Monday, October 1, 2007

The Erick Daniels Story: Injustice in Durham, NC

After writing columns for more than ten years nothing surprises me anymore. At first I was stunned to receive emails and letters from readers so consumed with rage related to what I wrote that they felt it necessary to give me a piece of their mind. The hate mail and death threats are proof that I told em like it tis.

The truth of the matter is most people fail to read works within their context. American readers are quick to make judgment after a few words, or refuse to place themselves outside their world of comfort. In other words, folks are more prone to find ways to linger in their narrow-mindedness versus using the works of others as an instrument of enlightenment.

A case in point is the work I’ve done on Jena 6. “Are you serious? You surely can not be serious,” a response to my blog began. “You want our country to rally around this group of young men based on the simple fact of their color? This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. You want the white population to look at you based on your character, abilities, personality and so forth, YET, you single handedly hold your own race back by this one simple gesture. It is amazing to me that you blame us for differentiating between the races and then you turn around and DO IT YOURSELF. This is absolutely absurd to me. Do you personally know any of these boys? Or are you just backing them because you share a similar skin tone? Yes I am white but I say all, including the white kids, who participated in the wrong doings of the day need to face charges for the actions. NOW WHO IS BEHAVEING IN A PREJUDIST MANNER?”

Get the point? The reader is dismayed at my insistence that we support the Jena 6 exclusively on the basis of their color. The problem with his presupposition is his failure to understand this issue within the broader context. People are outraged over what is happening down in Jena, LA. because it isn’t an individual case of the disparities within the judicial system. Jena is reflective of what is happening across America-young black men are being railroaded to prison devoid of proper legal representation; while white boys get a do not go to jail card for reasons that cause people to think it’s all about race.

A good example is a case in Durham, North Carolina. Erick Daniels was a 14-year-old Chewning Middle School student when Ruth Brown identified him as one of the men who broke into her home and stole thousands of dollars from her purse. There was no physical evidence linking Daniels or anyone else to the crime. Daniels was picked out from a picture in the Chewning yearbook. The deciding factor-she recognized his eyebrows.

The assailants were wearing bandanas so the only thing she saw was those eyebrows. In December 2001, Daniels was convicted of first-degree burglary and armed robbery. He has served 51/2 years of a 10 to 14 years sentence while maintaining his innocence.

An investigation by a member of Daniels appeal team uncovered that Brown, a police department employee, was running an illegal poker game at the time of the robbery. In her initial statement she said her assailant was light-skinned with braids. Daniels is dark-skinned with hair too short to braid.

After his conviction, police discovered pictures of a second suspect posing with guns next to a man that fit Brown’s description. The prosecutor received word after the conviction that a man was ready to confess, but failed to pursue the lead.

Many may say so what to all of this. It’s big news because despite the coverage on the case it wasn’t enough to land the type of attention that would prevent prosecutorial misconduct. The media circus created by the Duke Lacrosse rape case proves how race, power and money can influence the legal process. Most people in Durham, NC are unaware of what happened to Erick Daniels. Everyone in the country knows what happened at 610 Buchanan St.

Some of the people involved in covering this case will be on hand Sunday, October 7 at the Ideas! Coffee House, 5607 HWY 55, Suite 105 in Durham, to help us understand what happened. One reporter covering the case was arrested. Demorris Lee, formerly with the News & Observer was there from the beginning. Mosi Secret, from the Independent Weekly, wrote an amazing investigative piece on the case. Both will be at Ideas. Carlos Mahoney, an appellate court attorney, and Karen Daniels, Ericks mother, will also be present to give their perspective.

It’s asking a lot, but it would be nice if my Jena 6 critic would show up. Maybe the discussion will help him understand why black people are hurting so much. For some, race doesn’t matter, but for those who are black, it really matters if you don’t have the money to pay for a dream team defense.

Meet me at the coffee house!
For more information on the Community Conversation at the Ideas! Coffee House, contact DJ Kraze at (919) 405-4140 or email him at

To read Mosi Secret’s article in the Independent Weekly go to:


  1. That's crazy, I had not heard about this. Did he not have an alibi? So now it's that easy, you just pick someone out and claim they are guilty for something and they're convicted if they don't have an alibi? That was one of the issues I had with the Lacrosse case, the lineup consisting only of Lacrosse players (as it was reported)! What is being done about Erick Daniels? How is it there's no follow-up if someone comes forward confessing to the crime?

  2. This story is worth following-up on and reporting to the public. There should be many concerned individuals both black and white who should be supportive of unraveling this injustice done to a minor African-American child. We're waiting for your followo-up report. Thanks.

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