It has been eight years since former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was killed in a road-rage incident. Cardell Hayes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years in prison back in December 2016. However, the verdict was not unanimous. At the time, Louisiana was one of only two states — the other being Oregon —that allowed a 12-person jury to convict with one or two not-guilty votes. The jury voted 10-2 in Hayes’ case.
In 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to convict a person of a crime with a less than unanimous vote. Hayes would go on to appeal his conviction, and after serving four years of his sentence, he was released on bond and granted a new trial.
That trial came to an end over the weekend, and this time the jury found Hayes guilty by a unanimous vote. This whole horrific incident rightfully had to be relived due to a Jim Crow era law that was designed to negate the vote of Black people on juries.
Two weeks ago, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said that America has never been a racist country. Her asinine take was widely panned. However, the direction America is currently headed would suggest that Haley is far from the only person who holds that belief.
The scourge of the day on American society — according to some — is diversity, equity and inclusion. At a recent campaign rally in New Hampshire, Donald Trump said that in a second presidential term would “terminate every diversity, equity and inclusion program.” A statement that received a standing ovation.
Critical Race Theory has gotten stale, so a piping hot DEI conversation has been taken out of the oven. Forcing students to feel bad because they’re white, holding back white men in the workplace, these feelings have resulted in legislation passed in state governments across the country restricting hiring practices that might go a centimeter towards reducing the racial wealth gap, in addition to what can be taught in school.
On Tuesday, Utah governor Spencer Cox signed a bill that outlaws DEI practices in state government and universities. Again, the acronym stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. To believe that any of those words are harmful to the American public, is to believe that the country has never been racist. Somehow, to those who believe that, individual actors have always been the racists and not the laws enacted in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson or Dred Scott decisions.
To Haley and others who don’t believe America has ever been racist, I present to you the State of Louisiana vs. Cardell Hayes. A case that took eight years to come to a conclusion because of a racist law. Louisiana allowed for an overwhelming majority verdict to count just the same as a unanimous one because in 1898 it could no longer legally keep Black people off juries. Just like it was illegal to forbid Black people from voting during those days, rigging the system was the strategy used to maintain white supremacy.
The Pacific Northwestern state of Oregon decided to adopt the same law in 1934. A Jewish man was accused of murder in 1933, and 11 of the jurors voted him guilty. Because of the one holdout, he was instead convicted of manslaughter. Following that decision, The Oregonian published many editorials about immigrants from southern and eastern Europe being unsophisticated and not fit for American juries. Influenced by the state’s biggest newspaper, the people voted in favor of a measure akin to the one in Louisiana.
These laws that were constructed out of pure bigotry were on the books until 2020. A bigoted law resulted in the man who admittedly killed former Saints defensive end Will Smith going through an unjust trial. All parties involved were forced to relive a road-rage incident that turned into tragedy.
As an added bonus, Hayes will probably be serving the rest of his sentence where he served the first four years — the Louisiana State Penitentiary known colloquially as Angola. A place that, per a Monday Associated Press report, uses convicts for slave labor and sells their work in the fields to various companies. Yet, DEI is the problem, and America has never been racist.