Jackson County prosecutor discusses implementation of race blind charging system

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 9:01 PM CDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker is implementing what she calls a race blind charging system. She says everyone carries implicit bias but that, in her line of work, it is dangerous and costly.

Jackson County is one of the first in the country to make this move. The system will be used for both defendants and victims.

Prosecutors will now have two levels in the decision making process. The first will be a review of the case where any information that could reveal race will be scoured out. This includes elements such as name, address, hair and eye color.

After that decision is made, they will be able to review video, pictures and whatever is necessary for the case before pressing charges.

Jackson County is partnering with Stanford labs to analyze these findings.

“If your decision changes, that’s where Stanford will be interested about why, as will I,” said Prosecutor Baker. “That doesn’t mean you’re racist; it means do we have bias, yes, and how does that show up in our day-to-day to decision making?”

The eyes of the nation recently turned to Kansas City when 16-year-old Ralph Yarl went to the wrong doorstep and was shot by an 84-year-old white man. Yarl was Black. The Clay County Prosecutor, who pressed charges in the case, said there was a racial component.

We asked how the race blind charging system would work in that scenario.

“I’m not sure it would work here because it became such a prevailing issue on the case as a whole,” Prosecutor Baker said. “So, this may be one of those that would have to be carved out of the whole process to be legitimate.”

She said she will call this system a success if it builds public trust in the prosecution process.

It will take at least a year for Stanford to collect the data. So far, there is no set date for when this system will be implemented.