U.S. Justice Denounces Prosecutor’s Racially Charged Question
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday condemned racially charged language used by a federal prosecutor in Texas.
The justice, appointed to the court by President Barack Obama in 2009, took the relatively unusual step of writing a statement to accompany the nine-member Supreme Court’s announcement that it would not take up a criminal case.
Sotomayor took issue with the question asked by the prosecutor, identified in the trial transcript as Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Ponder.
While questioning an African-American defendant in a drug case, Ponder asked: “You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, 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 first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Sotomayor wrote that the prosecutor had “tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our nation.”
The question was “pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence,” she added. Sotomayor also accused the Obama administration of playing down the issue.