Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Peterson-Burnette (and Cline, in 2012?) Slate

[Update, Tuesday, 10.28am: Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People-endorsed candidate Solomon Burnette writes in: "Many folks have seemingly problematic histories. perhaps you should ask where myself [sic] and Ms. Peterson stand on the issues critical to this election, doing yourself and your readers a service. issues relating to education, immigration, affordable housing, and unemployment are important in this election and i, for one, have a history of engaging these issues in Durham as an artist, activist, and an academic. Ad hominim [sic] attacks are often a way to avoid critical questions. Cheque [sic] out my platform at www.solomonburnette.com."

It seems to me that a conviction for robbing Duke students, plus a written call for race-based vigilante justice, goes well beyond a "seemingly problematic histor[y]"; indeed, as I pointed out in the post, such a "history" would be disqualifying for any political committee with a rudimentary sense of ethics. Nor am I clear how pointing out such a candidate's "problematic" background constitutes an "ad hominim [sic]" attack.

That said, if I were in Endorsee Burnette's shoes, I too would want to speak about immigration (a topic, obviously, on which the Durham City Council has no policy role) rather than my background of written vigilante threats against innocent people and criminal activity against members of the Durham community.]

The N&O continues its detailed—and deeply disturbing—explication of how “justice” is practiced by Durham County “minister of justice” Tracey Cline. Andy Curliss’ articles today reveal a district attorney abusing her office through over-charging (in the hopes of pressuring defendants to accept plea bargains) and taking exceedingly weak cases to court (in apparent fidelity to Cline’s conception of her job as a “victims’ rights” advocate).

Prosecutors around the country over-charge to obtain plea bargains, but the N&O’s reporting indicates that Cline has employed the practice in an unusually blatant (and ethically dubious) fashion. And regarding the idea of bringing people to trial whose cases long before should have been dismissed, Cline’s conduct has been even less defensible. An analysis by N&O reporters found that Durham’s conviction rate on felony trials is the lowest of the state’s ten largest counties. Perhaps that’s because of cases like the below:

Torico Edwards . . . was acquitted by a jury after 30 minutes of deliberation on charges he broke into a home and stole a necklace.

Jurors said it was clear Edwards was at a shopping mall at the time of the crime

"The prosecutor," said juror Jade Russell of Durham, "really didn't prove anything."

Forcing likely innocent defendants to go through the expense and emotional punishment of a trial to give the “victim” a sense of justice is not an appropriate use of the judicial system. But in Tracey Cline’s office, it’s par for the course.

-----------------------

Cline doesn’t come up for re-election till next year, but despite the record of unethical behavior laid bare by the N&O, she would seem to have little to worry regarding an endorsement from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. As demonstrated in the committee’s recent City Council endorsements, skin color appears to be the committee’s sole criterion. Indeed, by the standards of the Durham Committee’s 2011 endorsements for City Council, Tracey Cline is a paragon of reasonableness and justice.

In this year’s City Council races, even Durham’s resident savant of political correctness, (white) Council member Diane (Nifong ’06!) Catotti, couldn’t snatch the Committee on the Affairs of Black People’s endorsement. But two of the three choices distinguished themselves as extremists even among the ranks of extremists in the Durham of 2006-7.

Victoria Peterson, co-chair of Mike Nifong’s citizens’ committee, distinguished herself during the lacrosse case by (a) participating in a march organized by an ADL/SPLC-designated hate group, the New Black Panthers Party; (b) urging participants at this march to burn down the lacrosse captains’ house; and (c) personally threatening Mary Ellen Finnerty during Nifong’s ethics trial, resulting in Peterson’s ejection from the proceedings.

But those events only constituted Peterson’s highlights. She began the case by insinuating that Duke Hospital had conspired to produce false DNA results and ended it by marching with Nifong to jail, carrying a sign testifying to Nifong’s “goodness” and “integrity.” Peterson also crusaded for accused murderer Crystal Mangum, rudely interrupting the judge at pretrial hearings on Mangum’s arson charges.

(Peterson, I should note, spreads her hate around: talking about gays and lesbians, who she suggested are all cross-dressers, the Durham Committee’s endorsee claimed that as a result of the “gay lifestyle,” “many of them are infected with diseases,” and if “they are not infected with diseases . . . they will be, even women.” Despite the typically anti-gay views of North Carolina’s African-American community, these views are extreme.)

Imagine if, after an allegation of black-on-white crime prompted a visit from the KKK, a future City Council candidate had shared the platform with the KKK Grand Dragon. How, we might speculate, would the Durham Committee have reacted to one off its rival committees endorsing such a candidate?

Then there’s the Committee’s endorsement of Solomon Burnette, NCCU Class of 2007. That name should ring a bell to people who followed the case closely. Burnette came to NCCU after experience with the other side of the criminal justice system—he spent more than a year in jail, following a conviction for robbing two Duke students at gunpoint.

