Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Roundup

Continuing a pattern evident for several weeks, the best case-related opinion page commentary comes not from the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or the N&O, or (of course) the Herald-Sun—but the Duke Chronicle.

Last week featured two more outstanding articles. In a passionately argued column, David Kleban asked readers to put themselves in the position of Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans: “What’s a more frightening concept: being railroaded by an overzealous, obstinate, politically ambitious district attorney; or having members of your own community applaud him despite overwhelming evidence of both his malfeasance and your innocence?”

As Kleban noted, “These three are being condemned by professors and other students, not based on factual evidence or even individual character, but on nebulous accounts of an entire team’s history of being less than ‘angels’,” while becoming “the scapegoats of a radical segment of academia.”

Highlighting several of the most outrageous comments about the case, Kleban reasoned that Duke has witnessed “a malicious and irrational desire to get even with an entire class of white male oppressors through three individuals who may be ‘innocent’ (quotations, I gather, are used to represent the apparent irrelevance of the term).”

Kristin Butler, meanwhile, turned her attention this week to the Duke-Durham relationship. She looked at a boondoggle proposal for Durham to build a performing arts complex that’s only four seats smaller than Carnegie Hall—funded, in part, by Duke.

Butler cited former president Nan Keohane, who cautioned against Duke being “seen as a money bags, as a rich uncle that can solve all of Durham’s problems”—and who added, correctly, that “donors and parents give money to Duke for projects and tuition, not to support the city.”

“Even some Duke professors,” Butler noted,

have jumped on the bribe-and-let-bribe bandwagon. My favorite among them has to be Joe Dibona, an associate professor in the education department, whose Nov. 8 letter to the Herald-Sun suggested a $3-million payoff in the lacrosse case. Although he doesn’t specify who’s paying, Dibona did note that $1.5 million should go to the alleged victim and $1.5 million to the attorneys, which would “serve the interests of any parties concerned.”

According to Dibona, the payoff would avert more “senseless and bombastic rhetoric in the lacrosse case.” He also assured me in an e-mail that if the “complainaince [sic] withdrew all charges, the students would be free of any lingering doubt over what happened.” This is presumably why Dibona thinks $3 million would be “a small price to pay for the solution of this painful affair.”

Decide for yourself whether or not you find Dibona’s suggestions credible; for my part, I found the proposal to be as classless as it is misinformed. But the point is that Dibona’s proposal is not so different from what passes for institutional policy these days, and I think it’s about time we held administrators—and ourselves—to a higher standard.
Duke administrators aren’t the only ones who need to be held to a higher standard. With the exception of Ruth Sheehan, neither the N&O nor the H-S appear capable of providing quality commentary on the lacrosse case and its broader effects. Perhaps, therefore, one of the papers should offer guest columnist positions to Butler and Kleban. At least then Triangle readers could consider some sophisticated commentary on the case.


In the past week, New York City has been shaken by a police shooting outside a strip club, where a groom-to-be was killed after his bachelor’s party. Two aspects of the case have seen echoes of the Duke case. First, the Queens D.A. has gone out of his way to avoid prejudging the case, almost as if he viewed Mike Nifong’s behavior as a model of how prosecutors ought not to conduct themselves.

Secondly, various civil rights protesters have decried the case as an instance of police misconduct. Al Sharpton has been the loudest such voice, telling the New York Times, “We prefer talking than not talking, but the object is not a conversation, the object is fairness and justice . . . And that will happen when police are held as accountable as anyone else.

The facts of the Queens case remain murky, but Sharpton’s demand for police accountability might carry more weight had we seen similar interest in the issue from him, or from others associated with the civil rights movement, in the Duke case. Instead, of course, we’ve seen the reverse.

A transparently fraudulent “after-the-fact” report from Sgt. Mark Gottlieb? An official Durham policy of meting out disproportionate punishment to Duke students? The police targeting an African immigrant who, apparently, did the “wrong” thing by coming forward to testify truthfully about driving Reade Seligmann? The refusal to re-interview Kim Roberts to sort out the contradictions between her statement and that of the accuser?

No demand for police accountability from Sharpton or the North Carolina NAACP on these and other case-related matters. If anything, we’ve seen the North Carolina civil rights movement position itself behind “non-accountability” for the Durham Police.


