A state appeals court refused Tuesday to move a black man's criminal case from East Feliciana Parish because a Confederate statue stands in front of the Clinton courthouse where his case is pending.
An attorney for Ronnie Anderson said he’ll ask the Louisiana Supreme Court for relief.
Anderson claims he can't get a fair trial in East Feliciana because the statue of a Confederate soldier that has stood in front of the courthouse since 1909 is a symbol of oppression and racial intolerance.
State District Judge Kathryn "Betsy" Jones in November denied Anderson's request to move the case to another parish. She noted that the only symbol in her courtroom is an American flag, and said the statue outside the courthouse is “just a piece of granite.”
A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge voted 2-1 Tuesday to reject Anderson's appeal of her ruling, saying only that it was “denied on the showing made.” Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple and Judge Michael McDonald voted against Anderson. Judge John Michael Guidry dissented.
In Anderson’s appeal, lawyer Niles Haymer wrote that the Confederate monument served to Anderson “as intimidation and a reminder of the way African Americans were treated during slavery and the Jim Crow Era of legal racial discrimination.”
Haymer said Tuesday the issue raised in the case is one that the state’s highest court will have to decide.
“We think it’s unfair and offensive for a black defendant charged with a crime to have his case tried in a courthouse that’s revering the Confederacy,” he said.
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 later called Jones’ decision just and adequate, and said justice in the parish is colorblind.
Haymer also contends Anderson should not be tried in East Feliciana because of the publicity his client’s controversial stance against the statue has generated.
Anderson, of Plaquemine, is charged with illegal possession of a stolen firearm, a felony that stemmed from a 2017 traffic stop in East Feliciana. He was initially charged with illegal possession of a stolen firearm, illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and speeding — charges than can carry up to 50 years in prison. Jones, however, suppressed the statements from the traffic stop because she determined the officer did not properly read Anderson his rights.
Haymer said he is not asking that the monument be removed from the courthouse grounds — as has been the decision made by jurisdictions across the nation.
The East Feliciana Police Jury in 2016 considered relocating the Confederate statue after a resident brought a proposal to the parish governing board, but ultimately they decided not to act.
Haymer has cited a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found “it is not an irrational inference that one who displayed the Confederate flag may harbor racial bias against African Americans,” and he argues the same logic should be applied to the 30-foot Confederate statue outside the Clinton courthouse.
Haymer said he’ll ask that Anderson’s scheduled June 17 trial be pushed back while the appeal is pending.