Frank Green, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 22
Darcel Nathaniel Murphy’s defense attorneys contend that having a portrait of Robert E. Lee in the courtroom (as seen in a court filing) violates his constitutional rights. He is charged with capital murder.
A request to try a black man charged with capital murder in Louisa County in a courtroom without a portrait of Robert E. Lee or other Confederate memorabilia is opposed by the family of the slain man, also an African-American.
Darcel Nathaniel Murphy is charged with capital murder in the slaying of Robinson and is facing a possible death sentence at his May trial.
In a motion filed Monday, Murphy’s lawyers requested that the trial not be held where there are “images that could be interpreted as glorifying, memorializing, or otherwise endorsing the efforts of those who fought on behalf of the Confederate cause or its principles.”
Their concern is focused on a large portrait of Lee as a Confederate general that, they contend, “dwarfs every other image” in the courtroom.
Washington says that she, her late brother and others involved in the case are African-Americans. “We’re all black. This has nothing to do with the Robert E. Lee portrait sitting in the courtroom,” she said.
“None of the people here are protesting or saying anything about that. We all recognize Virginia [was] a Confederate state, and I don’t want my family to be used,” she said.
“We are a community that bothers nobody. This came to us; we didn’t go to it. So, whatever is in the courthouse, it’s been there; it’s not hurting anybody,” she said. “We’re not going to make this a race issue over here.”
Told of Washington’s remarks, Douglas Ramseur, one of Murphy’s lawyers with the Office of the Capital Defender, responded Friday that “our motion is intended to make sure that racial considerations do not play a role in the proceedings.”
The Lee portrait faces directly toward the judge and overlooks the entire courtroom, and there are smaller portraits commemorating the Confederate military service of others, the defense attorneys complain.
Among other things, the [defense] motion argues that the display of Confederate memorials, symbols and icons in the courtroom could “have a powerful influence on other participants and observers, such as jurors, witnesses, family of loved ones involved in this case, and the citizens of Louisa.”