Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasted a federal prosecutor on Monday for making racially inflammatory remarks during a Texas drug trial. Sotomayor agreed with a majority on the court in declining to review the case, but issued a statement condemning the federal prosecutor for making the following statement during trial:
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?
Sotomayor viewed that statement by the prosecutor as an attempt to use prejudice to inflame the jury, and made her feelings known in a statement.
There is no doubt, however, that the prosecutor’s question never should have been posed. “The Constitution prohibits racially biased prosecutorial arguments.” … Such argumentation is an affront to the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. And by threatening to cultivate bias in the jury, it equally offends the defendant’s right to an impartial jury.
Sotomayor continued, saying that prosecutors should not allow race to play a role in establishing criminal intent. Sotomayor said that the prosecutor’s comment “was pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence, and racial prejudice for reason.”
Justice Sotomayor concluded, adding that the prosecutor’s comment “undermines respect for the rule of law” and “fan the flames of fear and prejudice.”