[Update, 10.35am] In this morning’s Chicago Tribune, columnist Clarence Page reviews Until Proven Innocent, noting that “a breathtaking list of procedural abuses led to [Nifong’s] disbarment, resignation and prosecution. The abuses included the withholding by his office of DNA evidence for more than nine months that proved the athletes’ innocence. I hope Nifong spent his night in the pokey thinking about the young lives he ruined. I also hope he thought about the voters he flimflammed, along with a national audience, all so that he could be re-elected in his 40 percent black district and maximize his pension.”
That narrative comes through with painful clarity in a new book, “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case,” co-authored by Stuart Taylor, a National Journal columnist and Newsweek contributor, and K.C. Johnson, a history professor at
and CUNY. Brooklyn College
Nifong’s overreaching “may be the worst prosecutorial misconduct ever exposed while it was happening,” said
, in an interview. Taylor was one of the early skeptics of Nifong’s case. Taylor
Like the case, the book offers a chilling portrait of how the criminal justice system can nail and punish the innocent. Usually the innocent are poor people who lack the money, connections or other resources to mount a proper defense. In its concluding chapters, the book recounts several striking examples of poor blacks and Hispanics, in particular, who were sent to Death Row but later released as a result of misconduct by prosecutors.
But it was the racial and socioeconomic lineup in the Duke case—upscale white male students accused by a poor black female stripper—that excited passions in a different ideological direction. Left-progressive activists, pundits and intellectuals allied with the prosecutor to steamroll over any presumption of the boys’ innocence.
For some petitioners and op-ed writers, the young jocks provided too convenient a target as symbols of white male hegemony, runaway testosterone and every other agenda that could be hung on them like tree ornaments. Voices as varied as The New York Times and CNN star Nancy Grace come in for a well-deserved skewering here.
Think about it. If any institutions should be engaged in the critical reasoning that it takes to analyze situations like these, weighing claims and counterclaims, and sorting out facts from rumors, it is the media and college professors. The university, of all places, should teach not only good ideas but also the rational thinking that leads one to a lifetime of producing good ideas.
In that spirit, it is important to note the solid journalism that did occur, even if it failed remarkably to have much of an impact during the months Nifong’s freight train surged ahead. Besides
, there was Ed Bradley, the CBS reporter who died before the charges were dismissed, “60 Minutes” producer Michael Radutzky, and MSNBC’s Dan Abrams. Each courageously pursued the growing holes in the case, despite unsubstantiated countercharges by die-hard critics who would rather punish the messenger than listen to the uncomfortable facts. Taylor
“This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed,” said Reade Seligmann, one of the three accused Duke students. He and his teammates were fortunate to have the resources to fight back. Most defendants don’t. That’s all the more reason for those of us who believe in justice to scrupulously avoid pursuing personal agendas at the expense of the truth, no matter how much it may satisfy our preconceived notions.
Page joins such other well-known "right-wing" figures (at least in the Group of 88's version of reality) as Nadine Strossen, Michael Kinsley, Evan Thomas, and John Grisham in praising the book.
I’ve received quite a few e-mails from people who have had trouble getting the book at Barnes & Noble. If you have had difficulties, please put a comment in the thread below, with the location, and I will pass the information onto the publisher.
One alternative to B&N is amazon.com—which, I have been assured, received an emergency re-shipment of books to fill all orders more quickly. Amazon also allows reader reviews, which I occasionally use—not so much for the individual (pseudonymous) reviews, but to get a sense of the general consensus.
Of course, any system that allows such practices can be abused. The one negative review the book has received came from a “T. Edwards.” “T.,” it turns out, has reviewed only one other book on the amazon.com system, a 2005 offering from Bernard Goldberg. The two reviews offered by “T.” border on self-plagiarism.
“T.,” 2005: “I will confess at the outset that I did not read the entire book.”
“T.,” 2007: “I confess I only flipped through this book.”
“T.,” 2005: “I didn’t come across anything very new or insightful.”
“T.,” 2007: “I didn’t see anything new or insightful in the sections I did read.”
“T.,” 2005: “The whole enterprise struck me as pretty mean-spirited cut and paste job.”
“T.,” 2007: “It has a cut and paste quality to it.”
