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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Scandal: Playing Race Cards in Durham

Add the names of Victoria Peterson and Ruth Sheehan to the list of microphone junkies, crackpots, racists, and pandering pundits using the Duke lacrosse scandal to push their own pet issues and agendas.

Ruth Sheehan of The News & Observer uses a resident crackpot and racist, Ms. Victoria Peterson, to squirt some more fuel on the fire of racial tensions in Durham. Forget the specifics about the lacrosse case and the justice system let's mix in some tangential inflammatory racial remarks.

Ruth Sheehan - columnist & blogger The News & Observer Ruth Sheehan columnist and blogger for The News & Observer said, "Race has a place in Duke case" -

Victoria Peterson is an unusual woman.

She's a frequent, though uniformly unsuccessful, candidate for office in Durham -- someone who seeks the spotlight at public forums, especially if microphones or TV cameras are around.

During the recent rally of the New Black Panthers, one of my colleagues observed, the chairman of the group struggled to keep Peterson from monopolizing his megaphone. She was running for City Council at the time.

Cheshire, who has been the point man on the defense side of the Duke lacrosse case, was holding forth on the "false accusations" made by the "false accuser."

Peterson inserted herself into the event by asking about the racial epithets said to have been used by some of the lacrosse players on the night that three team members are accused of raping one of the dancers, who is African-American.

Cheshire responded by saying that in any group of 46 people, you could hear a racist or sexist statement of some sort. He said his client, team captain David Evans, and the other young men on the lacrosse team are victims.

He also said, "This case is not about race."

Cheshire may be right that his client and others have had their lives "chopped up" unfairly. They may in fact be innocent of every charge. But on the issue of race, he is wrong. This case is about a lot of things, and race is definitely one of them.

For once, Victoria Peterson was dead-on.
For once? FYI, last month Ms. Peterson was making allegations that are not supported by any facts, or by the alleged victim, Crystal Gail Mangum, who spoke with Ms. Peterson twice:
Durham civil rights activist Victoria Peterson told the Observer on Wednesday that an investigator in the case told her the woman had been sodomized "with an object."

"He did not say a broom, just an object," said Peterson, who has become a friend and adviser to the woman's family since the party. "He told me she wasn't just raped, she was terribly sodomized."
Peterson said she's spoken with the accuser twice and found her "under great duress. She's depressed. She's crying. She needs help; this lady is out of it."

It looks like Virginia Peterson has been throwing everything she can against the Duke lacrosse players and hoping something sticks. This week it's the race card.

Joseph B. Cheshire V Raleigh attorney, Joseph Cheshire V, defense attorney for David Evans, responded to Ms. Sheehan's column in an email that Ms. Sheehan posted:
I read with interest your column this morning. I have the following points for you to consider. Race is an issue in our society and it should be kept on the front burner.

Your points about how this case would be treated if the defendants were black are correct, I see it everyday. The criminal justice system is not fair to african-americans and never has been. I have spent much of my life fighting this as has my family before me in different ways. That said, however, there is absolutely no question that there are people pandering to the race issue in this case for their own agendas.

This case started by the DA pandering to race and class to get elected. Pandering to race is as dangerous and self destructive to society as bigotry itself. It is certainly harmful to the criminal justice system. We saw in OJ an acquittal on race/political grounds by a largely African American jury paying the man back for years of injustice.

When articles like you wrote today insinuate that this case is about race because one or two boys may have spouted racial epitahs in response to same being hurled at them (and by the way it is not alledged that those very few statements came from any of these indicted young men) you, in my opinion become one of the problems in this discussion as opposed to one of the solutions.

You embolden racists like Ms. Peterson who are as distructive to the cause of racial equality and a discussion of same as any white racist I have met. Intolerant, uncaring and with an agenda that has nothing to do with truth or justice that feed on the worst in people as opposed to the best.

You also give fire to what I fear could be a reverse OJ in Durham. Even though these boys are demonstably innocent, several African Americans have said and many more think and will be emboldened by columns such as yours to believe that: "We do not care if they are innocent, they should be convicted and go to prison because of the injustices that have been heaped on our race by the system". Is that what you want?

Do two wrongs make a right? This is not a racial case, but statements like that and well meaning articles like yours are making it so and in that event justice will suffer and the racial divide willl grow larger.

Race has a place in Duke case [Column by Ruth Sheehan, News & Observer, May 18, 2006]
Is this case about race? [blogs.newsobserver.com, May 18, 2006] - the blog comments illustrate how volatile the case has become.

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