[Updates, 4 July, 5.22pm: Two Daily Beast pieces worth noting. The first, from Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, uses the DSK case to analyze the problems with the public's response to rape allegations in general. Virtually Dershowitz's entire essay could apply to the lacrosse case, none more so than the following: "Special sex prosecutors and special rape prosecutors are often agenda driven. Too often they believe they’re on a mission and treat the alleged victim in a way that’s different from how they handle any other crime. They’re zealots; I call them Nancy Grace prosecutors. She behaves on her TV talk show as if there’s no such thing as innocence; everybody arrested is guilty. I believe there’s been a Nancy Grace aspect to this case. The prosecution presented its case in public as if there were no doubt about the alleged victim’s credibility or the complete guilt of the alleged offender."
Second, from DSK defender Bernard Henri-Levy. I'm dubious about the more general defense of DSK's character associated with Henri-Levy's earlier comments on the case. But his essay contains one very important item, in his reflection upon a letter by Bill Keller, the retired executive editor of The New York Times, in which "he said he was 'struck' and 'puzzled' by the fact that '57 percent of the French public' and, in particular, '70 percent of the Socialists' seemed to embrace the cause of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whereas 'one might expect' them 'to be ideologically empathetic to an African hotel maid.'"
That comment unintentionally offers insight into the Times' decision to so heavily slant its lacrosse case coverage in favor of Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum. It's no secret that the non-Murdoch media leans to the left, to such an extent that "one might expect" them "to be ideologically empathetic to an African"-American alleged student. Perhaps this is why, early in the case (see UPI, p. 120), Times editors made the conscious decision to downplay evidence of innocence in the paper's coverage.
[Updates, 2 July, 1.40pm: The Times today--showing an intent to explore the news that was sadly lacking in its Duke case coverage--brings more information, suggesting that the Nifong/Vance comparison might be more apt. Today's article reveals that a debate occurred as to how fast to press for an indictment, with the ultimate decision to rush ahead with an indictment (and to make public comments about the reliability of the "victim") before the investigation was anywhere near complete. That decision, obviously, was a grave mistake. See Ann Althouse's post for more on the effects of these actions; but also this counter-intuitive post from Feministe observing that, at the least, Vance's office turned over exculpatory information promptly to the defense, in sharp contrast to Nifong's handling of the Meehan report.
Two other matters: One, a question from the previous thread, asking me for what I considered Nifong's chances to be of his regaining his law license in 2012. My answer: his chances are very, very, very remote.
Two, see the comment in this thread from an "Edward G. Nilges" for evidence of how the unethical actions of Nifong and the DPD continue to harm the falsely accused players, and thus why the civil suit continues to matter. Even if only 1% of the American public is as ignorant as Nilges, we're talking about more than 3m people.]
The New York Times appears to have suddenly discovered the importance of evaluating the accuser’s credibility when reporting on sexual assault cases. Last night, the paper broke the story that the rape case against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been badly weakened (fatally undermined?) by enormous gaps in the accuser’s credibility. To get a sense of just how enormous, here’s the prosecutors’ letter on some of the problems.
One can imagine how the Times’ Duff Wilson (who was promoted after his coverage of the lacrosse case) would have reported the news: “Although DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. discovered big holes in the case, including the fact that his accuser is a serial fabricator, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury.”
Vance’s decision to affirm for the cameras a stronger case than he actually possessed was Nifongesque. And comparisons to the lacrosse case, which have appeared frequently in the last 24 hours, are hard to avoid.
That said, the comparison can be overdrawn, in at least two respects. First: while the decision to arrest clearly was made before anything resembling a comprehensive police investigation occurred, there’s no evidence (to date) that DA Vance personally corrupted the inquiry, as occurred with Nifong and the DPD. Second, and perhaps more important: the media critique of DSK’s personal characteristics seems largely correct. Regardless of the legal demerits of the case, this affair doesn’t seem to have been a case of character assassination, in sharp contrast to the lacrosse case.
In this respect, the more appropriate comparison might be the Garrett Wittels case. In late December, to widespread national coverage, the FIU baseball star was arrested in the Bahamas, charged with rape. To their credit, unlike the Duke administration, the FIU administration upheld the presumption of innocence and didn’t suspend Wittels; and, unlike the Group of 88, “activist” faculty at FIU didn’t choose to publicly go after one of their students. (A handful of hacks did try to exploit the case, offering bizarre arguments in the process.)
Wittels always maintained his innocence, and his accusers’ story always seemed less than plausible. Last week, all charges against the player and his two friends were dismissed, amidst signs that his accusers had lied as part of a scheme to exploit money. Yet the turn of events generated far less coverage than the initial allegations against Wittels; and the false charges had an effect—Wittels went undrafted in the MLB draft, apparently because of “character” concerns.
The Wittels and DSK cases do serve as reminders that the lacrosse case isn’t the only evidence against the “women-never-lie” claim of sexual assault.