After the attorney general exonerated the three falsely accused players, an enraged Burnette took to the pages of the NCCU paper. In “Death to All Rapists,” Burnette issued an ill-concealed call for vigilante justice. “The ‘facts’ of the case,” proclaimed the Durham Committee endorsee, “should not matter to us because even if we are unsure of sexual assault, these supremacists have admitted to sexually, racially and politically denigrating these women.” Burnette’s analysis of the case: “White people still rape us and get away with it. The only deterrent to these legally, socially and economically validated supremacist actions is the fear of physical retribution.” The column subsequently vanished from the paper’s website, but remains available through the Wayback Machine.

Again, imagine the Durham Committee’s reaction if a political committee endorsed a white convicted robber who then had written an op-ed recommending vigilante justice against two black people?

Burnette and Peterson seem unlikely to win seats on the Council; even in Durham, the bigot vote doesn’t seem quite large enough to bring their candidacies over the top. But the fact that the Durham Committee endorsed them should permanently discredit the organization.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Think of the poor guy endorsed alongside Peterson and Burnette! I don't know who Donald Hughes is, but even if he was George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or some type of dna replicant named Abraham Washington, who carried in his genetically-altered genes the best leadership chromosomes from both Washington and Lincoln, which meld into some type of half-bionic test tube super-Politician, that would be the worst slate of candidates ever recommended by human beings since Drunkus Coitus seconded Nero's nomination. I bet Hughes is embarrassed and feels damaged being put into that group.

I agree with you, Professor Johnson. If the Durham Committee will endorse those two massively dangerous dingbots, it'll endorse Cline. These are my opinions only -- unless you agree -- then they become our opinions. MOO! Gregory

skwilli said...

"All politics is local" becomes All politics is "loco" in Durham, I suppose.

One Spook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the few sane people that might live in Durham, I truly hope these ass-clowns get elected. I want them to have to help select the public assets that will need to be sold to satisfy the massive civil judgments that the plaintiffs will, someday, win.

Solomon Burnette said...

Many folks have seemingly problematic histories. perhaps you should ask where myself and Ms. Peterson stand on the issues critical to this election, doing yourself and your readers a service. issues relating to education, immigration, affordable housing, and unemployment are important in this election and i, for one, have a history of engaging these issues in Durham as an artist, activist, and an academic. Ad hominim attacks are often a way to avoid critical questions. Cheque out my platform at www.solomonburnette.com

skwilli said...

Off Topic: The ever-present Jamie Gorelick has moved on to an appointment to the Defense Policy Board. She takes her stellar work for Duke University to new heights ensuring our Country's Defense Future. I feel safer already.

Anonymous said...

good lord. I don't know the guy but V. Peterson has been a durham whacko fixture for years....and, without exception, has made a total AXX of herself. What an embarrassment to our community. As a person of color, I am mortified that she thinks she represents me. Dear lord, please help Durham to come to its senses.

KC Johnson said...

To O.S.:

I don't understand your comment. By the "bigot vote," I meant people who would be willing to vote (in this case on racial lines) for those with bigoted viewpoints like Peterson and Burnette. I wasn't referring to Republicans (or most Democrats).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, Mr. Burnette, your candidacy would be helped if you were perceived to have at least a high schooler's grasp of the English language and of proper grammar.

I assume that you meant "where Ms. Peterson and I stand" and not "where myself and Ms. Peterson stand."

Run on sentences should be avoided. Accordingly, you should have ended your first sentence after "readers a service."

The last time I looked, a "cheque" was a form of cashless payment in England (what we call a "check"), not a word meaning (either in England or here)"look at."

I will avoid judging you on the use of a lower case "i"-- perhaps that is how "an artist, activist and an academic" refers to "myself."

I do note, however, that "ad hominim" is correctly spelled "ad hominem."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, Mr. Burnette, your candidacy would be helped if you were perceived to have at least a high schooler's grasp of the English language and of proper grammar.

I assume that you meant "where Ms. Peterson and I stand" and not "where myself and Ms. Peterson stand."

Run on sentences should be avoided. Accordingly, you should have ended your first sentence after "readers a service."

The last time I looked, a "cheque" was a form of cashless payment in England (what we call a "check"), not a word meaning (either in England or here)"look at."

I will avoid judging you on the use of a lower case "i"-- perhaps that is how "an artist, activist and an academic" refers to "myself."

I do note, however, that "ad hominim" is correctly spelled "ad hominem."

One Spook said...

To KC:

I misread that portion of your posting.

Accordingly, I have deleted my comment.

Please accept my apology.


One Spook

Chris Halkides said...

My comment is something of a tangent. Ben David, the district attorney in Wilmington, NC (the other Wilmington), came to speak at UNC-Wilmington with some of the people with whom he works. They spoke on forensics in the courtroom. Mr. David, who is a democrat, said all of the right things about discovery and forensic evidence, and one of his assistants said that forensic scientists start to go on the wrong track when they see themselves as an arm of law enforcement (my paraphrase). Bethany Pridgen gave an interesting case in which an apparently inebriated driver showed a high level of acetone (not ethanol) in his blood, suggesting that diabetes was the problem. This was a good example of a forensic scientist not locking herself into an initial position. Based on this presentaion, I think that Durham is not necessarily the norm in North Carolina with respect to the quality of prosecutors or law enforcement in general. Of course, I do not have specific knowledge of their actions in a courtroom, which might be different.

