Friday, June 7, 2013

Racist judge is not alone: Elegy of an unjust system

Judge Edith Jones is a racist.

My father once told me he’d rather a person calls him a Nigger to his face than to share those feelings behind his back.  That way you know who you’re fighting against.

My issue with the Klu Klux Klan is more about the sheets they wear.  They have a right to share their feelings, but show your face and buckle down for an ass whipping once the fire dies down from that burning cross.

I’ve always known judges hold racist views toward black and brown people.   You can tell by the way they manage proceedings in the courtroom.  Spend some time at your local courthouse and you will soon discover that justice is unjust for people of color. 

Many are assumed guilty before they step in the room.

Those called to administer the law cling to racist notions that have deep bearing on the verdicts they hand out.  It’s all part of the game that has long been preached among those who fight for the Racial Justice Act and the revamping of a system made dirty by the views of those who hold the power to take freedom away.

The outrage over comments made by Judge Edith Jones make it easy to overlook she is not alone.  Jones is judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  On Feb. 20, during an address at the University of Pennsylvania law school, Jones was heard saying “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime," and that they are "prone to commit acts of violence" and be involved in more violent and "heinous" crimes than people of other ethnicities.

A formal complaint was filed Tuesday by several civil rights groups, including one funded entirely by the government of Mexico.  The complaint alleges Jones said Mexicans would prefer to be on death row in the U.S. than serve prison terms in their native country, and that it's an insult for the U.S. to look to the laws of other countries such as Mexico.

The charges against Jones are laid out in a 12-page complaint filed in New Orleans where the appeals court is based. The affidavit contends Jones engaged in conduct that "undermines public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and creates a strong appearance of impropriety."

Jones was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.  She has served as chief justice since October 2012.

The complaint also claims that Jones said defendants' claims of racism, innocence, arbitrariness, and violations of international law and treaties are just "red herrings" used by opponents of the death penalty. She allegedly said claims of "mental retardation" by capital defendants disgust her, and the fact that those defendants were convicted of a capital crime is sufficient to prove they are not "mentally retarded."

The complaint claims she said a death sentence provides a service to capital-case defendants because they are likely to make peace with God only just before their execution.

Members of the coalition formed to address Jones’ said her comments resembled those made during the trail of Duane Buck.  Buck, a black man in Texas, was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of his former girlfriend and another man.  During Buck’s trial, a psychologist listed race as a factor in Buck continuing to pose a risk.  Although called to the stand by the defense, the prosecution used the testimony in her closing argument.

John Cornyn, then Texas Attorney General, used the case to show how race played a role in determining death sentences.

"Judge Jones's comments are frighteningly similar to those that violated Duane Buck's constitutional rights," said Christina Swarns, one of Buck's lawyers and director of the Criminal Justice Project of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

The uncovering of Jones’ racist agenda came hours before the repeal of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act.  The law allowed death-row inmates the right to challenge their sentences based on racial bias claims.

Under the law, inmates were allowed to use state and county statistics and other information to claim race was a factor in determining their sentencing.  Opponents of the law say the law clogged up the courts and has denied justice to victims.

Jones’ comments demonstrate how race is used to determine the fate of those charged with crimes. Most disturbing involving the discussion related to Jones is the lack of deeper dialogue regarding how her views are part of the common culture among those who rule the law.  The fallacy of a colorblind system becomes more perplexing when it lacks the type of checks and balances critical in protecting those assumed guilty based on their race.

America’ problem goes deeper than state legislators are willing to concede. The magnitude of the problem can be traced to President Richard Nixon.  In 1973, Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a way to target black people.

“You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to,” Nixon is quoted saying in Dan Baum’s Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure. Baum lifted the quote from the diary of Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman.

Nixon’s war on drugs was an all-out war against black people.  Jones proves an agenda to continue the strategy of Nixon.  The state legislator preserves the same by failing to acknowledge the link between race and incarceration.

Jones is an old fashioned racist wearing a black robe.  I’m beginning to wonder if those serving state government have a white robe in the closet.

I’d rather they call me a Nigger to my face.

Start running when the fire goes out.


  1. Pretty amazing that she'd feel okay about saying that in public. Ken

  2. Carl, if you don't start doing some homework, people won't take you seriously.

    First, there is no recording or copy of Judge Jones speech in February. The comments you put in quotes are not what she actually said, but what ONE observer THOUGHT she said. And, that observer has a case coming up before her appellate court. All of the other parties to the case base their concerns on the one reporter who has written about this speech. In addition, like yourself, most web reports about the speech also attribute their knowledge of the speech solely to the one reporter.

    Does anyone think it odd that this speech, made to an audience of lawyers, wouldn't have at least one attendee that could corroborate the NYT reporter's version of the events? Or, is it most likely that her remarks were less inflammatory than reported?

    You go on to multiple errors of logic when you then somehow attribute what someone thought Judge Jones said in February to other cases in which she has no connection.

    Second, I would imagine that most judges at all levels have personal views that they are able to put aside when actually deciding a case. At least that's the views of several district attorneys who have commented on this matter.

    Consider the comments of Tamara Tabo, a black attorney, at for an alternate opinion.

    Of course you're actually only using the alleged biases of a single judge to make a case for racial bias in the entire judicial system. Have there been indisputable cases of individual racial bias from either judges or juries in the past? Of course there have, without question. Is the percentage of blacks in prison larger than their percentage in the general population? Yes. Does that mean that all blacks are in prison because the judicial system was biased or does it merely mean that more blacks cause crimes than whites? Or, is it race or economics? Do more poor people cause crimes than rich people? It is the arguing of those statistics and the various social views on what causes them that has been the majority of attacks on the appellate courts. Statistical correlation does not prove causation. You go on to say that how "her views are part of the common culture among those who rule the law." Upon what do you base that statement, which, of course, includes multitudes of black jurists?

    True to a prior essay, however, you do speak Mumia very well. Just be more careful with your "facts" and more specific with your allegations so that people will actually listen and be changed.