Criminal Justice

Top prosecutor faces ethics case over racial remarks that derailed murder trial

The top prosecutor in a southern Illinois county is facing a legal ethics case because of racial remarks he made that derailed a murder trial.

Williamson County State’s Attorney Charles Garnati violated four legal ethics rules and “tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute,” contends the the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in a Nov. 6 complaint (PDF) that was made public on Wednesday. The defendant, who is black, was tried before an all-white jury in July 2011 and sentenced to 85 years before his conviction was reversed on appeal, reports the Chicago Tribune.

“Now in our white world, ladies and gentlemen,” said Garnati at one point during the trial, as he drew a distinction between the way the two races deal with police. In an unusual move, he agreed last summer that the defendant, Marcus Marshall, should get a new trial in the case, which involved the fatal shooting of LaQuinn Hudson at a 2010 party in Marion. A state appellate court reversed Marshall’s conviction in September.

The Tribune said Garnati could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and he did not immediately respond to a message left at his office on Thursday morning by the ABA Journal.

Attorney Steve Greenberg of Chicago represented Marshall on appeal. He told the Tribune that he had complained to the ARDC about Garnati.

“I think anyone who espouses those racist views is unfit to be the state’s attorney of a county,” Greenberg told the newspaper. “Imagine how many charging decisions over the years were racially motivated in the (time) he’s been state’s attorney.”

See also: “Prosecutor’s ‘white world’ remarks lead appeals court to order new murder trial”

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