The Illinois state agency that disciplines lawyers has accused a longtime prosecutor of unprofessional conduct, saying his use of racially charged language at a murder trial “served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice,” the Chicago Tribune reports. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission said Williamson County State’s Attorney Charles Garnati violated four rules of professional conduct in a 2011 murder trial of Marcus Marshall, a black man, on charges he fatally shot another man at a party. Marshall was tried by an all-white jury, convicted of murder and sentenced to 85 years in prison.
During his closing argument, Garnati spoke of the small African-American community in Williamson County. Trying to contrast how whites and blacks deal with police while referring to allegations that two black witnesses had recanted their statements, he began with the words, “Now in our white world, ladies and gentlemen ….” Garnati also told the jury that African-Americans typically carry their guns in their waistbands. In an unusual move this summer, he agreed that Marshall should receive a new trial. Steve Greenberg, a Chicago attorney who handled Marshall’s appeal, said, “I think anyone who espouses those racist views is unfit to be the state’s attorney of a county. Imagine how many charging decisions over the years were racially motivated in the (time) he’s been state’s attorney.”