Federal Judge Edith Jones is facing ethics complaints after a speaking engagement in which she said, among other things, that racial minorities are “more violent” than whites and that claims of racial bias in death penalty cases are usually nothing more than “red herrings”. The judge, who sits on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes TX jurisdiction) is said to have violated several canons in the code of conduct for federal judges.
The Austin Chronicle reports that Judge Jones’ February lecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law has resulted in a complaint being filed by several organizations including the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Austin NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program. She is alleged to have made several offensive and biased comments.
There is no recording of the lecture, but several witnesses have recalled Jones’ questionable statements. She said that not only are blacks and Hispanics responsible for more violent crime than whites, but they are “more violent” period. She also expressed extreme disgust at cases where defendants use mental retardation to avoid the death penalty. Death row inmates who say their cases were impacted by racial bias, or those who claim innocence are “red herrings.”
In talking in this manner so freely, Jones seriously damaged her credibility as an unbiased overseer of the law. Jones was appointed to the bench in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan. Twice she was mentioned as a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, first by President George H.W. Bush and years later by his son.
The lecture was on federal death penalty laws. She remarked that making a death penalty exception for the mentally retarded was a “slippery slope” and that it exception did mentally disabled people a disservice.
The complaint against her, which alleges she violated several different canons of judicial conduct reads in part, “I am not able to capture the complete outrage she expressed over the crimes or the disgust she evinced over the defense raised, particularly by the defendants who claimed to be mentally retarded…Judge Jones’s disgust at how these defendants were ‘using mental retardation’ was very evident and very disconcerting.”
When you are facing criminal charges, the judge in the criminal court is supposed to be an unbiased interpreter of justice. But when that judge has obvious biases when it comes to race, mental capacity, and more, it’s difficult to feel confident in your chance at a fair shot.
Judges are human and not all judges are the best at what they do. Having a criminal defense attorney on your side throughout the criminal justice process can help ensure your rights are protected. Whether you are facing drug charges or something far more serious—we may be able to help.