North Minneapolis to buy drugs. Dahl and Bedford then trafficked the drugs to Little Falls where they and Tanya Ashley “partied” with Gosiak for two days before she died..
According to Walsh, Dahl was the chief witness against Mangun. In exchange for his testimony, Dahl was allowed to plead to possession and received a sentence of one year in jail plus 20 years of probation. Bedford was charged with third-degree murder, but is currently a fugitive. Ashley was allowed to plead to possession and is already free. So far the only person facing significant jail time is Mangun, the man least connected to Gosiak.
So how does this fit into the New Jim Crow? It fits when you take into consideration that the prosecution saved the harshest treatment for the only black individual involved. It fits when you take into account that Mangun was tried and convicted by a jury from a county that is 97.7% white; a county that he never visited and had no connection with. If Mangun is guilty of third degree murder then surely so are Dahl, Ashley, and Bedford. Yet the Morrison County prosecutor thought it just to go after Mangun for murder, while showing leniency to people far more proximate to Miranda Gosiak’s tragic death.
Heroin use leads to tragedies, and all efforts to end its abuse are laudable. Yet the perpetuation of old Jim Crow by putting new gloss on Minnesota’s third-degree murder statute is not a legitimate way to fight rural drug abuse. Minnesota must develop a response to its heroin epidemic, but it must be equitable and just for all Minnesotans.The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear this case. Hopefully the court will read Ms. Alexander’s book beforehand.
David Martin and Clark Griffith provide assistance to black men who have felonies on their records to complete probation and find employment.