During the early months of this case, criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt performed critical service with her posts at TalkLeft blog: as someone with impeccable credentials as a legal liberal, she saw through the “minister of justice” almost from the start. A few months ago, TalkLeft extended into a discussion forum, which until recently hosted the most sophisticated give-and-take on the case.

Unfortunately, in the last month, a handful of Nifong enablers, one or two of whom migrated from the equally affected CourtTV board, have drowned out nearly all other voices on the TL board. While the general TL site continues to offer important commentary on the case, the forum now consists of little more than peculiar conspiracy theories reflecting a mentality of guilty until proved innocent; vitriolic denunciations of the motives and effects of Nifong’s critics; and bizarre assertions that city regulations are merely advisory for police and district attorneys.

Fortunately, Liestoppers has an up-and-running discussion forum, and most of TL’s quality commenters migrated to the Liestoppers board. I’ve added a link in the sidebar.


Those inclined toward dark humor are invited to visit the Duke lacrosse website. Upon arrival, you’ll see an enormous screencap of . . . Richard (“If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough”) Brodhead.

The screencap is not of that statement, of course, but rather from outtakes of the president’s 60 Minutes interview, where he struggled to rationalize his administration’s acceptance of the “separate-but-equal” system of justice established by Nifong.


Before coming to Brooklyn College, I spent four years as a professor at Williams College, an elite liberal arts college located in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts. With Vermont one town to the north, New York one town to the west, and Pittsfield (a former mill town that peaked in around 1930) the nearest city, location wasn’t Williams’ chief asset.

But the college successfully competes for students against the Ivies by emphasizing the quality of instruction and faculty-student interaction. Class sizes range from 10 to a maximum of 30-35, with an average class size of 14. “The commitment of the faculty,” states the admissions homepage, shapes the college, where every class “is taught by a professor—a professor passionate about teaching . . . More than teachers, our faculty members are role models, advisors and advocates.”

As we move into a critical period for admissions—the deadline at most colleges and universities is just after January 1—how would the similar line on Duke’s admissions homepage read? Based on what we’ve all witnessed over the last eight months, an accurate portrayal would read something like this:

More than teachers, our faculty members are willing to publicly denounce their own students to an ethically challenged prosecutor when doing so serves their pedagogical or ideological self-interest.

That’s not the message, I suspect, that prospective parents planning to spend more than $40,000 annually want to hear.


Along these lines, is a concern with negative publicity in the run-up to the application deadline the rationale for the secrecy behind the Campus Culture Initiative’s preliminary recommendations? The CCI, of course, is ostentatiously one-sided, with Group of 88 members Karla Holloway and Anne Allison co-chairing two of its subgroups and serial denouncer Peter Wood overseeing a third.

I can understand why the University would not want prospective parents to know specifically how Holloway, Allison, and Wood intend to use the lacrosse case to transform Duke.


Duke chaplain Sam Wells, meanwhile, continued his uninterrupted record of approaching the lacrosse affair from an angle that would make even extreme advocates of political correctness blush. “The most difficult thing about this process, said he, is that its assumed in some quarters that to say this is a good time for Duke to think about its own culture is inherently to be making some kind of statement about the guilt or innocence of the three students arrested. Its felt in some quarters that the best way to stand by the three students arrested and the team in general is to say theres nothing to talk about. Thats difficult.

It seems to me that most of those who have criticized the CCI have not claimed that Duke should not address real or perceived problems. Instead, they have questioned the CCI’s transparently one-sided nature.

How, for example, can any serious examination of campus culture” not address the question of why, facing a McCarthyite prosecutor, 88 Duke professors signed a statement denouncing their own students, while months passed before the first faculty members publicly challenged Nifong’s legal misconduct (Coleman) or publicly defended the players’ character (Baldwin). And how could Duke appoint to prominent positions within the CCI faculty such as Holloway and Wood, whose behavior over the last several months has been indefensible?

To paraphrase Wells, the most difficult thing about this process is that its assumed in some quarters that to say this is a good time, as part of an overall examination of campus culture, for Duke to think about how the faculty rushed to judgment is inherently to be making some kind of statement about the quality of the institution. Its felt in some quarters that the best way to stand by the Group of 88 and the Brodhead administration in general is to say theres nothing to talk aboutat least not regarding the faculty.

Thats difficult.


Having grown accustomed to carrying water for Mike Nifong, the Herald-Sun has now decided it will perform the same task for embattled BOT chairman Bob Steel. Today’s paper carries an article reassuring all that Steel’s serving two masters (the federal government and Duke) will not constitute a conflict of interest.

