Seven organizations that advocate for civil rights and racial justice said Monday the New Hampshire court system, like police, needs to start tracking cases on the basis of race, citing the “significant disparity” in criminal sentences stemming from the unrest on South Willow Street last June.
The four-sentence statement said the 30-day jail sentence for Antwan Stroud, an 18-year-old Black man, appears deeply problematic and “shows that New Hampshire has a very long way to go in dismantling the systemic racism that exists within our criminal justice system.”
The statement focuses on the sentences rendered in criminal cases stemming from unrest on South Willow Street following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, last spring in Minneapolis.
Of the three people sentenced for felonies related to the Manchester unrest, only Stroud received a jail term, the Union Leader reported last month.
Two others — Whites from suburban towns — received suspended sentences.
The seven organizations are the ACLU-New Hampshire, American Friends Service Committee, Black Lives Matter Manchester, Black Lives Matter Nashua, NAACP Manchester, Rights and Democracy NH, and the Granite State Organizing Project.
Recently, two lawyers with connections to the NAACP Manchester signed on as Stroud’s new attorneys and asked a judge to allow Stroud to back out of his January plea deal. His lawyers fault Stroud’s original attorney for ineffective counsel and prosecutors for not disclosing the terms of other South Willow Street cases.
Late last week, a prosecutor for Hillsborough County Attorney John Coughlin filed papers urging Superior Court Judge Will Delker to not reopen the case.
Assistant County Attorney Thomas Craig said Stroud was the only one of the three to commit a crime against a person — he urged a crowd of about 10 young people to pull a Manchester police officer out of a car. And Stroud filmed the incident and posted it on social media to encourage others, the prosecutor said.
“There was no manifest injustice here. Each defendant has been sentenced according to their conduct and nothing more,” Craig wrote. The prosecution’s 21-page filing makes no mention of race; Stroud’s lawyers frequently mentioned race and racial disparities in their filings.
Delker has scheduled a hearing for April 9 on whether to reopen the case.
The statement by the organizations said judges and the court system need to undergo implicit bias training. Also, the court system should collect and compile data based on race, the seven organizations said.
It notes that Gov. Chris Sununu’s commission on police accountability called for police departments to undergo bias training and to include race in their data collection.
“Mr. Stroud’s case makes abundantly clear that New Hampshire must start tracking and analyzing racial data on decisions in the court system in order to review any disparities in court sentencing,” the statement reads. “To take these vital steps toward true justice for all, we need to scrutinize our current systems to ensure we are combating implicit bias and racial profiling wherever it may exist in New Hampshire.”
In a statement issued Monday, Chief Superior Court Justice Tina Nadeau said judicial conduct rules prohibit discrimination, and judges received training on implicit bias from outside experts.
Nadeau said the court system is studying equity and inclusion in each of its drug courts through a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. Court leaders will use data from the research to assess the criminal justice system as a whole, she said.
Earlier this month, a fourth person charged with a felony in the South Willow Street unrest was sentenced to 2-4 years in state prison. The sentence for Deerfield resident Dylan Smith, 24, who is White, included probation violations over weapons and criminal threatening charges out of Merrimack County.