August 13, 2023
Minnesota Woman, 72, Claims Racial Bias In Conviction
A 72-year-old nurse in Minnesota is now having to report to jail after, what she claims, was an act of self-defense against a co-worker’s assault.
Having been a nurse for more than four decades, Sybil Garbow says her alleged actions do not add up considering her work history, where she has not had any issues that escalated physically “until now.”
However, the jury did not find her clean record to be enough evidence that Garbow acted solely out of protecting herself, as they found her guilty on felony charges of assault against a white coworker. According to Insider, the presiding judge sentenced her to six months in prison, with five years of probation.
On top of jail time, Garbow will also have to pay over $51,000 in restitution. However, she is unsure of how she will pay this fine, given that she has no job after the incident. She also believes that racial discrimination played a role in her wrongful conviction.
The trial was conducted in Anoka County, an area in Minnesota where 80% of the population is white.
“If I’m the only person of color in an environment, I’m used to it because I’ve been here since 1973,” Garbow said. “But it became obvious to me that I didn’t have a strong position in this whole situation. It was scary.”
According to Garbow, her altercation with her white co-worker, Devlin Stitt at Touchstone Mental Health. Allegedly, Stitt pushed her in the chest after believing she was intentionally spraying her with disinfectant, then used a phone Garbow was using to call for help to hit her again.
Garbow proceeded to fight back with the aerosol can, hitting Stitt in the head with it then fleeing the room. However, prosecutors began to invalidate her story.
A criminal justice nonprofit in Minnesota, We Resolve, also believes Garbow’s case had racialized elements that led to an extensive sentencing, especially of an older woman with no prior convictions.
“With Sybil being Black and the victim being white, it seemed that they were really going to make sure that they taught Sybil a lesson about coming into conflict with a white person or hurting a white person,” said Damon Drake, We Resolve’s executive director. “They wouldn’t even entertain that somehow Sybil was attacked first and was defending herself. They wouldn’t even entertain the thought.”
In the meantime, Garbow and her lawyer are reviewing their next steps.