* While the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela and celebrates his amazing and purposeful life, it’s important to remember that we still have some real racial problems right here at home. Take, for instance, eight-term Williamson County State’s Attorney Charles Garnati…
The top prosecutor in a southern Illinois county is facing a legal ethics case because of racial remarks he made that derailed a murder trial.
Williamson County State’s Attorney Charles Garnati violated four legal ethics rules and “tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute,” contends the the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in a Nov. 6 complaint that was made public on Wednesday. The defendant, who is black, was tried before an all-white jury in July 2011 and sentenced to 85 years before his conviction was reversed on appeal, reports the Chicago Tribune.
“Now in our white world, ladies and gentlemen,” said Garnati at one point during the trial, as he drew a distinction between the way the two races deal with police.
* The full ARDC complaint is here.
This is what Garnati told the all white jury in his opening statement about two black witnesses who had recanted their testimony…
“And you will see, ladies and gentlemen, that there are some, not all-there are many good people in the black community, but basically you will see that there are a few in the black community who refuse to cooperate with the police even when a murder happens right under their nose, and those people have a habit of intimidating, harassing, sometimes threatening anybody who they think is cooperating with the police. That’s what makes this case so difficult, ladies and gentlemen.”
* And this is what Garnati told the all white jury in his closing about those two black witnesses and the black defendant…
“But I think what is most crucial in deciding this case, in deciding the credibility of Jodie Lacy and Crystal Blye, and in deciding most of the other issues in this case, is to understand the culture of the black community here in Marion.
“Please, you have to keep in the back of your mind how many people in that community feel about law enforcement. You have to understand and keep in mind how they react to the police and to the prosecutors. Sometimes for people like us, that’s hard to understand. People were brought up to believe that the police were their friends; that when something happens, when we are in trouble, that the police are our friends. And that’s where we go to get help from is the police when bad things happen.
“But in the black community here in Marion, it’s just the opposite. Most-for whatever reasons, most of these people were raised to believe that the police and prosecutors are the enemy; that for some reason, we are always out to get them. In their mindset, the biggest sin that you could-that you can commit is to be a snitch in the community. The biggest sin that you could commit is to ever cooperate with the police on anything. It’s a sin to even cooperate when one of your own people gets brutally gunned down and is left to bleed to death.
“And I am not saying that the whole black community is like that, ladies and gentlemen. There are some very good law[-]abiding citizens in that community here in Marion. But the evidence has shown that again, for whatever reasons, there is an intense dislike and even hatred for the police. And this group of people who feel that way make it extremely hard on the people who are law-abiding and want to do what is right and who are willing to come forward and give information that they have when a crime has been committed . . .
“Now, in our white world, ladies and gentlemen, our automatic reaction in that type of situation, if somebody gives a statement to the police and then later on changes their story, the automatic response would be that that person is not trustful and that there is a problem with their credibility.
“But again, please look at their testimony and what they did and what they didn’t do through the eyes of the people who are raised, again, to feel that the police are always against them and that they cannot trust the police.”
“They both stated that the defendant — that (victim) LaQuinn Hudson was backing up. He kept saying, ‘I got nothing. I got nothing.’ He not only said that, but both of them said he raised his white T-shirt up to show his waist band that he had nothing. OK? And in the black community, that is where they keep their handguns is in their waistbands, ladies and gentlemen, with something covering it. They don’t just walk around with it in their hand or, you know, sticking out of their pocket.”
* Months after the Chicago Tribune made a big deal out of this, Garnati eventually back-tracked and agreed the defendant should receive a new trial.
* What happens next…
The Illinois Appellate Court… ordered [a] new trial in September.
The case against Garnati will go to a panel of the disciplinary commission’s hearing board, which will hear evidence and make recommendations for any discipline. The Illinois Supreme Court makes the final decision on attorney discipline cases.
Steve Greenberg, a Chicago attorney who handled Marshall’s appeal, said that he had made a complaint to the disciplinary commission.
“I think anyone who espouses those racist views is unfit to be the state’s attorney of a county,” Greenberg said Wednesday. “Imagine how many charging decisions over the years were racially motivated in the (time) he’s been state’s attorney.”