Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Cohan's Trials

Now that his publicity tour appears to have ended, I thought it might be worthwhile to have two short concluding comments on the work of William D. Cohan. (You can read all of my Cohan-related posts here.)

First: a mantra of Cohan’s tour was the author’s purported intention to have the book function as a trial in the case. He described the book in this odd manner on Morning Joe, WNYC, WAMC, C-SPAN, the Michael Smerconish Show, and the Diane Rehm Show.

Leave aside, for a moment, the obvious: in the United States, political trials of the type that Cohan seems to have wanted don’t occur. Instead, when prosecutors (in the lacrosse case, Jim Coman and Mary Winstead, and through them Attorney General Roy Cooper) believe that the defendants are actually innocent, the prosecutors have an ethical obligation to dismiss charges.

But, again, leave aside basic rules of legal ethics. In a sexual assault trial, at a bare minimum four people speak: the judge, the prosecutor, the accuser, and the defense attorney. (Obviously in most cases, more people than four speak.) The defendant might or might not take the stand; in many cases, for various reasons, the defendant doesn’t testify.

In Cohan’s model of the book-as-trial, author Cohan functioned as the judge, and he certainly spoke (as, for instance, when he praised Nifong’s defense, which the State Bar wholly rejected, as “cogent”). Accuser Crystal Mangum was given the opportunity to speak, in a jailhouse interview in which she told still more tall tales (that medical staff had to pull wooden shards from her, that one of the students she falsely accused carried her to the car). And Nifong was allowed to speak. And speak. And speak. And speak some more, virtually always without challenge—even though in a real trial, a prosecutor who bore false witness would be silenced by the judge.

But in William D. Cohan’s “trial,” Judge Cohan never asked the defense attorneys to speak. He solicited no interviews from Brad Bannon, Jim Cooney, Joe Cheshire, Wade Smith, or Doug Kingsbery. Nor, when Nifong became the defendant, did Cohan seek to interview the men and women who prosecuted him, either before the State Bar or in the contempt trial. The author never explained this curious editorial decision, either in the book itself or in his myriad post-publication interviews. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, he never was asked, in any interview, why he deliberately did not solicit interviews from such key figures in the case.

In this manner, Cohan imitated the conduct of his book’s protagonist, when Nifong notoriously refused to speak with multiple groups of defense attorneys before the indictments. This approach was one of the many ways in which the line between Cohan and the disgraced prosecutor blurred to such an extent as to be almost invisible.

Second: consider one element from Cohan’s presentation of the ethics hearing, courtesy of the “honorable” and “quite credible” Mike Nifong. Discussing Reade Seligmann’s testimony during the proceedings, Cohan wrote the following, mostly consisting of quotes from his interviews with Nifong (p. 554):

“‘They [the State Bar prosecutors] were very surprised to find that Reade Seligmann came across very well, even though some of what he said might not have been true. And actually, he did come across very well . . . . [ellipsis in original] Not everything he said was true, but he did come across very well.’ Nifong was reluctant to specify what exactly Seligmann had said in his testimony that wasn’t true. ‘Some of the things that he said about the party, we had other things to show otherwise,’ [Nifong] continued. ‘There’s no point in getting into any of that. I’ve already talked to you [Cohan] about how his actions after the party indicated that in leaving he showed that he knew that there was something about that that he had to distance himself from. There were some other things that I pointed out that he said, about [how] [brackets in original] he was going to get married, which, of course, is exactly what Crystal Mangum said about the person she identified as Seligmann.’”

In the critiques of Cohan book, this passage hasn’t received much attention, presumably because the allegations are bizarre even for the reality-challenged Nifong. But the passage is revealing about the deeply troubling editorial standards that Cohan employed in his book, which Scribner’s editorial and legal staff tolerated.

In this passage, Cohan allows Nifong, unchallenged, to make three points:

(1) The State Bar prosecutors were “very surprised to find that Reade Seligmann came across very well”;

(2) Seligmann committed perjury on the stand during the proceedings, regarding “some of the things that he said about the party”;

(3) At some point in the case, Seligmann “said” something “about [how] he was going to get married.”

The first claim is based on Cohan’s inexplicable strategy of attempting to glean the State Bar prosecutors’ legal strategy not by interviewing them, or by interviewing their witnesses, but instead by interviewing the defendant in the case, Mike Nifong.

