Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Confederate Justice in Caddo Parish

It's been documented in numerous studies that justice in Louisiana is not colorblind. Caddo Parish, where Shreveport is located, has among the highest rates of death sentences in Louisiana, with seventeen men and one woman sentenced to death, fourteen of whom have been African-American men. One study found “a less than one-in-ten-thousand chance that the prosecuted cases were a racially random sample drawn from the homicide group.” Adding to the atmosphere of racial prejudice, these convictions have come in a courthouse with a confederate memorial - and confederate flag - placed at the entrance.
The monument, and the injustice perpetrated under its shadow, are powerfully described in a recent article by Cecelia Trenticosta:
A bust of a Confederate general is mounted at each corner. Stonewall Jackson stares to the north. Pierre Beauregard looks east. Henry Watkins Allen stands guard to the west. And Robert E. Lee watches south. Atop the monument stands a proud confederate soldier, holding a rifle. He is unnamed, presumably to represent everyman. Or, rather, every white man...

The flag itself is the Third National Flag of the Confederacy—the “blood-stained banner.” This flag was developed during the last throes of the Confederacy as a way to incorporate the battle flag (the St. Andrew’s Cross) with a red stripe running down the edge to symbolize the Confederates’ willingness to die for their cause. Shreveport—the last capital of the Confederate States—raises this flag in defiance of the fact that the war is over, and its cause lost.

This flag and monument, however, are not a part of a museum, or a freestanding monument apart from government property. Flanked by ancient live oaks, it stands as the only structure on the courthouse lawn at the Caddo Parish Courthouse. Every person summoned for jury duty, as well as every judge, clerk, employee, attorney, guard, police officer, and defendant must pass beneath the flag and monument.

Under this Confederate Flag, Caddo Parish administers Louisiana’s death penalty, its harsh felon-disenfranchisement laws, and its vast web of prosecutorial discretion under this flag.

Carl Staples, an African American native of Chicago who moved to Shreveport in the 1970s following the race riots and had been registered to vote in Shreveport for 30 years, was summoned for jury duty at the Caddo Parish Courthouse on May 14, 2009, in the capital case of Felton Dejuan Dorsey, a poor black man accused of killing a white firefighter in a majority-white area of Caddo Parish. Knowing that the courthouse flies a Confederate flag, he called the clerk’s office to state his objection to serving under the flag. The clerk told him that if he did not show up for jury duty, a warrant would be put out for his arrest. So he swallowed his pride and walked beneath the Confederate flag and past the monument to the Confederacy for jury selection. When called for individual examination, Staples stated:

[the flag] is a symbol of one of the most . . . heinous crimes ever committed to another member of the human race, and I just don’t see how you could say that, I mean, you’re here for justice, and then again you overlook this great injustice by continuing to fly this flag which . . put[s] salt in the wounds of . . . people of color. I don’t buy it.

The prosecutor promptly moved the court to strike Staples, arguing that he could not be fair. The judge granted the motion. The prosecutor then proceeded to strike five out of the remaining seven qualified black prospective jurors. The defense objected to the strikes as racially discriminatory in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Batson v. Kentucky. The trial judge rejected the challenge. Dorsey, a black man accused of killing a white victim, was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of eleven whites and one black.

A recent appeal filed in Dorsey's case asks if justice can be administered fairly under the watchful eye of a symbol of white supremacy. The brief states that "Prominently displayed in front of the Caddo Parish courthouse, the Confederate flag represents for many people, and particularly for African-Americans, public entrenchment of racism in the parish’s judicial system and an endorsement of historical efforts to deny African-Americans equality under the law. The flag, as a public symbol of racial bias, poses an intolerable risk that capital punishment cannot be fairly administered within the courthouse walls."

It's clear that Dorsey's conviction was a case of Confederate justice. Will the Louisiana Supreme Court recognize this?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Quite some leaps of untruths. It is not true that everyone passes the monument. There is a main entrance on each side of the buidling.The flag is not "raisied in defiance" it is a memorial to American veterans. Yes they are according to US Code 38.
Yes that poor young black man, who brutally beat to death a firefighter and them burned his body in front of the man's mother, he deserved the death penalty. It is absolutly absurd to think someone votes one way or another on a jury because of a war memorial near the court room that is actually on private property.

