‘Lynch Mob’ Comment

In support of Joseph Duff (“NAACP Official Stands by Controversial Remarks,” Sept. 12), I offer one more legal comparison between the Rodney King and Reginald Denny beating cases.

The officers in the King case had a legal cause (and duty) to make contact with King. He was speeding. He failed to respond to the red light and siren. The officers had cause to believe King might be more than “just a speeder,” because of his failure to stop and his evasive action. The officers had cause to “prone him out,” a standard felony stop procedure to assure no injury will occur to anyone at the scene. They even had the legal cause to beat King if they reasonably perceived him to be resisting arrest.

It was on this last point that they failed to conform to standards and failed to do their duty. Practically everyone agrees that the force used was excessive under the circumstances, given the fact that King was outnumbered 21 to 1. I know of no one who thinks King was a victim except as to this last and most important point.

The original jury’s verdict, although shocking, should surprise no black person old enough to remember that whites who bombed the church in Atlanta, killing two teen-age black girls, were also acquitted, probably for the same reason.


In the Denny case, Denny was driving his truck in compliance with the vehicle code, giving no one the cause or the right to contact him. He had committed no violation of law and was peacefully enjoying his right to use the public streets. The Denny attackers forcibly removed Denny from his truck and with odds even greater than those of the King incident, proceeded to administer an attack which no reasonable person could describe as other than attempted murder.

The only real issue in the Denny case is: Are these defendants the ones who actually took part in the attack? As blacks, we are used to having the closest black arrested and prosecuted for a crime by white sheriffs who can’t tell the difference and don’t care, as long as they have someone to convict.

Duff is exactly right. A lynch mob is just that, regardless of the skin tones of the participants. The NAACP has fought long and hard for the application of one legal standard, regardless of race. Much credibility is being lost by those in the black community who have attempted to make martyrs of these defendants by making a (wrong) comparison to the King case. GILBERT C. ALSTON

Judge, retired