Critics say headless mannequins in court evoke lynchings
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Headless plastic mannequins that prosecutors are using in a murder trial against one of three African-American men accused in a 2012 fatal shooting are reminiscent of lynchings, critics said.
The displays feature the clothing prosecutors say was worn by Marcellus Ramon Allen, Tracey Christopher Lomax and Xabian Robert Riley after the killing, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Thursday.
Allen, who faces life in prison with a 25-year minimum if found guilty of murder. Lomax and Riley will be tried at later dates.
The three men were found guilty in 2014, but are being retried after the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed their convictions.
They changed into the clothes after the 2012 killing of Kenny Ray Henry Jr. and are serving as a reference point for witnesses during Allen’s two week trial, said prosecutor Glen Banfield who is African-American.
Civil Rights Attorney Juan Chavez shared a photo of the headless plastic torsos on Twitter.
“Call me new fashioned, but trying three African-American men in the United States while three dummies with each of their pictures and clothes are hanging right next to the jury box all trial seems like bad form,” Chavez wrote.
Larry Matasar, a criminal defense attorney not associated with the case, recommends the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office use full-body, free-standing mannequins instead.
“There is no place for this kind of display in the USA, and especially not in an Oregon courtroom, given our terrible racist history,” he said.
Other prosecutors in separate cases have used the displays to show the clothing of defendants “irrespective of race or gender,” said Kirsten Snowden, a chief deputy district attorney. The office has yet to discuss what it will do with the displays moving forward, she said.
“It is certainly never our intention to be racially insensitive,” Snowden said. “If we’re being racially insensitive, we want to know that.”
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com