On last night’s CBS Evening News, Ed Bradley previewed Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast. The teaser bombshell: Kim Roberts contradicts multiple aspects of the accuser’s April 6 version of events. It goes without saying that Roberts’ remarks also differ from the accuser’s myriad other versions.
According to the CBS website, after repeating the accuser’s claim that “three guys grabbed Nikki . . . They separated us at the master bedroom door while we tried to hold on to each other,” Bradley then asked Roberts, “Were you holding on to each other? Were you pulled apart?” Roberts rolled her eyes, said “nope,” and added that police never informed her of the accuser’s account. Roberts added that the accuser “was fine” after the dance.
As Johnsville News noted, Roberts has offered a different spin on events in every interview she has given. Her interviews with Vanity Fair and NPR showed her as someone who doesn’t like the lacrosse players—and, in fact, who wants to believe the worst of them. That record makes all the more notable her unequivocal denial of the accuser’s story to Bradley. It’s also worth noting that Bradley—unlike the “journalists” who interviewed her for Vanity Fair or NPR—actually asked Roberts directly about her police statement, and asked her for factual details about the accuser’s claims, rather than simply seeking her opinion of what happened.
But the most striking aspect of the 60 Minutes teaser wasn’t Roberts’ contradiction of the accuser’s tale. (Her March 22 statement, after all, had already accomplished this task.) Rather, the remarkable item came in Roberts’ assertion that until Bradley sat down with her, she never had been asked about the accuser’s April 6 version of events.
This assertion is all too characteristic of the Keystone Kops investigation carried out by the Durham Police Department. Before seeking indictments, it would have been reasonable for Gottlieb, Himan, or de facto lead investigator Nifong to have questioned Roberts about the assertions made by the accuser in her April 6 statement. Of course, if the police had followed standard procedures and obtained a statement from the accuser on March 16, they wouldn’t have needed to re-interview Roberts.
It’s nothing short of astonishing that Nifong would have sought indictments based on a version of events in which Roberts played a central role without even asking Roberts whether the accuser’s statement was true. Only one conceivable explanation exists for the decision not to re-question Roberts: Nifong feared that she would tell the same story she told Bradley, thus providing evidence that would “damage the prosecutor’s case or aid the accused.” Of course, Rule 3.8, comment 2 of the state bar’s ethics code states that “a prosecutor should not intentionally avoid pursuit of evidence merely because he or she believes it will damage the prosecutor's case or aid the accused.”
So, it appears, Nifong has violated this provision not, as previously thought, only once (when he refused to meet with Kirk Osborn to consider Reade Seligmann’s exculpatory evidence) but twice.
The decision not to re-question Roberts before seeking indictments contributes to a long list of peculiar investigatory items in this case. Consider:
- The police waited two days to obtain a warrant to search the lacrosse players’ house.
- The police took four days after interviewing the accuser to track down Roberts, the only “neutral” witness to the alleged events.
- Nifong had already obtained the court order for DNA and run his procedurally fraudulent ID before police interviewed either of the accuser’s “drivers” to ascertain her activity before the lacrosse party.
- I’ve been told there’s no evidence that the police took a statement from the accuser’s “boyfriend” before seeking indictments—even though his DNA was recovered from her. Indeed, according to the wording of Nifong’s March 23 court filing, that DNA should have provided “conclusive evidence as to who the suspect(s) are in the alleged violent attack upon this victim.” If not, at least the DNA might have been grounds for an interview before indicting other people.
- The police have never—to this day—spoken to either Collin Finnerty or Reade Seligmann about their actions on the night of March 13-14.
- Although they had knowledge that one or more lacrosse players took photos at the party, the police never attempted to obtain those photos before seeking indictments.
- On March 29, Nifong himself stated, “All of the people at the party were Duke lacrosse players with the possible exception of two fraternity people who were there at some point that evening with another member of the Duke lacrosse team.” Yet two days later, the district attorney ordered police to confine the lineup lacrosse players, since he was “under the impression that the players at the party were members of the Duke Lacrosse team.” To my knowledge, the accuser was never shown photographs of the non-lacrosse players at the party.
This record most charitably could be described as one of monumental incompetence. Where, then, are the protests from the local NAACP? From Nifong enablers such as Bob Ashley, on the Herald-Sun editorial page? From rush-to-judgment types such as Wahneema Lubiano? If a rape actually had occurred, the DPD’s shoddy investigatory practices would have frustrated bringing the real perpetrators to justice. A cynical person might interpret the silence of Lubiano, Ashley, et. al. on this matter as suggesting that their real concern is less what did or didn’t happen to the accuser but exploiting the case for their own personal, political, or ideological ends.
60 Minutes’ revelation that the police never bothered to double-check with Roberts about the accuser’s story suggests a police department where the search for truth not only took a back seat to other considerations, but appears never to have been a consideration at all.
[Note: Blogging will be a bit light this weekend: I'll be speaking Saturday morning on intellectual diversity in the academy (and will mention this case a bit) at the Pope Center's conference, in Raleigh. On October 26, I've been invited to the Duke campus to speak about the case by ACLU@DUKE.]