A white Tennessee judge is under fire for a courthouse tirade in which he denounced black-on-black crime by comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan.
Montgomery County Judge Wayne Shelton was overseeing the preliminary hearing for Vincent Merriweather, accused of a homicide that occurred in Clarksville last November. While addressing Merriweather last week, Shelton launched into a racially charged speech, saying he was “sick and tired” of black men shooting each other.
“I don’t understand it,” Shelton is heard saying in audio posted to Instagram. “I grew up in a time where people wore white robes and they shot at black people. And now we see young black men wearing black hoodies shooting at black men. And doing a much more effective job than the Klan ever thought about doing.”
While some on social media condemned Shelton’s words as racist, others have come to his defense. Jimmie Garland, president of the Clarksville branch of the NAACP, initially felt that the judge was “on point.”
“He’s telling the young people, ‘Stop killing yourself. Stop doing the job that, back in the early ’30s and ’20s and ’10s, they did wearing robes and wearing pointed caps. You don’t have to do that,’” Garland told WSMV.
The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle noted that this is not the first time Shelton has invoked race, or the Klan, during a courtroom speech. In 2015, two teenage brothers were accused of gunning down a man after a high school graduation party, allegedly over a gut reaction of perceived “disrespect.”
Shelton compared that murder to Klan killings, saying KKK members would often kill black men whom they perceived to be disrespectful.
“That’s the absolute tragedy,” the judge said at the time. “It’s black men killing black men.”
“The Klan doesn’t exist anymore. Who doesn’t care about black lives now? I’ll let you answer that. I’m tired of black men killing black men. If I offended anyone … I can’t help it.”
Shelton told the Leaf-Chronicle that while he “might look like the whitest man in the room,” he isn’t — saying that his great-great-great-grandfather was a free man of color in the 1860s.