by M. Gayle Moss
You know when you have struck a nerve when certain individuals, colleagues of the same profession, express outrage about a position taken by another colleague. In this case, it is the apparent statement made by Common Please Court Judge Joseph K. Williams.
Recently, Judge Williams rejected a plea deal in a criminal case after he accused a prosecutor of only offering deals to “White boys.” If anyone knows the facts, Judge Williams knows the facts. It appears that he was not being “smart” but merely keeping it real.
With the burgeoning prison industrial complex busting at the seams by warehousing large numbers of African-American males and other minority inmates, perhaps there is a correlation with the plea bargaining that’s occurred over the years. How many deals have been made based upon race versus facts? It would be interesting to explore this phenomenon and share findings with the general public. It’s no secret that African-American men receive harsher sentences than White males.
It’s important for District Attorney Stephen Zappala to investigate this issue and to report his findings to the public. Increasingly, more and more African-American males are being wrongfully accused and sentenced to languish in the “hell holes” otherwise known as prisons. These men are innocent, yet they are never offered plea deals made with others who have committed similar or worse crimes.
The NAACP Pittsburgh Unit welcomes the publication of District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala’s position about investigating the matter at hand. Further, Mr. Zappala should host a meeting/whose goal is training for all attorneys who work in his office to address the matter at hand. If justice is blind, leaders must insist that justice is also fair!
(M. Gayle Moss is president of the NAACP Pittsburgh.)