Monday, May 9, 2011

Louisiana Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Confederate Justice in Caddo Parish

(For more on this story, see the recent LJI post on the case).
From a press release issued today by the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty:

The Louisiana Supreme Court heard arguments today in the capital trial of State of Louisiana versus Felton Dorsey. Cecilia Trenticosta argued on behalf of Felton Dorsey. Anna Arceneaux, of Shreveport La., argued on behalf of the 26 Caddo Parish and other Louisiana Clergy Leaders, 28 Law and history scholars, the ACLU, the NAACP, the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute For Race And Justice, the Southern Center For Human Rights and Juror Carl Staples, that the presence of the Confederate Flag outside the Caddo Parish Courthouse had the invariable consequence of introducing race into the capital proceedings. The Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (LCADP) traveled with Carl Staples to the Louisiana Supreme Court to hear the argument.

Mr. Staples, an African American man and long-time resident of Shreveport, was removed from the jury pool when he expressed outrage at being asked to decide on the life of another man with the Confederate Flag flying on the courthouse lawn: “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.” In Mr. Dorsey’s case, the State used five of seven peremptory strikes to remove African-Americans jurors.

Sophie Cull, Director of LACDP, described the Confederate Flag outside the Caddo Parish Courthouse as “a symbol of the disenfranchisement of African-American jurors.” The question before the Louisiana Supreme Court, Cull notes, “is whether Louisiana will embrace a new day of full participation in the democratic process.”

This case is a powerful example of the widespread discrimination detailed in last year's Equal Justice Initiative Report.

The LCADP is concerned about the way race infects the administration of the death penalty in Caddo Parish, where the vast majority of death sentences are handed down by near all-white juries for the murder of white victims, even though 80% of murder victims in Caddo are African American.

Photo: Amici in this case and their supporters outside the court following arguments. Each are wearing badges stating "Subject to Removal for Cause." Excluded Juror Carl Staples is front and center.

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