Two important articles appeared last week on the Friends of Duke site. The first, penned by Joan Collins, looked at the role of faith for the players and their supporters throughout the case.
Collins notes that “for me, it was faith that brought me to this case.” A resident of Garden City (hometown of Collin Finnerty and several other players on the team), Collins had never even read a blog before the case began—but she turned to the internet because she wanted to find more information about the case. Attacks on the Finnertys’ generous (longstanding) support for Father Peter LeJacq, a Maryknoll priest who has opened missionary hospitals and trained doctors in Africa, generated her first internet commentary.
I decided to pray to St. Raymond Nonnatus, the patron saint of the falsely accused, asking that the case be dismissed. In the spring of 2007, I wrote to Mr. Evans that St. Raymond was the patron saint of the falsely accused. It was another coincidence that Rae Evans and her father, Raymond, shared the same name as the patron saint of the falsely accused. Later, I was touched by Mr. Evans’ testimony at Mr. Nifong’s trial about Raymond Forker and how the family had embraced the patron saint . . .You can read the entire article here.
Over the past year, I encountered remarkable, resolute people in the search for truth and justice in the Duke Lacrosse Case. Their research, writings, poems, videos and cartoons energized us to continue. It was a privilege to meet and speak with some of the lacrosse players, their families and the Presslers. Their courage inspired me. The common theme of the conversations was faith and how it had sustained them, provided them hope, and at times carried them through some of their darkest days. When their university turned its back on them, when the media spewed vile things about them, when our legal system did not seem to be working, what remained were family, friends and faith.
Today I met Rae Evans for the first time. She was wearing a St. Raymond pendant and she gave me a special gift of a St. Raymond medal. Faith has taken me on a journey from that first post on Court TV about faith, to writing the Dave Evans profile of courage on the morning of Raymond Forker’s death, praying to the patron saint of the falsely accused and receiving the medal. The St. Raymond medal reminds me that with faith all things are possible.
None of us will forget the Duke Lacrosse Case. We must move forward and learn from the experience. The Duke Lacrosse team will become better and stronger men, sons, husbands, and fathers because of the case. This is not the end, but the beginning for there is still much work to be done. Hopefully, the players and their many supporters will follow in the generous footsteps of St. Raymond, so that something like this never happens again.
Meanwhile, FODU spokesperson Jason Trumpbour has delved into the Bar depositions to explore some troubling connections between Duke and the police.
As Trumpbour noted, virtually the only time when the regular Durham judiciary (Judges Stephens and Titus) stood up to Mike Nifong was last July, when Judge Kenneth Titus rejected Nifong’s request for keycard records of the non-indicted players. Titus cited the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA). But, Trumpbour noted, the material released by the Bar suggests that “Duke University had already turned these records over to police months earlier in March evidently in violation of FERPA.”
“For those,” Trumpbour concluded, “who insisted that our criticism of the Duke administration for its lack of public support for its falsely accused students was unfair because Duke was probably concerned about its students and was probably working behind the scenes to help them, guess again. For those who have insisted that speaking out against the conduct of Mike Nifong might work against the University’s interests and expose it to unacceptable risks, look at the risks the administration was willing to take in order to further the interests of those working against the players.”
Looking over the case, the FODU spokesperson detected one “common denominator”—that “there was always some other priority for the administration that was greater than the welfare of its students. They wanted to be on the right side in the eyes of the public regardless of the facts or law. They wanted to maintain their cozy working relationships with local officials. They wanted to appease small, vocal constituencies within their faculty. They did not think the lacrosse players deserved their help.”
The Bar depositions brought to light at least two, previously unrevealed, March 2006 meetings between the DPD and the Duke Police. And Ben Himan speculated that information from the Duke Police was funneled to Nifong through his then-assistant, Sheila Eason, whose husband works for the Duke Police.
Trumpbour's post raises the question of what the Duke Police knew, and when the Duke Police knew it.