Anonymous said...

Donald Hughes is the son of Jackie Wagstaff (jailed on contempt after her outbursts at Mangam's trial and well known in Durham as a disturbing influence at school board meetings).

Stu Daddy said...

To Anon 11:51 AM...

While I don't want to defend the elements of Mr. Burnette's style, you might want to investigate just how tenuous a grasp most high schoolers have on what's become of the English language.

Mr. Burnette at least spared us from a dose of txt-speak, mistaken homophones, and outright profanity!

I also plead guilty to several violations of simple and clear writing in the two sentences above, but I'm unable to identify them.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read or heard Peterson's "speeches"? Full of racist, bigoted and homophobic content. How sad that a person of color who those of us, who happen to be gay, would hope would have a greater understanding of and awareness of...the essential evil of gender, sex, race prejudice ......could be, herself, so bigoted. Shameful. Absolutely disgraceful and a deep embarrassment to people of color in Durham. (and, yes, Victoria/Virginia, there ARE persons of color in Durham who, being gay, think you are a miserable human being.

Solomon Burnette said...

how trite. thanks for the spell cheque, though. i'm sure i spelled my name right in the web address.

Scot Foley said...

Reading Mr. Burnette's absurd (and, indeed, very poorly-written) comment, is both amusing and depressing even for those of us that have followed the Duke case from the beginning. One can only surmise that he believes civil rights (as they pertain to the gay community) and a functional criminal-justice system are not critical issues in an election.

Here's a critical question for you Mr. Burnette: does it appall you when demonstrably innocent people are indicted and nearly put on trial based solely on a transparently false accusation?

Five years ago, I was astonished that Mike Nifong was elected DA in light of his obvious crimes and unethical behavior. Two years later, I was again astonished (albeit less so) that one of his enablers, Tracey Cline, was elected to that same office. Today, I'm really not all that astonished to learn that individuals like Solomon Burnette and Victoria Peterson are candidates for elective office in Durham.

Anonymous said...

To Solomon Burnette at 4:56 pm:

If you were addressing this comment to Anonymous at 11:51 am, it would appear that you are again demonstrating a rather limited grasp of proper vocabulary. You state "how trite." "Trite," of course, is generally defined to mean "lacking in freshness or effectiveness because of excessive use or repetition." I find it hard to understand what was "trite" about the comment unless you have been criticized so often for your poor grasp of the proper usage of the English language that it has, indeed, become trite for you to hear it.

Mike Lee said...

You simply cannot make this stuff up.

What planet are these people who comprise the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People residing on? An outwardly racist armed robber and a lunatic who to this day supports Mike Nifong's actions throughout the Duke lacrosse case.....yep, they seem perfect for city council.

Only in Durham.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 6:35 --

I didn't realize that Hughes was Jackie Wagstaff's son. Thanks for the heads up. Obviously no son of Jackie Wagstaff is gonna be an Abraham Washington (or any other kind of bionic super-Politician), so this, indeed, is the worst slate of candidates ever foisted on the public.

I obviously don't know Hughes, and he might not be crazy and evil.

These are my opinions unless you share them. Then, they become our opinions. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

To those assuming a disastrous election result: You don't live in Durham, do you? It seems your only knowledge of the city comes from the sorry history of the disgraceful Duke Lacrosse fiasco.

As anyone who lives here knows: (1) Victoria Peterson has run for office MANY times, and she has LOST many times. People here are more perceptive than you think. And, (2) Tracey Cline won the last election because she was UNOPPOSED -- just as Mike Nifong had no real opponent for reelection (unless you count that sideshow bozo who said he would quit if elected!) before her. And just as she will probably have no opponent next time. And why? NOT because everybody thinks she's doing a great job -- it's because the job of Durham DA is so rotten and thankless, so befouled and befuddled, that nobody wants it! I've been to meetings of lawyers where it was said that the only job worse, would be zookeeper. I'm sure Durham voters would consider dumping Cline if there was a real alternative -- which there is not. But that is not the voters' fault, and if the outcome is predetermined it cannot be seen as a vote of confidence.

KC Johnson said...

To the 5.05:

The post itself asserted that it was very unlikely either Peterson or Burnette would win. The point of the post was to comment on how--in a healthy political culture, which Durham's clearly is not--the Durham Committee's endorsement of the duo would permanently discredit its credibility.

On Cline, it's worth remembering that when she first ran, she had three opponents; and, as I pointed out at the time, her penchant for unethical behavior was apparent then.

Jay Knott said...

"An ADL/SPLC-designated hate group, the New Black Panthers Party". A case of pot calling kettle black? I agree with most of what's on this blog and have read the book, but one shouldn't allow political organizations to 'designate' others like its an objective finding.