The Chronicle continued its record of thoughtful, incisive commentary on case-related issues with two editorials in the last week. The first dismissed Nifong’s “non-apology apology” as lacking “any genuine contrition” and reeking “of political posturing in light of Nifong’s own upcoming ethics trial before the North Carolina State Bar.”
As the editors point out, the disgraced DA used the statement to avoid personal responsibility for his actions, coupled with “a graceless, begrudging apology to the three players.” Indeed, his “year-long leadership of the case does not reflect errors of “human judgment’—as his pseudo-apology would have it—but rather appears to reveal a complete lack of professional and personal ethics.”
The Chronicle correctly observes that the key issue in this case wasn’t Nifong believing Crystal Mangum’s myriad, mutually contradictory tales, but rather the DA’s pattern of deciding to violate rules and procedures of the
“In Nifong’s revisionist version of the Duke lacrosse case,” the editors conclude, “he is merely a well meaning public servant who put too much faith in a troubled woman. But history will remember that Nifong deserves condemnation for dragging three innocent men through what has proven to be a travesty of justice.”
Chronicle editors also praised what could be called the “Dowd Rule,” a recent reform passed by the Academic Council to allow students, in limited circumstances, to appeal grades. Last spring, Kyle Dowd and another lacrosse player were taking a political science class from Group of 88 member Kim Curtis. On March 29, Curtis wrote an e-mail that described her two students, as well as the other members of the lacrosse team, as, at least, accomplices to rape. Thereafter their grades plummeted—both received C- on the second paper for the class, both received F on the final paper. Curtis gave Dowd an F for the course, only to have her grade changed to a D due to a “calculation error.”
The new policy ensures that a check exists on the faculty, through a procedure that requires a student to appeal first to their professor, then the department chair, and then the Director of Undergraduate Studies. If both officials disagree with the professor’s grade, a committee is formed to re-evaluate the student’s work, and reports to the dean of faculty.
The Chronicle concludes,
Dowd case or not, the lacrosse scandal revealed that certain students on this campus-and indeed on campuses across the country-may be more privileged in academic arenas than others. Professors are human, and many students have had teachers at some point in their Duke careers who carry certain biases.
And when—we hope once in a blue moon—there is a professor who is both stubborn and wrong, it is necessary to have a mechanism in place to hold them accountable.
Three commentators who spoke out against Nifong’s actions from the start returned to the issue in op-eds at the conclusion of the case. In the Boston Globe, Cathy Young pointed out that Roy Cooper’s declaring the players innocent vindicated the women’s lacrosse players who were so savagely attacked last spring for wearing armbands expressing solidarity with their male colleagues.
The story of the case, Young recognized, was that “many people wouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good crusade. Eighty-eight Duke faculty members signed a statement, drafted by Lubiano, that expressed solidarity with the students who rallied against the accused. Its language was drenched in a presumption of guilt.” Nationally, Wendy Murphy took a similar course in television appearances that “became a gold mine of disinformation.”
it’s about time we humanized men who are victims of false accusations of rape. Feminism has made great strides in bringing attention to the tragedy of rape and the pain of its victims. Now, the Duke case may bring much-needed focus to the tragedy of false accusations. It is not anti female to say that some women do lie about rape—any more than it is anti male to say that some men rape women. The vindication of the Duke Three may in the end be a victory for true gender equity.
As the case ended, Thomas Sowell saw the most important lesson as sending “a message about the kinds of gutless lemmings on our academic campuses, including our most prestigious institutions.”
Reflecting on AG Cooper’s announcement, Sowell compared conditions to a year ago, when “there was a lynch mob atmosphere against the accused students—from the Duke University campus to the national media, and including the local NAACP and the ever-present Jesse Jackson,” a mob atmosphere that culminated in the Group of 88’s statement.
