Racism

Federal Judge Accused of Racist Comments

In a speech, allegedly said blacks and Hispanics were more violent and defended executing mentally retarded death row inmates

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A complaint filed today by several civil rights groups, including one funded entirely by the government of Mexico, alleges that federal Judge Edith Jones has violated her duty to be impartial and damaged the public's confidence in the judiciary, in statements she made in a public lecture – including that blacks and Hispanics are more violent.

Indeed, Jones also said that a death sentence provides a public service by allowing an inmate to "make peace with God."

Jones, who sits on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – based in New Orleans, its jurisdiction includes Texas – made numerous offensive and biased comments during a February lecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, according to the complaint filed pursuant to the federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. The complaint, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program (among others) alleges that during her talk – billed as "Federal Death Penalty Review with Judge Edith Jones (5th Cir.)" – Jones violated a number of canons of the code of conduct for federal judges.

The lecture was not recorded, but witnesses recalled a number of Jones' controversial statements. The views she expressed included not only that minorities are responsible for more violent crime than are whites, but also that claims by death row inmates that racism or arbitrariness infected their prosecutions, or that they are actually innocent or even mentally retarded, are merely "red herrings," according to those who attended the lecture. She told the law students and other attendees that she thought the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling outlawing the death penalty for the mentally retarded did intellectually disabled individuals a disservice, and that to create such an exemption from execution was a "slippery slope," reads the complaint. "In describing … what Judge Jones said about these cases, I am not able to capture the complete outrage she expressed over the crimes or the disgust she evinced over the defense raised, particularly by the defendants who claimed to be mentally retarded," reads the declaration, filed with the complaint, of veteran Pennsylvania-based death penalty attorney Marc Bookman, who attended the lecture. "Judge Jones's disgust at how these defendants were 'using mental retardation' was very evident and very disconcerting," reads the complaint.

(Hat tip to Radley Balko)