Yesterday’s post explored the somewhat . . . peculiar . . . arguments of Group of 88 member Pete Sigal. Lest it seem as if Sigal is a fringe figure—either at Duke or in the profession as a whole—guess again. This past spring, Sigal helped to organize a conference under the Duke History Department’s auspices. The title? “Ethnopornography: Sexuality, Colonialism and Anthropological Knowing.”
Sigal, meanwhile, served as co-chair for the Program Committee of the American Historical Association, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious group of academic historians. The AHA long has been considered a paragon of political correctness—it requires, for instance, that all (three- or four-person) conference panels include at least one woman. The conference theme reinforced Sigal’s preconceived notions: he searched for panelists who would call “upon us as historians to reflect on historical processes that have resulted in persistent and dramatic material inequalities” and who would “explore the possibility of alternative narratives that move beyond the Eurocentric explanations of the past.”
Next year, Sigal will have one fewer colleague in the Duke History Department. Peter Wood will still be free to give interviews to Indy appearing to slander Reade Seligmann; and he will still be available to provide unsubstantiated gossip to the New Yorker that lacrosse players in his class advocated genocide against Native Americans. But at the very least he won’t be doing so from the classroom lectern. Wood has announced his retirement, and officially moves to emeritus status this winter.
Wood’s departure would seem to be a case of addition by subtraction—though, no doubt, the Group of 88-dominated History Department will ensure that the anti-lacrosse extremist is replaced by someone of similar ideological and pedagogical biases.
From the Liestoppers discussion forum: Officer Clayton had a busy day on Friday. In the morning, the photo of him at the Elmostafa trial appeared in the Whichard Committee as the embodiment of police intimidation. That evening, Clayton then went onto the mean streets of a local bookstore, on Harry Potter patrol.
The Florida Bar News featured a lengthy profile of Joe Cheshire, Jim Cooney, and wade Smith discussing the case. Their basic message: the system did not work in the lacrosse case, and Durham just as easily could have tried three demonstrably innocent people.
Cheshire: “The most frightening thing that can happen to human beings . . . and it’s happened throughout recorded history, is a rush to judgment. We saw and suffered a rush to judgment and luckily we overcame it. If we had been representing poor, indigent people, we would have never overcome it.”
“What we say is in America today, our justice system has in many ways become politicized. We have a war on drugs; we have a war on crime; we have to be safe in our streets; we have to make all of our citizens afraid to walk to their cars at night,” he said.
“What’s happened is we have developed a culture in this country where winning is more important than seeing justice is done. Winning and statistics are more important than seeing that justice is done.”
Cooney: “The problem is that is nowhere near the truth [to say that the system worked]. There are at least a dozen happenstances . . . that if we missed something by just a hair, we would be in the middle of a jury trial right now. We would be in the middle of a jury trial with three young men who were innocent.”
“It was that open file discovery that changed these three boys’ lives.”
“If it wasn’t for Dave Evans picking up his bathroom, and putting those fingernails in the garbage, we would have missed it. You take away those fingernails and we would be in the middle of a trial. How did Mr. Nifong think he would get away with it? The answer is, he almost did.”
“As we drafted the motions, we knew we were drafting the motions for the media; it wasn’t just for the judge. We had to be clear, every assertion had to have a supporting document.”
“The lesson in all of this is there is nothing inevitable about justice. Justice is something you have to fight for every day . . . every hour, and every second. It’s sometimes things you can’t control, like Alan Gell or the vote on the grievance committee. There is nothing inevitable about the right result.”
Smith: “It was time that this man [Nifong] should fall. The excessive weight of this man in human destiny disturbed the equilibrium. He counted of himself alone more than the universe besides . . . .
“Napoleon vexed the gods. Well, so did Nifong. How do you vex the gods? I want to know because I don’t want to do it . . . . It was arrogance, his willingness to use these boys to advance his personal career, a refusal to listen to evidence, refusals to meet with witnesses, a willingness to convict the innocent to advance his career.”
“I think the problem is not only did Nifong take this case out of the superior courtroom and put it in the laps of the public, but he stood up in the court and just spoke untruth to the judges. Then having spoken untruth to the judges, he hid this material for a long period of time. I think everyone knew that [disbarment] was inevitable.”