Thursday, March 29, 2007

Remembering the Good, I

In the aftermath of DIW’s version of March Madness (the worst of op-eds; Duke faculty publications; “news” articles; and soundbites), I had a request to remember the best work of the case. Today focuses on the media outside of the Duke campus; tomorrow’s post will look at the best from the campus along with the best from the political realm.

In this category, one figure is of towering significance: Jim Coleman. In a June letter to the N&O, the Duke law professor became the first prominent figure to demand Mike Nifong’s recusal. He concisely explained what remains the most significant procedural flaw of this case—Nifong’s instructing the police to violate their own procedures and conduct a do-over lineup confined to suspects. The flawed procedure, as Coleman noted in June, “strongly suggests that the purpose of the identification process was to give the alleged victim an opportunity to pick three members of the lacrosse team who could be charged. Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice.”

Coleman was months ahead of virtually everyone else on the case.

Moreover, he continued to speak out about Nifong’s misconduct, most spectacularly in the October 60 Minutes broadcast, when he (correctly) noted that in the spring, Nifong “pandered to the community by saying ‘I’m gonna go out there and defend your interests in seeing that these hooligans who committed the crime are prosecuted. I’m not gonna let their fathers, with all of their money, buy you know big-time lawyers and get them off. I’m doing this for you.’ You know, what are you to conclude about a prosecutor who says to you, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to get this set of defendants?’ What does it say about what he’s willing to do to get poor black defendants.”

Two other categories:

Print Media

Those who have followed the case closely have, no doubt, lost count of how many stories Joe Neff and the team of N&O reporters—Ben Niolet, Michael Biesecker, Anne Blythe, Eric Ferreri, Jane Stancill—have broken. The N&O has published more quality articles on the case than the rest of the print media combined, and from a variety of different angles—Nifong’s procedural misconduct, Nifong’s personal background, police misconduct, Duke campus attitudes and actions.

Beyond the N&O, the non-campus print media has featured the horrific performances of the Herald-Sun and the New York Times, but there was one other significant print media performance: Newsweek. The June 29 article by Evan Thomas and Susannah Meadows provided a major turning point in how the mainstream media approached the case. And Susannah Meadows’ January profile of the Seligmann family reminded everyone that real people have been harmed by Nifong’s massive misconduct.

Commentators

Six people in this category stand out, in groups of two.

The first two significant dissents in the case came in early May, from very different figures. Jason Whitlock, a Kansas City Star sports reporter, case seems like an updated re-enactment of To Kill a Mockingbird.” He lamented, “If the Duke lacrosse players were black and the accuser were white, everyone would easily see the similarities between this case and the alleged crimes that often left black men hanging from trees in the early 1900s.” Whitlock concluded that the civil rights movement didn’t occur “so that the poor, black and oppressed could surrender the moral high ground and attempt to inflict injustice on the privileged.” In the same week, Stuart Taylor, National Journal’s senior writer, characterized the April 4 lineup as “so grotesquely suggestive and unreliable that one expert compares it to ‘a multiple-choice test with no wrong answers’” and blasted Nifong’s having “rudely spurned repeated requests by defense lawyers for a chance to show him exculpatory evidence.” “Such conduct,” Taylor maintained, “is not usually seen as grounds for disbarment. It ought to be.”

In early June came two new pathbreaking critiques of the case, from the New York Times op-ed page. Right-of-center David Brooks compared Nifong’s conduct to a witch hunt and apologized for having personally rushed to judgment. Left-of-center Nicholas Kristof urged “some deep reflection . . . about the perniciousness of any kind of prejudice that reduces people — yes, even white jocks — to racial caricatures. This has not been the finest hour of either the news media or academia: too many rushed to make the Duke case part of the 300-year-old narrative of white men brutalizing black women.”

