Unequal Brands of Justice?



By: Jeremy Alford 

The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus wants the House and Senate judiciary committees to study potential racial disparities in sentencing guidelines. More specifically, Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, wants to know if there’s a difference in the length and harshness of sentences imposed by judges for similar crimes committed by Caucasians and African Americans. LaFonta argues that the Louisiana Supreme Court has not effectively addressed, nor made any effective progress, to “change the unequal justice manifested upon the poor and economically disadvantaged, particularly minorities.” Problems may exist on the local prosecutorial level as well, according to the resolution. It states: “The prosecution of crimes in district court is totally at the discretion of a district attorney who may have more bias against some accused defendants than other accused defendants, and it is totally within his prerogative whom he prosecutes and for what crime he accuses the person of committing, except when there is an indictment by the grand jury.” If LaFonta’s House Concurrent Study Resolution 1 gains favor with lawmakers, the joint judiciary committee would have to report its findings to the Legislature prior to Feb. 28, 2009 — just in time for next year’s regular session.

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