Confederate Flag Outside Louisiana Courthouse Evokes Claims of Bias

A black defendant facing execution in Louisiana for the killing of a white firefighter is challenging the fairness of his trial because a Confederate flag was flying outside the Caddo Parish courthouse in Shreveport, Louisiana, during the proceedings. Felton Dorsey’s legal team recently argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court that the presence of the flag had an impact on jury selection and on Dorsey’s conviction. Carl Staples, a prospective black juror, was struck from the case by prosecutors after he complained about the Confederate flag. Staples told the court that the flag “is a symbol of one of the most…heinous crimes ever committed.” He explained, “When I was screened for the jury, it welled up inside of me and I expressed my feelings.” The flag has flown in front of the courthouse since 1951. Dorsey has maintained his innocence and also argued prosecutors used unreliable accomplice testimony and improperly removed most of the prospective black jurors from the case. He was convicted by a jury that consisted of 11 white individuals and one African American.

The Shreveport Chapter of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a group of university professors have filed a brief in support of Mr. Dorsey’s claim that the Confederate flag biased his case and violated his rights to due process. Other challenges have been brought against the flying of Confederate flags outside of courthouses in Georgia and Texas.

(N. Koppel and A. Jones, “Murder Appeal Raises Confederate Flag Issue,” Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2011). See Race.