Federal Judge Questions Racial Bias by Prosecutors

A federal judge in Memphis is questioning whether prosecutors are issuing more onerous charges against black defendants than white defendants for comparable crimes, The Commercial Appeal reports. U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. has raised concerns of racial discrimination in at least three separate cases — most recently one involving two drug dealers who traveled together when selling MDMA. In that case, the white defendant got out of the car that the men were traveling in to transfer the drugs, while the black defendant remained in the vehicle with another woman. A gun was found in the car between the legs of the black defendant, who was charged with a gun crime mandating an automatic five-year sentence. The white defendant was not charged with a gun crime and received a drastically lighter sentence. Representatives of the prosecutor's office say they do not discriminate based on race and the white man received a lesser sentence because of his limited criminal record. Fowlkes, a former state and federal prosecutor who has also served as a Shelby County public defender, is one of the few black federal judges, which make up only 10 percent of that judiciary.

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