US judge concerned that race may play unfair role in charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A black federal judge in Tennessee has raised concerns that a federal prosecutor’s office in Memphis is charging black people with harsher counts than white people for similar crimes.

The Commercial Appeal reports U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. has questioned prosecutors about racial discrimination in at least three recent cases.

One of those cases involved a white man who records say sold an undercover officer 100 ecstasy pills for $800, while his black partner stayed in the car with a gun.

Fowlkes asked why the white defendant wasn’t slapped with the same gun charge as the black defendant since they worked together. The gun charge carries an automatic 5-year sentence.

A statement from U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant denies that race “overtly or implicitly” factors into charging decisions.

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