Police Jury eyes removal of statue _lowres

A statue stands as monument to the Confederate soldiers of east Feliciana Parish in this 2010 photo. The East Feliciana Courthouse was being repaired at the time. On Monday, May 2, 2016, the Police Jury sent to committee a request to consider moving the statue to the Clinton Confederate cemetery.

A Confederate statue that stands in front of the Clinton courthouse is a "symbol of racial intolerance, oppression and intimidation," an attorney for a black man who wants his criminal case moved from East Feliciana Parish told the state Supreme Court this week.

Ronnie Anderson's request for a change of venue was denied last year by state District Judge Kathryn "Betsy" Jones, who noted that the only symbol in her courtroom is an American flag. She said the statue outside the courthouse is “just a piece of granite.”

The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge affirmed Jones' ruling in June.

The 30-foot-tall statue of a Confederate soldier is a reminder to Anderson, 39, of Plaquemine, of "the way African Americans were treated during slavery and the Jim Crow Era of legal racial discrimination," his attorney, Niles Haymer, says in an appeal filed Monday at the Supreme Court.

Haymer argues in the filing that the monument is "offensive and leads to the perception of bigotry and biasness" toward Anderson, who claims he cannot get a fair trial in East Feliciana.

Anderson “contends that the Confederate monument is not just memorializing the Confederacy, but revering the Confederacy and what it stood for, right in front of the very place African Americans to to seek fairness and impartiality in the court system,” the filing states.

If the high court doesn't reverse the appellate court, Haymer contends, "it would lead to a substantial injustice to not only the Defendant, who is African American, but many people of different races who are also offended by a Confederate display of reverence at a court of law in the State of Louisiana in the year 2019."

The statue has stood in front of the courthouse since 1909. The East Feliciana Police Jury in 2016 considered relocating it after a resident brought a proposal to the parish governing board, but ultimately they decided not to act.

Anderson is not asking that the monument be removed from the courthouse grounds.

In court hearings, East Feliciana District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla has disputed claims that the presence of a Confederate statue outside the courthouse would prevent Anderson from being treated fairly under the law.

D'Aquilla has called Jones’ decision just and adequate, and said justice in the parish is colorblind.

Haymer also argues in his Supreme Court filing that Anderson shouldn't be tried in East Feliciana because of the publicity his client’s stance against the statue has generated. The case has received local and national media attention.

“For a case to garner such media attention in the Town of Clinton which has a population of 1,653 and the Parish of East Feliciana with a population of 20,267, it is highly likely that most if not all of the residents have heard and discussed the issue of the Confederate monument and its location,” Haymer says.

Anderson is charged with illegal possession of a stolen firearm, a felony that stemmed from a 2017 traffic stop in Wilson.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.