Matthew Allen was 20 when he stared across a courtroom in Houma at the 12 men and women who would decide whether he would spend the rest of his life in prison. Only two of the faces in the jury box were black, like him. Allen stood accused in the killing of Dicarie James on a back road south of Houma. The two men had quarreled over a drug deal inside James' car. As he lay dying, James told deputies it was Allen who shot him three times with a .22-caliber revolver, twice in the chest. Allen initially professed innocence, but he later admitted killing James, saying he fired in self-defense. The jury deliberated for 2½ hours until it reached a decision: guilty as charged of second-degree murder. But as with many verdicts in felony trials across Louisiana, this one came with serious misgivings — and a pronounced racial divide. The two black jurors disagreed with the rest. It didn't matter. In Louisiana, unlike anywhere else in America, that was good enough to send Allen off to a mandatory life prison term, with no chance of parole. That was too much for juror Willie Newton, 71, who builds cemetery vaults…. Read full this story
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