Finally, over the summer, two figures who had initially presumed guilt reconsidered their assumptions. Reviewing the case in August, USC law professor Susan Estrich discovered “a failure to follow standard procedure that is rather mind-boggling.” “At the very least,” she argued, “standard procedure should have been to await the results of tests, and then, given the results, the inconsistencies in the woman's statements, the fact that at least one of the boys seems to have an airtight alibi, investigate further before indicting anyone.” In one of the single best lines this case has produced, Estrich concluded her essay by noting, “There are reasons you follow procedures. In general, they are there to spare outrage.” Estrich would pen three more articles criticizing Nifong, culminating with a New Years’ Day piece terming the accuser a “liar.”

Ruth Sheehan, meanwhile, broke from the pack in June, and after the Elmostafa trial, emerged as a ferocious critic of Nifong, both in her columns and in her blog. Those active in the Recall Nifong-Vote Cheek will recall Sheehan as the sole columnist, either in North Carolina or outside, who provided consistent aid to the Cheek forces.

Sheehan’s coverage of the Elmostafa trial provides a reminder of another high point of the case—an immigrant cab driver who told the truth when he had no personal agenda to do so, and who wound up the victim of a selective prosecution.

Hat tip: D.E.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a huge fan of Professor Coleman and Jason Whitlock. Jason is a straight up sports writer and fun. The Professor should be President of Duke - He is one of the few people who could bring honor back to Duke. Ruthie deserves to be on the bad list, but it is your list.

Anonymous said...

John in Carolina has documented the Raleigh newspaper's coverage in late March of last year — a critical time in the frame-up. Check out his blog.

Chicago said...

12:13:

This was the print media catagory as I recall, so JinC will likely be mentioned in later "best ofs."

Anonymous said...

The cab driver . . . . that is one of the more repulsive actions of Nifong. Any civil rights organization worth its salt ought, on the basis of the crude bullying of the cab driver alone, be calling for Nifong's disbarment. An utter disgrace. To a certain extent, the Duke 3 is nothing personal, just business. The bullying of the cab driver required more. Shame on any attorney in his office who participated.

Anonymous said...

The point was that some who followed this case believe that aside from Neff and a few others, the N&O coverage in the early days was as bad as Neff's later coverage was good.

Anonymous said...

The female lawyer who was the ADA in court has left the DA office claiming sexual harrassment - you can not write this stuff.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the final list is going to be missing one entry - the person who deserves more credit than anyone else for what he's accomplished in this case. His initials are KCJ.

Anonymous said...

JLS says....,

I am not one much to contact people I don't know. But Jason Whitlock's column was so good, I sent him an e-mail congratulating him.

MTU'76 said...

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Follow the link on DIW home page to UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
on Amazon
Scroll down a little to:
"Help others find this item"
"Make a Search Suggestion
No-one has made a Search Suggestion for this item yet. Why not be the first to suggest a search for which this item should appear?"


Mozel tov, Professor. Be sure to visit the Chagall windows at Hadassah Hospital in En Karem. The hospital, in my day, was the only integrated medical facility in Jerusalem (I mean the patients and the staff.) One more item I found nice about living at the hospital was the enormous storage facility that was carved into the mountain underneath. No dear, they didn't keep the Chagalls in there.

Nunway said...

Anonymous said at May 29, 2007 12:36:00 AM:


"I suspect that the final list is going to be missing one entry - the person who deserves more credit than anyone else for what he's accomplished in this case. His initials are KCJ."

We won't let him get away with this glaring omission. After all, in the first paragraph of his post, Professor Johnson promised to focused on the best of the "media outside of the Duke campus." Professor Johnson's blog posts certainly qualify.

So, I propose Professor Johnson for two awards (I am sure that he would qualify for many others, but the follwing two stick out in my mind). One is for combined investigative reporting and op ed type commentary on the Duke False Accusations Case (I would refer to it as the Most Valuable Media Player Award). The other is for special features reporting for his dissection of the mindset of critical studies academics in general and the Gang of 88 in particular.

Nunway said...

