The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has filed a complaint against the State’s Attorney of Williamson County, IL, Mr. Charles Garnati.
Garnati, who has held his post as the county prosecutor since 1984, made overtly racist remarks during his opening and closing statements to an all-white jury in a murder case involving an African-American defendant in July, 2011. During the trial of Marcus Marshall, who was accused of gunning down LaQuinn Hudson in Marion in 2010, Garnati told the jury that people in the black community were distrustful of police and discouraged one another from working with law enforcement to solve crimes. He contrasted what he called this “mindset” in the black community with the “law-abiding” predisposition of people in the “white world” in an effort to save the credibility of two of his key witnesses. Both of the witnesses had recanted their original statements to police implicating Marshall in the murder and both were African-American.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Garnati also told the jury in Marshall’s case that “African-Americans typically carry their guns in their waistbands.”
In a rare move for any state disciplinary agency, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) filed a complaint against Garnati on November 6, 2013 for using racially charged remarks that resulted in the violation of numerous ethical standards for prosecutors. The ARDC took up the case after Marshall’s appellate attorney filed a bar complaint. The ARDC alleges that Garnati failed in his duties as a prosecutor in the following ways:
- improperly seeking to convict, rather than seeking justice in violation of Rule 3.8 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);
- failure to provide competent representation to a client, in violation of Rule 1.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;
- in trial, alluding to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, asserting personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness, in violation of Rule 3.4(e) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;
- conduct which is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and
- engaging in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute.
The complaint argues that Garnati’s comments “served no purpose other than to appeal to racial prejudice” and “argued facts about the “black community” and “our white world” that were not in evidence, and that were based on Respondent’s personal opinion.”
According to the Tribune, the case will now go to a panel on the ARDC’s board, which will hear evidence and then proscribe disciplinary action. It is then up the Illinois Supreme Court to follow the ARDC’s recommendations and impose a punishment, or to dismiss the case.
Read the ARDC complaint in full here.