State Bar prosecutor Doug Brocker (to whom Cohan did not speak) confirmed to me that the Bar prosecution team was not in any way surprised by Seligmann coming across well. No sentient person could have been “surprised” that Seligmann came across well—his coming across well had been a major theme of the case by this time.

It remains unclear why Cohan printed something that he must have known was untrue. It also remains unclear why Cohan apparently made no attempt to verify Nifong’s counterintuitive assertion with the Bar prosecutors before including it, unchallenged, in what Scribner’s has termed the “definitive” account of the book.

The second item in the passage raises even more serious concerns about Cohan’s integrity. Could it possibly be that Nifong and his attorneys knew that a powerful witness against them had lied on the stand, and yet elected not to confront him with this information at the hearing? What possible rationale could they have had for such a course?

They had, naturally, no such rationale, because Seligmann didn’t lie on the stand. Indeed, on the stand, his only discussion regarding “things . . . about the party” involved material related to his alibi, as previously presented both in a defense motion and then to the special prosecutors, and verified through electronic evidence along with the statements of two other people. As with the first false statement in this passage, I confirmed with Doug Brocker that the Seligmann testimony contained nothing untruthful.

In this instance, however, Cohan wouldn’t have needed to have interviewed Brocker to have discovered that Nifong was lying. While Cohan didn’t attend Nifong’s disciplinary hearing, on page 619 of the book, he did imply that he watched the video of it: “There is also a treasure-trove of contemporaneous video recordings—from WRAL-TV in Raleigh—of events and press conferences as they unfolded.” At the least, he was aware that a video of Seligmann’s testimony existed. That video is embedded below.

Given the video’s contents, there are only two explanations for the second element of the passage above:

(1) Cohan unknowingly printed Nifong’s false allegation that Seligmann hadn’t told the truth on the stand. Cohan did so because he elected not to take one hour to investigate Nifong’s claim—even though he understood that his book’s chief source (Nifong) is a convicted liar.

(2) Cohan had, in fact, viewed the video of Seligmann’s testimony, and therefore knew that Nifong’s assertion was false. But—blinded by his partisanship for Nifong, his disdain for the falsely accused students, or some combination of the two sentiments—he printed the allegation anyway.

Either explanation would—at the very least—demand that Scribner’s issue a public retraction of this section of the Cohan book.

And then there’s the third section of the passage, in which Nifong reminisces that Seligmann had said “he was going to get married, which, of course, is exactly what Crystal Mangum said about the person she identified as Seligmann.”

The inclusion of this item, unchallenged, is nothing short of extraordinary. At no point in the case did Seligmann ever say something to the effect that “he was going to get married”—because, of course, in 2006 he wasn’t “going to get married.” He didn’t say anything to this effect in the Bar testimony, as Cohan could have confirmed if he had looked at the video of Seligmann’s testimony. Seligmann also didn’t say anything to this effect in any interview he gave on the case, or in any available document from the discovery file (which Cohan, despite his self-described credentials as an “investigative reporter,” seems not to have obtained).

Why, then, did Cohan print Nifong’s false assertion without any challenge or factual context?

(1) Cohan didn’t know the allegation was false, because he elected not to take one hour to confirm the veracity of Nifong’s claim, and because the book’s reporting limitations had denied him access to case-related documents that likewise had no substantiation for Nifong’s assertion.

(2) Cohan, in fact, knew that Nifong’s assertion that Seligmann said something about getting married was false. But—blinded by his partisanship for Nifong or his disdain for the falsely accused students or some combination of the two sentiments—he printed the allegation anyway.

Either explanation would—at the very least—demand that Scribner’s issue a public retraction of this section of the Cohan book.

Cohan’s willingness to publish serious allegations that he either knew were false or would have recognized as false with a minimum of reporting speaks volumes as to his goals in producing the allegedly “definitive” account of the case.

Hat tip: K.


William L. Anderson said...

Great analysis, KC! We are seeing what the Left always does when confronted with a claim that disputes the Left's version of the truth: lies and more lies.

I will take your analysis further, given that Cohan is the author of a number of other books that cover controversial issues or people. It is indisputable that "The Price of Silence" contains a number of false (provable) statements and contradictory claims:

(1) Cohan knew these things were false but put them in the book, anyway, in hopes that either readers would not realize their falsity or that he wanted to rewrite the account to draw conclusions that, while contrasting with the facts, satisfied his own leftist sense of "justice."

