Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prosecutor Charged With Appealing To Racial Prejudice: "In Our White World"

The Illinois Administrator has charged a prosecutor with improper appeals to racial prejudice in a criminal case.

The defendant and the victim were African-American. All of the jurors were Caucasian.

From the prosecutor's opening statement

 "And you will see, ladies and gentlemen, that there are some, not all-there are many good people in the black community, but basically you will see that there are a few in the black community who refuse to cooperate with the police even when a murder happens right under their nose, and those people have a habit of intimidating, harassing, sometimes threatening anybody who they think is cooperating with the police. That’s what makes this case so difficult, ladies and gentlemen."

And from the closing

But I think what is most crucial in deciding this case, in deciding the credibility of Jodie Lacy and Crystal Blye, and in deciding most of the other issues in this case, is to understand the culture of the black community here in Marion.

"Please, you have to keep in the back of your mind how many people in that community feel about law enforcement. You have to understand and keep in mind how they react to the police and to the prosecutors. Sometimes for people like us, that’s hard to understand. People were brought up to believe that the police were their friends; that when something happens, when we are in trouble, that the police are our friends. And that’s where we go to get help from is the police when bad things happen.

"But in the black community here in Marion, it’s just the opposite. Most-for whatever reasons, most of these people were raised to believe that the police and prosecutors are the enemy; that for some reason, we are always out to get them. In their mindset, the biggest sin that you could-that you can commit is to be a snitch in the community. The biggest sin that you could commit is to ever cooperate with the police on anything. It’s a sin to even cooperate when one of your own people gets brutally gunned down and is left to bleed to death.

"And I am not saying that the whole black community is like that, ladies and gentlemen. There are some very good law[-]abiding citizens in that community here in Marion. But the evidence has shown that again, for whatever reasons, there is an intense dislike and even hatred for the police. And this group of people who feel that way make it extremely hard on the people who are law-abiding and want to do what is right and who are willing to come forward and give information that they have when a crime has been committed . . .

"Now, in our white world, ladies and gentlemen, our automatic reaction in that type of situation, if somebody gives a statement to the police and then later on changes their story, the automatic response would be that that person is not trustful and that there is a problem with their credibility.

"But again, please look at their testimony and what they did and what they didn’t do through the eyes of the people who are raised, again, to feel that the police are always against them and that they cannot trust the police."

The first degree murder conviction was reversed

On September 13, 2013, the Fifth District  Appellate Court issued its opinion in Marshall’s case, 2013 IL App (5th)  110430. In the opinion, the Appellate Court reversed Marshall’s conviction,  finding that the State’s "use of race was an egregious and consistent theme  throughout the trial," and finding that Marshall had been denied the right to a  fair trial.

The Appellate Court decision is linked here.

Remarkably, defense counsel raised no objection to the racially inflammatory arguments.

The Appellate Division condemned the injection of race prejudice into the case, noting a 1977 decision where a conviction was reversed when a prosecutor made similar references to "white society" in a criminal prosecution.

The accused is the elected States Attorney for Williamson County. The linked Wikipedia page has these numbers from 2000 for the county:

The racial makeup of the county was 95.34% White, 2.49% Black or African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.50% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 0.98% from two or more races. 1.24% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.1% were of German, 18.1% American, 13.7% English, 12.9% Irish and 6.6% Italian ancestry.

"Our White World" indeed. (Mike Frisch)

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