Race and the Criminal Justice System

William Moffitt, Race and the Criminal Justice System, 36 Gonz. L. Rev. 305 (2001).

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October 19, 2000

I always like to start a speech talking about a subject that is depressing in a lot of ways with a little levity. I will tell you a joke that I think is an important one, and kind of sets the tone of the things that I will talk to you about.

The President was trying to find out what the most affective law enforcement agency was in the country, so he offered a contest. The contest was to find a rabbit in the forest. He first called the FBI and told them to find a rabbit in the forest. The FBI does what it normally does and sent out 300 informants into the forest looking for the rabbit. After a month they sent their report to the President and they said absolutely, categorically there is no such thing as a rabbit in the forest. Unsatisfied with that report, he sent Central Intelligence Agency. Around the forest they set up electronic surveillance devices searching for the rabbit. And in about a month they came back and said that they could not find a rabbit and that their surveillance showed that there is no such thing as a rabbit in the forest. Unsatisfied with that, he sent the New York City Police Department in. Five minutes later they came out of the forest with a badly beaten bear who confessed to being a rabbit. (Laughter.)

I start there because I have been asked to talk about race and the criminal justice system. And I guess in many ways I am unequivocally qualified. I am an African-American. I have spent the last twenty-five years of my life practicing law in the South, which has been an interesting experience. Some of the interesting experiences involve the fact that when I have showed up with a Caucasian client, it caused the bench some confusion as to who the client was and who the lawyer was…Read more

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