(2) Cohan was ignorant of the falsehoods and contradictions and did no fact-checking, forgot to interview the attorneys, forgot that Reade did not say anything about getting married, and pretty much was AWOL when the publisher was supposedly fact-checking.

Either way, Cohan is not fit to be writing books of the subjects his books actually cover. We are dealing either with gross incompetence of the kind that should disqualify him from writing books or we are dealing with an out-and-out pathological liar.

William L. Anderson said...

By the way, publishers actually do some fact-checking and lawyers go over material carefully. Tonya Craft is in the finishing stages of her book and her publisher is fly-specking everything in the text.

I only can wonder how or why Cohan's publisher did not do the same. One of the attorneys in the lacrosse case told me that Cohan's falsehoods come up to the edge of violating the Times Malice standards for public figures, but don't go past the line. My sense is that the publishers, along with Cohan, wanted to "rewrite" the story and knew they would get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Honest question: While Cohan's obviously an ass-clown, is his "book" evidence of blinding stupidity, venality, or a depraved (and failed) effort to generate cash from book sales?

Chris Halkides said...

Sorry to be a bit off-topic, but I have been thinking about the DNA on the fake fingernails some more. There is a case in Britain involving a taxi driver, David Butler. His DNA was apparently found on the fingernails of a murdered woman Anne Marie Foy. He was convicted partially on the basis of the DNA evidence but later released. A plausible theory is that he handled money which later carried his DNA to the victim.

Forensic details of the case are sketchy, but a few things can be gleaned from the information available publicly. One is that Mr. Butler's skin was unusually flaky. Two is that "The victim was also wearing a glitter nail polish, which proved particularly attractive to dirt - and DNA" How long did it take for Mangum's polish to dry? was it still tacky when the nails were recovered. Often, finding DNA on a fingernail is probative, but it depends on the situation. Even when there is DNA evidence, the jury cannot check its collective brain at the courthouse door. MOO.

Anonymous said...

Publishers have (low paid) fact-checkers for texts and some non-fictions but Cohan's book may have been viewed as one of those 'quasi non-fiction but entitled to its own biases books' where authors are allowed to blather on to make their preferred case and are known to continually distort the facts. Ann Coulter comes to mind for this. (Disclaimer: I am both or neither right or left and have observed pockets in all camps willing to invent and distort the facts to make their case). Cohen's POS strikes me as one of those books. Though it is still unclear to me what case he was trying to make. Perhaps he was one of those equivocators who try to make all participants sound equally corrupt so the really corrupt (those of marginal to very little integrity) can spare themselves the realization that some people actually have more solid integrity than do they, and those with solid integrity are their betters. (From recent evidence: Nifong reportedly referred to the exemplary lawyer Brad Bannon as a 'pissant'). Need I say more?


Chris Halkides said...

The head of the Idaho Innocence Project, Professor Greg Hampikian, was quoted as saying, "Fixing a miscarriage of justice is as easy as unbaking a cake." He has said similar things at other times. IIUC Jason Trumpbour may have said as much to Robert Steel, but the idea bears repeating. If Cohan does not understand this problem, then he is very ignorant of our judicial system.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post and comments by Mr. Anderson and others.

"...the passage is revealing about the deeply troubling editorial standards that Cohan employed in his book, which Scribner’s editorial and legal staff tolerated".

I've made 5 or 6 posts on the Cohan book and Professor Johnson's (and others') evisceration of said book. I love the "E" word! This one statement above pretty much captures (better) one of the main points I had been trying to make. I also like the idea of "blurring the line between Cohan and the disgraced prosecutor". A big regret I have is though Nifong is disbarred and disgraced (at least to some,his last name is now a transitive verb), Cohan is still free to be write, and Scribner is still publishing.

In my own perfect world, it would be a long time before Mr. Cohan gets another writing project. Also, Scribner would be totally humiliated, not saying they should go out of business, but they should definitely feel some pain ,loss of both $$ and respect for their irresponsibility.

I'm still totally depressed at some of the fawning reviews of "The Price of Silence" especially from individuals and entities of supposed stature. Again, did they ever read "Until Proven Innocent"? But it seems these days, ignoring generally unimpeached facts is often the first line of defense.