Anonymous said at May 29, 2007 12:36:00 AM:


"I suspect that the final list is going to be missing one entry - the person who deserves more credit than anyone else for what he's accomplished in this case. His initials are KCJ."

We won't let him get away with this glaring omission. After all, in the first paragraph of his post, Professor Johnson promised to focused on the best of the "media outside of the Duke campus." Professor Johnson's blog posts certainly qualify.

So, I propose Professor Johnson for two awards (I am sure that he would qualify for many others, but the follwing two stick out in my mind). One is for combined investigative reporting and op ed type commentary on the Duke False Accusations Case (I would refer to it as the Most Valuable Media Player Award). The other is for special features reporting for his dissection of the mindset of critical studies academics in general and the Gang of 88 in particular.

Anonymous said...

Sweetmick says, "Ruth broke from the Pack?" I didn't know you had a sense of humor, KC. Ruth Sheehan helped create and lead the pack. And to call Truthless a "ferocious" critic of Nifong is simply a misuse of this word, as even a pocket dictionary will confirm. Sheehan's use of the word "arrogant" to describe Mrs. Rae Evans' statement on 60 minutes that Nifong had "picked on the wrong families" says it all. Sheehan's heart isn't in it. After seeing what Nifong has done to Reade, Collin and Dave---U.S. constitutional violations, all kinds of state and county rules violations, a total frameup----didn't we all stand up and cheer in front of the TV as Mrs. Evans defended her son and Reade and Collin with her glorious statement? I bet the gang of 88 didn't. Nor Brodhead, Nor Joyner, Nor Cash Micheals. Nor Wendy Murphy Nor Nancy Grace. And most certainly Ruth Sheehan didn't.

Anonymous said...

Sad that Mr. Elmostafa is often forgotten - including by myself. Perhaps some decision-makers in the Durham area could ensure that he has decent employment and doesn't find himself destitute because of his honesty.

Nifong's hat trick said...

Perhaps it is my fantasy(but I hope not)that all of the investigative articles that KC has written on the Duke case will serve as an integral part of the decision to drop all charges on the Lax players.


It is quite evident that KC has put more effort into seeking the truth than Nifong ever would or ever did.

As the special prosecutors review the non-evidence in this case and seek the truth, my fanstasy sees them finding their way to KC's blog where: "Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword."

gak said...

While we are on the subject of the best writing I believe that Dr. Anderson deserves an honorable mention for his essays. One of the most memorable if not poignant quotes comes from his tribute to Kirk Osborne

"Since he represented Seligmann, Osborn went to the DA’s office to let Nifong know that he had important exculpatory information about his client. Nifong sent someone out to Osborn with this message: "If you think your client is innocent, then we have nothing to talk about." At that moment, Osborn knew that Nifong was trying to frame the young men."

I pray tomorrow is the end of this.

Anonymous said...

You can bet Jim Coleman has gotten some really nasty e-mails!

Dodi said...

What, no prizes for the Herald Sun? In one year, with the biggest story to come out of Durham in years, I believe the only real information they came up with was an interview with someone from the strip club where Precious used to work. Of course, 60 Minutes broke the story, so even that wasn't quite original.

Michael said...

There's also the Economics Department.

bill anderson said...

Good work, K.C. I do wish that Ruth had been more forceful in her denunciations, but at least she did turn on Nifong while the Hurled-Scum was praising that sack of dreck of a prosecutor.

As I see it, the horrible MSM coverage came about for two reasons: (1) political correctness, which now dominates the MSM newsrooms, and (2) the symbiotic relationship between journalists and people working for governments.

The journalists wanted to believe the story, and their proclivity to be PR arms of prosecutors came together to create a horrible mess. Now, while I am glad that Newsweek did what it did in June, its "Sex, Lies, and Duke" cover story in which it put the pictures of Reade and Collin on the front cover was reprehensible. There is not statute of limitations for what Newsweek did, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

It is a comfort to know that some people have the decency and capacity to do what is right.

