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Confederate flag in Shreveport key in death sentence appeal

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Written by
Adam Kealoha Causey

The Confederate flag — a flashpoint between Southern pride versus civil rights — is key in a Louisiana Supreme Court appeal of a death sentence handed down in the slaying of a retired Caddo fire captain.

Lawyers say the flag flying outside the Caddo Courthouse in Shreveport unduly influenced the outcome of the case of Felton Dorsey, who was convicted in the 2006 murder of Joe Prock.

Prock, a white man, was tied up, beaten and set on fire in his mother’s Greenwood home.

Only one black served on the jury that sent Dorsey, a black man, to death row. The rest of the panel was white. The flag so offended Carl Staples, who had been summoned for jury duty in the case, that he raised his concerns during the selection process in 2009.

Speaking up, Staples said, got him removed from the jury pool.

“I indicated that they could not administer justice in a court of law when they have a symbol of one of the greatest injustices flying in front of the court,” Staples said.

Excluding blacks such as Staples from the judicial process was unfair, Dorsey’s attorneys say. And for that reason, among others, they say he deserves a new trial. A hearing is set for 2 p.m. today before the state Supreme Court in New Orleans.

Advocates say this case bolsters their stance to take the flag — viewed by many as a symbol of hatred and racial bigotry — down.

“What we’re really hoping is that the Supreme Court will use this as an opportunity to send a very clear message that the influence of racial bias in the capital punishment system is intolerable,” said Anna Arceneaux, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. “Removing the Confederate flag is the first step on that path.”

The ACLU joined the Shreveport branch of the NAACP last week asking parish government to remove the banner. Dorsey’s attorneys are allowing the ACLU to use part of their time during today’s proceedings.

The ACLU plans to prove the flag and its accompanying monument for soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War are on public property — and they say that’s illegal.

The monument as originally designed and built in 1903 to commemorate the final lowering of the last Confederate flag over land in Shreveport in the summer of 1865, did not include a flagpole or flag. However, a flagpole was added in 1951 and flies the Third National banner the Confederate States of America adopted in March 1865, the flag that flew over Shreveport at the time of the surrender. The most recent push for its removal, from Caddo Commissioner Ken Epperson, was in 2002.

“This appellate argument is an important part of the process in preserving the justice we obtained for the Prock family back in 2009,” said Dhu Thompson, an assistant Caddo district attorney who prosecuted Dorsey. “We worked in a professional and ethical manner to obtain this verdict and sentence while preserving the due process rights of the defendant. We are prepared to present our record to the high court.”

Written by demon53

May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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