I could go on an on regarding aspects of the Cohan book but I won't; it probably would be bad for my health.

Jim In San Diego said...

@ William Anderson:

I very strongly believe that injustice is not a "Left" or "Right" issue.

I respect your views, and the contributions you have made here and elsewhere. I also firmly believe your views, many of which I share, would be more widely accepted without the label, "Left", or "Right"....

Our problem is that identity politics is such a powerful force everywhere now. An excellent example of this is the politics of the rape hoax, and the subsequent denouement of the issues of the hoax.

Those who do not have their own philosophical anchors well set do not get beyond labels. When there is a right and a wrong, labels actually get in the way of justice.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

"The head of the Idaho Innocence Project, Professor Greg Hampikian, was quoted as saying, "Fixing a miscarriage of justice is as easy as unbaking a cake."

And does Peter Neufeld agree? (He seems to have propagated the notion that DNA evidence of a magnitude of that in the lacrosse case (three people, no DNA) was irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Is Cohan a Communist?

Jim In San Diego said...

I read one reviewer on Hershel Parker's "Amazing Amazon" who pretty well summed up who William Conan is, and why he is impervious to shame:

"William Cohan is a crook, and an abettor of crooks".

My own astonishment today is reserved for the plethora of presumably literate, well educated people who puffed Cohan's book. Right up there with them are Cohan's publishers, who knew better from the start.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

To Jim In San Diego 12:44

While we all would love to see justice in all cases, there's no denying it as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

The JFN crowd and it seems Cohan have a somewhat different perspective of justice in this case than some of us who read and comment here.

That being said it's hard to deny the veracity of Bill's claim that Cohan has used tactics that parallel those of the current administration, much of the media and other so called left leaning advocacy groups.

Similarly KC has himself used left wing, right wing issues as metaphors while making many of his points in this blog. Countless times I've read references to "bad" Republicans (most frequently George Bush) and "good" Democrats.

Also included in posted articles are his attempts to fend off challenges to his political persuasion by using another common left leaning tactic, redefinitions of terms such as contraception and marriage.

It is difficult if not impossible to keep one's political biases out of an argument we'd all agree should be non-political. But it happens on both sides. I challenge you to dress down KC the next time he dismisses valid arguments from someone not because they care who loves whom but because they believe the traditional definition of marriage to include only one man and one woman, not some bastardized “legal” unions of individuals trying to beat the tax laws and/or find their own personal justice.


Anonymous said...

i do not recall if you mentioned this before but William Cohan will be featured at the Morristown (NJ) Festival of Books. "William D. Cohan, author of The Price of Silence, an investigation of the Duke University lacrosse scandal, will deliver the keynote speech." "Landing a marquee name was deemed crucial for the festival’s success, and Linda feels her team has struck gold with this one."

9/26-9/27 at the Mayo Performing Arts Center


A Duke Dad said...


Morristown Festival of Books
Presented by Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management


Featuring Wiliam [sic] D. Cohan, a Duke alumnus and the author of the just released THE PRICE OF SILENCE: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, a deeply-reported and brilliantly written examination of the 2006 Duke lacrosse team case.

William D. Cohan, a Duke alumnus and author, is the bestselling author of Money and Power, House of Cards, and The Last Tycoons. He is also a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, a columnist for BloombergView, and a regular contributor to the Atlantic, the New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and ArtNews. He is the winner of the 2007 Financial Times / Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award. He has appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, CBS This Morning, ABC World News, Good Morning America, Bloomberg TV, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Marketplace, The Diane Rehm Show, and many other programs.

The Price of Silence is a deeply-reported and brilliantly written examination of the 2006 Duke lacrosse team case. The true story of what happened has never been told in its entirety, and it is far more complex and profound than all the reporting on it to date would indicate. What happened at Duke explains how power works at the highest levels of ambitious academic institutions, which is to say that power always protects itself, even if at a great cost to others. Cohan tracks the fates of the key characters in the drama and updates the story, which even now contains new developments. His account is addictively intense.

Bryan Burrough, who will be introducing Mr. Cohan, says: “William Cohan’s fascinating The Price of Silence shows that the Duke lacrosse case was not just a controversial legal investigation that became a heated media circus, but a conflict that illuminates the fierce pressures on America’s elite universities as they battle for power and prestige and money. Cohan’s deep character study of the principal figures involved also reveals the case as a crucible of fate that created distinct winners and losers.”

