WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) - A group of clergy and other residents are demanding the resignation of Forsyth District Attorney Tom Keith after he allegedly made racially-charged comments in a local magazine.
The group of about 30 Clergy and citizens held a rally on Tuesday near Wait Chapel in response to Keith's comments in a Yes! Weekly story that was published Aug. 26.
The article centered on Keith's opposition to the recently passed Racial Justice Act, which allows inmates to present statistical evidence showing racial disparities in how the death penalty has been used. In the article, Keith lashes out at supporters of the new law who say that blacks are overrepresented on death row. He referred to a 2005 study from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the Yes! Weekly article, Keith said: "If you're African-American, you're six, seven or eight times more likely to have a violent history," Keith said in the Yes! Weekly article. "I didn't go out there and put a gun in your hand and say, 'You commit eight crimes and I'm a white man, I'll commit one.' That's just instincts, that's just how it is."
Susan Parker, an associate pastor at Wake Forest, said Keith's remarks show he is not being fair to those previously convicted. "By his decisions to defend previous convictions rather than consider new evidence in a fair minded way Mr. Keith has shown a callous disregard for the safety of out citizens," said Parker. "You just can't believe a public official, particularly a public official in such a position, would carry that kind of belief around in this day and time."
Many of the people demanding Keith's resignation also say he is refusing to look at evidence that would clear Kalvin Smith in the Silk Forest assault on Jill Marker. The initial investigation led to the conviction of Kalvin Michael Smith, who is serving 23-29 years in prison for the beating. Smith has maintained his innocence. Marker, blind and with brain damage, now lives in Ohio under 24-hour care.
Tom Keith responded to the allegations with a statement: "It's unfortunate that supporters of (Kalvin) Smith are now seeking to capitalize on an obvious out-of-context statement made by me regarding the Racial Justice Act to bolster their cause and to manipulate public sentiment."
Keith also wrote a letter to the editor of Yes! Weekly. The letter said "I am offended that you would accuse me of be a racist without ever getting to know me personally. My remarks being denominated as racist are like a preacher being called an atheist."
The writer of the Yes! Weekly article, Keith Barber, said he did not take the DA's statements out-of-context and he has the mp3 file to prove it.
"When he said that to me, obviously, that was an insight into his belief system... and it's on the record," said Barber.
utube of explanation: