Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Few Updates

[Update, Tuesday, 11.51am: The N&O reports that in an unpublished decision, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of Angel Richardson, even though DA Cline didn't turn over to the defense a statement that someone else claimed he had committed the killing until the trial was already underway.

In a remarkable piece of legal reasoning, the panel conceded that the evidence was exculpatory, and acknowledged that the Supreme Court's Brady standard (as well as, of course, North Carolina's seemingly toothless open file discovery law) requires turning over exculpatory material to the defense, but that there's nothing wrong with "the disclosure of evidence at trial, so long as disclosure is made in time for the defendant to make effective use of the evidence."]

A few updates on legal matters from Durham:

False accuser Crystal Mangum has been deemed mentally competent to stand trial for murder. Such a finding, it seems to me, best illustrates how low the bar for competency actually is—if Mangum isn’t seen as mentally imbalanced under the law, it’s hard to see who would be.

That said, the false accuser still has her defenders. Mangum co-author Vincent “Ed” Clark recently offered the following:

"The one thing I would want to add to this is that the story has been reported all wrong from the beginning . . . The narrative that Crystal lied about what happened that night is not true either. I was involved in the case from nearly the start. There are so many things that people don't know . . . the Duke case got used by a lot of people to score points in North Carolina . . . Unfortunately, reporter[s] and the general public are too lazy to do the work it takes to tell the real story. If you could just see, read or hear any of the interviews Crystal did with major media like NBC, CNN and the Daily Beast, you would have a completely different impression of what went on. Unfortunately, the attorneys for the players were very affective [sic] in killing any interviews Crystal did that made her look favorable . . . What I can tell you is that Crystal didn't make up being hurt. There were problems with the case but it didn't have anything to do with the information she provided . . . attorneys for the players[:] Many of them wereon the OJ [Brad Bannon as Johnnie Cochran??], Michael Vick and other similar cases . . . Racists [sic] idiots have no idea that the poor white boys in the case are and their parents have strong connections to the very media the hate[??]. The stress and lack of support for our own community really hurt Crystal. She has struggled to try and have a normal life but can't. Those clowns have hounded her for over five years. It has been said and unnecessary."

It’s worth pointing out: (1) none of the lacrosse players sued Mangum, as they obviously would have done if they had desired to “hound” her; (2) even the Queen of Bias, former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy, didn’t find any evidence that Mangum was “hurt”; (3) if the lacrosse players’ families had such strong connections to the media, how to explain the guilt-presuming media barrage in the early stages of the case?; (4) given that Mangum went on record with her rape-by-levitation theory, it’s hard to argue that anyone could deem any of her interviews credible.

But such comments offer a sense of the continuing reputational harm to the lacrosse players caused by Mangum’s false accusations and the Nifong/DPD misconduct.

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The ethically challenged Tracey Cline remains Durham County’s chief prosecutor, even though her behavior prompted this extraordinary in-court remark from her former boss, now-Judge Jim Hardin: “In respect to motions in this court, and any others, please ensure they are factual . . . Consider this a warning and a public admonition as to that.”

That said: despite the public admonition, Hardin allowed Cline to “withdraw” her motions asking for prison-visitor records, apparently as part of an attempt to dig for evidence to prove her wild claims of a “conspiracy” against her. And Hardin chose leniency even though, as Andrew Curliss noted, “Cline offered explanations for why she sought the documents that do not match up with records requests made by her office's investigator or in the motions she presented to Hardin."

Meanwhile, the N&O is reporting that a Durham attorney, Scott Cooper, has organized a grassroots legal campaign to remove Cline from office—as the State Bar has requested between 800 and 900 pages of files from five of Cline’s cases.

