Judges to examine if drug stash-house stings racially biased

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CHICAGO -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.

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