Monday, March 11, 2013

Will Vermont Jurisprudence Be Joining The Discussion of Expanding Voir Dire to Include Probing Potential Jurors About Their Feelings Concerning the Confederacy?

There's an important discussion that has begun concerning the biases that attach when a potential juror is sympathetic to the Confederacy, the modern neo-Confederate movement and its ideological sympathizers. While much of the work and research is Southern oriented, it has relevance to Vermont.

Proponents of the Vermont secessionist movement have long had significant ties to the Southern neo-Confederate movement, most particularly the racist League of the South (LoS). Starting in 2007, the leadership of the Second Vermont Republic (SVR) (the still quite dead SVR founder Thomas H. Naylor and his then SVR co-chair and present VTCommons propagandist Rob Williams) launched a purge of members who'd voiced concern about associating with indisputably racist groups. Committed Vermont seceshers have repeatedly and publicly expressed support for the acts of the Confederacy and the modern neo-Confederate movement.

In addition to presenting research on the racial bias of potential jurors, the researchers, Edward H. Sebesta and Dr. Euan Hague, PhD, have a piece published at The Black Commentator entitled The Confederacy and Jury Selection,
"The historical record irrefutably shows that the Confederacy was formed for the purpose of preserving white supremacy and slavery. Such sentiments are expressed is the declaration and resolutions of the seceding states, in the speeches of the leaders of the Confederacy, and in innumerable other sources, typically being expressed in a straight forward manner.

It would be reasonable, therefore, to ‘challenge for cause’ potential jurors identifying with the Confederacy because of their identification with a white supremacist regime that sought to keep (its) African Americans enslaved. These potential jurors identifying with the Confederacy might object that they would not be biased as jurors, but elements of the pro-Confederate Lost Cause mythology inherently lead to bias. One element is that African American slaves were well treated and content as slaves, and that slavery was like being a part of a large family, rather than that it was a grave and often horrific condition. At some psychological level, Lost Cause rationalizations are embraced and accepted because for that individual, an African American’s freedom and humanity are valued less than their own."
Alan Bean at the Friends of Justice blog has a piece, Probing the Subtleties of White Racial Bias, and there's a New York Times Op-Ed piece by a senior editor at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the topic of ingrained racism here.

Vermont has a growing immigrant population, as well as an increasing population of color located in Vermont's small urban areas. Racial profiling has been a recurring issue that has found its way to the courts and that's not likely to end. White Vermonters who have embraced the white, racist neo-Confederate movement, while an admittedly small group, are still eligible for jury duty.

Vermont secessionists have sought to legitimize their endeavor by claiming that (1) Southerners had a "right" to secede and that, similarly, (2) Vermonters do as well because there once existed a Vermont republic. Vermont republic mythology is a staple for Vermont secesher water carriers like Rob Williams, Juliet Buck and two time Vermont secesher legislative candidate in Franklin County, Todd Pritsky. Pritsky was a member of what was thought by the surreptitious group to be a super secret listserv where some Vermont seceshers, including a neo-Nazi, could engage in racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, seditious and abusively misogynistic (sounds redundant but it's not) "chat," while other invited members, like Pritsky, remained largely silent. The racist leader of SVR later referred to this group as "Internet cowboys," with the usual CIA/Mossad paranoid delusions here.

Juror bias is an issue that needs looking at in Vermont where secessionists and their sympathizers, who embrace the neo-Confederate meme, can potentially contaminate the jury with an element of racial bias.

If you believe, as I do, that the Vermont judicial system needs to examine this issue, please consider contacting the Vermont Judiciary Court Administrator Robert Greemore by writing to him at 109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05609 or calling him at 802-828-3278; contacting the President of the Vermont Bar Association, Amber L. Barber, at or by writing to her at P.O. Box 100, Montpelier, VT 05601-0100; and Attorney General William Sorrell at 109 State Street, Montpelier VT 05609-1001 or calling him at 802-828-3171. This is one of those occasions where I would strongly urge you to put your concerns about this issue in writing.

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