I agree of course that KC's name should be added to his list, but it is understandable modesty on his part not to nominate himself.

I commend him for putting Susan Estrich on the list. She is not someone with whom I have much in common ideologically or politically, but she deserves great credit for ignoring her own ideological preconceptions and for writing cogently and trenchantly in opposition to this evil prosecution.

And no one should ever forget Mr. Elmostafa. Unlike KC or Coleman or Estrich or any of the others, he had to overcome not only any ideological or racial biases he may have, but also legitimate fear of retaliation from a "criminal" justice system and perhaps from his own community, which seems to have lost its collective mind.

JeffM

scott said...

For those who cheer as the New York Times continues to take the express elevator to the basement of print media, their pages had too little David and Nicholas and too much Duff and Selena.

That so many on this list started in the opposite camp -- Sheehan, Estrich, Blythe, Brooks, Newsweek, N&O -- is indicative of how one-sided this situation was at the beginning and how much momentum the defense had to overcome simply to get back to a level playing field. They're not at that point yet, and won't be until the charges are dismissed with prejudice and the LAX players collect that first dollar of civil suit money (with more to follow).

No matter what Ruth writes for the rest of her life, she will have to live with "You know. We know you know." Ruth, as it turns out you didn't know from Shinola, did you?

Anonymous said...

K.C. You missed thomas Sowell who was important because he is black. Bob

Teach1975 said...

How about sports writer/author Mitch Albom who wrote in part,

"Liar. It's word for someone who tells lies. And so far, the only thing certain in this case is that the accuser has told many of them."

Also a month or two ago Mitch Albom was a guest on the ESPN show the "Sports Reporters" - one of the others guests was NYT's own Selena Roberts- in their final talking points/last words to conclude the show MA mentioned how a lot of people incorrectly rushed their judgement regarding the Duke case... SR was five feet away it was great- i wish i had the footage.

Anonymous said...

What a stunning contrast the clear, factually grounded, logical thinking of James Coleman, Jason Whitlock, Stuart Taylor, Nicholas Kristof, David Brooks, Susannah Meadows, and Susan Estrich is to the muddled, innuendo riven, factually incorrect thinking of Selena Roberts, Duff Wilson, Cash Michaels, Irving Joyner, the Gang of 88, and numerous others.

What is most distressing is that we have the expectation the best thinking, the most factually accurate analysis will prevail and persuade even those who, like Susan Estrich and Ruth Sheehan, were misguided initially. Enormous strides have been made, but that expectation is far from fulfilled. The folks still clinging to the belief that the Duke defendants and the whole LAX team are bad apples--despite the evidence--seem to fall into three groups: (1) those who share the agenda of the Gang of 88, (2) those who cannot reason beyond historical racial stereotypes and/or remain ill-informed of the facts, and (3) those who, like Selena Roberts, seemingly cannot see beyond the imperfect behavior of the young people we expect to be perfect, namely the children of very disciplined, highly functional adults. I have come across this last group in my own community at least occasionally.

Observer

Chicago said...

I agree, with the sentiments of others, this guy named KC Johnson has been a hero in this case. KC is way too humble to give himself credit, so we must make sure we mention the outstanding work of the good professor when the online "best of" comes out.

Anonymous said...

"Sad that Mr. Elmostafa is often forgotten - including by myself. Perhaps some decision-makers in the Durham area could ensure that he has decent employment and doesn't find himself destitute because of his honesty."

Elmostafa showed he was a man of courage and should NOT be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

"While we are on the subject of the best writing I believe that Dr. Anderson deserves an honorable mention for his essays."

Anderson deserves an A++++++

Anonymous said...

KC, in all fairness, have you ever asked Beth Brewer if she thinks Sheehan provided "consistent aid" to the Cheek forces?

Anonymous said...

"Express elevator to the basement of print media .." First laugh of the day. How can the leaders of the NYTimes allow this to happen to the paper?