Now, “after all the charges have collapsed like a house of cards, the campus lynch mob—including Duke University president Richard H. Brodhead—are backpedaling swiftly and washing their hands like Pontius Pilate. They deny ever saying that the students were guilty. Of course not. They merely acted as if that was a foregone conclusion, while leaving themselves an escape hatch. It is bad enough to be part of a lynch mob. It is worse to deny that you are part of a lynch mob, while standing there holding the rope in your hands.”
Finally, Bernie Reeves of Raleigh’s Metro Magazine noted that, in listing to AG Cooper’s press conference, “hat hit me is that the accuser and Nifong will not see themselves as wrong in their actions and lies.” In the politically correct atmosphere that dominated consideration of the case, “Truth then is also subjective. All that matters is maintaining the charade that selected victims are heroes and those that dare utter the truth are the enemy.”
In this vision, Crystal Mangum and Mike Nifong were the selected heroes. “She was elevated in the politically hierarchy for her race and sex. Nifong was the white knight who defended her artificial status. The media were the chorus that gave them vigor to pursue their cause, influenced by their addiction to the thin veneer of the new politically correct regime that has invaded news rooms. Here, diversity is worshipped over objectivity; utopian political results over the means,” and “the ends—in this case bringing down white wealthy males—justify the means, even if it entails breaking all the rules of proper legal conduct.”
And the facilitators? Politically correct ideologues, people like Houston Baker, or Peter Wood, or Karla Holloway, who “used slander and libel as rockets and missiles, knowing the damage inflicted by accusing their enemies in public can’t ever be entirely washed away. After all, for 20 years they’ve been vilifying fellow professors they don’t want to have tenure and walking right over college administrators who dare stand up against them.”
Among the cleverest articles on Nifong’s current dilemma came from Chronicle columnist Emily Thomey, who pens a column on religion. Thomey detected five versus from scripture that Mike Nifong appears to have forgotten from Sunday School. Her choices:
- Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
- Matthew 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
- John 8:7: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
- 2 Corinthians 7:2: “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.”
- John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
“Whether you’re a Sunday school graduate or not,” Thomey contends, “remembering a few words from the Good Book never hurt. The article is wonderfully done: the full version, with a justification for each verse chosen, is here.
The Springfield (MA) Republican takes note of AG Roy Cooper's statement that "a lot of people owe a lot of apologies to a lot of people." Eight days later, among the major players in the case, "here's the list of people who have apologized to the three players: Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong"--and he did so in a statement whose targeted audience appeared to be the State Bar:
The three student-athletes - David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty - have not received a public apology from Duke's "Group of 88." That's the coalition of arts and science faculty members who signed a full-page ad in the university newspaper commending a student demonstration that featured a wanted poster of the lacrosse team.
The three student-athletes - now former student-athletes - did not receive public apologies from the Rev. Jesse Jackson or the Rev. Al Sharpton, who appointed themselves prosecutor, judge and jury.
And they did not receive a public apology from those people in the media who joined the stampede in the rush to condemn.
ABC-11 reports on two continuing signs of defiance from the Nifong camp. First, Nifong attorney David Freedman proclaims that the DA will remain silent until his ethics trial, and will not resign or request a leave of absence despite being charged with violating the Bar’s ethics guidelines, three
Says Freedman, “Everyone is being heard from except Mr. Nifong. Mr. Nifong cannot be heard from because he does have trial coming up. It would be extremely improper for him to come forth to make any public interviews until he’s had the opportunity testify before the State Bar.”
This argument would make more sense had Nifong not given a three-hour December interview to the New York Times—after the Bar informed him that it was drawing up ethics charges.
Meanwhile, the last of the enablers—around a dozen people—held a “rally” yesterday outside the lacrosse house. One protester (who elected to remain nameless) described the group’s mission: “We want to make sure that the victim receives a fair hearing. We want to see justice prevail through a jury trial.”
