Justice Sotomayor blasts prosecutor for racist remarks
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor unleashed her inner wise Latina on Monday and let a federal prosecutor who disparaged against blacks and Hispanics have it. Justice Stephen Breyer joined her.
The comments came as justices explained their decision not to hear a case because they believe the defendant, a Texas men involved in a drug case, should’ve made his arguments before a lower court.
The defendant, Bongani Charles Calhoun, alleges he was just tagging along in a road trip and didn’t know his travel companions were dealing drugs in the course of it. To that, the prosecutor, an assistant US attorney in the Western District of Texas who wasn’t named by the justices said: “You’ve got African-Americans. You’ve got Hispanics, and 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?’”
The disparaging comments, Calhoun argues, signals bias that affected the outcome of his trial. He is African American.
Sotomayor and Breyer made abundantly clear that their decision not to hear the case had to do with process and should not be in any way interpreted like they condone the prosecutor’s racist remarks.
“By suggesting that race should play a role in establishing a defendant’s criminal intent, the prosecutor here tapped into a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our Nation. It is deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this base tactic more than a decade into the 21st century,” they said. “We expect the government to seek justice, not to fan the flames of fear and prejudice.”
Sotomayor also blasted the Justice Department for not taking action against the prosecutor.
This is why race and ethnicity matters in the composition of the court. Justices are human beings and how they execute their bench duties doesn’t occur in a vacuum. If they didn’t draw from their life experiences and only interpreted the law in the most [impossibly] purist of ways, every decision made by the Court would be unanimous. The racist comments resonated with Sotomayor because she dealt with them growing up. They touched her in a way that was unique to her experience as a Latina woman from a poor background. She reacted the same way she always has, which could be credited for why she's come so far. She spoke out.