In a trial that has deeply shaken the Black and Asian communities of Wisconsin, 16-year-old Dylan Yang, who is Hmong American, was sentenced earlier this week to 13 years in prison and an additional 17 years of extended supervision in the stabbing death of 13-year-old Isaiah Powell early last year.
The incident began when in February of 2015, two groups of students began insulting one another on Facebook. Eventually, Powell and his group of friends drove to Yang’s family home to confront Yang and his friends. That confrontation escalated into physical violence, and Powell reportedly fired a BB gun he had brought with him. Yang then emerged from his house with a knife and confronted Powell, resulting in Powell’s fatal injury. Yang was arrested after the altercation and tried as an adult for homicide; Yang was 15 years old at the time.
By Guest Contributors: Pao Lee Vue, Bee Vang, and Louisa Schein
Last March, Wausau resident Dylan Yang, 16 – who is Hmong American – was found guilty of “first-degree reckless homicide” for stabbing Isaiah Powell, a black Latino boy, then 13, in an altercation that happened in 2015. The case has raised a litany of issues that beg questions of how ongoing racial dynamics impact the Wisconsin justice system. Why might it matter that an overwhelmingly white collection of authorities – from teachers to school administrators, from counselors to cops, from jurors to judges – managed this case involving the death of a black Latino teen at the hands of a Hmong teen? What lies ahead for Dylan who now faces up to 60 years in prison? What is being done to diminish the uneven implementation of the law exemplified by this case?