UCI Law Students Advocate for Racial Justice


Christopher Lawrence and Jasmine Smith portraits

Pro bono project with Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives investigates systemic racist police violence

As part of their pro bono work for Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives (JW4BL), UCI Law students, Christopher Lawrence (3L) and Jasmine Smith (2L), testified before the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the U.S. (the Commission). The two presented their research regarding the City of Baltimore and its Police Department at a hearing for Tyrone West, a 44-year-old African American man who died while in police custody. The video of their presentation is available here.

"I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to testify before the Commission,” said Christopher. “Working with JW4BL to bring international attention to the issue of police violence has given me the opportunity to advocate for real change in communities around our nation."

“Continuing to bring international attention to the issue of police violence in the United States aids in the liberation and unity of Afrikans across the diaspora,” explained Jasmine. “Understanding the complexities of how police violence is a result of the oppressive systems that we live under, aids in the struggle towards a better future. It was a great experience being able to testify and virtually be ‘in the room’ with Black leaders from around the world. I am eternally thankful for JW4BL for allowing us to be a part of this work that will also have a tangible impact.”

Christopher and Jasmine have been working with JW4BL since August 2020, conducting legal research and drafting memorandum in support of various lawsuits, all of which are civil-rights related. Their work in support of the Commission includes:

  • Research into race disparities in the policing practices in Baltimore Maryland and the effect of those disparities in the lives of Black Marylanders.
  • Preparing their supervising attorney for testimony before the commission by drafting several memoranda summarizing their legal research.
  • Research regarding Baltimore Police Department corruption and the effects of plain-clothes policing practices. 

Their research revealed, among many other things, that Black Maryland residents constitute a disproportionate percentage of the Maryland prison population. In addition, while accounting for less than two-thirds of Baltimore's population, the city’s Black residents account for nearly nine out of 10 of the police use-of-force incidents reported.

“Jasmine and Christopher contributed significantly to the work of our team for the International Commission,” said Nana Gyamfi, Co-Founder of Justice Warriors and President of National Conference of Black Lawyers. “Not only did they research and present in the matter of Tyrone West, but they provided case summaries and additional research on other cases, including the matters of Botham Jean, Marquise Jones and Kayla Moore, the only trans person represented in the Commission’s cases. I could not have been more proud then when the infamous Lennox Hinds took the time during our Steering Committee meeting to Commend Jasmine and Christopher for their work.”

More about the Commission

The International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the U.S. is a collaboration of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the National Lawyers Guild.

The Commission is working to conduct a thorough investigation into anti-Black violence perpetrated by police in the United States both recently and historically by evaluating the most recent cases and addressing the connection between those to the history of failing to address systemic racism. They will make recommendations -- in particular on accountability measures -- with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring legal accountability for such violations and abuses, and to protecting people against further abuses. The Commission is completing a report that will be submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights by April 2021. 

Christopher and Jasmine’s work was submitted as evidence to be included in the report.