Judge in Dylann Roof Case Has a History of Racist Comments

Read the shocking language in the documents.

Centralized Bond Hearing Court of Charleston, SC/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The judge who held the bond hearing for Dylann Roof, the suspect in the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, has a history of making racist comments, according to court documents. The Daily Beast reports that in 2003, Magistrate James B.Gosnell told a black defendant, “There are four kinds of people in this world—black people, white people, red necks, and n—rs.” The comment led to a disciplinary proceeding that was eventually heard by the state Supreme Court in 2005.

During the investigation, according to records from the proceeding, Gosnell argued that his statement was excusable because “he knew the defendant, the defendant’s father, and the defendant’s grandfather,” and that he was merely repeating something he remembered hearing from “a veteran African American sheriff’s deputy.” The document goes on to say:

“Respondent [Gosnell] alleges he repeated this statement to the defendant in an ill-considered effort to encourage him to recognize and change the path he had chosen in life.”

The same proceeding details another ethical pickle that Gosnell found himself in two days after the racist comment, when he allegedly helped get another judge out of jail in a DUI case.

“Respondent [Gosnell] met the arresting officer and Judge Mendelsohn at the detention center. At some point, respondent took possession of the ticket, placed a ‘bond hearing’ stamp on the back, and entered the amount of $1,002.00. When detention center officials expressed concerns over Judge Mendelsohn’s release, respondent remarked ‘this didn’t happen until 8:00 a.m.,’ or words of similar import and effect. Respondent acknowledges it was his intention to facilitate Judge Mendelsohn’s release without waiting for the morning bond hearing and to make it appear that Judge Mendelsohn’s bond was set at 8:00 a.m. in accordance with Mount Pleasant’s bond procedure.”

Gosnell ultimately kept his job when the court concluded that an official reprimand would suffice.

At Friday’s bond hearing, Gosnell won praise for letting members of the victims’ families confront Roof directly. But some were surprised when he made comments about Roof’s family members being victims of the tragedy as well.

Charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, Roof is due back in court on October 23. His bail for the weapon charges was set by Gosnell at $1 million, but the judge said he did not have the authority to set bail for murder charges.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate