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NAACP Demands Duke Rape Case Gag Order

From the Durham Herald-Sun:

Bill Patterson, right, with the Coalition for Alcohol and Drug Free Teenagers, holds a sign in protest alongside a member of the New Black Panthers before a hearing for Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann at the Durham County Judicial Building Thursday, May 18, 2006, in Durham, N.C.

Gag order sought in lacrosse case

BY PAUL BONNER: The Herald-Sun
May 24, 2006

DURHAM — A lawyer with the state NAACP said the civil rights organization intends to seek a gag order in the Duke lacrosse case, and a journalist who participated in a forum with him on Wednesday said media coverage of the alleged rape may deprive the alleged victim of her legal rights to a fair trial.

Al McSurely, an attorney who chairs the Legal Redress Committee for the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he generally respects the defense attorneys in the case as colleagues. But they are violating the State Bar’s rules of professional conduct that discourage comments outside court that are likely to prejudice a case, he said.

The NAACP will try to intervene in the case to file a "quiet zone/let’s let justice work" motion. That is otherwise known as a gag order, he acknowledged, although he said he doesn’t like that term.

McSurely’s comments came amid the first-ever Durham Conference on the Moral Challenges of our Culture at First Presbyterian Church downtown. The session gave the approximately 150 people who attended a chance to hear a series of talks and discuss among themselves sexual and domestic violence, racism, class distinctions and the media.

The Duke lacrosse rape case has sparked a broader and long-overdue examination of some of those issues, said people who participated in the forum, sponsored by the state NAACP and Durham clergy.

Cash Michaels, a journalist with The Carolinian newspaper of Raleigh, said, to applause, that lawyers for the three lacrosse players charged in the case "are playing the media like a banjo."

Leaks of case information intended to impugn the alleged victim’s credibility, and resulting news coverage and analysis, cloud her right to have the allegations tried in court, Michaels said.

"We are seeing powerful forces trying to remove that right from her," he said, and questions about the accuser — an exotic dancer — are amplified by the media.

Conversely, he said, a Web site he oversees has received words of encouragement for her from as far away as China. The site, www.ourheartsworld.com, calls her, "our sister survivor."

Monica A. Coleman, director of womanist and religious studies at Bennett College in Greensboro, told the gathering that sexual assault is underreported because of society’s skepticism and intimidation of its victims, both subtly and not-so-subtly.

"Rarely do people say, ‘I don’t believe you,’ " Coleman said. "More often than not, it’s something like, ‘Well, are you sure?’ ‘Well, what were you wearing?’ ‘What were you doing there?’ or ‘What did you expect?’ What woman would knowingly, willingly, open herself up to that kind of scrutiny?"

William C. Turner Jr., an associate professor of the practice of homiletics in Duke’s Divinity School, traced "racism’s ontological root" to 19th century exponents of white superiority who attributed the belief to God’s will for the natural order. Even though their arguments have long since been repudiated, the sentiments still exert an effect on religion and society, he said.

"Even when the discourse is removed … it’s rooted in the very foundation of our understanding of God, and it is woven into the fabric of our social philosophy, Turner said. "It remains even when people stop using that language."

The session was announced May 5 by the Rev. William J. Barber II, state conference president of the NAACP, and other ministers including First Presbyterian’s pastor, Joe Harvard. It included a roundtable discussion accompanied by presentations from perspectives in theology, civil rights and journalism. It was especially designed to include voices of advocates and workers who address domestic and sexual violence.

"This is not just about one incident but about a whole reality in which many have been affected," Barber said.

I guess they don’t like the facts coming out. They’ve got their story and they’re sticking to it. Besides, the truth could hurt their fundraising.

But whatever happened to "no justice, no peace!"?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, May 25th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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