Third-year black law student accused by sheriff’s deputy
Brooklyn Crockton, a third-year law student at Roger Williams University School of Law, posted a TikTok video where she says a white sheriff’s deputy mistook her for a defendant when she tried to enter a courtroom.
Crockton, who was on hand to represent a client at the school’s criminal defense clinic, spoke about the experience and soon after it had over 341,000 views and over 3,000 comments. of people reporting similar situations everywhere from the UK to Texas. .
Under Rhode Island Supreme Court Rule 9law students are permitted to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases in state district court under the supervision of a licensed RWU law school attorney.
Last Thursday, Crockton lined up with other attorneys at the Garrahy Court Complex in Providence, preparing to enter a courtroom to represent a client in a misdemeanor case. But she said a sheriff’s deputy, who provides court security, placed “her body between me and the door” and asked her to step aside.
Several other attorneys were then allowed in, after which the deputy asked Brooklyn Crockton his name and told him he had not seen him on the docket. She said he asked her, “Are you sure you’re in the right courtroom?” Are you the accused? »
“I’ve never been so embarrassed in my entire life,” Crockton said in the video. “I felt like crying at that point. What’s crazy is you hear stories like this all the time with black lawyers, but when it happens to you, it’s so visceral that you don’t even know what to say.
Shocked isn’t quite the way to dutifully explain it, but Ms Crockton had said that because he’d called for lawyers to come in, she’d made herself ready, second in line.
“I literally have all these binders and folders, and I’m pretty well dressed – not to say the defendants don’t dress well,” Crockton noted on the video. “Why would you assume I’m a defendant?” Uh, I think we all know why.
In a follow-up video from TikTok, Crockton explained that after telling the deputy she was a student lawyer, he allowed her into the courtroom and said, “Hey, sorry.” . But she said: “There was no shred of emotion in that ‘sorry.'”
Later in the video, Crockton explained how the deputy approached her after she entered, at least several times, explaining to her how “the court works”.
“He acted like I had never once set foot in a courtroom, [saying] that’s where the judge sits and that’s where you sit and when the judge asks you a question, you have to stand up and address him,” she said. “I get quite weird and very anxious because every time he comes up to me he says something very condescending and I want that experience to happen.”
District Court Judge Christopher Knox Smith, an RWU law graduate and one of the few black judges in the state, then took the bench. “The judge comes out, who happens to be a black man, I stand up and say I’m ready for my case,” she explained on the video.
Crockton then met with his supervising attorney, Andrew Horwitz, as well as an RWU law professor. “The sheriff comes and talks to him and literally doesn’t even look at me, doesn’t even address me,” she said. “That was pretty much the end of that interaction.”
The 25-year-old third-year law student from Rochester, NY, is the first member of her immediate family to go to college. After her experience with the white sheriff, she felt her confidence took a hit when she was taken out of line like that.
But instead of letting the moment affect her negatively, Crockton, who aspires to become a judge herself, just say that she’s working towards “a time when you see a person of color walking through the courthouse and you don’t assume they’re a defendant, and even if they are, you treat them with respect.”