Black law student says court deputy mistook her for a defendant

“I have never been more embarrassed in my entire life. I felt like crying in that moment,” said Brooklyn Crockton.

A law student at Roger Williams University says she forgives the courtroom sheriff who she said delayed her from entering a courtroom with other attorneys because he thought she was a defendant.

As reported by WPRI, Brooklyn Crockton says a white sheriff blocked her from entering a courtroom at Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence, Rhode Island, going so far as to pull her out of line to inquire about the absence of her name on the docket for defendants, she said in a TikTok video about the experience.

@sobrooklyn_ I am still stuck #lawschool #blacklawyers #CorollaCrossStep #fyp #blacklawstudents #lawyersoftiktok ♬ original sound – Brooklyn Aubrey ✨

“He asked if I was the defendant,” Crockton recalled. “It kind of threw me off balance. I was aware that situations like this had occurred with other law students, but I just couldn’t believe in that moment that it was happening to me,” she told WPRI.

Crockton said the sheriff apologized after she explained that she was representing a client as part of the university criminal defense clinic. According to the university’s website, the clinic “offers law students an extraordinary opportunity to experience the actual practice of law, representing real defendants in pending criminal cases under the direct supervision of a full-time member of the School of Law’s tenured faculty.”

Law students such as Crockton personally handle all stages of criminal litigation in the Criminal Defense Clinic, beginning with interviewing the client and including investigating the case, counseling the client, negotiating with the prosecution, and ultimately, if the case proceeds that far, trying the case,” the site continues.

Crockton recounted her experience in a viral TikTok video. “I have never been more embarrassed in my entire life. I felt like crying in that moment,” Crockton said in the video. She noted that she was dressed appropriately for the hearing.

Speaking to WPRI, Crockton said, “You can’t outdress racism.” She added, “It doesn’t matter how well you are dressed or what you put on. Someone will still look at the color of your skin and judge you based on that.”

The law student said the sheriff approached her repeatedly after he admitted her into the courtroom. “I was getting anxious each and every time because I really just wanted the interaction to be over,” Crockton told the Rhode Island station.

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

“You hear about these stories all the time with Black attorneys, but when it happens to you, it is just so visceral that you don’t even know what to say,” she says in her TikTok post.

Crockton’s supervising attorney and law professor Andrew Horwitz also spoke to the station and said such incidents are not uncommon among attorneys of color.

“I don’t think we can train bias out of people,” Horwitz said. “I think the best we can do is make people aware and conscious of their bias. The right kind of training will help us all recognize the biases that we carry,” he added.

Crockton agrees.

“This just fits into a larger conversation we need to be having about implicit bias,” Crockton said. “It’s not only in the legal industry. It’s in every single industry that’s out there.”

A spokesperson for Roger Williams University said in a statement that officials addressed the situation with the Rhode Island Judiciary and the state’s Division of Sheriffs. 

“Roger Williams University School of Law is grateful that Brooklyn is sharing her personal experience with bias in the legal system to help bring attention to a pervasive and national problem,” the statement reads. “This requires collective and concerted action, and we are committed to being part of the solution. We are extremely proud of Brooklyn for her strength and leadership to bring light to these issues.”

The Rhode Island Judiciary clarified that the Division of Sheriffs is not under their supervision, WPRI reported, but acknowledged that Crockton’s case provides “an opportunity to talk about and challenge the assumptions we make about the people that come through our courthouses every day.”

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The post Black law student says court deputy mistook her for a defendant appeared first on TheGrio.

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