Blog of Rights

Confederate Flag at Louisiana Courthouse Taints Death Penalty System With Racial Bias

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 5:59pm

Yesterday, Anna Arceneaux of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court that the confederate flag outside the Caddo County Courthouse in Shreveport injects inherent racial bias into all court proceedings and is especially damaging in death penalty cases. Anna told the court:

The Confederate flag is viewed by many people as a symbol of white supremacy and racism, and its presence outside the courthouse represents the legacy of lynching, terror and oppression of the African-American race. Flying the flag outside the courthouse risks diminishing the trust of African-Americans in the criminal justice system and priming white jurors to view African-American defendants and victims as second-class citizens.

Last night, Rachel Maddow featured a segment about the flag and Carl Staples, a black potential juror who objected to the presence of the flag out side of the courtroom because, he said, it symbolizes the inherent racism that plagues the capital punishment system in Louisiana and the United States.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Staples said: "When I was screened for the jury, it welled up inside of me and I expressed my feelings[…]I don't understand how judges or lawyers allowed that flag to stand."

Staples was rejected to serve as a juror in the case of Felton Dorsey, a black man accused of killing a white man and who was later sentenced to death by a jury of 11 white people and one black person.

A recent study by a Florida State University social psychologist found that exposure to images of the Confederate flag increases the expression of negative attitudes toward African-Americans among whites. It's clear that for the fair administration of justice in Caddo Parish, the confederate flag must come down.

CORRECTION: The headline of this post has been changed to better reflect the ACLU’s position in this case.

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