“Our White World”: Illinois Prosecutor Faces Charges After Race-Baiting Comments In Murder Trial

CT  MET-AJ-GARNATI.jpgOn the death of Nelson Mandela, the case of Williamson County State’s Attorney Charles Garnati before the the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission would seem to confirm just how much work has yet to be done. Garnati has been called to account to an argument in a murder trial that contrasted the black defendant with people “in our white world.”

Ethics officials charge Garnati with statements that “served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice.” The statements were made at the trial of Marcus Marshall who allegedly shot and killed LaQuinn Hudson at a party in August 2010. He was tried by an all-white jury and Garnati seemed to want the jurors to see the murder as a matter in black and white. He began with “Now in our white world, ladies and gentlemen ….” He then observed “there are some very good law-abiding citizens in that community here.” He was referring to the small African-American community in the area.

He is facing four charges, including conduct that “tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute.” Unlike Garnati, the good people at the Illinois bar seem to believe that “in our legal world” such references to race are anathema.

Garnati later agreed (as he had to) that Hudson deserved a new trial. To put it more simply, he denied a man a fair trial for murder and wasted the time of both the court and the jurors by turning the proceeding into a race-baiting travesty.

Garnati is in his eighth four-year term as the elected state’s attorney. He is a Democrat. He has been previously charged with ethics violation in an alleged malicious prosecution, though the court ruled in his favor. He also publicly accused police of harassing him after he prosecuted officers in the town when one stopped him as he was pulling into his driveway.

With the death of such an icon as Mandala, the timing could not be worse for Garnati. However, these comments would hopefully be treated as anathema at any time.

The question is what the proper punishment for such statements should be. Race-baiting does not simply show a lack of professionalism and ethics but conveys to citizens that their race will be considered in criminal prosecutions. Given his concession that a new trial is needed, he will presumably argue that this was a terrible mistake on his part and that poorly crafted words left the wrong impression of his true views. Should one such incident lead to his being removed as a prosecutor or even disbarred?

56 thoughts on ““Our White World”: Illinois Prosecutor Faces Charges After Race-Baiting Comments In Murder Trial”

  1. Disbarment is not warranted in this case. However, Mr. Garnati should be terminated. Thirty years is too long a tenure in that position, and it’s time for him to quietly retire to his white world.

  2. Ah, the blinders of white privilege.

    What? That was inappropriate? Wrong? But our “white world” exists! And didn’t he admit that “there are some very good law-abiding citizens in that (black [sic])
    community here.”?

    How is he any worse than poor Paula?

    (Of course we won’t mention George as he has become such an embarrassment.)

    White privilege allows for such errors so a reprimand will suffice … I mean, come on, he didn’t kill anybody. He was just trying hard to protect the rest of us from … you know (look left, right, then whisper) … one of them.

    And … isn’t the law like soft lead … easily bent and molded? (Mickey Haller/The Gods of Guilt/Michael Connelly) Just mold it a bit around white privilege and life proceeds comfortably.

  3. Swarthmoremom,
    Sad commentary on Ted Cruz fans, but not at all surprising. These are the same folks who held up signs of President Obama as a witchdoctor with a bone through his nose at Tea Party rallies.

  4. Discharge, not disbar as others have suggested. Although I do question his powers of reasoning, was he so arrogant he didn’t think there would be backlash? Or was he that stupid?

  5. Gene,

    I’d certainly want to know more….. It’s easy to grab attention…..especially over this matter…. Maybe they like this type of prosecutor in this area…..

  6. Not too surprising…….. Southern Illinois is more like Arkansas or east Texas than Chicago.

  7. Given that I knew Richard Barrett and J. B. Stoner, I don’t think Garnati even comes close to being in their class as racist trolls. If Barrett could die with his law license intact, I don’t see a license revocation in Garnati’s case.

    However, he is unfit to hold the office. Not as much because of the racial remark itself, but no one holding public office as a prosecutor should be that clueless.

  8. @Mike Spindell ” No he shouldn’t be disbarred because people have a right to their noxious beliefs …”

    I think that gets it about right. As troubling as it might be, even racists have a right to engage in professions and make the best case they can for their beliefs. It is up to the rest of us to show why they are wrong.

  9. What a charmer.

    I’m going to have to go with what Mike S. said. Disbarred? Nope. He’s free to be an odious racist lil’ goober in general. Discharged from office? Totally appropriate and even necessary. Suspended? Maybe. Perhaps riding the pine for six months or a year would teach him what the word “justice” and the phrase “justice for all” means.

  10. I’m not sure how I feel… There are many facets that I reserve judgment because of…. If he was targeted by the cops for prosecution then…. Maybe more than meets the eye….

  11. Mr Garnati should have the good sense and humility to resign from office and accept (w/o quibble) whatever disciplinary action the bar or the Illinois Supreme Court might impose. But it strikes me that such action on his part is unlikely. Yet, hope springs eternal.

  12. “Should one such incident lead to his being removed as a prosecutor or even disbarred?”

    Yes he should be removed as a Prosecutor since the use of the words in that context cannot be considered a mistake, or a slip of the tongue. Therefore he has shown himself unfit to fairly discharge his duties. No he shouldn’t be disbarred because people have a right to their noxious beliefs and the notion that we should hold lawyers to higher standards of conduct is a laudatory goal, but unfortunately quaint idea considering the state of the profession.

  13. Should one such incident lead to his being removed as a prosecutor or even disbarred?” – JT

    Yes, in the sense that previous efforts have obviously not worked.

  14. The kind of guy who wanted Nelson Mandela on the military NSA terrorist watchlist like the rest of us.

    We are all Nelson Mandela now.

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