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Judge Reviews Prosecutions and Finds No Discrimination


October 1995

A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that there is no "colorable bias" in the federal prosecutor's charging guidelines, and that it does not appear that minorities are targeted for crack prosecutions on the federal level (U.S. v. Henry, CD Cal, No. 94-628-CPBM, June 26, 1995; "Review of Charging Standard Shows No Bias in Crack Cases," BNA Criminal Practice Manual, August 2, 1995, p. 379; for a related story, see Kathryn Wexler, "Charges of Racially Selective Prosecution Rise in Cocaine Cases," Washington Post, August 21, 1995, p. A8.).

Defendants Anthony Henry and Paul Lopez are charged with distribution of 96 grams of crack to a police informant. Both men allegedly belong to a South Central Los Angeles street gang.

Prosecutors submitted the charging criteria, which were sealed and viewed only by the judge. They argued that charging decisions are based on the amount of drugs involved and other criminal factors, such as possession of a gun at the time of the offense.

Judge Consuelo Bland Marshall's dismissal of a crack cocaine indictment was upheld earlier this year by federal appeals court Judge Stephen Reinhardt (U.S. v. Armstrong, 48 F.3d 1508, (9th Cir. 1995); see "Court Makes Strong Statement About Racial Bias/Crack Cocaine Cases," NewsBriefs, March 1995. A longer summary of Armstrong is available from the National Drug Strategy Network. Call the NewsBriefs office and ask for the Armstrong summary.).

In the Henry case, the government analyzed almost every narcotics indictment filed between January 1992 and March 1995. In that period, 102 of the 144 people charged with crack distribution were black and 29 were Hispanic. Only one of the defendants was white.

Every case it found was evaluated against, and met, certain criteria. Each of the cases met or exceeded a drug quantity threshold, indicated the presence of a firearm, or was linked with a related drug offense.

Further, the government argued in its brief that the majority of crack dealers are the "minority poor who reside in the inner city."