Judge Asks If Race Responsible For Different Charges For Two Men In Same Drug Deal

Justice is supposed to be blind, in theory. That's why the statues of Lady Justice always have her blindfolded. The folks who get brought before the bench should be judged only on what they have or have not done, not on anything else. At least, that's the way it's supposed to be.

And we're all well aware that in the past, other factors have come into play, particularly race. We're not even talking John Grisham novels, but real lives ruined under the law. But is that same bias still in play today? One judge wants to know for sure, and he's not shy about asking.

Two men caught in the same drug deal face different charges and the judge in their case wants to know why.

Unsplash | Matt Popovich

Mario Silas, who is black, and Jared Weatherly, who is white, had a plan to sell some ecstasy in Memphis that obviously didn't go well.

While Jared got into a vehicle with their buyer, Mario stayed in the car with a gun between his legs and a woman, Tiffany Tekle, in the car too.

Their buyer was an undercover Memphis police officer, who gave a signal to his fellow officers, catching all three in the act.

But when the case landed before a judge, the three defendants faced very different charges.

Tiffany, who had a record, was charged with a drug offense, but not a gun charge, and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Jared faced a mere one-year sentence for a drug charge. Mario, however, faced a much longer stint.

That gun between his legs didn't do Mario any favors, nor did his prior record.

Unsplash | rawpixel

He got drug charges too, but the gun got him an automatic five-year sentence. He ended up with a 15-year sentence in the end, which prompted Judge John T. Fowlkes to start asking questions.

He wanted to know why the prosecutors didn't slap Jared with a gun charge as well, because he had worked with the armed Mario in the drug deal.

He wondered particularly if it was because Jared is white.

"This is another situation where a white defendant appears to have been treated differently than African-Americans, and I'm concerned about how we're proceeding in this case," the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported he said.

The prosecutor in the case, J. William Crow, claimed it was because he doubted he could prove the same five-year gun charge against Jared.

And he denied any racial bias, saying "I apologize to the court if you've ever thought that I or anyone in our office is taking race into account in what we charge because that's just not the truth."

However, critics point to a pattern of unconscious bias in sentencing, and they have some ground to stand on.

The United States Sentencing Commission found that black men received about 19% longer sentences than white men accused of similar crimes between 2012 and 2016.

Now, 19% doesn't sound like much, but it's about the difference between a four-year and a five-year sentence.

Unsplash | Carles Rabada

The sentencing commission's report also noted that violence in a criminal's history did not seem to affect that difference in sentencing.

However, whether that will have any bearing on this particular case remains to be seen, as Mario has filed an appeal.

h/t Memphis Commercial-Appeal

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