Richard Cottingham said...

It is certainly obvious why the previous comment was made anonymously. Anyone that stupid should want to remain unknown.

What possible justification is there for that flag and that memorial? They are symbols of the stupidity of the poor whites who were duped into giving their lives to perpetuate the cruel and inhuman institution that was slavery.

If all that the commentator says about the accused is true and the police have done their due dilligence and built a sound case then he deserves punishment. Why in the world should the courts deliberately create an environment in which his punishment might be avoided because of the appearance of prejudice?

Anonymous said...

Article also ignores the race of the presiding judge in the case, Judge John Mosely, a respected and experienced black jurist.

Bennet Young said...

To Richard,
The only reason I posted anonymous before was I did not see the name option.
You are a real view of tolerance, call someone names but not really refute what they said, but then agrred what I said about the defendent.
There are very good justifications for having the flag there.
1. There is a historic plague there designating the spot as the last plag the Confederate Flag flew.
2. It is a memorial to Veterans, have you really never seen a Veteran's memorial with a flag on it before?
3. They were not all poor, they were not all white and they cerainly where not all stupid
4.They did not fight for slavery, but to protect there homes from invasion
5. Even "if" they were all duped into fighting for a bad cause, that does not neagte their service.
One might make the same arguement for Vietman. Would you deny a flag on a memorial to those Veterans.

Richard Cottingham said...

Look again,I did not say I agreed with you. I do not know if what you said is true or not. What I said was that if it is true then the appearance of prejudice imperils justice.

While what you say about war memorials is true I doubt you can find a courthouse anywhere in the former South Vietnam that flies the South Vietnamese flag outside. Those rags fluttering all over the American south are just that ludicrous.

The south lost because it was a bad cause led by people who greatly underestimated the enemy. Had the poor people of the south not been manipulated by lies about white supremacy and and terrified with stories demonizing Africans I doubt the Confederacy cold have raised an army. That flag is a memorial to idiocy.

Bennet Young said...

"While what you say about war memorials is true I doubt you can find a courthouse anywhere in the former South Vietnam that flies the South Vietnamese flag outside. Those rags fluttering all over the American south are just that ludicrous"
I am sure there are alot of people in South Vietnam that would love to memorialize their family members that fought for the South. But they live under an oppresive Communst Government. I thought America is better than that. Also Confederate Veterans are American Veterans the same as any other by an act of Congress. US Code 38

Richard Cottingham said...

Make all the excuses you want. You can't erase the facts. The south fought for a losing cause and the Confederacy no longer exists.

Ignorant ranting and showy symbols do not change that. What you seem too simple to comprehend is the fact that the poor and middle income whites of the south are still letting themselves be manipulated by lies of White supremcay and demonization of Blacks. The flags and plaques and statues are not memorials to fallen heroes and deep in your hearts you know it. You believe they are effective symbols of terrorism to scare away Black bogeymen. Grow up.

Bennet Young, MEd said...

Old lawyer saying " when you do not have the facts, argue the law. when you do not have the law, argue the facts. when you do not have the facts or the law, attack the person."
Seems you have arrived at option 3.
You state that most Southerners are stupid and racist, and yet have the gall to call anyone else prejudiced. You are a bigot.Not worthy of future discourse. It is just that "simple"

Bennet Young said...

An old lawyer saying..
1. If you do not have the facts,argue the law
2. If you do not have the law, argue the facts
3. If you do not have the law or the facts,attack the person.

Seems as you have arrived at option 3. Thank you for your concession.
You think that most all Southerners are stupid and racist. You sir, are a bigot and not worthy of future discousre. It is just that "simple"

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous first comment

1) it's not on private property: show me the deed!

2) it is not "heritage" it was erected in 1952 in response to the growing calls for civil rights for african-americans. it's blatantly racist.

you're making us all look like idiots.
-a white dude.

