Judge Finds Racial Bias in Contra Costa D.A. Charging Decisions

A Contra Costa County judge has dismissed gang enhancements against four Black defendants under the 2022 California Racial Justice Act (Kalra). The “watershed” ruling provides an opening for Black defendants across the state to challenge special enhancements filed in their cases.

Judge David Goldstein agreed there has been a pattern of racial bias in the county’s use of special enhancements. Black defendants are up to 40% more likely to face these charges, according to Contra Costa County’s public defender. That makes them more likely to end up behind bars for life without the possibility of parole.

Judge Goldstein’s ruling “shows for the very first time in California that there have been racial disparities in charging decisions,” Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Evan Kuluk told KTVU

He hopes the ruling will serve as a model statewide and encourage more district attorneys to reconsider their use of special enhancements, as Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price has done.

Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton’s office issued the following statement after Judge Goldstein’s decision: 

"The District Attorney's Office recognizes that today's ruling is one of significance for offsetting systemic racial disparities within the criminal justice system. The court's ruling provides direction and my office will review similarly charged cases to promote fair and equitable prosecution."