Around them, it was work as usual as lawyers, judges and clerks passed by the small crowd making their way to and from their vehicles.
Those participating held signs claiming the court system and law enforcement in St Tammany was corrupt and racist, handing down stiffer sentences for blacks than whites and more worried about conviction rates than finding justice.
Lisa Terry of Sun, who head a sign that read “No Peace! No Justice!” said she was fighting for the justice she felt she did not get. Terry said she was arrested for a crime she did not commit and them spent three weeks in jail. She was ultimately found not guilty of the crime of cruelty to the infirmed. However, she said, the arrest alone, which according to her was a result of law enforcement’s eagerness to get an arrest and lack of investigation into the truth. Terry said her brother was ultimately convicted of the crime.
“I didn’t do it. My brother was also arrested. He took a plea deal,” Terry said.
Minister Henry Washington of Slidell was one of the more outspoken members of the group. He is a member of the Deacons for Defense – Non-violent.
He said his group fights “in justices in the 22nd Judicial System.” Washington believes his son, Jace Washington, was accused of murder and wrongly convicted. He top believes the court system and law enforcement in St. Tammany were so eager to get a conviction that they ignored facts and accepted inconsistent testimony.
Donna Wittner’s story is different. Her arguments is over the lack of effort the 22nd Judicial District Court system and Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office put forth in investigating her son’s death.
Law enforcement has ruled her son’s death as an accidental suicide, but Wittner has argued that not enough effort was put into testing for evidence to determine if that theory was true or not.
She too said evidence that did not support law enforcement’s initial story was ignored by the court system.
“My son’s life and existence was devalued by this judicial system. He was taken by a stranger and sent back home in a body bag,” Wittner said, adding that she thinks family relationships with members of the Sheriff’s Office and individuals that may have been involved is the reason the court system does not want to pursue charges.
Belinda Parker Brown, president of Louisiana United International, was one of the organizers at the protest.
She questions the “layers and layers of cover up” she believes is in the St. Tammany court system and the excessive force she said the deputies use.
She also questions the use of “jail house snitches” to get convictions.
Brown said she has devoted herself to organizing the community “to expose the police corruption and injustice in St. Tammany Parish Louisiana.”
“It is time to stop the corruption in the criminal justice system,” Brown said as she stood outside the courthouse with approximately 17 others.
A group of people peacefully held signs outside the St. Tammany Parish Courthouse Friday.
They came from St. Tammany and elsewhere, but they were united against what they said is a corrupt legal system in the 22nd Judicial District.