ACLU and Broad Coalition Call for Removal of Confederate Flag From Outside Louisiana Courthouse

Press Release, ACLU, May 3, 2011

Presence Creates Intolerable Risk That Capital Punishment System Cannot Be Fairly Administered Within Courthouse Walls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

SHREVEPORT, LA–The American Civil Liberties Union today joined a coalition of other civil rights groups and religious leaders in calling for the Confederate flag flying outside the Caddo Parish Courthouse to be taken down, arguing the flag’s presence prevents criminal justice from being fairly administered, particularly in death penalty cases.

The ACLU and other groups, along with dozens of religious leaders, historians and legal scholars, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Louisiana Supreme Court last month saying the conviction and subsequent sentencing to death of Felton D. Dorsey in 2009 should be overturned because, among other reasons, the 11 whites and one African-American that comprised his jury walked past the flag dozens of times before rendering a verdict and voting on a sentence. Dorsey is African-American and African-Americans comprise nearly half of Caddo Parish’s population.

“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,” said Anna Arceneaux, staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. “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.”

Arceneaux, a Shreveport native, today joined representatives from the Shreveport Chapter of the NAACP, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice and a number of local clergy at a press conference outside the courthouse at which advocates demanded parish officials take down the flag immediately.

The flag was raised on public land outside the courthouse in 1951 during a period often referred to as the “Second Reconstruction,” as an act of resistance to the civic and civil rights advances of African-Americans. The flag flies beside a Confederate monument commissioned in 1903 by parish officials at a time of strong resistance to civil rights reforms promised by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War. The monument was meant to honor the parish as the last stand of confederate Louisiana.

According to the ACLU’s brief, the flag outside the courthouse has a substantially adverse impact on the administration of justice inside the courthouse. It poses the intolerable risk that criminal justice can not be fairly administrated within its walls, particularly in death penalty cases, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The flag denied Dorsey a fair trial, according to the ACLU’s brief, denied potential African-American jurors the opportunity to serve on Dorsey’s jury and risked tainting with racial bias all jurors, potential jurors, witnesses and citizens who attended and participated in the court proceedings conducted underneath it.

In Dorsey’s case, Shreveport resident Carl Staples, a potential African-American juror, was struck by the prosecutor in Dorsey’s case after expressing frustration with the systemic injustices inherent in the nation’s criminal justice system. He highlighted the presence of the Confederate flag outside the courthouse as symbolizing the pernicious realities that serve to undercut his faith in the system. As Staples told the court, to him, the flag represents “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.”

The ACLU will argue for Dorsey’s conviction and sentence to be overturned in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court May 9.

According to the ACLU’s brief, even if other African-American prospective jurors in Dorsey’s case did not express similar concerns as Staples, at least some others were undoubtedly disturbed by the flag and may have sought to avoid jury service. African-American jurors who do serve on Caddo Parish juries may well be hesitant to return verdicts inconsistent with the principles the flag celebrates, especially in cases such as Dorsey’s which involve an African-American defendant and a white victim.

Psychological research also shows that the flag creates an unacceptable risk that implicit racial bias could impact the trial process, particularly when the defendant is African-American. 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.

“The Confederate flag represents for many people, and particularly for African-Americans, the public entrenchment of racism in Caddo Parish’s judicial system and is an endorsement of historical efforts to deny African-Americans equality under the law,” said Arceneaux. “Allowing it to fly outside the Caddo Parish courthouse sends a clear statement that capital punishment cannot be fairly administered within the courthouse walls.”

A copy of the ACLU’s friend-of-the-court brief is available online at: http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/aclu-amicus-brief-support-new-trial-felton-d-dorsey-0.

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  • Anonymous

    I’ll make sure that the court house handling my case flies a flag with the White Dove of Peace on it, Psychologically creating an acceptable risk for the jurors to acquit..

  • Carl

    I agree in principle. Flags of other countries should NEVER be flown outside a United States courthouse. You wouldn’t expect justice from a courthouse flying another country’s flag. We shouldn’t allow a Mexican flag to be flown outside a courthouse, even if that state used to be part of Mexico (for a few years). While the confederacy wasn’t as foreign, it still was not the United States.

    However, it’s a bit of a stretch to claim it denied the chance for black jurors. Black people who can’t bring themselves to walk past a confederate flag are surely incapable of rendering unbiased verdicts in cases involving “racist” white people.

  • Question Diversity

    Damn, that’s one potent and powerful piece of cloth, to be doing all those dastardly things all by itself, flying outside that court house. It has been flying since 1951, and because of weathering and sun bleaching, the flags must always be replaced. Caddo Parish’s court building quartermasters must have a secret supply line to a secret factory that knows how to sew together Confederate battle flags that are sentient enough to know how to pervert justice in the building directly underneath itself. These flags are so powerful and devious on their own that they have the power to compel black men to kill other black men, so it seems.

    Where can I buy one of these flags?

