Black Muslim Man Deserves New Trial

Racial Justice

Black Muslim Man Represented By Racist, Islamophobic Attorney Deserves New Trial 

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the Commonwealth’s highest court, on behalf of eight racial justice organizations, urging the SJC to order a new trial for a Black Muslim man whose court-appointed attorney expressed virulent racist and Islamophobic views on social media.  Amici also urged the SJC to review all cases where the attorney represented people of color and/or Muslims during the time he was publishing these racist and Islamophobic sentiments. 

The powerful coalition of amici includes Muslim rights advocacy groups, bar associations, and other civil rights organizations, including: 

  • Council on American-Islamic Relations–Massachusetts (CAIR-MA)
  • Muslim Justice League (MJL)
  • Massachusetts Black Woman Attorneys (MBWA)
  • Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA)
  • Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts (PLS) 
  • Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) 
  • Justice Resource Institute (JRI)
  • Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ)

In February 2016, the state appointed Richard Doyle (now deceased) to represent Mr. Anthony Dew, and he did so until a guilty plea in June 2016. Unbeknownst to Mr. Dew, by that point, Doyle had spent years publicly expressing unabashed racist and Islamophobic views on social media. Years later, after Doyle’s horrific posts came to light, Mr. Dew moved for a new trial, arguing that an attorney who spews hateful racist and Islamophobic vitriol cannot competently represent a Black Muslim client.  After the Superior Court denied his motion, the SJC agreed to review the matter.

The amicus brief highlights what is not only common sense, but also known through history and science: that an individual’s deep-seated hateful and prejudiced views profoundly alter the way they interact with the targets of hate. That was the case here. Indeed, at their first meeting, Doyle demanded that Mr. Dew remove his kufi (a cap Muslims wear to signal devotion), and instructed him “not to wear that shit in a courtroom.” 

The brief argues that the SJC should presume harm to Mr. Dew’s representation due to Doyle’s undisputed conflict of interest––resulting from his atrocious pattern of racist and Islamophobic sentiments––entitling Mr. Dew to a new trial. Anything short of that would allow the legacy of racism to persist within the legal system. 

“Racism and bias have no place in our judicial system, and we are urging the Court to rectify this injustice to Mr. Dew and others like him,” said Mirian Albert, Staff Attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights

“Appointing a racist, Islamophobic attorney to represent a Black Muslim is by definition a denial of the right to counsel. It would severely undermine trust in the court system to allow that injustice to stand,” said Oren Sellstrom, Litigation Director at Lawyers for Civil Rights

Oral argument in Commonwealth v. Anthony Dew (No. SJC-13356) is scheduled at the SJC in Boston on February 8, 2023. 

The brief is available below: click here to download the brief.