The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's project on racism in Florida's criminal justice system focuses on Florida's Treasure Coast, Tough on Crime: Black Defendants Get Longer Sentences In Treasure Coast System, which includes its 19th Judicial Circuit, Martin County, and Judge Sherwood "Chip" Bauer. Judge Bauer it is reported:
Since taking the bench a decade ago, Bauer has been tougher on those with a darker complexion, often sentencing blacks to two or three times longer than white defendants who committed the same crimes.
Judge Bauer, for his part, pointed the finger at the state's attorney, Bruce Colton, as the cause of sentencing disparities in his cases. Colton was similarly befuddled it is also reported:
Bruce Colton, the state attorney for the 19th Circuit, agreed that the outcomes of most cases are negotiated beforehand and that many factors, including a defendant’s past criminal history, play into those decisions.
He said the 19th Circuit is known to be tougher on crime than communities just to the south, such as Palm Beach or Miami-Dade, which offer more second chances and lenient punishments. Martin County has zero tolerance for crime.
But Colton could not explain any race-related disparities.
“It really surprises me to hear these numbers, and I really do not have an explanation,” Colton said. “We’re certainly not telling our prosecutors to be tougher on certain groups of people.”
So everybody agrees it is bad, but nobody knows how it is happening. As once put so eloquently, "you know something is happening here, but you don't know what it is."