Mike Nifong’s chief investigator Linwood Wilson was much in the news last week, after a court hearing in an unrelated case revealed that his penchant for intimidating witnesses extended beyond the lacrosse case.
Several weeks ago, Joe Neff broke the news that
A reader also reminded me of the Herald-Sun article announcing
In a preview of the boorish attitude he would frequently display during the case,
Quite interesting, in light of events to come, was Nifong’s description of one reason why he hired
The legislative fallout from the Nifong scandal continues; last week, the state Senate narrowly approved a bill to make district attorney elections non-partisan. Had this system existed in 2006, Mike Nifong almost certainly would have lost: the Republican voters ineligible to vote in the Democratic primary could have cast ballots for Freda Black—who, it’s worth remembering, lost by less than 1000 votes.
The bill—which still needs House approval and support from Governor Mike Easley—was sponsored by Senator Dan Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg). Clodfelter, a former Rhodes Scholar and
The state’s district attorneys didn’t take a position on Clodfelter’s election bill, but they did vigorously resist his attempts to expand the open discovery statute. Indeed, their goal is the reverse—to make changes in the law that would seem to allow future Mike Nifongs greater leeway.
The Hendersonville Times-News joined the chorus of the state’s editorial boards in opposing the efforts of the Conference of DA’s “to gut the law,” since “as the recent outcome of the Duke rape case shows, that is hardly the direction the state needs to move.”
The DA conference’s efforts also produced a poignant letter to the N&O from Duffy Lincoln, who wrote, “The new discovery law was passed after many convictions were overturned because several DAs were caught lying. This law helped my sister, who although innocent spent five years arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Because the prosecutors were required by law to disclose everything they knew to the defense, my sister’s attorneys were able to adequately defend her. They discovered an SBI DNA lab error, and the DA dropped the pursuit of the death penalty . . . My sister, Leslie Lincoln, was lucky. She was acquitted but spent years languishing in jail waiting for the truth, hidden by prosecutors and police, to be uncovered. Without the 2004 changes in the law, Leslie might be another innocent person on death row.”
And in another letter to the N&O, Lloyd Bailey of Rocky Mount recommended a poison-pill amendment for the Conference of DA’s bill: “If a person is convicted and later found to be innocent because helpful information was withheld by the prosecutor, it should be mandatory that prosecutor serve the remainder of the term—even if it means death. This levels the playing field.”
As Jim Cooney has pointed out, the open discovery law doesn’t exist to regulate ethical DA’s—they already play by the rules. It’s needed to guard against those prosecutors who value winning more than achieving justice.
With the men’s team advancing to the Final Four, last week featured a variety of thoughtful pieces about members of the team. The Washington Times profiled one of the unsung heroes of this year’s squad, co-captain Eddie Douglas—who teammate Tony McDevitt describes as “probably the smartest kid I’ve ever met.” (
As the Times’ Patrick Stevens notes, the media attention associated with the season put great pressure on Douglas to serve as a spokesman, a task for which he was remarkably well-suited. Looking back, the Duke graduate student described the year as “an unbelievable learning experience. For Matt [Danowski] and me both, it’s been a challenge at times to stand in front of everyone and deal with a lot of different questions and different issues about the program. It’s also been very rewarding. The opportunity to speak for and stand for such a great group of guys has been great for both of us.”
It’s no surprise that anti-lacrosse extremists on the Duke faculty, such as Orin Starn, don’t want to talk about people like
They don’t want to talk about students like McDevitt, either. The first in his family to receive a college degree, McDevitt was the subject of a glowing article in the
John Danowski gushed, “Special is such an overused word in coaching, but Tony is one of those young men who really is special. He’s an excellent student. He’s a worker in the weight room. He wants to lead, and he’s a vocal about it. He’s not flashy. He’s more athletic than he is a lacrosse player sometimes, but he’s tried to do the things we’ve asked him to do this year and he gets better every day. He’s a delight to be around.”
Once again, these are the kind of people Orin Starn, Peter Wood, and the Group of 88 do not want to see at Duke.
Of course, the spotlight also led to other types of articles. A piece by Rosalind Guy in the Memphis Daily News led off with the following sentence: “The Duke University lacrosse team rape incident a year ago put the national spotlight on an issue that plagues universities all across the nation: sexual assaults on campus.”
“Rape incident”? And was Guy suggesting that the “issue that plagues universities all across the nation” is accusers falsely claiming sexual assault? If not, it is difficult to see the relevance of her referencing Duke.
Guy’s conclusion: “Although charges eventually were dropped against the three athletes, the seriousness of sex crimes has not diminished on college campuses.”
Meanwhile, on goduke.com, Michael Corey presented the following view of events last spring for the lacrosse team:
The hellfire that was 2006 brought a postponement of the lacrosse team’s ultimate reason for matriculating at Duke in the first place—to learn via sport—as a dastardly misrepresentative of the justice system incited a public pillory of the program and the men therein. A trio was then siphoned away from the team and dumped into the cesspool that was the rhetorical filth being spewed by a rogue District Attorney, and by certain locusts in the media eager to join the schadenfreude, impatience and prejudgment that fueled the feeding frenzy.
