Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Must not sing Dixie

In 2013, during the trial and conviction of a black man, James D. Kirk, Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin, as reported by Idaho Statesman writer Sven Berg, paraphrased lines from the song "Dixie" as she addressed the jury at the end of Kirk's trial.

"Some people know it. It's the 'Dixie' song, right? 'Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton. Good times not forgotten. Look away. Look away. Look away.' " Kallin then went on to ask the jury, wasn't it being asked by the defense to look away from the testimony of the prosecution witnesses?

During appellant arguments, Eric Fredericksen, the state public defender, stated that whether she meant to or not, Kallin made the case a racial matter. While the state denies the use of the "Dixie" lyrics as being a racial ploy, defense attorney Aaron Bazzoli, who represented Kirk at trial, commented, "I don't know if it impacted (the verdict), but when you are sitting in the courtroom and there is one black guy sitting next to you and the prosecutor's singing 'Dixie' - it just seemed a little weird."

Anyone with knowledge of U.S. history would see the direct connection. From its beginning, "Dixie" was racist and insensitive. The song, often credited to Ohio-born Daniel Decatur Emmett, originated in the blackface minstrel shows of the 1850s. Its lyrics, written in an exaggerated version of African-American vernacular English, are a story of a freed black slave longing for the plantation of his birth. During the Civil War the pro-slave Confederacy adopted the song as its de facto anthem. With the Civil Rights Movement, many identify the lyrics of "Dixie" with the symbolism and ideology of the Old South. Certainly for the black community the song harks to the collective memory of slavery, discrimination and racial separation. "Dixie" brings forth all the painful memories past and present.

The Idaho Court of Appeals agreed, saying it "does not require resort to articles or history books to recognize that 'Dixie' was an anthem of the Confederacy, an ode to the Old South, which references with praise a time and place of the most pernicious racism. The prosecutor's mention of the title, 'Dixie,' as well as the specific lyrics recited by the prosecutor, referring to 'the land of cotton,' expressly evoke that setting with all its racial overtones."

The court gave weight to the importance of both the constitutional obligation to provide criminal defendants a fundamentally fair trial and the interest of maintaining public confidence in the integrity of judicial proceedings against imposing a stringent standard to determine whether harmful error occurred. The court ordered the conviction vacated and remanded for further proceedings.


1 comment:

Bird of paradise said...

I read a few years ago some jerk defence lawyer wated to appeal their clience death sentence becuase the judge signed the death warrent witha smiley face WHINNY LIBERALS STUPID LIBERALS