Jane Mayer, Author of The Dark Side says: “William Cohan’s scrupulously reported and grippingly-written account of this elite campus horror story makes clear that if you thought you knew what happened at Duke, as I did, there is much more to learn. This is a story that ought to disturb anyone who cares about contemporary college life. For the first time, Cohan gets many of the central characters to speak – and what they have to say is eye-opening.”

Anonymous said...

The only testament to the truth available to a broad swath of potential readers, resides on Amazon. Where would we be, where would the innocent and essentially decent young men who were falsely accused, be without Amazon? And where would they be now without Durham-in-Wonderland, Until Proven Innocent, and those high-minded defense attorneys?...And without the Amazon reviewers who are hanging in there, insistent that the truth be known.

I suppose there has always been a struggle between the truth-tellers and opportunistic predators. And there have been times when greater clarity was achieved vs. times when distortion prevailed (such as with Salem witch hunts, McCarthy communist paranoia, Nazi projections concerning non-Aryans...the Duke 88 professors and Duke president Brodhead's apparent abandonment of fidelity to the truth.) Perhaps there will always be Us moving society forward on solid ground vs. Them taking advantage of the moment without concern for foundations.


Jim In San Diego said...

@DM, 5:14

I understand clearly where you are coming from. We both want to get to the same place.

I just disagree, somewhat, from the point of view of persuasive argument, about how to get there.

My argument is this:

1. There is, sometimes, demonstrably a right and a wrong.

2. When there is demonstrably a right and wrong, it is best to make the argument, again and again, and in all its forms. But, without applying labels to those who disagree.

3. The reason is that labels get in the way of persuasion. Labels energize identity politics and prevent us from listening carefully to argument, especially argument which conflicts with what we have come to believe is true.

Some years ago I wrote a blog for a while (title:"aworriedcitizen"). The theme of the blog was the immorality of our leaving so much debt for our children and grandchildren to pay. This is a highly political issue.

Many readers wanted to argue the debt problem was caused by one party, or the other. I made the following challenge on my blog, which I repeat here:

"Anyone who believes the larger issues are partisan issues, and the fault of the Democrats/Republicans, please take your side, and make your argument.

I will take the other side, and demonstrate why the problem is really the fault of the Republicans/Democrats."

I never had any takers.

(BTW, on several occasions over the years I have contributed to DIW, I have chastised KC Johnson, whom I respect enormously, for using labels (left, right, or whatever). It is in the record.)

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Amazon buyers rate the book at 2 stars, B&N 1.5.

I am no fan of Jon Steward, but even he tries to tell Mr. Cohan he picked the wrong case.
However,Cohan understands that history is bunk and and clearly wants to leave rationalizations for future history professors.

Jim In San Diego said...


Barnes & Noble reviewers rate the book lower even than Amazon (which has a certain number of obvious shill 5 star reviews).

In fact, there is not one word of praise for "Price" anywhere amongst any of the reviews. (there is 1 x 5 star review, submitted without any text).

Favorite quote from B&N reviewers: "Something happened in the making of this book....something none of us would be proud of"

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

To 7/2/14, 5:27 and 7:52 AM:

To me there is no other explanation for such publicly written nonsense except that some people reside in a parallel universe, especially those involved with the Morristown Festival of Books. I would seriously doubt if those putting on this affair have read "Until Proven Innocent" (UPI) by Johnson and Taylor. Are they even aware UPI was written and, unlike "The Price of Silence", impeccably sourced?

Agree with 10:01 re Amazon, and I include other fora, especially Durham-in-Wonderland. This case seems to be one that people will always tend to want to revise and reinterpret. Depressing, I tell you!

skwilli said...

The twisting of the knife is the part I like best. Symbolically, of course. Twist, KC, Twist!

Anonymous said...

"But in William D. Cohan’s 'trial,' Judge Cohan never asked the defense attorneys to speak."

Pragmatism has a description for this: "dis-ease." On this view, one is justified in ignoring and evading any obstacle, argument or fact that hinders the satisfaction of a desire.