Why? Because Steel and four unnamed government agencies say so. The H-S makes sure not to solicit comments from any of the good-government groups that criticized Steel to the Washington Post: far be it from Bob Ashley’s minions to present readers with information contradicting the editor’s preferences.


A few weeks ago, local lawyer Kerry Sutton embarrassed herself by expressing her glee at Mike Nifong’s election, a sentiment highlighted in a Herald-Sun article that falsely implied that Sutton was involved in Dave Evans’ defense.

A H-S piece from last week offers a glimpse into the rationale for Sutton’s comments: she’s interviewing for a newly created Durham judgeship. Doubtless Sutton recognized that getting in the good graces of the “minister of justice” would enhance her chances of the appointment.


North Carolina has just passed new laws that broaden the range of options that police can use to test for alcohol-related offenses.

In virtually every jurisdiction in the state, this new policy sounds like an improvement over the current situation. In the Wonderland that is contemporary Durham, two provisions of the new policy threaten to expose Duke students to even greater danger from the Durham Police.

First, the police now can make arrests for underage alcohol consumption not only when someone under 21 attempts to purchase alcohol or is spotted with an open container, but if, the N&O reports, “a pocket-size gadget finds alcohol on the breath of anyone under 21.” Expect members of the DPD to spend their Saturday nights prowling the fringes of the Duke campus to expose more Duke students to the “separate-but-equal” system established by Durham County’s “minister of justice.”

Second, in making a DWI arrest, police can use a test called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. To quote the N&O, “An officer holds a pen or flashlight before the driver’s eyes and moves it back and forth. Most people can track the object smoothly. If the driver is impaired, the eyes twitch and jerk—an involuntary movement called nystagmus.” Of course, this test assumes the officer conducting it has integrity. Will we start seeing Sgt. Mark Gottlieb suddenly “discovering” that drivers of cars with Duke stickers are unable to pass the test?

In most cases, giving common-sense discretion to law enforcement officers is a good thing. In a “separate-but-equal” system, such discretion is a recipe for disaster.

Hat tip: M.G.


Anonymous said...

Great job on this one, K.C. The only way to make cockroaches scatter is to shine the light on them. (We can hope that someone will supply the Raid down the road, but for now, the best we can do is to keep shining the light and keeping on the heat.)

Anonymous said...

Chicago writes:

Thanks for the great work KC. It is really going to take someone with balls to stand up to all this lack of justice. As of now, you and a few others are the only people willing to do so. I think it would be fantastic to see someone like Coach K go to bat a little bit more for the Duke 3.

I am so terribly disgusted and sickened by everything in this case. However, I am more sickened by the position Broadhead, the BOT, and the group of 88 have taken.

Anonymous said...

Many of us thought Duke was a place full of top-flight professors. How does the logic-impaired education prof get hired?

Anonymous said...

When did it become accepted wisdom that money can make the bad go away? Pay the stripper for $1.5 million for what?

Anonymous said...

Please see the article in today's N&O: "D.A.'s Critics Ask Bar, Feds to Intervene"


The Dude said...

I am looking for a link to Gottlieb's report. Also the other police reports that exist. Can you or your excellent followers(of the Duke Lax Case) provide these links? I have had a good amount of luck getting the reports/statements/etc.. from your readers and that of Liestoppers. I plan on reviewing the Gottlieb report and assigning my class to review same and do a report for their final exam. I will share any interesting observations with you.
Thanks for the great reporting and claim your Pulitzer prize.

Anonymous said...

Those Duke student certainly write more eloquently than do their professors. Furthermore, they use this thing called logic, that apparently is out-of-fashion with the arts and sciences faculty at Duke. Thus, I must conclude that they have been doing outside reading or maybe even reading Durham-in-Wonderland. (When will Duke try to bad this blog? Is that the next step of the "campus initiative"?)

As for Gottlieb's report, or whatever one calls that work of fiction, remember that it was LEAKED to the NY Times in violation of the judge's gag order, and that leaking almost certainly came from the police/prosecution side. No doubt some readers here will say that the defense might have done it, but keep in mind that the tone of the article was pro-prosecution, and the NY Times itself has squarely been on Nifong's side from the start.

Therefore, I think logic (something that is banned in Durham) tells us that Nifong and company broke the law, and I hope that the defense uses that as well in its case against Nifong.

