A Black law student in Rhode Island posted a video on TikTok that detailed an incident in which she tried to enter a courtroom but then a white sheriff’s deputy mistakenly thought she was the defendant. The truth? She tried to enter the courtroom to represent a client as a part of her University’s criminal defense clinic.
Brooklyn Crockton is a third-year law student at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.
The TikTok video has gotten more than 420,000 thousand views, been liked more than 78,000 times and commented on by more than 3,500 people since it was posted a week ago.
Under Rhode Island Supreme Court Rule 9, law students are allowed to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases in state District Court under the supervision of a licensed attorney on the Roger Williams University Law faculty.
As Crockton details in the video, on March 3, she waited with other attorneys at the Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence, Rhode Island to enter a courtroom where she was representing a client on a misdemeanor charge. She was not with her supervising attorney, but she did have binders, folders and documents for the case.
The sheriff then comes out to let all of the attorneys into the courtroom, and she was second in line to enter. As she tries to enter the courtroom, the sheriff puts himself in between the door and Crockton to block her from going into the courtroom and asks her to step to the side, according to Crockton’s video.
The sheriff then lets everyone else enter the courtroom. He then asks for her name and she gives it to him. He tells her that he did not see her name on the docket and asks her, “Are you sure you are in the right courtroom? Are you the defendant?”
She said in the video, “I have never been so embarrassed in my entire life. I felt like crying in that moment. The crazy part about it is you hear stories like this all the time with Black attorneys, but when it happens to you, it is so visceral that you don’t even know what to say.”
She also says in the video, “I literally have all these binders and folders, and I’m dressed pretty nice — not to say that defendants don’t dress nice. Why would you assume that I am a defendant? Um, I think we all know why.”
In a second video, Crockton explains that after she told the sheriff that she was a student attorney, he apologized and allowed her in the courtroom. But she says, “There was no ounce of emotion in that ‘sorry.’“