A crime involves four people: the mastermind, an "insider" who exploits his position of trust with the target, and two accomplices. The first two have prior convictions; the latter two have little or no records and cooperate with the police. So, knowing nothing more than this, who would you expect to get the more severe sentences, and who would you expect to receive the lesser sentences?
Quite obviously, to anyone who has been around the criminal justice system, the two accomplices are going to get the lighter sentences. And that is exactly what happened. Yet according to this story by Tom Opdyke in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the NAACP is screaming discrimination and calling for an investigation.
The case involved what appeared to be a bank robbery. Except it wasn't really robbery, because the "robbers" didn't really use force. The teller was in on the scheme. So it is theft.
The mastermind of the scheme, already in prison for drug trafficking, got 10 years. The insider teller got five. The accomplice with a minor prior got two, plus eight on probation. The accomplice who apparently has no record just got probation for 10 years. One might argue with the sentences, but nothing appears out of line with what normally happens in criminal cases.
However, the mastermind and the insider are black men, while the two accomplices are white women. So even though legitimate reasons for different sentences are apparent on the face of the case,
"When four people are involved in the same crime and those who happen to be Caucasian receive much less time than those who are African American, this reflects a problem in the justice system that must be addressed," [Edward] DuBose said at a news conference at the Cobb NAACP headquarters in Marietta.
Over at SL&P, Doug Berman says, "this case seems to me to be more about gender than about race...."
Um, how about being more about legitimate differences in role in the crime, prior record, and cooperation with authorities after the fact. For those who oppose rigidity in sentencing, aren't those the factors that should be considered? That is not to say that discrimination doesn't exist, but none appears in this case.
Meanwhile, one state to the south, the NAACP is livid that the law does not take into account accomplice status when it comes to the felony-murder rule. They pick up some partial support on this point from an unexpected source.