Prominent Cases On Race, Justice Fuel Debate On Bias


The Jena, La., case in which a prosecutor initially filed attempted murder charges against six black youths who beat a white schoolmate, combined with the Supreme Court consideration of sentencing guidelines that call for far harsher penalties for crimes involving crack cocaine compared with powdered cocaine, have encouraged a conversation about the role of race in the justice system, says the New York Times. “It's a very key moment,” said Wayne McKenzie of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York. “You have all of these conversations now that are taking place about the disparities in the criminal justice system.”

The Supreme Court has consistently rejected arguments that studies identifying possible bias in the justice system should affect a particular case. If there is a difference in treatment in different cases, said Redwood City, Ca., prosecutor James Fox, president of the National District Attorneys Association, “Is it because of prior failures on probation? Is it because of the seriousness of injuries to the victim?” University of Iowa law Prof. David Baldus agreed that the numbers must be carefully analyzed. “If you look at death row, its 40 percent African-American in this country and then people blithely compare it to the percentage of blacks in the population, and that's 12.5 percent,” he said. “You're not adjusting for the participation of blacks in homicides.”


Comments are closed.