    Seriously, I think this is a side issue. I think the ACLU and these dime-a-dozen cracker jack box preachers, (I bet Alan Beany Baby has his fingerprints all over this, too), are working the Flag issue as a means to try and knock off the death penalty against this convicted murderer.

  • Question Diversity

    2 Carl:

    “Other country?” That flag was the military battle flag of the very country that state belonged to from 1861-65. A battle flag of a military that the U.S. Federal government considers to be a legitimate historical section of the U.S. Armed Forces, and its (now entirely deceased) service members to be U.S. military veterans, legally speaking, and a flag that accompanied the American military into battle in every war between the WBTS and the end of Vietnam. A battle flag that represented a military which had two major generals (Forrest, Jackson) whose tactics are still educational standard fare at West Point.

  • Antidote

    I am a Yankee from a long line of Yankees; in fact one of my ancestors went to Louisiana during the War of Southern Secession to help burn down Governor Moore’s plantation. That being said, I have no dog in this fight: although I recognize the historical significance of this banner, the Confederate battle flag has no emotional meaning to me whatsoever. I don’t think of slavery, secession, States’ rights, civil rights, mint juleps, hush puppies, Bull Run, Antietam, Appamatox or anything else when I see it.

    However, I am an ally and supporter of these Southerners who demand the right to acknowledge and celebrate what they regard as their heritage. Because if the blacks and libtards succeed in forcing these people to haul down that flag, then they will advance against the American flag. That is their plan. Indeed, they will say the American flag was flown over slavery, Jim Crow and racism and must be hauled down.

  • Amos MIlls

    Thank you, Question Diversity, for setting Carl straight.

    Blacks are encouraged to remember their “plight” under the Confederacy, but Whites have to subdue theirs?

    I’m an old, old man born, raised and still living in Columbia, SC. My great great grandfather and grandmother ran a wheelwright shop in Columbia that was destroyed by the United States under orders of their General Sherman and for no good reason. They were living peacefully under that flag, minding their own business, and they never held any slaves, couldn’t afford them if they wanted to. The US Government never compensated them one penny for it, but Confederate officers pitched in to help them reclaim some of what they had lost, so don’t tell me that any Confederate State is a foreign nation on its own soil. And I don’t care what tyranny-coerced legislation says otherwise.

  • WR the elder

    Have you noticed that the ACLU is always trying to take away our liberties? I am quite confident that how I judge a death penalty case would not be influenced in any way by a Confederate flag. If it keeps blacks out of juries, that will no doubt improve the objectivity of the jury whether the defendant is white or black.

  • Tactless Old Pedo

    Filing an amicus brief doesn’t really mean anything or have any power; it’s just a piece of information for the Court to consider. It cannot force any judgment or decision. My own Confederate battle flag flies on my bedroom wall, because I don’t want to get shot by ignorant idiots for putting it outside. It is a sad thing that we Southerners have had to watch our history be controlled by leftist liberals. And I also think that it would take a total moron of a juror to be influenced by the mere presence of a flag….

  • Anonymous

    All this ACLU hand-wringing would be unnecessary if the races were separated and Blacks stuck to committing crimes against their own rather than seeking out Whites, as Dorsey had done.

  • sandy

    I agree with #2 Carl. Also i agree with people who say flying the confederate flag has a racial tinge. If that war was fought over, say, the economy or some other non-racial cause you would never see the confederate flag today.

  • GetBackJack

    #2 Carl & #9 Sandy:

    I take issue with you both for not have the hindsight to realize that even back then, whites vilified whites for self-serving purposes. More than 500,000 whites died fighting each other and once again, this misplaced white empathy, sides with the aggressor. Slavery has existed for thousands of years and because a few whites made slaves out of blacks, it has been elevated to the pinnacle of evil. Perhaps you need to dig a little deeper and look more closely at our out of control federal government. The largest propaganda machine in the world! Ever!!!

  • The Bobster

    “ACLU and Broad Coalition Call for Removal of Confederate Flag From Outside Louisiana Courthouse.”

    ______

    “Broad Coalition” = the usual suspects.

    ___________

    “If that war was fought over, say, the economy or some other non-racial cause you would never see the confederate flag today.”

    _______

    Please educate yourself on U.S. history instead of listening to the Katie Couric notebook. The war WAS fought over economic issues and states rights. Slavery was incidental.

  • Anonymous

    @Carl and Sandy,

    I think your mistake lies in assuming the push to Federalize so many powers which should have remained State controlled was not itself the driving cause behind the Civil War and thus ‘any excuse would do’, including slavery which had its match in the indenturement of poor northern whites as ‘luxury item’ household servants rather than essential elements in a high volume, low efficiency, southern agro system.

    Lincoln’s famous: ‘If it would keep the Union together to have slavery I would do it, if it would keep it together to not have slavery, I would do it, if it was some percentage of slavery and some not, for the Union, I would do it.’ quote is, at best, rather obfuscatory in this as we would have gone down a far different path if the ‘freed’ menial labor and destroyed agriculture and barter economics of the South had instead persisted as an alternative to the new slavery being prepared in the North: that of the Industrial Revolution.

