Video: Judge's status under review
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Broward's chief criminal judge has been granted his request to move to civil court after defense attorneys complained that he openly made racial remarks regarding an attempted murder case two weeks ago.
The defendant and all six of the victims were are African-American, and, according to the defense attorney on the case, Judge Charles Greene sleighted that fact after a not guilty verdict. "The judge said, 'You know, NHI,'" said attorney Tom O'Connell. "When I first heard it, I didn't know what it was or what it meant."
Actually the three letters have a deep and dark history referring to racial inequality. "I've been around a long time. For those of us who have been in criminal justice, we know exactly what 'NHI' means," said Broward attorney Howard Finkelstein, "and it means, 'No Humans Involved.'"
Finkelstein said incorporating such a term on the bench deminishes the value of that case for all parties invovlved. "This is a very insidious cancer, and the reason that it's insidious is once someone that's a judge can render an ilk of people as subhuman, then no longer is it necessary for a judge or anyone else to work as hard because no humans are involved," said Finkelstein.
Upon learning the term's meaning O'Connell confronted Judge Greene, who apologized. "It's a racial epithet. It's inappropriate," said O'Connell, "and, like I said, at best it's inappropriate, at worst it's racist."
Finkelstein, who is not only 7's legal analyst but also a Broward County Public Defender who has the responsibility of defending the poor in the county, called for Judge Greene to step aside. "Even though he may have a good heart, and I believe he has a good heart, when you're a judge, you're held to a higher standard," said Finkelstein. "The only issue here is: what do poor and minority feel when they walk into that courtroom? Do they feel they can get a fair shake?"
Facing the firestorm Judge Greene agreed with that argument and asked to be reassigned to civil court saying, in his request to Chief Chief County Judge Dale Ross: "... I made a statement without knowledge of any racial implication or overtone, but commenting solely on the lack of credibility of the witnesses ... I was shocked and astounded to learn, for the first time, that there was any racial overtone to my comment."
O'Connell is pleased with Greene's move to take responsibilty for his comment. "I'm confident that Judge Greene made the right decision by voluntarily removing himself as Chief Criminal Judge and also asking to be moved out of the criminal division," said O'Connell. "Equal protection, due process under the law, and it strikes at the very core of who we are as a nation."
Judge Ross has accepted Greene's request to move to civil court on a temporary basis. A permanent reassignment will come at a later date.