Decatur attorney honored for holding police accountable

Attorney Mawuli Davis of Decatur has been recognized for his work in holding law enforcement officers accountable for misconduct and acts of violence. Photo provided

A Decatur attorney was awarded the Southern Center for Human Rights’ (SCHR) inaugural Luminary Award for his work holding police accountable for misconduct and acts of violence.

Attorney Mawuli Davis, a partner at the Davis Bozeman Law Firm, received the award May 12, at SCHR’s annual Atlanta benefit reception, with the theme “Justice Taking Root.” Other awardees include former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and attorney Lawrence Bracken. 

“I was humbled. I was surprised,” Davis said about winning the award. “The Southern Center for Human Rights is such a powerful organization in terms of the work they do around real issues that impact communities of color, in particular, but also, in general. It is one of the most important organizations that we have in the state of Georgia in terms of trying to deal with some of the injustices…and using their legal expertise to do that.”

According to a news release by the firm, “the Southern Center for Human Rights is a nonprofit law firm based in Atlanta that provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States.”

Davis said it is appropriate that he received the inaugural Luminary Award “because I believe that our approach to the practice and to handling cases that involve injustices has been to try to shed light. For as long as we have been practicing that has been our philosophy.

“The hope is that if the larger community knew what was going on, if they would see some of the systemic issues that we’re having in the justice system [they would] become more involved and engaged,” Davis said.

“Obviously our No. 1 priority is always to our client, but we have always had, as a part of our approach, the desire to shed light and to illuminate the areas of darkness in our society that quite frankly the general public is not aware of,” he said. “A bright light is the only thing that will ultimately force out the darkness of injustices through powerful corporations trying to bully everyday citizens [and] law enforcement given preferential treatment.”

Recent high-profile cases Davis has worked on include representation of the family of Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, the toddler injured in May 2014 when Habersham County deputies threw a flashbang grenade into his crib.

Davis said this displayed the dangers of the “militarization of the police.”

He also represents the family of Kevin Davis (no relation), a DeKalb County man killed by a policeman responding to a 911 call.

Police-involved shooting cases “are important because it highlights the fight to make clear that Black lives do matter,” attorney Davis said. “We have had these kinds of cases for years. We’re thankful that now there’s more of a social justice movement that has picked up on the rally cry of Black lives matter.”

Davis said he became interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement after “really becoming conscious about human rights efforts” and becoming an activist in causes such as the African centered education movement and reparations movement.

 

Davis said he cannot take full credit for the award.

“This award itself is really not about me,” Davis said. “It’s more about an institution that we’ve been able to be a part of because nothing that I’ve been credited with doing is possible without us having a firm that …allows us to do the work that we do. I’m just very fortunate to have a great partner and a great firm.

“Each of us has been placed here for a purpose by God and that when we can find likeminded people on our journey…then we can build institutions that really are about doing God’s work,” Davis said. “It’s about justice. It’s about compassion. It’s about love and those are the motivating factors that have allowed me to be able to work.”

The Davis Bozeman Law Firm practices civil rights, personal injury and criminal defense law and is led by managing partner Robert Bozeman, a DeKalb County native.  The firm also established a community affairs division to support community building and activism.  

“Mawuli’s recognition reaffirms our firm’s commitment to taking personally what happens in our community–from the car accidents we handle to the incidents of police shootings, it’s all personal to us,” Bozeman said in a news release. 

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