Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor chastised a federal prosecutor for invoking racial profiling while questioning a witness in a drug conspiracy trial.
CNN reported on Monday that Sotomayor and fellow Justice Stephen Breyer criticized the attorney while denying the defendant’s appeal in the case, calling it “deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this basic tactic more than a decade into the 21st century. We expect the government to seek justice, not fan the flames of fear and prejudice.”
The prosecutor, who was not identified, allegedly asked the defendant, Bongani Charles Calhoun, during cross-examination, “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?”
According to SCOTUS Blog, Calhoun contended that he did not know what was going on when a friend brought the money to him in a hotel room.
Sotomayor agreed with the court’s majority opinion that the appeal be rejected because Calhoun and his lawyer did not pursue arguments they could have made in lower courts and in their petition to the Supreme Court. She also chided U.S. Justice Department officials for dismissing the attorney’s remarks as “impolitic,” as well as Calhoun’s defense attorney for failing to object to that line of questioning.
“I hope never to see a case like this again,” she said.
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