“T.” does add a new claim for his/her 2007 review: “There is little, if any original reportage here.”
Just 65 interviews and 1050 sourcenotes.
More serious negative comments about the book’s portrayal of the Group of 88 came in a recent Chronicle comment section, from a self-styled “Duke instructor.” The “instructor” left no name or department affiliation, although he/she did say that he/she “went to a private university with lots of rich kids” and attends/attended graduate school at Duke. That said, I’ve heard many of his/her arguments second-hand, and am willing to speculate that the instructor is, in fact, an actual instructor.
“However badly it turned out, if you read their writings, the ‘88’ were trying to be on the side of students in some way, even while a lot of people outside the University were claiming that Duke was simply a bastion of white rapist privilege.”
So that’s why Group of 88’er Grant Farred called all Duke students who dared to register to vote in Durham “secret” racists; or why fellow 88’er Houston Baker published an open letter asserting, “All of Duke athletics has now been drawn into the seamy domains of Colorado football and other college and university blind-eying of male athletes, veritably given license to rape, maraud, deploy hate speech, and feel proud of themselves in the bargain.”
Imagine what Group members might have said if they didn’t want to be “on the side of students.”
“When we (instructors, grad students, professors) talk to people at other institutions, they often assume not only that the stereotypes about Duke undergrads are true, but that we support them.”
This statement is almost comical. I’m sure that when Wahneema Lubiano (“Many whites . . . might not ever be persuaded by appeals to reason, to what we ‘know’ and agree to be ‘truth’—that all men/women were created equal, for example”) chats with colleagues at academic conferences, they “often assume” that she’s a fierce defender of the stereotype of white male privilege.
“Most of the signers of the statement signed something that was simply a support of victims of rape and violence generally.”
It’s just a coincidence, I suppose, that the only “victim” of rape and/or violence mentioned in the statement was “this young woman,” Crystal Mangum. And it’s odd that 87 highly educated individuals believed that the statement was “simply a support of victims of rape and violence generally” given that its author, Lubiano, informed them in an e-mail that it was a response to the “lacrosse incident” and not a support of victims of rape and violence generally.
“When I said that the listening statement had nothing to do with the case, I meant that Nifong did not use the statement in trying to make his case; that is, it did not facilitate the case against the three defendants.”
The defense attorneys took sharp exception to this claim. Not only did they position the Group’s statement prominently in their change-of-venue motion, but they ended their initial PowerPoint presentation to the special prosecutors not with a visual of Nifong, or of Mangum—but with a visual of the Group’s statement.
“I have learned that no student at Duke is racist or sexist, and that is a logical impossibility that a Duke student could commit a crime, and that all our professors should be fired and replaced by KC Johnson, in order to avoid the giant left-wing conspiracy that will elect Michael Moore president, outlaw Christianity, and force us all to listen to ‘This American Life.’”
In fact, the blog—which has more than 1,000 posts—has never suggested any such thing about Duke students. It has said that I have never applied for a job at Duke and have no desire to work there in the future. Nor have any of the more than 1,000 posts mentioned Michael Moore or ‘This American Life.’ I did mention Christianity in one comment section, when I stated I was agnostic.
“By the way, BUY KC JOHNSON’S BOOK! ONLY $16.17 ON AMAZON! ALL YOUR QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED, AND ALL YOUR OPINIONS WILL BE PREPARED!” [original all caps]
And, if you want to know more about Congress and the Cold War, you can buy my book on that topic, only $22.22 on amazon.com. “A Duke instructor” appears unfamiliar with how the publishing industry works: in general, professors (well, most professors, anyway) write books, and publishers sell them. Publishers rarely give books away for free; readers have to purchase them, or obtain them from a library. “A.D.i.” might not like this system, but it’s hardly unique to this case.
“A Duke instructor” did make one undeniable point about the Group of 88: “I’m not saying that they did a particularly good job, or that some of them didn’t get carried away.”
Despite the concerns of "T." and “A Duke instructor,” the manuscript was reviewed by as many people as possible--including a few unconventional auidences. The photos below show a reviewer taking the blue pencil to what became Chapter 25; and then the same reviewer, Darrion Sardo, engrossed in the final product.