Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holloway & The Potbangers, Together Again

So many different groups demagogued the lacrosse case to advance their own particular, and not necessarily otherwise complementary, agendas. Mike Nifong could use the case to consolidate his primary and general election victories. Bob Ashley could use the case to boost the Herald-Sun's appeal to Durham African-Americans. Sgt. Gottlieb could use the case to further his dislike for Duke students. The Times sports page could use the case as exhibit A of dangerous male athletes. The Group of 88 could use the case to demand curricular and personnel concessions for their race/class/gender agenda. Trinity Park activists (whose list-serv helped facilitate the infamous potbanger protests) could use the case to hammer Duke for alleged negligence in curbing student partying in their neighborhood.

These differing groups all took the same basic approach to the lacrosse case. But there's scant evidence that most members of the Group of 88 cared much about student partying. And the Trinity Park activists--while perhaps ideologically sympathetic to the Group's curricular beliefs--didn't go to bed at night worrying about new faculty lines, or finding ways to require Duke students to take more required race/class/gender courses.

With each of these groups, however, having made common cause in bolstering the tall tales of Crystal Mangum (and taking a hit to their reputations in the process), it appears as if the lacrosse case has created new alliances. How else to explain the following announcement on the Trinity Park list-serv, regarding an event tomorrow from Group of 88 extremist Karla Holloway:
Sunday, July 17, 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St.

Dr. Karla FC Holloway, James B. Duke professor of English at Duke University, will read from her book, Private Bodies, Public Text: Race, Gender and a Cultural Bioethics. Using historical examples, from the Tuskegee Study and Henrietta Lack to the more contemporary examples of Terri Schiavo and those hospitalized during Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Holloway demonstrates how [of course--ed.] race and gender play pivotal roles in medical research and treatment. A book signing will follow the reading.
One outside member of the list-serv caustically responded, "Be sure to bang your pots and pans in support of the presumption of innocence." (This suggestion is a good one, given that Holloway has never made a public appearance defending her extremism throughout the lacrosse case.) Trinity Park resident Sue Jerrell, however, would brook no condemnation of Holloway. "Move on," declared she. "There are so many truly horrific injustices out there that could really use a champion."

Given Holloway's . . . unusual . . . interpretation of due process and the presumption of innocence, I'm not exactly sure how she qualifies as a "champion" in fighting injustice.

hat tip--G.M.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


A few items of note:

1.) Jamie Gorelick and her Washington law firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, have withdrawn from representing Duke, after garnering millions in fees from Duke or its insurers.

All things considered, this development is probably a victory for the unindicted lacrosse players. Several people I know worked for the 9/11 Commission, and I teach US diplomatic history, so I followed the affair quite closely, and was consistently impressed with Gorelick. While her civil case filings weren't intellectually compelling, that had more to do with the difficulties of her client than her legal acumen.

Gorelick's oddly-timed departure also triggered an odd public accounting. In a response to a request from the H-S, the university's spokesman declined to explain what happened. But Gorelick herself gave a statement to American Lawyer. It reported, "Several motions filed on behalf of defendants Duke University and Duke University Health System Inc. have successfully narrowed the focus of the case to the point it makes sense for the two North Carolina firms that have been part of the defense team to assume control of the matter, says Wilmer public policy and strategy chair Jamie Gorelick."

The significant "narrowing" occurred with the court's accepting Gorelick's argument that the Duke student bulletin and faculty handbook aren't worth the paper on which they're printed, and in no way should be construed as legally binding on the university. But the university is still on the hook, of course, for myriad other matters (FERPA, the escapades of Tara Levicy, a failure to supervise its employees).

The combination of Duke's non-response to the withdrawal and Gorelick's bizarre talking-point response has to raise a few eyebrows.

2.) One very minor case mystery--the identity of the father of false accuser Crystal Mangum's two children--has been revealed. He's Richard Ramseier, who has petitioned a Durham court for custody of the children. The judge not unreasonably quizzed Ramseier on where he's been for the last decade. (The father said he was in the Navy and then had spent some time in California, where he had some financial problems.)

Given that Mangum is currently in jail for a murder charge, it's hard to imagine that a court could find her the fitter parent. But, then again, this is the Durham justice system we're talking about.

3.) U.S. Rep. David Price--Durham's congressman, a former Duke poli-sci prof, and the man who pointedly refused to criticize Mike Nifong at the height of Nifong's misdeeds--will receive the 2011 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, awarded by the North Carolina Humanities Council.

Joining Price on the dais is none other than Richard Brodhead, who will deliver the Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities.

4.) I barely followed the Casey Anthony trial, but based on Ms. Grace's past work, wholly endorse this judgment from Frank Bruni on Nancy Grace: "She doesn’t serve the cause of victims with such histrionics. She serves the cause of Nancy Grace. And she succeeds only in trivializing everything — and getting ratings. A record 5.2 million viewers turned to HLN on the judgment day. Apparently many of us share her appetite for gross caricatures of good and evil, and come out of this as graceless as she."

5.) Finally, a couple of long-term correspondents passed along to me news of Yao Ming's likely retirement. I'm sure that former Group of 88 extremist and current Cornell lightning rod Grant Farred is puzzled by the lack of attention paid to Yao's departure. After all, as Farred noted, Yao represented "the most profound threat to American empire.” Perhaps we'll soon see Pres. Obama and the House Republicans squabbling over which side deserves credit for ridding the nation of such a profound threat.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Few Items

Duke has just announced a new batch of trustees, including a judge on the 4th circuit--Allyson Duncan (Duke Law '75). The appointment presumably will require a double recusal--not only will Duncan need to recuse herself from any and all lacrosse case appeals, but I would assume she'd have to recuse herself, within the BOT itself, from any and all discussions of the lacrosse case. She was a Bush nominee.

Commenting on the DSK case in the Washington Post, Paul Farhi notes how the mainstream media has refused to name his accuser--even as she files a lawsuit against the New York Post. Alan Dershowitz (correctly) comments on the unfairness of this approach, and the article also (correctly) observes how, in an internet era, accusers' names can generally be easily found, making the anonymity policy even less defensible.

And then there's this absurd analysis from June Cross, in The Root: "Even in 2011, it seems, black women who accuse powerful men of rape have to lead lives above reproach. The Duke University lacrosse-team rape case from 2006, and the St. John's College case before that, bear witness to what happens when a young black woman of questionable repute charges rape against privileged men. But the life circumstances of marginalized women force them to make different life choices.

Crystal Mangum's problem wasn't her "marginalized" status--it was the fact that the physical evidence, in myriad ways, contradicted each and every one of her various tall tales.

Finally, the incomparable Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal praises Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance for his willingness to reconsider the DSK case in light of the accuser's credibility falling apart. She correctly notes that Vance's open-mindedness came as "no small shock in a society accustomed to prosecutors whose instant response to the discovery of facts that undermine their case is to dig in all the more aggressively—recall the Duke University lacrosse case, or the notorious child abuse cases of the 1980s—with assurances that the case against the accused is stronger than ever."

Friday, July 01, 2011

Rushing to Judgment

[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.