NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana judge Tuesday rejected a motion by an African-American defendant to move his court case because of a Confederate monument in front of the courthouse.
Ronnie Anderson and his attorney Niles Haymer argued Anderson couldn't get a fair trial in the same place where a "symbol of oppression and racial intolerance" stands.
The monument of the unnamed Confederate soldier has stood outside the East Feliciana Parish courthouse north of Baton Rouge since 1909.
While Judge Kathryn Jones refused to move the case — saying Anderson filed his motion too late — she also threw out the most serious charges he faced, including firearms charges. He now only faces a traffic ticket.
But the monument issue could resurface again.
District attorney Sam D'Aquilla says he plans to refile one of the felony charges in September. If that happens, Haymer says he'll refile the change of venue motion again. Speaking of his client, he said: "He's still adamant that if he has to come back to that courthouse he will want me to file that same motion again."
He said he also plans to write the bar association about the appropriateness of the monuments in front of courthouses. He hopes that other attorneys also start raising the issue, and if he has other clients who want to file similar motions, he will.
D'Aquilla says he doesn't personally care if the statue stays or goes. But he said his community strives hard to avoid prejudice.
"We want him to get a fair trial. We want to be fair to people," he said.
Haymer's Confederate statue motion wades into a nationwide debate about Confederate symbolism that has come under renewed scrutiny in recent years. That scrutiny was triggered largely by two events: the 2015 shooting by Dylann Roof of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina and the 2017 deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Supporters say the statues are a part of history honoring their ancestors; detractors say they, in effect, honor slavery and in many cases were erected during the Jim Crow era to intimidate black people and bolster white supremacy.
Confederate monuments dot the lawns of many Southern courthouses. In addition to the one in East Feliciana, a database compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center lists 11 more in front of Louisiana courthouses.
Last year officials in northern Louisiana's Caddo parish voted to remove a Confederate monument in front of their courthouse, saying it would be better if it was not in front of the courthouse "where justice is to be administered fairly and impartially." A lawsuit stalled the move, but was recently dismissed by a federal judge.
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