In an op-ed in today's Seattle Times, outgoing Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders tries to counter the impression that he's insensitive to the problem of racial disparities in the state's prison population—an impression that helped cost him his seat.
A week before the election, The Times editorial page withdrew its endorsement of me, reciting the comment I made about people being in prison because they commit crimes, stating I should have offered "more thoughtful, nuanced views about racial disparities ... " But in the context, there was no opportunity.
When I requested a chance to write an opinion piece explaining my views, I was told that op-eds from candidates were not published before the election. [The Times did publish an op-ed that defended Sanders' record.]
On the Thursday before the election, a staff columnist said, "Apparently there is no bias in the system when the people deciding your fate assume from the get-go that you are inclined toward criminality ... " I never said that and I don't believe it.
Another column, three days later stated I claimed, "African Americans are overrepresented in prisons because of their skin color." What an outlandish misrepresentation of my views!
You, The Times, ran the guy out of the Temple of Justice who cares most deeply about the rights of every individual.
Sanders also chronicles (as I did here) some of his well-known cases and high court dissents that favor the rights of African Americans in particular and criminal defendants in general. But the question remains: Why didn't Justice Sanders say all of this much, much sooner?
Today is December 3, after all. We're a month past election day.
As I wrote back in November, when Justice Sanders offered a much shorter defense of himself via a statement to the Associated Press:
This statement would have been so easy to make on Oct. 22, when the initial Seattle Times story hit (or even before that, when reporter Steve Miletich called Justice Sanders to confirm his race comments, and Justice Sanders stood by them). Yet Justice Sanders didn't do this.
Who knows, but I've already offered one very cynical theory.