Mother, Activist Getting Second Chance in Court

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on November 14 to reflect recent developments.

A mother and activist who was sentenced to two years in prison is now on bond pending appeal of her case – something she was originally denied.

The change in status will mean Siwatu-Salama Ra can be home with her family, including the child she had to give birth to while in prison despite her doctors affirming she would be a “high-risk” pregnancy as it was, much less with the stress of being in prison. She will still be electronically monitored while she awaits a hearing on her appeal.

Wade Fink Law, which is representing Ra, said earlier this week that the Court of Appeals recognized “substantial legal issues that could reverse her conviction” if her appeal is successful.


The original story, published November 13, is below:

The Michigan Court of Appeals has vacated a lower court’s order and remanded the case back to the lower court for the judge who sentenced a pregnant environmental and racial justice activist to explain his sentencing, namely that the woman was denied bond.

According to the court document regarding the case of Siwatu-Salama Ra, the Court of Appeals is asking the trial court to explain itself and its basis for charging Ra as it did. It questions the lower court’s assertion that Ra – known to be an activist in her community – was somehow a risk to her community and thus sentenced without bond.

“Conviction of a crime alone is not a sufficient basis,” the Court of Appeals wrote of the latter.

Accordingly, the lower court judge, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Donald Knapp, will have to revisit his decision, which could at least open the door for the mother and activist to be free while she awaits a decision on appeal.

Ra was charged and sentenced for a July 2017 incident where Ra claims she pulled a legally owned, unloaded firearm in defense of her family when a neighbor allegedly attacked them with her car. Ra was sentenced to two years in prison and the conviction has drawn the ire of activists in the community and around the country who believe Ra was unjustly prosecuted because of the color of her skin.

One of the more egregious aspects of the case is that Ra’s pregnancy was not taken into account at the time of her sentencing. She had requested to postpone her sentencing until she gave birth because she was considered a “high-risk” pregnancy, but she was denied.

Further, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Donald Knapp refused to read or consider the nearly 100 letters attesting to Ra’s character, leadership and dedication to her community, according to reports.

She remains at the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility near Ann Arbor – the only all-female prison in the state that has had its share of problems of overcrowding and other operational issues.

But since the Court of Appeals determination, she may have a new chance to post bond and stay with her newborn and the rest of her family while she awaits a decision on appeal.

Her new hearing was originally scheduled for Friday but was posted to Wednesday, November 14. A website about Ra, her family’s needs, and other updates regarding her case can be found here.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson