An interesting recent exchange of letters in the (Myrtle Beach) Sun News.
First, a Patricia Robinson offered a borderline-incoherent missive:
Let’s get real about this rape and the contempt [charges]. I wasn’t there so I don’t know what or who about the rape or lie, but what I do know is that whatever happened in that house, or to that DA, was for a good reason. One, the lacrosse players were acting like overbearing children, to call passers-by names[?!!]. I’ve walked past places like that and the childishness of grown men is ridiculous. I hope lessons were learned from this case that this didn’t have to be. We place football, basketball, soccer players above regular people or just turn heads to the problem. We see it every day, the way athletes are handled with kid gloves to the point they start to think nothing will happen.
Robinson’s letter triggered a response in yesterday’s paper:
To even imply that what happened to Duke lacrosse players Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty was their fault is absolutely ludicrous. These three young men were falsely accused; in fact, they were declared “innocent,” a step beyond “not guilty,” by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper in a nationally televised press conference in April. They were the targets of a rogue prosecutor who engaged in a pattern of official misconduct that included multiple material misrepresentations to multiple courts on multiple occasions, and as a result the “Duke three” and their families lost a year of their lives. They suffered physically, emotionally and financially because of one man’s personal agenda. For the rest of their lives, these young men will be known as those indicted in the Duke rape case.
Their fault? Anyone who believes that obviously has not followed the facts for the past 18 months.
The author of the rebuttal letter, Rebecca Bannon, is rumored to have a familial relationship with the DNA Breaker. Judging from her letter, I suspect that Dr. Brian Meehan wouldn't like her very much, either.
The new Durham Police chief, José Lopez, sat down for an interview with N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan. The results were—to put it mildly—disappointing. Sheehan writes,
[During a local appearance,] he was asked a lot of questions about the lacrosse case. He thinks these questions “re-victimize” the people of Durham.
He said he hasn’t read the key reports on the city’s handling of the Duke lacrosse case. They are on his to-do list, and he promises to fix whatever needs fixing. He won’t elaborate further. He said he will not take action or make changes just to appease the people “who are looking for blood” in the case.
It’s hard to fathom such an approach.
Allegations have been made—including, now, possible criminal allegations—of massive procedural misconduct by members of the Durham Police Department. And the chief can’t find the time even to read the reports on the matter?
The DPD was involved in obtaining indictments against three demonstrably innocent people. And the chief believes asking questions about how this occurred “re-victimizes” the people of Durham?
Lopez’s interview is Exhibit #1 justifying the civil suit against Durham. Absent legal pressure, it’s perfectly clear the DPD will do nothing to change its ways.
Mayor Bell, meanwhile, is increasingly finding himself squeezed between constituent and insurance pressure on the one hand and doing the right thing on the other. Bell, the person most responsible for the creation of the Whichard Committee to investigate the DPD, is doing everything he can to keep the inquiry alive. “We really need to know what occurred,” the mayor told N&O editors and reporters. “I don’t think the community’s going to be satisfied until we do.”
This approach differs markedly from that of City Manager Patrick Baker, author of the whitewash report suggesting the DPD handled the case properly. Baker is now saying that it was all Mike Nifong’s fault for forcing Mark Gottlieb and Ben Himan to appear before the grand jury: “I don’t know that there was any constitutional authority for us to say, ‘You know, Mr. District Attorney, we’re not going to answer your subpoena to testify in front of the grand jury. We think it’s time to shut [the case] down.’”
[This viewpoint radically differs from that offered by Baker on May 10, 2006, when he gave an interview to the N&O. Then, the city manager described a Police Department actively engaged with the investigation, asserting, “I’ve had a lot of conversations with the investigators in this case and with officials at Duke, and at no time did anyone indicate [Crystal Mangum] changed her story. If that were true, I’m sure someone would have mentioned it to me.”]
The Baker argument might make sense if Gottlieb and Himan had told the grand jury that Nifong was asking them to indict on no evidence. Somehow, I doubt that occurred. It also would make sense if higher-ups in the DPD—having been informed of the flawed lineup—had stepped in and ordered Gottlieb to follow procedure. Instead, they have continued to justify the procedural misconduct, whether in the Baker/Chalmers report or in the Ripberger deposition before the Bar.
At the same time, Bell—campaigning for re-election—is playing to the basest elements in the crowd in discussing the civil suit negotiations. Asked about his interactions with voters over the issue, the mayor responded, “They think it's ridiculous . . . People have heard there was a settlement with Duke. [The players] didn't spend any time in jail, didn't go to trial and now they're giving demands that could affect people's pocketbooks as taxpayers.”
It appears as if Bell believes that the federal government should repeal the section of the civil rights statute that allows those whose constitutional rights are violated by a government entity to sue that government entity, with a result that—if successful—would “affect people's pocketbooks as taxpayers.”
Perhaps repealing this civil rights protection can be a new cause for Durham’s congressman (and former Duke professor) David Price, whose silence throughout this case has been conspicuous. Or, perhaps, the state NAACP can come out in favor of weakening civil rights law to ensure that such suits can’t “affect people’s pocketbooks as taxpayers.” After all, the organization contradicted its traditional positions on so many other issues during the lacrosse case.
In the meantime, Bell might want to refer his constituents to this recent post from JinC, who spoke to several local attorneys and explains why the city is so vulnerable to a civil suit. (I will have more on this issue tomorrow.)
At Liestoppers, the always witty Joan Foster offers a poetic tribute to Mike Nifong and his law enforcement enablers, now that rumors of a federal inquiry have begun to circulate.
A name from early in the lacrosse case was back in the news last week. Attorney Wes Convington—the “fixer” recommended by Duke to the lacrosse captains, whose approach to the case presumed some good faith by the DPD, which obviously wasn’t there in this instance—was disciplined by the State Bar for a conflict of interest violation.
Covington previously had seen his law license suspended by the Bar for ethical violations.
One of the great unknowns of this case is whether the disaster could have been avoided had the players retained top-flight attorneys from the start.
Both the N&O and the Charlotte Observer express amazement (appropriately) that Governor Easley and his staff appear to have forgotten the state law prohibiting appointments of non-electors to North Carolina government offices.
Easley has engaged in an after-the-fact justification of the appointment of David Saacks, but his argument isn’t terribly convincing.
A deeply disturbing development last week involved Duke Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky. Cal.-Irvine has decided to start a new law school, and invited Chemerinsky to serve as its inaugural dean. The choice couldn’t have been a better one: Chemerinsky is not only a leading legal scholar, but he’s someone—in his previous stint in California—who demonstrated an ability to work effectively with politicians, journalists, and the public.
Under pressure from Orange County conservatives, however, the chancellor rescinded the offer—prompting a firestorm of criticism from groups across the ideological spectrum about the university’s commitment to academic freedom and its willingness to uphold high standards.
Yesterday’s L.A. Times reported that the chancellor might now be reconsidering his decision; if the Cal regents were smart, they would bring aboard Chemerinsky and find other employment for the chancellor.
Finally, for those who missed it, Kristin Butler’s latest outstanding column, from the Chronicle. As Butler appropriately noted, the Nifong trial featured more than its share of “only in Durham” moments. And, as she also appropriately noted, the Morey and Stephens testimony on Nifong’s behalf formed part of a broader pattern:
Over the past 18 months we’ve seen a succession of judges, assistant district attorneys, police officers, city council members and other high-ranking officials (like City Manager Patrick Baker and Chief of Police Steve Chalmers) lining up to support or cover for Nifong. Even newly appointed interim DA David Saacks-who is widely described as moderate and relatively untainted by the scandal-appeared on Nifong’s behalf at the contempt trial.
Read the entire column here.