letters to the editor

send yours


Weekly’s misquote of Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith’s remark about statistics is regrettable for two reasons. First, it distracts from the generally good coverage the weekly has given to problems in the criminal justice system. People like Keith, who are legitimately criticized for their performance, are permitted to assume the more comfortable role of being a victim of journalism, however inadvertent the mistake may have been. Second, the misquote diverts attention away from the real problems of race that make the Racial Justice Act necessary.

As I said in my initial response, however, which was written before the misquote was discovered, “[W]hether [Tom Keith] is a racist is of concern only to him.” We should judge him on the basis of what he does, and he should defend what he does on the facts. A meaningless debate about whether a public official is racist will not make the criminal justice system fair, whatever the outcome. Similarly, the statistics cited by Keith to show the prevalence of black violence do not address whether the death penalty is racially biased.

The Racial Justice Act aims at two types of unequal treatment based on race. First, some prosecutors treat crimes against white victims as more deserving of severe punishment than they treat the same crimes against black victims. These prosecutors do not seek the death penalty to punish defendants who murder black people. Thus, if the death penalty is a deterrent, as many prosecutors claim, it is not being used to deter those who kill black people. Second, some prosecutors will seek the death penalty most often when the victim is white and the perpetrator is black. Those who oppose the Racial Justice Act, including Keith, rarely address these disparities. That should be focus of any debate about the act.

James E. Coleman, Jr., Durham Coleman is Kalvin Michael Smith’s defense attorney and John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law at Duke University Law School, where he is director of the Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility.

Keith, I wanted to let you know that you have my support and I know the support of

CHANGE for the article that you wrote on DA Tom Keith. Although one word was misinterpreted, it does not change the fact that he is still trying to hide his discriminatory views behind “statistics.” DA Keith has a long track record of racial bias that is undeniable and myself as well as other leaders in this community will not let the rod of justice waver. Statistics versus instincts… hmm, there is a poem in there somewhere. Be on the lookout.

One Love. Ismael Khatibu, Winston-Salem


To the editor, I am writing in regarding the Archdale Police Shooting of Courtland Smith. First of all, I really feel sorry for everyone involved in this tragedy. I would like to say it in the very highest respect to the Archdale Police Dept and everyone law enforcement in general. My first question is, could the officer have used his gun to subdue him instead of deadly force, and did Smith really have a gun? Something doesn’t sound right about this case.

I do admire Chief Grubb for his cool approach to this tragic situation but I wonder why Grubb don’t know wheter a gun was found inSmith’s SUV or not. I feel the officer should have told the chief whether or not he found a gun or not and also I heard of a police department in New York that was putting pistol cameras on the officers revolvers. I’m not saying I don’t trust police officers. I feel this would be very good as far as evidence to the SBI in their investigations. I can understand about the judge’s order to seal the audio and video tapes of the incident. I know there have been quite a few police shootings around here over the past almost two years. I attended the Guilford County Sheriffs Citizens Academy this past spring, I can see and understand what law enforcement officers face in their duties. I also again want to thank Sherrif BJ Barnes and Sgt Rick Lorrence for letting me attend their academy.

Also, one Greensboro police shooting I recall was the shooting involving James Paschall. What I don’t understand about that shooting is although Paschal was advancing towards the officer with his hands in his pocket, like he had gun, but I think he was unarmed. Why the officer couldn’t have Tasered Paschal if such distance permitted the officer to do so?

There are a few other police shootings that have me puzzled whether a Taser was all that was needed to subdue the suspects. Also I wonder if the SBI takes into consideration whether a Taser could have been used or not.