Anonymous said...

HEROS ALL!

(and especially KC)

says David Jay

Anonymous said...

I think that Ed Bradley's "60 Minutes" broadcast, putting a human face on the three accused players and interviewing Coleman, should be included in the the best of the good work of the media outside Duke. It may have had great influence nationally in forming the opinion of many who had not closely followed the case. In my small corner of the world, several friends and two relatives became more interested in the case after seeing this broadcast and began discussing it. Although they have not become bloggers yet, they ask me how the case is proceeding.

I speculate that Bradley's "60 Minutes" interview and the National Enquirer-styled cover of "Newsweek" with its meretricious banner headline, "Sex, Lies, and Duke" did more to nationalize this case, for good and bad, than all the newspaper articles combined.

It's a sad, sad commentary that so many of the examples of the best of the good work of the media are written by people who initially rushed to judgment. In contrast, Coleman, by seeing the fraud so early and speaking out when others were not, is indeed one of the towering heroes of this case.

I especially enjoyed Charlotte Allen's article in The Weekly Standard, "Duke's Tenured Vigilantes." While not groundbreaking, it was an interesting and comprehensive examination (exposure) of the Group of 88 and their twisted logic and prose, and it was humorous. I would add it to the list.

Gayle Miller said...

I well recall that Jeannine Piro, former Westchester County DA characterized Nifong's conduct early on as either "incompetent or something more sinister" on Fox News. I've never seen any reason to doubt her characterization.

Gayle Miller said...

And naming KC Johnson as the best of the best is an absolute imperative!

Anonymous said...

Got to call you out on this one, buddy. Ruth Sheehan - ugh. Her "We know you know" column epitomized the rush to pronounce guilt. It was total condemnation.

Okay, Ms Sheehan eventually discovered the obvious - that this case is a massive hoax. But her snarky comments about Rae Evans make me wonder how much sympathy she really has for the people this case has hurt the most.

Anonymous said...

KC says: "Those active in the Recall Nifong-Vote Cheek will recall Sheehan as the sole columnist, either in North Carolina or outside, who provided consistent aid to the Cheek forces."

Some of those "active" in Beth's campaign from the very moment she first decided...would take great exception to this quote.

Sheehan's first column mocked Cheek's campaign.

Her tepid "endorsement" had none of the fire of "Silence is Sickening", did it?

Not much else to her "aid." and never was it "persistent."

She could have posted on her blog every day a piece about the necessity of removing Nifong. Every day! She had the means, the words , the apparent knowledge, and a big microphone!

What did she do?

What "persistent aid?"

We also recall her cruel snipe at Rae Evans.

Rae Evans spoke extemporaneously on 60 minutes, a woman under great stress, watching day by day, her innocent son endure a false prosecution.

Sheehan could choose her words over time and carefully, yet she presumed to mock Rae's one sentence in her column, never really apologizing for her OWN volatile, damning words, column after column.

Kc, I realize finding the good guys in the media is challenging, but must we stoop to elevating Ruth Sheehan?

rod, allison said...

Great list.

The Newsweek piece was, as you say, the first major turning point in the MSM appproach to the case.

By the time Professor Coleman concluded his riveting 60 minute interview with "I think this DA is indifferent to justice," the turn was complete, and the ship was heading in the direction of the truth.

Anonymous said...

It's nice that KC tries to prop up Ruth Sheehan. Why shouldn't he? He has to have someone to praise and there are so very few who did the right thing in this case.

It's also good that Sheehan changed her stripes after the evidence was in. Or rather, the lack of evidence.

She bothers me because initially she talked so much about her own rape and went into emotional gyrations about it all......with the full intent of drawing emotional parallels and steering a spotlight onto her personal "drama".

An intelligent and professional columnist who had supposedly experienced this "horror" would have kept it on the down-low until much later when more was known about the false accuser.

