Friday, July 05, 2013
Updates: Mangum, Academic Freedom
First, Crystal Mangum’s long-delayed murder trial—the false accuser has gone through several attorneys, slowing down the process—is now scheduled, for mid-November. Mangum, who is supposedly financially destitute, posted bond several months ago, and is currently free awaiting the proceedings.
Here’s how the Herald-Sun described Mangum’s infamy: “Mangum became nationally known in 2006 after she accused some Duke lacrosse players of sexually assaulting her after they hired her as a stripper for their party. Those charges were later dropped.”
No mention of the charges being “false.” No mention that the state’s attorney general declared the players “innocent”—not merely that the charges were “dropped.” And a bizarre description of Reade Seligmann’s and Collin Finnerty’s role in the case, given that the quoted sentence—literally interpreted—suggests that “they” hired Mangum for “their” party, even though neither of them played any role in the organization of the party.
Such slanting in hard-news items has become increasingly common in the H-S since Bob Ashley’s return as editor. It’s almost as if Ashley wants to subtly shade post-case news coverage to make up for the discredited manner in which his newspaper covered the case itself.
Along those lines: the H-S applied its normal biases in covering Duke’s unsuccessful efforts to force me to turn over confidential, unpublished exchanges with sources for the book and the blog. The paper sympathetically portrayed Duke’s legal filings, triumphantly reported on Duke’s short-term victory before the magistrate judge in Maine, and mentioned my appeal. And then the paper suddenly lost interest—no analysis of major Maine newspapers and TV stations filing an amicus brief portraying one of the nation’s major research universities as hostile to the First Amendment; no coverage of the hearing before Judge Brock Hornby in which Duke’s high-priced attorneys found themselves immediately on the defensive, and in which they made extraordinary claims about the future standards to which Duke’s own professors should be held; no discussion of the collapse of Duke’s efforts and the ultimate vacating of the magistrate judge’s order. As far as readers of the H-S know, Duke now has access to my e-mail files.
The transcript of the January hearing is now publicly available, and I thought it might be worth highlighting two exchanges that the H-S did not deem newsworthy—since Duke’s attorneys, speaking (they said) for the university, articulated an approach to academic freedom that I’m not sure any other research university in the country holds.
The first exchange occurred less than a minute into Duke’s oral argument:
THE COURT: Well, I do have two questions. One is this, and this may be a rhetorical question, but Duke University obviously has a lot of researchers and academics of its own who write books, and whatever you’re seeking here may come back to affect Duke. So I take it this is the institutional posture of Duke University in terms of the academic freedom interests of its researchers and faculty members; is that right?
MR. SEGARS: Your Honor, I think Duke University would be happy with the rule that it’s asking this Court to impose on the facts of this case.
I expect that the next time a Duke faculty member receives a third-party subpoena demanding that he or she be deposed and turn over confidential, unpublished correspondence with sources, this exchange will be cited.
The second exchange came near the end of the proceedings, after Duke’s attorneys attempted to mischaracterize my arguments:
THE COURT: I understand the argument [presented by my attorney, Patrick Strawbridge] to be slightly different than that. I don’t think there’s any claim that the plaintiffs cannot waive their own rights or should not perhaps expect that they can be explored, but what does this do to future academic researchers, and future journalists as they decide to publish a book or decide to write something else? Do they know they’re thereby opening themselves to considerable expense and time involvement in responding to lawsuit discovery?
MR. SEGARS: That’s a good question, Your Honor. I think that the rule we’re seeking would tell those researchers academicians, journalists that, A, I need to be clear about the confidentiality I promised to my sources, and B, if I’m ever subpoenaed I need to make a record of that confidentiality with respect to the communications that I’m intending to withhold.
THE COURT: But it also says if I write a book I’d better expect to spend a lot of time dealing with lawyers in terms of producing all of the research work that I did and distract me from the next book I want to write because I’m responding to what lawyers want for an earlier lawsuit, right?
MR. SEGARS: That’s a fair question, Your Honor. On the facts of this case where the subpoenaing party has literally gone out and deposed 41 plaintiffs, we’ve subpoenaed the attorneys, we’ve tried to get what we could, and I hear what Mr. Strawbridge says, that I am unable to point to a particular document that Dr. Johnson has that I don’t.
To reiterate: Duke’s attorneys said they’re entirely comfortable with this standard being applied to Duke faculty in future cases. I wonder how many Duke professors are actually aware of the new academic freedom rules under which their institution operates.