Sotomayor condemns Texas prosecutor’s “racially insensitive” remark

The Supreme Court justice said the comment was "an affront to the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection"

Topics: Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Texas, Racism, Supreme Court,

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor strongly condemned a Texas prosecutor for a remark made during a drug conspiracy case that, “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?”

In a brief, which rejected the appeal of a defendant in the case, Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer decried the remark as “racially insensitive,” and “an affront to the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws,” though declined to name the prosecutor in question.

“It is deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this basic tactic more than a decade into the 21st century,” Sotomayor wrote. “We expect the government to seek justice, not fan the flames of fear and prejudice.”

“I hope never to see a case like this again,” she added.



The brief also points out that the prosecutor made another similarly toned comment in the course of the trial:

“Okay, you got African-American[s] and Hispanics, do you think it’s a drug deal? But there’s one element that’s missing. The money. So what are they doing in this room with a bag full of money? What does your common sense tell you that these people are doing in a hotel room with a bag full of money, cash? None of these people are Bill Gates or computer [magnates]? None of them are real estate investors.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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