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New Program Invites Public To Discuss Role Of Race In Judicial System

gavel courtroom
ONA News Agency/Wikimedia Commons
The Indiana Supreme Court is considering a sentence appeal for a man convicted in 2020 of killing and mutilating his ex-girlfriend at her Jeffersonville home.

Louisville residents will have the opportunity to speak with members of the judiciary at a free event Thursday night focused on race and the courts.

The listening session, called Court Talks, will feature judges, as well as representatives from departments including the Louisville and Kentucky departments of corrections and the Kentucky Parole Board.

Judge Denise Clayton said the event is an opportunity for citizens to learn the responsibilities of each agency, and to give feedback on how the courts can better serve the public. She is the chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals and serves on the Racial Fairness Commission.

She said organizers have surveyed people about their experience with the courts and found they feel people are treated differently based on race and class.

"There is a perception of unfairness that breaks down race by race and by income, that there's a feeling we see that ... indicating that people thought if you were poor and you didn't have money, you got treated one way," Clayton said.

And that perception was backed up by the Racial Fairness Commission's study of jury selection, sentencing and bail, she said. The Commission found bias was a factor in each of those areas.

The event will give people access to officials who usually aren't as prominent in the public eye, Clayton said.

"Unlike some other branches of government, where you may have the mayor or the governor ... go out and speak and have forums, or legislators who go out and have town halls, you don't usually have the courts doing that. So this time the courts are doing this," she said. "And this is really, I think, a great opportunity for people to learn a little bit more about the system, but also to tell the system what it needs to do better."

Doors open at 6 p.m. for the event, which will take place at 824 S. 4th St. at Spalding University.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.