Justices Chide TX Federal Prosecutor for Racially-Charged Remark in Drug Trial


In a rare and forceful slap down of a federal prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, criticized the prosecutor’s racially charged remark during a drug conspiracy trial in Texas, the National Law Journal reports. The court declined to review the case, but Sotomayor issued a statement “to dispel any doubt whether the court’s denial of certiorari should be understood to signal our tolerance of a federal prosecutor’s racially charged remark. It should not.” The remark came during cross-examination of Bongani Charles Calhoun, who claimed he did not know that the friend he had accompanied on a road trip was about to engage in a drug transaction. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Ponder of the Western District of Texas said, “You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you–a light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, 'This is a drug deal?’ ” Sotomayor called it “deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this base tactic more than a decade into the 21st century.”

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