Judge in Virginia refuses to try Black defendant in a court with portraits of white people

Nii Ntreh Dec 23, 2020 at 04:34pm

December 23, 2020 at 04:34 pm | News

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Associate Editor

December 23, 2020 at 04:34 pm | News

Judge David Bernhard in Virginia said the portraits "may serve as unintended but implicit symbols that suggest the courtroom may be a place historically administered by whites for whites". Photo Credit: AB Journal

Terrance Shipp will be tried in a courtroom without the portraits of white former jurists in the state of Virginia, according to the insistence of Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David Bernhard.

Shipp is to be tried on charges of eluding the police. But Judge Bernhard who has been forced to preside of the matter in a larger courtroom that would allow for social distancing regrets that his new place of work has the portraits of 47 former judges, 45 of whom are white.

The judge has so far ruled that Shipp will therefore be tried in a courtroom without the portraits. This is because Judge Bernard fears justice couldn’t be rendered in such a situation.

“While to some the issue of portraits might be a trivial matter, to those subject to the justice system it is far from the case,” Bernhard wrote in his ruling notes, according to a report by Huffington Post.

The judge added that the portraits in a courtroom where a Black man is to receive judgement “may serve as unintended but implicit symbols that suggest the courtroom may be a place historically administered by whites for whites.

State prosecutors reportedly had no objection to Bernhard’s ruling with Fairfax County’s Chief Public Defender Dawn Butorac welcoming the judges’ discretion.

Butorac called the ruling “a very, very, very small step in a long overdue journey to battle systemic racism”. Meanwhile, Shipp’s trial has been adjourned to January 4.

Judge Bernhard, who was born in El Salvador, has been praised for his stance on justice and the symbolism of fairness. His decision follows another in Louisa County, Virginia who ordered that a portrait of the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.

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