Too many of these little local "columnists" want to turn everything into a melodrama because they are incapable of creating anything from scratch with the written word.

Ruth Sheehan is someone who would be home with the kids had she not married an unattractive NC Lib-Dem who could provide an entrance for his wife at the local Liberal paper.

Same old.....same old.

In Chapel Hill some years back when Ken Broun, a law professor, was the mayor a make-work job was created for Lisa Price, the wife of the congressman oppossum on steroids, David.

This was criticized openly. Lisa Price is just a mousey appendage with no real role to play in much of anything and everyone knew it.

Ruth Sheehan's writing reveals the same.

I laughed out loud reading her take on the Elizabeth Edwards cancer news. Sheehan wanted everyone to know that "for sure" the decision to stay in the race was Elizabeth's. (How noteworthy).

Then she drew a parallel to her own marriage letting us know that "Harry", her hubby, could never think of telling her what to do...."As if."

This is the banality of her writing. It's often painful to read.

A few years ago she went to a black church and she took readers through every awkward moment of her revelation of "blackness" as if they were aliens.

It was a pathetic column and she really shouldn't be employed at any decent newspaper......but that's life!

I rarely read her columns. Just the headline. Then I move on to the daily horoscope.

I get more information there.

LOL!


Debrah

Anonymous said...

Ruth Sheehan? Please. She is well known here in the Triangle for her strict adherence to a whiny feminist point of view. Read her early columns - and see how nasty, smug, vitriolic and close-minded she was - before you call her a hero.

The fact she eventually "got it" does not excuse her conduct in this case.

Anonymous said...

Sheehan's Opportunity

Anonymous said...

Marketing suggestion to KC and Taylor: Take the phrase "Political Corectness and" out of the title of the book. It sounds too much like all it's going to be is some kind of conservative screed.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the words "political correctness" shouldn't begin the title.

Focus more on just the Duke lacrosse rape hoax......then embroider with the negative players.

IMO, KC should focus more attention on the Gang of 88 when posting here and making his lists of players.

Their open hostility and slander right out of the gate contributed enormously to the climate in Durham that allowed Nifong to operate with abandon. After all, if the professors at Duke were coming out against the lacrosse players, then the entire community felt they should follow these "important and wise" people.

The Gang of 88 are even more culpable than Richard Brodhead. As some of his sycophantic friends have opined...."he's a bashful poet".

And bashful poets need a little poetic license.


Debrah

Anonymous said...

The cancer in our society that has taken decades to fester....leaving some impotent with fear of being called names and labeled negatively by those who have taken the victim theme and turned it into a multi-million dollar cottage industry goes far beyond political correctness.

Political correctness is for polite society...along with a lot of loons...where manners are valued above reality, but now things have evolved into a special brand of tyranny.

This case is about forced and unapologetic cosmic justice and irrational and open hatred. It has revealed exactly why many--the majority--of black Americans on some level don't mind watching a case such as this one and nonchalantly shrugging it off as "so what?".

Many have inadvertently revealed for everyone their fundamental problem....the attitude that really holds them back and apart. And many like being apart as long as the fruits of this country are at their fingertips.

Demand without contribution.

Black racist schadenfreude at its ugliest.

Why shouldn't these rich white boys pay? Big time? It makes us feel good watching them squirm.


Debrah

Anonymous said...

And Thomas Sowell leaves all the media and various academic kibitzers near and far in the dust with his columns about the Duke lacrosse case.

No hesitation.

No measuring of words while beaming under a campus umbrella at Duke.

Sowell should be listed prominently.

Debrah

Anonymous said...

Sowell at his best

Debrah

Anonymous said...

Sowell II

Debrah

Anonymous said...

The title should be Durham in Wonderland and subtitle Yntil Proven Innocent - Drop the Duke rape case, etc, etc,

Anonymous said...

Debrah, great posts! great reading. informative. More often, please.

Sweetmick

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sweetmick.

:>)


Debrah