Few would argue with Corey’s condemnation of the media and of Nifong. But he seems to have conveniently sidestepped those on Duke’s campus “eager to join the schadenfreude, impatience and prejudgment that fueled the feeding frenzy.” That decision, of course, comes as little surprise: this is the same writer who penned a February article bizarrely suggesting that the two sets of victims in this case were the lacrosse players and the Group of 88(!).
In his previous analysis, Corey critiqued what he termed the “seething” and “shrieking” blog attacks against the Group of 88, while denouncing the “lemmings” and “locusts” who read blogs. The article, I suppose, might have been more persuasive had Corey cited even one blog post that he deemed “seething” and “shrieking.” And an author concerned with “seething” and “shrieking” rhetoric might have been offended by Houston Baker calling the lacrosse players “farm animals.” Or by Bill Chafe arguing that the whites who lynched Emmett Till provided the appropriate context through which to interpret the actions of the lacrosse players. Or by the Glymph/Lubiano/Sebring panel worrying that things were “moving backwards” on campus when DNA tests came back without a match to any lacrosse player. Or by Grant Farred contending that, by registering to vote in
Corey’s only comment about such professors? He noted sympathetically that their lives were forever changed when they signed the Group of 88’s statement, which subjected them to “seething” and “shrieking” attacks from blogs—from which, of course, he never quoted. No wonder Corey chose not to reference his earlier work on lacrosse matters.
Meanwhile, several good articles dealing with the fallout from last year’s events. Both Steve Politi in the Newark Star-Ledger and Kevin Armstrong of Sports Illustrated covered the Delbarton-Chamidade game, which featured Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty as dueling assistant coaches.
And Inside Lacrosse broke the news that Duke—with the support of other ACC schools—has petitioned the NCAA to grant the entire team another year of eligibility. The move would be unprecedented—but the argument is a strong one: misconduct by Nifong (aided and abetted by the Herald-Sun, the potbangers, and the Group of 88) so poisoned the atmosphere last spring that the players’ safety couldn’t be guaranteed. The students, therefore, shouldn’t be punished because of a situation initiated by Nifong.
No word on the NCAA’s timetable to make the decision.
At Friends of Duke, an important update from Jason Trumpbour. He noted that the organization’s “approach was originally premised on the fact that Duke should be a part of that process [of ensuring the players’ innocence], not only for the sake its falsely accused students, but for its own sake. That objective has yet to be realized. Together, with many others, we changed the world around Duke for the better. However, Bob Steel’s most recent letter and the News and Communications Office’s recent attempts at history show the University still singing exactly the same tune it was a year ago.”
Trumpbour correctly noted,
At some point, the administration will have to come to terms with the lacrosse case. It is not going to go away. The incident will be relived countless more times as the many books about it are released. The story is not going to get any better for Duke with each retelling—indeed, quite the opposite. Hopefully, the administration will engage in some self reflection and soul searching so that, if the past cannot be changed, the future will. The University will have opportunities to do this in the near future. Settling the Dowd case fairly was a small step in the right direction. We are not going away yet and will watch events in the coming weeks.He added an important point with which I—as someone who has met quite a few current and former Duke lacrosse players—strongly agree: “It is worth noting that, to date, the players are the only actors in the entire saga who have expressed any genuine regret for inappropriate behavior on their part and who have been willing to examine themselves with an eye toward improvement. They are better people for this experience and will use what they have learned to make a difference in the world. Who else in all this can say that?”
Finally, congratulations to the Duke women’s lacrosse team, for another great season. The team had a heartbreaking defeat in the Final Four—losing for the second straight year by a late goal in the national semi-final.
The team was vilified last spring by journalists (
Kevin Armstrong, who has done a great job covering case-related issues for si.com, has a nicely done article on the Final Four game and Coach Kerstin Kimel, who joins Jim Coleman as the two Duke figures whose performance so stands out in the past 15 months.
It was the women, though, who carried the Duke brand name on the field. When wearing Duke gear was unfashionable, they donned the attire. While the men's faces appeared as headshots and their names scrolled the bottom of the screen on news networks, the women took to the field. Without shoulder pads or facemasks to hide them or offer a buffer zone, they sat in classes listening to professors rail against the lax code of conduct that the lacrosse programs purportedly allowed to fester. All the while, Kimel acted in support of both teams.
"When things were in limbo with the men, Kerstin really stepped up as someone who was really the coach of both teams for a while there," said Mike Pressler via phone on Friday. "Her steadfastness and support were amazing. Players who just needed help would stop in and see her. They knew her strength."
Again: how can it be that Duke not only did not punish professors who engaged in such behavior, but never even spoke to players on the women's and men's lacrosse teams to investigate the matter?
[Update, 11.26am: An excellent comment regarding Coach Kimel:
Should Duke win in the finals on Monday, Kerstin Kimel should feel the pride that anyone does who contributes to creating a championship team.
Pressler recruited and coached the players through 2006, Danowski coached in 2007 and this is no attempt to take away from their feats. But Kimel, suffering the slings and arrows from fools for doing so, put the entire men's team of 2006 on her back and kept them going when the vast majority at Duke either outright condemned them or ignored them.
Kimel still has plenty of time to win a championship of her own, but whether she does or not, she is the model of a winner and a champion.]
Hat tip: K.D., J.G.G.