Racial disparity in the court

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2020 | Criminal Defense

There is a major conversation happening in Texas and across the nation with respect to systemic racism and discrimination in all aspects of society. The justice system is central to the discussion, and the narrative has found its way to the court system. Many activists say that the disparity between white professionals and people of color in official capacity is assuredly having an impact on certain components of criminal defense adjudication.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, along with a Vanderbilt professor, published a recent study showing that 95% of all elected prosecutors were white as of 2015. In 2016, it was found that most states averaged 20% with respect to people of color holding judicial positions, and one section of 16 states had an average under 10% of judges being people of color. According to the math, this means that some states had zero judges who were not white.

The position of the activists pointing out the study and literary work is that this disparity has resulted in the phenomena of Black defendants being convicted at higher rates and receiving incarceration terms that are not necessarily consistent with the crime. Many criminal cases involving defendants of color are represented by public defenders who work with these white prosecutors and judges on a daily basis, and most cases are negotiated and settled with plea bargains that rarely bode well for the convicted defendant.

These assertions might be used as leverage for reduced incarceration by Texas criminal defense attorneys when cases against people of color are being negotiated for plea bargain or presented in a trial. The main assurance of the American judicial system is that for people convicted of criminal charges, punishment should be equitable with respect to the seriousness of the crime and not the race of the defendant.