Virginia judge rules portraits of mostly white judges in courtroom must be taken down for black defendant

A Fairfax County judge believes pictures of white judges in a courtroom comes off as biased against defendants of color. 
Terrance Shipp Jr. is scheduled to stand trial on January 4th. The initial courtroom where the case would have taken place was found to be too small to safely hold trial given the necessary COVID-19 safety precautions.

Because of this, the case was moved to a larger courtroom—one where several pictures of former judges line the walls. Judge David Bernhard, who will be the presiding judge over this case, released an opinion Monday stating that the portraits of mostly white men inside the courtroom can be perceived as biased. 

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In his opinion, he stated, "The Court is concerned the portraits may serve as unintended but implicit symbols that suggest the courtroom may be a place historically administered by whites for whites, and that others are thus of lesser standing in the dispensing of justice."

Ed Nuttall, a career attorney who’s tried cases in that same courtroom for over twenty years, says he’s never felt any slight from the portraits but acknowledges the reality that other people may have different experiences.

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"Our judges, our prosecutor, or defense bar, our public defenders, our probation officers, we all need to think about what the ultimate goal of our judicial system is and that is trust in the system.," says Nuttall. " And when someone says hey, I’m walking into this courtroom and I have a visceral reaction to all these portraits of these white men and women and a few black judges, nut very few black judges on this bench over the last 50 years that has to be addressed."

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