As KC has clearly demonstrated, Cohan's desire is to resuscitate Nifong/Duke and impugn the lacrosse players. Interviewing the defense attorneys would have caused him "dis-ease," so he ignored him.

KC: Thank you for the truly excellent dissection of Cohan's fantasies.

Duke Prof

Chris Halkides said...

I found several of Peter Neufeld's comments about this case, including this one from Tim Whitmire's reporting: "There could be several reasons why the tests didn't find any DNA evidence, said Peter Neufeld, co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic. "Obviously, if people sexually assaulted her and wore condoms, you would not expect to see any semen left behind. That's No. 1," he said. "No. 2, in most sexual assault cases, the perpetrator does not transfer his own pubic hairs to that of the victim ... so there can certainly be a rape even in the absence of semen being recovered."

Nothing he said about the case was wrong, but it was very general and at times incomplete. For example, if you grab someone and hold them very tightly, there may be DNA transferred. I don't think that Mr. Neufeld was trying to help the prosecution's case so much as he was trying to answer Wilson's and other reporters' questions. Some people who covered this case asked slanted questions and ignoree the nuances in the answer.

Anonymous said...

Chris, when were those statements by Neufeld made by Peter Neufeld?



Anonymous said...

Translation: when were statements by Neufeld made, according to Whitmire's reporting?

This iPad has a mind of its own.

Chris Halkides said...

“The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence,” said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project (11 April 2006). I believe his statement about the absence of evidence were reported in the Washington Post on 23 April 2006. With respect to the quote I previously gave, I found it reposted without a date. Just now I found a portion of the same quote from a story that first appeared on 17 April 2006 and was later reposted. link

UPI notes (p. 164) that Neufeld later said that Duff WIlson had not told him any of the details of the case. I am unaware of any comments from Mr. Neufeld after the information came out in December of 2006. My view of Mr. Neufeld's comments is also colored by the information in a link I provided several months ago. A blogger had interviewed some of the top DNA experts in the country at roughly the same time as these articles. Their answers tended to be couched in cautious language, but the blogger who solicited their comments was clearly leaning pro-guilt and interpreted their words through that lens.

Chris Halkides said...

Let me add that I don't think Mr. Neufeld handled the DL situation perfectly, but I would make allowances for the fact that he probably gets called upon to make comments on many cases and prefers to keep his comments very general. I am unaware of evidence of conscious bias against the players.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris. Do you believe this statement by Peter Neufeld is true: "The truth is, if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a small number of cases is there DNA evidence." I don't see how that could be true but I have no expertise in any related field though I do read crime novels whose authors seem to dispute his claim. In addition, Nifong and his gang seemed to put great stock in DNA results. That is, until the actual DNA results did not support their claims :)


Chris Halkides said...

I have not fact-checked this particular statistic. However, it might be true if a significant fraction of alleged rape victims wait for days before reporting the attack. I posted a set of guidelines for alleged victims of sexual assault, which noted that showering and changing clothes should be avoided prior to a rape exam. I am surprised that Mr. Neufeld did not mention this specifically. Or perhaps he did and the article truncated his list (he did say "several"). It is important to keep in mind the particulars of the DL case make the absence of DNA evidence more compelling than it would otherwise be. For example, Ms. Mangum was taken into custody before she could have showered.

Jim In San Diego said...


Innocence Project spokesmen in the past have publicly argued that DNA is found in only a small number of cases.

However, my recollection is these spokesmen were speaking of criminal cases in general, and bemoaning the fact that virtually the only way the Project has been able to have more than 300 convicted felons exonerated is thru DNA testing.

My knowledge of the sensitivity of modern DNA testing, which is not expert but is that of an informed layman, is that DNA is highly likely to be left behind in a rape. If condoms are not used, this probability arises to near certainty.

If Peter Neufeld actually intended to communicate that many rapes without condoms leave no DNA traces, I would be astonished.

However, I am still puzzled and resentful of how Peter Neufeld assisted in the prostitution of DNA science during the O.J. Simpson trial.

Jim Peterson

Chris Halkides said...

On the “weak no” side, Dan Krane wrote: “It is worth noting that DNA tests are amazingly sensitive (DNA profiles can be generated from as little material as that left behind in a fingerprint) and Y-STR tests have the potential of determining a male’s DNA profile even when a female’s DNA is present in hundreds or thousands of times greater quantities. Scientists are always wary of asserting that the absence of evidence is not proof of absence but it certainly is reasonable to expect to find a rapist’s DNA associated with a victim when the victim presents herself to investigators within hours of an attack and when she has not bathed, the rapist did not use a condom and ejaculation occurred.”


