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Image of the Virginia AG Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
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OAG SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDS BAN ON DISPLAY OF NOOSES FOR INTIMIDATION

~ The Commonwealth successfully argued before the Supreme Court of Virginia that the statute bans displays of nooses in a public place with an intent to intimidate, even if the display occurs on private property ~

RICHMOND (March 1, 2018)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring's office has successfully defended the conviction of Jack Eugene Turner, of Franklin County, who "displayed a noose in a tree in his front yard from which he hung a black, life-size mannequin" "with the intent of intimidating his African-American neighbors." The Supreme Court of Virginia upheld Turner's conviction, finding that his noose display "was on a public place" and therefore a violation of Virginia's statute banning the display of nooses to intimidate, even though the noose display occurred on Turner's own property.

 

"We cannot be complacent about the rise in white supremacist extremism and violence, and we cannot allow hateful displays like this one to go unchallenged," said Attorney General Herring. "The display of a noose is an unmistakable message designed to intimidate and invoke the horrors and disgraceful legacy of lynching. We must make it clear that all Virginians have the right to live, work, and raise their families free of fear and intimidation."

 

On September 22, 2015, Turner was convicted of violating Virginia's ban on displaying a noose with intent to intimidate after his African-American neighbors "spotted an all-black, life-size dummy hanging by a noose from a tree" in Turner's front yard, which was located next-door to one of only two African-American households on the street.While he was out on bond awaiting sentencing, Turner placed a handmade cardboard sign against his house that read, 'Black ni**er lives don't matter, got rope.'" He appealed his conviction challenging the constitutionality of Virginia's statute and whether the display occurred in "a public place," and on November 22, 2016, the conviction was upheld by the Virginia Court of Appeals.

 

Throughout the appeal process, Attorney General Herring and his team have cited the long, violent history and unmistakable message associated with the display of a noose and its invocation of lynching. The Commonwealth's brief in the Supreme Court said:

 

"Like burning crosses, hanging nooses and the barbaric practices they evoke share a 'long and pernicious history as a signal of impending violence.' To our shame, '[i]t has been said that our country's national crime is lynching'...Like cross burning, 'lynching had a powerful terroristic effect on the target population,' which extended far beyond those who witnessed the violence firsthand.   'The use of violence was aimed not just at the individual victim but at the black community generally, and the gruesome details of each event were publicized widely through the press and word of mouth.' 'As a result, southern blacks lived with the knowledge that any one of them could be a victim at any time.'  

 

"It is against this historical backdrop that Virginia enacted its noose statute."

 

The Commonwealth was represented in the matter by Assistant Attorney General Christopher P. Schandevel.

 

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