Thursday, June 6, 2013

This isn't being recorded, is it?

Edith Jones is a judge on the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. She's a Texan and she practiced law in Houston before being appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1985.

She also has no business sitting on the bench based on a complaint filed under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act that details comments the judge made at a function at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in February of this year. (Click here to read the complaint.)

In her lecture entitled "Federal Death Penalty Review," Judge Jones made several interesting assertions that cast doubts on her fitness to sit on the bench.
Judge Jones claimed that the death penalty has actually helped inmates by allowing them to make peace with god in the minutes leading up to their execution. 
She claimed that blacks and Hispanics were more predisposed to committing violent crimes and more likely to commit violent acts than members of other ethnic groups. 
According to Judge Jones, claims of innocence, racism and arbitrariness regarding the death penalty are merely "red herrings." 
She also said that banning the execution of mentally retarded defendants was a bad idea. 
And, as if that weren't enough, Judge Jones also claimed that Mexican nationals preferred death row in the US over prison in Mexico.
Her comments raise questions over her ability to hear cases involving minority defendants. They certainly seem to indicate the color of the defendant's skin would have an effect on her decision. Her beliefs that there is a religious basis for the death penalty and that by killing an inmate we are doing him favor is extremely troubling.

It is a bit scary to sit back and realize that we wouldn't be any wiser about her beliefs on race, ethnicity and the death penalty if she hadn't felt the need to broadcast her opinions in front of a law school audience. This incident does serve to highlight one of the problems with the federal judiciary - while it can be a benefit that federal judges are immune to the political pressure that state judges feel, it can be costly to society when those judges with life tenure hear cases while spouting off racist nonsense.

I'm sure at some point we will hear from Judge Jones. I'm fairly certain she will make the non-apology apology by saying she's sorry if her comments offended anyone. And that response will be utter and complete bullshit. There is no question that her comments were offensive. If she really wants to apologize she will stand up in front of a microphone, acknowledge her prejudices and ask for forgiveness.

Anything less will just be window dressing.

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