Thursday, August 13, 2020

Louisiana's Dark Past is still Haunting the Present

 Just the other day a man from Shreveport, Louisiana; Fair Wayne Bryant's life sentence was up held by the Louisiana State Supreme Court.

The Habitual Offender law in Louisiana is cruel and unusual punishment in antiquated dixie legalism. 

The habitual offender law must be repealed.  

He was sentenced to life for trying to steal hedge clippers. Only one justice objected.

   When the latest abomination from the state Supreme Court cried out for a rebuke from the voice of reason and compassion, retired judge Calvin Johnson, inevitably, was there to provide it.

“Forget it (the law) for a second,” Johnson said. “Just the inhumanity. Just the inhumanity of it. It just takes your breath away.”

Johnson's retirement as chief judge of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in 2008 left him with greater freedom to campaign against the mindless cruelties of the system he witnessed from the inside. 

He has been tireless in that cause and now laments the fate of Fair Wayne Bryant, whose wildly disproportionate sentence of life in prison failed to stir a sense of decency in any Supreme Court justice, save its chief, Bernette Johnson.    

To be Clear, this Louisiana aberation is in direct violation of the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. 

[from the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court's Dissent]
"In the years following Reconstruction, southern states criminalized recently-emancipated African American citizens by introducing extreme sentences for petty theft associated with poverty. 

 These measures enabled southern states to continue using forced-labor (as punishment for a crime) by African Americans even after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. 
Known in some places as “Pig Laws”, they replaced the Black Codes that were prevalent after the Civil War ended. See generally, Douglas A. Blackmon,SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME:THE RE-ENSLAVEMENT OF BLACK AMERICANS FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO WORLD WAR II (2008).

Pig Laws were largely designed to re-enslave African Americans. They targeted actions such as stealing cattle and swine—considered stereotypical “negro” behavior—by lowering the threshold for what constituted a crime and increasing the severity of its punishment." Id

Every Attorney in Louisiana should be seeking to change this evil-law from a most treacherously current past. 
The Louisiana Legislative delegation, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and the Governor should now prioritize ridding the State of Louisiana of this legacy. 

A rebuke from the voice of reason and compassion, “Forget it (the law) for a second,” Retired Judge Calvin Johnson said. “Just the inhumanity. Just the inhumanity of it. It just takes your breath away.”

So in this Age of correcting past wrongs to Black Americans, in the same state of black inequities, disproportionate #nCoViD19 (Coronavirus) statistics in Blacks statewide;  in a City in a Parish where a Confederate Statue stands in front of the District Court:

Get this business straight.

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