The paper with the nation's fourth-largest circulation total, the Los Angeles Times, this morning published a blistering editorial demanding that Nifong dismiss all charges and that those who enabled him "engage in an examination of conscience."
Nifong’s bizarre decision to drop the rape charges but to retain sexual assault and kidnapping charges, the Times correctly notes, “further undermined his already sagging reputation for fairness.”
After a throwaway line (“we may never know exactly what happened the night of March 13”—well, yes, but we certainly know what didn’t happen), the Times moves in for the kill:
What is clear is that Nifong, whose election campaign for a full term overlapped with the investigation, lost control of his tongue and participated in the transformation of this incident from a case into a cause — usually an ominous development for the administration of justice.The Times notes the litany of “other lapses,” including the DNA coverup and the inexplicable decision for the lead investigator on the case (Nifong himself) to wait nine months to have someone from his office interview the accuser. That when this interview occurred she dramatically changed her story (yet again) “should have been the fatal blow to the prosecution.”
Rather than continue his peculiar crusade, the Times urged Nifong “to focus instead on how the case went off the rails.” In my opinion, this would be a task better suited for the Justice Department and the North Carolina State Bar.
The Times concludes with a call I hope will be echoed by others in coming weeks:
Nifong isn't the only one who profitably could engage in an examination of conscience. Those who seized on this case as an emblem of a "larger truth" — a racial double standard in rape prosecutions, the historical exploitation of black women by white men, the arrogance of adolescent privilege — did not contribute to a clarification of the factual questions that are at the heart of any criminal case. It may be true, as a Washington Post feature put it, "she was black, they were white, and race and sex were in the air." But in a criminal case, atmosphere is no substitute for evidence.
Those who could most profitably engage in an examination of conscience? The Group of 88. It’s high time for Duke alumni to call upon the University to begin enforcing Chapter Six of the Faculty Handbook, which opens with the following passage:
Members of the faculty expect Duke students to meet high standards of performance and behavior. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the faculty adheres to comparably high standards in dealing with students . . . Students are fellow members of the university community, deserving of respect and consideration in their dealings with the faculty.
Reliable sources inform me, meanwhile, that the paper with the nation’s second-largest circulation total, the Wall Street Journal, will publish an even more blistering op-ed on the issue in tomorrow’s edition.