There’s No Objection for Racism


There are objections for hearsay, speculation, unresponsive comments, and irrelevant questions and comments.  There is not a clear objection for a purely racist comment.  I didn’t even think of that until my trial last month on a drug case in Lee County, FL. Maybe we do need to consider adding a new objection.

During the trial last month, I had a first for my career in criminal defense.  The detective in the case said that you can go to any house in the Dunbar area and buy crack cocaine.  For those who don’t know, “Dunbar” has become code for anything black that is viewed in a negative light in Fort Myers, FL.  The detective’s statement essentially means that he believes all black people in Dunbar are drug dealers.   I was so shocked and appalled by his statement that I didn’t know how to react.  It’s not like there’s an objection for a racist, incorrect statement.  Of course the prosecutors didn’t object or ask to correct this racist statement either.  We all just sat there while the racist detective smiled; pleased with himself and his work at targeting black males for prosecution.

After the trial I researched the issue even more.  I found there’s no case law in Florida about racist statements unless the defendant is being prosecuted for a hate-crime.  There is case law about racist jurors.  There is case law about removing an unfair judge on the case.  There’s no guidance on what to do when an obvious racial and slanderous comment is made under oath as if it was true.

There’s so much research about the inequalities in the criminal justice system that seem to be racially motivated.  There’s also research about how the biases of law enforcement affect how they treat suspects and defendants; however, there’s no guidance of what to do when those biases flow into the courtroom and taint the jurors deciding the case.  I have a plan for this case but no answer on what to do if/when this is a recurring problem.

I recently received the transcript from the above-referenced trial. The actual language is as follows:

State Attorney:  And is it normal for — based on your training and experience — normal for people in this part of town to just walk up to each other’s houses and purchase drugs?

Detective:  Yes

….. several questions later

Janese Caruthers:  And I believe [the State Attorney} asked you, is it common in the Dunbar area for people to just go up to someone’s house and say, hey, I need some drugs?

Detective:  Yes.

Janese Caruthers:  And you said that is common, correct?

Detective:  Yes.



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