News Release ~ 05/13/1996

Court 'Hears No Evil, Sees No Evil, Speaks No Evil,' Sets Impossible Standard for Claims of Race-Based Selective Prosecution

Washington, DC (May 13, 1996) -- "Eight members of the Court 'hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil' of the government," declared William B. Moffitt, Treasurer of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), today in response to the Supreme Court's anxiously-awaited ruling in Armstrong v. U.S. "They are deaf to the cries of African Americans for racial justice in the enforcement of our criminal laws," he said.

Moffitt, a prominent Alexandria, Virginia, criminal defense lawyer, criticized today's ruling as unrealistic.

"This majority would require indigent criminal defendants and their public defender attorneys to somehow undertake sophisticated statistical studies in order to raise a claim of selective prosecution," Moffitt said. "If they could do that, they wouldn't need the government to disclose the wealth of information it has in its possession."

"Sworn statements of people with first-hand knowledge that white defendants are getting easier treatment are brushed aside as insignificant," he noted.

"Anyone looking to the Supreme Court to inject logic into our system will be sorely disappointed," Moffitt commented. "As 'evidence' that crack crimes are mostly committed by African Americans, today's decision cited statistics showing 90% of those convicted are Black," he said. "Doesn't that sort of beg the question of whether Blacks are being selectively prosecuted?"

NACDL filed an amicus curiae brief in the Armstrong case and fights in courts and Congress for elimination of racially discriminatory sentences for crack cocaine offenses. Moffitt is the author of a major appellate brief challenging those sentences.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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