The protester appeared unaware of how the justice system in the
In the Wall Street Journal, Randy Barnett published a tribute to good lawyering—of the type that we certainly saw in this case, from figures such as Joe Cheshire, Brad Bannon, and Jim Cooney. He offers a powerful critique of the Nifong enablers:
Rather than praising the defense lawyers, some of the same folks who whooped in support of Mr. Nifong’s efforts are now bemoaning that it was the supposed wealth of these students’ parents that enabled them to mount so effective a defense. Never mind that draining all their savings and putting them in debt is an additional injustice resulting from this wrongful prosecution. Of course, as my grandfather used to say, “rich or poor, it’s nice to have money,” but this case shows that wealth is no defense to public ruin. Sometimes it even invites it.
Let us not be distracted all over again. The difficult problem of innocent defendants typically arises in run-of-the mill cases where prosecutors acting in good faith have no reason to doubt their guilt. It results in part from the pragmatic presumption of guilt, which leads to inadequate defense lawyering, an indifferent press and an oblivious public. There are no easy solutions to this. But refraining from ridiculing lawyers in general, and criminal defense lawyers in particular, would be a nice start, and one that lies within the power of everyone reading these words.
Liestoppers took to task the UNC campus newspaper, which opposed AG Cooper’s suggestion to institute some checks on “rogue” prosecutors. The Daily Tar Heel’s argument? The system worked in the Nifong case. As Liestoppers observes, “The suggestion that the system worked also ignores and demeans the precious price paid by the innocents preyed upon by the rogue prosecutor.”
Moreover, “Imagine yourself in the place of the innocent victim of a rogue prosecutor willing to imprison you for thirty years in exchange for a larger pension. And now imagine that your avenue of relief depends on the mere hope of an unprecedented State Bar intervention following nine months of investigation.”
The blog concludes, correctly,
NC Attorney General Roy Cooper’s recent proposal to allow Supreme Court intervention may or may not be the ideal solution. Yet, the Nifong/Mangum Hoax has shown the extreme toll exacted from Nifong’s innocent victims, the reluctance of the local court to sanction or remove the DA despite his obvious misrepresentations and other misconduct, and the willingness of Superior Court Judge Hudson to defy statutory directives. Each of which unequivocally demonstrate that change in the form of additional oversight of elected district attorneys is necessary to mend a system that worked quite the opposite of “just fine.”
--------Trying to ensure that one of the worst procedural abuses of the lacrosse case--Nifong's "no-wrong-choices" lineup--never occurs again, state Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake County) introduced a bill to make illegal two of the practices used by the Durham Police in the case: having an investigator involved in the case running the lineup, and confining the lineup to suspects only.
Ross noted, that the bill would “make sure innocent people are not put through the trauma of an unfair process. It'll also lead us to the guilty more quickly.”
Troublingly, Orange County DA Jim Woodall expressed skepticism about the measure: “We don't want to hinder our law enforcement. There are investigators who do good police work that isn't set out in a policy anywhere.”
Woodall, no doubt, is correct. But the lacrosse case also revealed that the state has investigators who do bad police work, and Ross' measure deserves passage.
This week’s Sports Illustrated carries Mike Pressler’s recollection of the troubling manner in which he was dismissed.
Pressler’s recollection of Alleva’s comments: On April 5, Pressler says, Duke athletic director Joe Alleva called him in and said, “Mike, I’ve got to let you go.”
“But Joe,” Pressler pleaded. “You stood up before my players and said you believe it never happened. The DNA is coming back any day. Wait for the truth.”
“It’s not about the truth anymore,” Pressler says Alleva told him. “It’s about the faculty, the NAACP, and the special interest groups.”
In addition to this deeply disturbing rationalization, Duke’s decision to fire Pressler but publicly state that he resigned created the impression that, perhaps, he either knew something about the scandal and was forced out or had decided to abandon his players. Yet in May, when President Brodhead met with the lacrosse team and was asked who fired Pressler, the president stated bluntly that he had.
All sides would have been better served had Duke stated so last April.