Lyle Howe, David Sparks and the race question

Let me begin with this. I don’t believe Lyle Howe was convicted of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman because he was black, or that “those that represent the white power structure” conspired to put down an uppity black lawyer.

David Sparks does. Sparks is spokesperson for a group planning a rally outside the law courts Wednesday to protest Howe’s conviction. The group claims 4,000 Facebook supporters.

“I don’t think lawyer Howe would be going through this if he were not a black person,” Sparks told News 95.7 Thursday.

But Howe is not the first prominent Nova Scotia lawyer convicted of sexual assault. Paddy Fitzgerald, a lawyer, Tory MLA and Speaker of the Legislature — and member-in-good-standing of that white power structure — was sentenced to five years in jail for raping a client in his office in 1980.

Howe was charged in connection with a 2011 incident. He acknowledged having had consensual sex with the woman. But the Crown, which also charged Howe with administering a stupefying drug — a charge the jury dismissed — claimed the woman was too impaired to have consented.

The legal case turned on “consent,” an inevitably fraught issue.

Like race. “Race is always a factor,” Sparks argues.

As if to bolster Sparks claim, the same day he appeared on the radio the New York Times reported details of a $40 million settlement of a wrongful conviction case involving five black and Latino teenagers accused of the brutal 1989 rape of a white jogger in Central Park. They were easy targets. The media portrayed the boys, who had confessed, as “wilding youth.” But in 2002, DNA evidence exonerated them. Their confessions had been coerced.

What does that have to do with Lyle Howe’s case?

Probably nothing. But consider: Howe’s jury pool included few blacks. And some potential jurors were excused because they didn’t believe they could get past Howe’s race. Then too there is that troubling, unrelated 2011 case in which authorities charged Howe with threatening a former client. The case was dismissed the day it was to be heard because the crown concluded there was no “reasonable prospect of a conviction.”

Does any of that raise flags? Perhaps. This is Nova Scotia. And we should never be too smug when it comes to race.

  1. I read a statement online where a person named Guy stated in relation to the Lyle Howe matter that: “it means nothing that Mr. Howe is Black”. There was a response to this statement and I quoted the statement below. It’s kinda interesting.

    “This is a scary sentiment and speaks to exactly what Black Nova Scotian’s are afraid of in terms of attitudes of some (emphasis on some) Nova Scotians. “Being black means absolutely nothing”. That’s why he didn’t have a single Black Nova Scotian on his jury panel (out of 200 people). About 3% of the population in NS is Black so if it was a random selection there should have been 6 Black Nova Scotian’s out of 200 and there were zero. That’s because as Guy says “Being black means absolutely nothing”. It means nothing in terms of getting a “jury of your peers” and it “means nothing” that there has never been a Black Nova Scotia judge at our Supreme Court, nor at the Supreme Court of Canada. And it means nothing that Mr. Howe was really the first high profile Black defense attorney in Nova Scotia and his career is taken away. All of this “means nothing” to some (again emphasis on some) Nova Scotian’s. Which is why to this jury, his account of what happened “means nothing”. Also the fact that she had the same amount of alcohol as he did “means nothing” (and she outweighed him by 50 lbs and was a more seasoned drinker). The fact that there were no drugs in her system “means nothing’. The video of her walking in the house during a period of time that she claims to “be fuzzy” despite seeming to have all of her faculties “means nothing”. The fact that she did the exact same thing as him (i.e. had sex with a person that had a few drinks) “Means nothing”. She is a victim and he deserves to go to jail despite the fact that they did the EXACT same thing. And the scary thing is that some people like Guy state that this “means nothing”.”


  2. Please change the last line into the headline, or at least the lede!
    “We should never be too smug when it comes to race.”
    That’s the whole point. One thing you forgot to mention when you mention the “unrelated” 2011 charge against Howe: after he got it dismissed, Howe brought suit against the prosecution, the province, HRM, the police, and several individuals in those institutions. Not unreasonable, considering the impact something like that would have on a person’s career.
    It’s a bit hard to consider the lawsuit unrelated to what is happening to Lyle now. Especially when you consider that the authorities did not pursue sexual assault charges against another man who was with the same woman on the night in question. He allegedly robbed the victim as well, but will not serve time. But Howe is sitting in jail right now. The hand is not exactly working behind the veil.
    Using the same blunt logic people seem to use, if Howe was wrongly accused in 2011, he could very well be wrongly accused now. Fighting back, fighting for your rights, isn’t considered admirable by the authorities in this province.


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