Blind Charging for the 20th Judicial District?
Im just curious if this is a good idea so I linked an article linked below discussing how a District Attorney in California is experimenting with “blind charging.” Which means a prosecutor is not allowed to know a person’s race before charging them. I believe without doubt Henry, and Houston County had one of the most corrupt judicial systems in the country. We didn’t need a Harvard ethics study to confirm that (it did). It was particularly cruel towards two groups of people, blacks and poor rural whites. When it came to dispensing justice it was and still is very much a culture of who you know.
What’s interesting to me is not whether someone on the bench or in the prosecutor is racist but the deeper question if they carry an unconscious bias. Richard Banks and Richard Thompson Ford of Stanford Law School point out, “The goal of racial justice efforts should be the alleviation of substantive inequalities, not the eradication of unconscious bias.” Cornell Law School notes in a study ,“Race matters in the criminal justice system. Black defendants appear to fare worse than similarly situated white defendants. Why? Implicit bias is one possibility… Judges hold implicit racial biases. These biases can influence their judgment.”
Assume they are right, how would we know the degree to which this is present in Henry County? Here is what I have been doing. There are two cases that I have been following in the Henry County courthouse. Quietly… so my old friend little Sambo doesn’t know which ones they are. When they are over, I want to compare the outcomes. Then I want to request the previous cases - different race and social-economic groups, but the same criminal circumstances and compare results and publish the data. Then we have data not opinion.
I get that judges and all of us to a degree are not colorblind. To say otherwise is fantasy. In south Alabama, we are hard-wired to think differently along racial and economic-class lines. We are also hard-wired to treat a white man who comes to court wearing red wings and parking his logging truck out front differently than a little prepster with a daddy-paid-for attorney at his side. One gets pretrial diversion, and the man from Screamer gets weekends in the county jail. The black kid often just gets to jail. But just how explicit is the difference and what does the data not our beliefs say? If it’s substantial then “blind charging” might be the answer.
From the NYT: ”While riding the train in San Francisco three years ago, a white man told an African-American man that he smelled bad and should move away from him. An argument followed, and the African-American man, Michael Smith, was eventually tackled by police officers and accused of assaulting them.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Smith with seven counts, including battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. But after viewing body camera footage, a jury acquitted Mr. Smith, then 23, on most of the charges, and the prosecutors dropped the other counts. Mr. Smith’s lawyer said he does not believe a white person would have been arrested or prosecuted.
While the district attorney’s office disagreed with that assessment of the case, George Gascón, the district attorney, has acknowledged that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are prosecuted in the city, which led him to ask a troubling question: To what extent does bias affect the work of prosecutors?”