Missouri has a history of racial disparity, but minorities across the country lack representation in the criminal justice system. Just five years ago, 95% of all elected prosecutors were white, even though African-Americans and other people of color make up over half of the U.S. population. Among state trial judges, fewer than 10% were people of color.
The gap in ethnic representation among judges and prosecutors is believed to have a significant impact on the sentences received by African Americans and other people of color. One academic and writer says there is evidence that female judges and judges of color, particularly Black judges, act differently in criminal cases than do other judges. Some researchers believe that African Americans would not be subjected to disproportionately long sentences if a greater number of judges were African American.
The underrepresentation of African Americans in criminal defense jobs cannot be blamed entirely on the residents who are voting prosecutors and judges into office. An American Bar Association study in 2019 revealed that only 5% of attorneys are Black even though there are more than twice as many Black people in the general population. Many point to the challenges that African Americans face getting through law school and even getting into law school in the first place as evidence of how difficult it is for Black people and other people of color to succeed.
Though the law prohibits discrimination based on race, most people have their own personal biases, including prosecutors and judges. The prejudices faced by criminal defendants make it all the more important to consult with a criminal defense attorney after an arrest.