    King Cotton had leached the Southern Soil dry. Automation and steam transport would eradicate much of the need to do manual labor intensive ‘preprocessing’ of cotton on large plantation farms. And it was clear from the British actions in Egypt that ‘no slack in the availability of cotton’ would be tolerated or necessary as a _planned_ compensation, also using what amounts to slavery.

    As with virtually all of America’s wars, the War Of Northern Aggression thus comes down to pushing a hidden agenda for control and profit that ultimately hurt us more than helped our country when patience and persistence would have achieved the same ends in 20 years without 600,000 dead and an unending cascade of (also engineered) ‘fiscal emergencies’ which destroyed state banking and enabled the creation of the criminal enterprise known as The Fed.

    That said, here’s the crusher-

    >

    …the 11 whites and one African-American that comprised his jury walked past the flag dozens of times before rendering a verdict and voting on a sentence.

    >

    Jury Duty is NOT voluntary. The defense and prosecution have equal rights to dismiss a given number of jurors without cause and may make added requests of the judge if they have specific objections beyond that. Further, the defense can, if it feels that the location or population are unduly biased, move for a change of venue to a new trial area _and courthouse_.

    If they did not do any of this, prior to the trial, then this is all shadow-boxing for yet another external agenda.

    Our country would be better off if the Confederacy had won. The Blacks, without use as animate farm implements, would be back in Africa instead of existing as a permanent protected-dole underclass and we would have likely _avoided_ the insanity of both World Wars and certainly Korea and Vietnam.

    We would still have self sufficiency in agro and would likely balance that with retained indigenous industrial capacity to ‘match our Southern neighbors’.

    Horace Greeley’s dream would have happened more quickly without a generation necessary to replace war dead and as a result The West would have been a done-deal colonization long before dealing with unruly Mexicans became an issue. They certainly would not be a problem today as proud Southern Conservatives would give short shrift to the fanciful notions of Northern Nationalist liberals. Or their industrialist leash holders.

    It’s time we realized how badly our (forced) Union has treated us. As a nation. And a race.

    Because any guilt we cling to as a ‘moral foundation’ for continued reparations is just another chain upon OUR ankles. Put there by manipulative social engineers whose sole goal is unrivaled power beyond any critique.

    And that is the real problem of white and black relations today, someone is trying to other-foot the shoe in pursuit of what they suggest white plantation owners of the South once had, and the 97% of the whites who _even at the time_ did not ever want slavery, are being made to play Cinderella.

  • Comment from Oz

    This is an interesting debate and I don’t think anyone will really be happy with any end result. Here we have 3 official flags and one popular unofficial version, this is called the Eureka Flag, it is a stylised Southern Cross on a blue background, it is a general symbol of defiance of authority!

    Officially, the Australian National Flag is flown in public places but because it incorporates the British Union Jack some people don’t like it, one reason given is that it may offend non-British minorities etc. There are also the State flags, generally a bit of a non-event. Then there is the controversial Aboriginal Flag, colourful and well designed but many people including myself find it quite obnoxious to see it being flown from public buildings. It is devisive and smacks of extreme PC. Some local government area refused to fly it but the “powers that be” have made sure it is now flown together with the National & State flags ( on all public buildings) no exceptions.

    As to the Confederate Flag, let it fly! It is a very proud part of American history. If it offends all the PC do-gooders so much the better!

  • Diversity = Adversity

    Arceneaux is full of it, I am a proud Louisiana Confederate. The presence of my flag does not affect the ‘biases’ of jurors who walk past it.

    The ACLU has offended me! As an minority Cajun, I am not only White, but also a protected minority! My grandparents’ first language is/was Cajun French, and my Grandmother has made a Canadian French documentary about the harsh punishment Cajun children in public schools faced for speaking our native tongue. I would like to stand against Arceneaux and the ACLU from this ground. What can I do, AmRen?

  • Anonymous

    Take away Federal handouts , government programs and tax breaks-directly and indirectly and both the ACLU and 99.9% of your psychologist would be selling pencils on the courthouse steps .

    I don’t recall seeing a lot of Confederate flags in Boston in 1976 or among the Hardhats or White Tigers (If I remember correctly , the White Tigers were white , off duty cops in one or more of your big northern cities) during counter demonstrations in the 1960s . Does this mean the American flag is racially tinged ? Apparently black olympians felt it was in 1968 and in 1972 .

  • sonofthesouth

    I am moved by the defense of the battle flag of the late Southern Confederacy by AmRen readers. It represents opposition to tyranny all over the world, yet has been hijacked by true hate groups here in Amerika. Most of the folks in the Southern Nationalist movement fly the 3rd National Flag of the Confederacy, of which few detractors are familiar with. #13 Anonymous is right, both Union and Confederate states would have been better off had the Confederacy won it’s independence. The Lincoln era birthed “big government” and “aggressive foreign wars.”