The Latest: Judges examine racial bias in stash-house stings

The Latest on examination by judges of possible racial bias in drug stash-house stings (all times local):

9:30 a.m.

An unprecedented panel of nine federal trial judges has begun hearing evidence in Chicago on whether phony stash-house stings are racially biased.

The first witness to take the stand Thursday is a law enforcement expert for the defense who is expected to testify about his conclusion that data supports the claim that the stings discriminate against blacks.

Lawyers and U.S. prosecutors fill several rows of seat, and dozens of defendants in charged in stash-house cases are sitting in the jury box. If the judge do conclude bias led to their arrests, those men could go free.

___

12:02 a.m.

The question of whether federal agents display racial bias by staging phony drug stash-house stings overwhelmingly in black neighborhoods is the focus of landmark hearings in Chicago.

A first-of-its-kind panel of federal trial judges begins two days of hearings Thursday on the stings. The operations typically involve agents posing as Mexican cartel couriers who talk suspects into agreeing to rob caches of drugs that don't actually exist.

The nine panelists each presides over a dozen separate stash-house cases. They decided to hear evidence simultaneously on the question after defense lawyers in the 12 cases all moved for the indictments to be tossed on grounds of racial bias.

How each judge rules in coming weeks could lead agencies nationwide to curtail their reliance on such stings.