Bennet Young said...

No deed needed, it is in the minutes of the Caddo Parish Police jury, have talked to lawyers who say this is legally binding.
You realy do not know why the flag was put up, your are guessing.
Anyone who signs his naem "white dude" already looks like an idiot

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cottingham, I cannot see how you come to the conclusion that the confederate flag is not heritage. That flag is part of Louisiana history, and there were many confederate soldiers who fought for the confederacy. That makes the confederacy and the confederate flag heritage for anyone born in Louisiana. As for Felton Dorsey, the poor black man unjustly convicted. He was unlawfully in the Joe Procks, the white fireman, mothers house. Joe Prock was passing that house when he saw the strange car, so he stopped to check on his mother. Upon entering the backdoor he was attacked, tied up, and burned alive in front of his mother. Anyone saying that man does not deserve the death penalty has never known anyone who was taken in such a harsh manner. I am at a loss that anyone would think that the confederate flag outside of the courthouse caused that mans conviction. That man murdered someone in cold blood and now he has the chance to walk away because he is black. African-Americans fight and say they dont want to be separated, yet they have a black history month, all black parades, even their own black television channels. Why wouldnt whites seperate from them when african-americans are so dead set on being separated. And for the cause of the confederacy it was not all about slavery. In the article there was a quote that it "puts salt in the wounds of african americans". I say that everyone at some point has had slavery in their race. Slavery was not just set aside for african americans.

Anonymous said...

"No deed needed, it is in the minutes of the Caddo Parish Police jury, have talked to lawyers who say this is legally binding."

I have talked to lawyers who sa all kinds of things. Find the deed, it shows that it is on public property. Quit making bald-faced assertions and even admitting they are based on rumor and hearsay. LOOK AT THE DEED.

"You realy do not know why the flag was put up, your are guessing."

No, I am not. The motivations of white southerners in the 1950s in Caddo Parish are perfectly obvious to anyone who cares to examine the history of the period.

"Anyone who signs his naem "white dude" already looks like an idiot"

Why is that? Because all white dudes are idiots? What is wrong with being a white dude against this racist southern bullshit? Join the rest of humanity: stop defending white privilege.

-A White Southern Man

Celeste said...

Hi.
Query: How can the southern, confederate [specifically] veterans be considered American vets when they seceeded [sp?] from the United States of America? If they parted ways, esentially divorced themselves from the United States, they couldn't be considered 'Americans' anymore, could they? If a woman divorces her husband because she is in protest of a certain house rule or treatment [you chose the reason], then she is no longer entitled to ANY of the rewards, protections, rights, responsibilites or privileges that are due a US citizen.
Just as South and Central America could not be considered part of the political or corporation that is the United States of America. The inhabitants of those countries/continents don't get the same benefits and protections as do those who ARE of the United States of America. Correct?
To me, that flag flying above the courthouse is a 'foreign' flag of a 'foreign country'. Since when is it 'okay' that we, a Sovereign Nation, fly a 'foreign' flag; and sanction it?
I am not one for political correctness being observed - call whatever it is by its name and be done with it. However, I am a person of color, born and raised in the very Deep South, whose family is literally a potpourri of many races. I find it highly offensive that a confederate flag of any version is still flown.
This is still America, yes?

Red Clay said...

Celeste,
your analogy of a divorce does not work. Even if the woman divorces her husband,there is still common property, and if he gets a retirement she is entitled to part of it based on length of marriage.
Confederate soldiers are Americans veterans by an act of Congress, iow, it is the law.
It is not exactly a forgiegn flag. The flag flies in Louisiana, and it was once part of the CSA. Many States and cities have displays of all the flags that once flew over their area.

Also the flag does not "fly above the courthouse" It is on a monument near the courthouse. The monument is on private property.

felton dorsey real daughter said...

I finna say this to everyone on here commented on my father and this issue my father is innocent and he would not do those things to anyone so regardless how anyone feel he was just unjustifed if you do not know tha full story then itz bedt if you do not open your mouth or form an option FREE FELTON WE MISS YOU