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Duke has filed a follow-up motion as the university continues its efforts to conceal as much as possible regarding its spring 2006 decisionmaking process. In the McFadyen lawsuit, attorney Bob Ekstrand requested material from the two public relations firms retained by Duke to craft the university’s public response to the lacrosse case. The requested material included items of considerable interest to any student of the case:

  • Burson-Marsteller’s public relations advice and communications with Duke University, its administrators, officials, employees, alumni, board members, regarding both “on” and “off-the record” statements to members of the press;

  • Duke University’s actions on April 5, 2006, including but not limited to […] the firing of former Head Coach Mike Pressler, President Brodhead’s television interviews, President Brodhead’s Letter to the Community, setting up a committee to examine the culture of the lacrosse team, setting up a committee to investigate the Duke administration and/or the decision to create any of the 5 committees announced by President Brodhead on April 5, 2006.
In a sometimes overheated reply, Duke’s attorneys described the subpoenas as an attempt to “harass the Duke Defendants” by prying into “confidential commercial information.” Somehow, I doubt that in future letters to prospective donors, Duke will describe itself as a commercial institution.

In the event, I suspect Judge Beaty will side with Duke on this matter—but his reasoning will be intriguing.

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Finally, an issue unrelated to the specifics of the lacrosse case but one that touches upon some of the themes of the case.

A few days ago, the Suffolk (MA) County DA dropped all charges against New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had been accused of indecent assault by a woman he allegedly groped at a Halloween Party. Early press coverage, especially from the tabloid-ish Boston Herald, presumed if not guilt at the least a demonstration of extremely poor character.

When the charges were dropped, the DA’s office also released a video of the alleged “assault,” which the accompanying press release conceded showed what was, at most, “fleeting” contact between Edelman and the accuser—who neither the Globe nor the Herald deigned to name.

Perhaps, as occurred initially when the New York Times refused to identify Mangum after the exoneration, the papers didn’t want to do anything that might deter false-grope accusers from coming forward in the future.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where did the Wahneema article go?

KC Johnson said...

Hmm--blogger has just changed its interface, and for some reason that post vanished. Will try to track it down.

KC Johnson said...

I was able to recapture most of it from google cache, but a few comments were lost.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to watch that video more than twice, but is that female backing up to get into position right in front of the male? Is she then trying to drag him back as he tries to get around? If that's what's happening in that video, then I would have to say, monumental criminal accusation FAIL! It is despicable that news organizations won't broadcast or print the names of false accusers. What of their duty to the public?

This line was much appreciated a guffawed upon, Professor Johnson: "Perhaps ... the papers didn't want to do anything that might deter false-grope accusers from coming forward in the future." MOO! Gregory

skwilli said...

Surveillance video from 6 different angles during the entire Duke party would not change the "true believers" among the 88 and the Race/Class/Gender crowd. The rest of us would smile that all of our opinions are justified.

Anonymous said...

The video shows that the blurred-out accuser was wearing exposed garters. What happened as Edelman passed was extremely brief and obscured by other patrons, but Edelman appears to have tried to (or jokingly acted as though he intended to)snap one of her garters quickly as he passed. Just afterward, as he travels along in the crowd he glances back and grins. Did Edelman miss the garter, and briefly touch something else? The video certainly doesn't tell us. What's clear is that there was hardly any contact, if indeed there was any at all. The less-than-a-second event can't have seemed like any great affront until, some time afterwards, she discovered who had done it.

The lesson? Just look at the garters, Edelman: geez, we've been over this in practice.

Anonymous said...

I saw a little clearer (enhanced?) version of this video. It showed Edelman putting his hand on the girl's leg, near what looked like a garter, for a milisecond. He should not have touched her, there, in the manner he did. HOWEVER, she moved in front of him, and the video showed her moving her body toward his, in time with music. So, it seemed to me to be a stupid, but really trivial thing. Certainly not worth an assault charge. I think we have all seen far more indiscriminate touching, by both sexes, in public places....consensual or not.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is a little off topic.
It's almost Christmas and I want to wish the lacrosse guys, their families, their wonderful Coach Pressler, their attorneys and their supporters....a merry christmas and a warm holiday. And, Professor, I want to express my gratitude for your continued following of the rape hoax case and all its sordid aftermath.

Steve White said...

Regarding the competency of Crystal Magnum, as I understand it (please correct me if I am wrong), the standard for legal competency is not the same as the standards (such as the DSM-IV) for a medical diagnosis of mental illness. Ms. Magnum might well have such a diagnosis while at the same time be judged competent to stand trial. This certainly happens in other high profile cases.