Jurors deliberated more than seven hours into Thursday night before a Baton Rouge judge declared a mistrial because no decision could be reached on whether the first black head football coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was fired in 2001 because of the color of his skin.
Former UL-Lafayette coach Jerry Baldwin’s attorney in the racial discrimination case said after the mistrial was declared that he will seek another trial.
“It’s been a long haul. To not get a verdict is disappointing,” said Baldwin’s attorney, former UL-Lafayette football player Karl Bernard, at the conclusion of the eight-day trial.
The East Baton Rouge Parish jury of six women and six men — nine of whom are white and three black — told state District Judge Todd Hernandez shortly before 9 p.m. they were deadlocked.
Baldwin’s teams at UL-Lafayette compiled a combined record of six wins and 27 losses in his three seasons. The coach maintained the poor record was not the reasons for his firing.
Bernard argued to the jury earlier Thursday that Baldwin inherited a bad team from his predecessor, Nelson Stokley, who was 1-10 and 2-9 in his final two seasons, respectively.
“Nobody expected him to turn that program around in three years,” Bernard said of Baldwin, claiming further that Baldwin was given no indication his job was in jeopardy.
Bernard said former UL-Lafayette President Ray Authement, who hired Baldwin, and the school’s former athletic director, Nelson Schexnayder, are not racist. In this case, though, “they made a decision based on race.”
“They made a mistake,” Bernard charged. “Instead of fessing up, they’re covering up.”
Baldwin, who had one year remaining on his contract when he was fired, was paid for that final year.
Stephen Oats, a university attorney, argued that success in college football is measured by wins and loses.
“Six wins and 27 losses — worst record at the university in 115 years,” Oats told the jury.
He said there was no conspiracy to fire Baldwin because he is black.
“We all know we have racism and bigotry in our world, but you have to have evidence. It can’t just be a theory,” Oats said.
Baldwin also was fired because of falling attendance and declining revenue from UL-Lafayette home games, Oats said.
Should Baldwin seek another trial, it will be the latest in a long list of legal challenges made in the case.
An East Baton Rouge Parish jury awarded Baldwin $2 million in 2007, but a state appellate court cited jury selection, jury verdict form and expert witness issues in tossing the verdict two years later and ordering a new trial.
Hernandez ruled in 2011 that UL-Lafayette acted within its contractual rights when it fired Baldwin. An appeals court later reversed the judge, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 the university did not breach Baldwin’s contract.
Baldwin is now a pastor at New Living Word Ministries in Ruston and principal of New Living Word school, where he also coaches.