Anonymous said...

Bottom line: When Nifong's prosecution was about to be derailed by the DNA test results, and he needed a break, Neufeld gave it to him.

And he repeated his remarks on two additional occasions, weeks apart.

He had ample reason by then to have acquainted himself with the facts of the Duke case.

And even if not, he must certainly have realized, at some point, that the players were innocent. And that his words and reputation--as "the expert" on DNA--had been used to railroad innocent defendants.

Was silence his only possible response?

Why not have flown down to Durham and sat in on a hearing, at the defense table, and then taken questions from the media outside?

He could have come out swinging on behalf of both the innocent defendants--to whom imho he had a moral obligation--and on behalf of the reliability of DNA tests to prove innocence in a case like the lax case.

Personally I don't regard silence under those circumstances to be an appropriate response--especially when the danger of the conviction of innocent persons was at stake.


Jim In San Diego said...


Agree that Peter Neufeld's behavior in the rape hoax is hard to understand, since the whole mission of the Innocence Project is to win exoneration for the innocent.

And,the Project depends upon the reliability of DNA tests as their primary weapon to win exonerations.


....unless he and his firm had some engagement or had already been in consultation with, one of the sides in the case.

In that case, Neufeld as a potential expert witness in an ongoing case, and who had already been consulted by either side, would be unable to comment publicly on the case.

Jim Peterson

Chris Halkides said...

To change the subject a bit, I have a question about something that appears on p. 279 of POS. "When Mangum first identified David Evans as one of her attackers, she said she thought that he had a mustache, and when she saw his picture again during the photographic lineup without the mustache, she said she still recognized him as one of her attackers but noted he not longer had a mustache." What is Cohan talking about? This sentence make it sound as if Mangum identified Evans twice.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Chris Halkides' caution about not assuming beyond the evidence, and implicit in that, giving the benefit of the doubt until certain the negative is true. However, I agree with Moo and Jim, there is a strong possibility that Halkides responded to the wrong drummer, as did Durham's Innocence Project rep. when the spotlight was shining on her.

This makes me want to go out and celebrate on behalf of all the people with courage who can see clearly and stick to their callings, stand on their principles, and as such keep societies moving along in spite of the people who disappoint. It is possible that what Neufeld wants more than justice is approval from the powers that be. There might be other explanations for his seeming failure to assist in establishing the innocence of the innocent back then.....maybe not.


Jim In San Diego said...

@Chris, 8:57

Cohan has just got his facts wrong, again. On Mar 21, 2006 Crystal had not recognized him at all.

Her first ID of Evans was at the improper all-Lacross player lineup, where she said, "He looks like one of the guys who assaulted me, sort of"; then, "he looks like him without the mustache".

So Cohan, the lazy researcher, got his facts flat wrong, again.

(correct facts from UPI, p. 158)

Jim Peterson

A Duke Dad said...

Re: 7/2/14, 7:52 AM

Cohan's UnGripping, UnMagisterial, UnAuthoritative, UnSeductively Engrossing Book Tour will be at the 1300 seat Mayo Performing Arts Center in September. $20 gets you a seat for this.

Cohan will be introduced by Bryan Burrough, a fellow Vanity Fair contributor.

The rest of the Morristown Festival of Books that weekend is free, courtesy of Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management.

Anonymous said...

It was Neufeld who may have responded to the wrong drummer, not Halkides.


Anonymous said...

Still working my way through the Cohan book, I am to the point where he turns over the open mic to Nifong.

One factual matter that rings very unsatisfactorily to me is the accuser's school status (the book depersonalizes her as well). Is she a 3.75 student, or hoping to go back to school, or moving all around as her parent says? Perhaps that status changed during the prosecution time covered by the book.

Anonymous said...

"One factual matter that rings very unsatisfactorily to me is the accuser's school status"

IIRC, the defense attorneys were never able to ascertain that she was attending any classes at NCCU.

I don't know if she received any funds for attending.

NCCU should know; then Chancellor Amons should have known (did he tell Brodhead?); but none of these stalwarts for truth has spoken up yet...