The N&O piece was encouraging, but I will believe that Nifong will suffer consequences when I see it. As for the feds being involved, don't look for the people who have given us the ridiculous TSA and the recent bogus "Mayfield" investigation somehow to ride to the rescue here. As one who has written articles and papers for several years on prosecutorial misconduct at the federal level, I cannot imagine a U.S. attorney being willing to jump into this one.

In fact, it would not be a stretch in U.S. Department of Justice logic to claim that the Duke 3 are "terror suspects." After all, the DOJ has made huge leaps of logic before. I think it would be better to leave the feds out of it, although the idea of seeing Nifong squirming under his own medicine would be a nice Christmas present for many people.

Anonymous said...

KC, re: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test' - from Wiki:

Diseases presenting nystagmus
Some of the diseases which present nystagmus as a pathological sign are:

Head trauma (the most common cause in young people)
Stroke (the most common cause in older people)

Wiki also mentions that nystagmus occurs in ~1 of every 5,000-10,000 people.

AFAIK, the 'penlight test' has been used by LE for years. Even scarier are those states that allow LE to draw blood at the scene of a suspected DWI/PI.

I wonder... would the eyes of Nifong/Gottlieb/Brodhead/Steel 'twitch and jerk' if subjected to a penlight test?

Anonymous said...

It's not even legal to pay her money in exchange for case going away.

Anonymous said...

KC, could we have more concept-driven posts, fewer personality driven?

haven't we already posted about stupid affirmative action recipients like holloway?

let's look at the holloways of the world this way:

they are academic parasites who have no business in any university, never mind duke--because she comes from a politically active race, we have to admit her


i'm sick of posting on their low iqs and lower morals

Anonymous said...

re John In Carolina:

Doesn't he write like a plumber who has 12 credits from community college?

KC, can we get rid of this lightweight?

He's a cognitive embarrassment

Anonymous said...

In response to 11:29 am--

KC does fine as he is. No change in this website is necessary. "Personality-driven" comments are of the utmost importance with regard to a fiasco such as the Duke lacrosse case.

It is essential to bring into broad daylight the "personality" of Durham, NC and its inhabitants in order to help normal and intelligent people of this country understand how something like this could go on and on and on.

"Acitvists" who comprise a large segment of the parasitic element of society live to discuss "personalities".

Mike Nifong began this hoax with discussion of "personalities". Now we must discuss his personality and the personalities of those who are happy about what he has done.That way the rest of us can get a glimpse into true evil.

Try to live with it.

In response to 11:39 am--

"He's a cognitive embarrassment."

Oh, wow! Well at least someone who is a Nifong supporter has been able to put a subject and a predicate together.

Don't know about John in Carolina; however, perhaps he's just suffering from too much of a public school education where many high school graduates can't even read.

But I don't think John suffers from that condition. I just think you don't like what he writes.

All this reminds me of a Tavis Smiley forum that was aired on C-Span a few years ago. A belligerent black woman with missing teeth and an inability to speak in an articulate way was at the microphone spewing childish ad hominems about George Bush and how stupid he is.

She called herself a poet. Ha!

I remember how sorry I feel for people like that. It is they who are so uneducated---even though a free ride for any black student is available in this country---that they really don't know how much they don't know.

As in the Duke lacrosse case, people like this only want to rage and complain and demand.

Demand everything with almost nothing positive to offer society. Most of us have grown tired of such people. Very, very soon these parasites will be marginalized totally.

One has to look no further for inarticulate utterances than the Congressional Black Caucus, or a visit to a college department of education.

Don't throw such trash unless you want others to start telling the truth LOUDLY.

Anonymous said...

11:39 AM poster: I am quoting what you said:
re John In Carolina:
Doesn't he write like a plumber who has 12 credits from community college?
KC, can we get rid of this lightweight?
He's a cognitive embarrassment

You are obviously a disturbed person. I am disappointed there isn't a way to block off people like you from commenting on serious blogs like this one. Your IQ is not high enough to be here. I am surprised KC did not remove your comment; it is filled with nothing but hatred! I do not know what your “beef” is, but from your rants, it is clear you have an agenda. The problem is you are not man enough to argue for your agenda openly. You have to hide behind filthy personal attacks on others. You are an embarrassment to human kind! I suggest you go and get your head examined. Alternatively, you can disclose your identity and tell us why you think John in Carolina is a “lightweight” and the reasons for your insults.

Anonymous said...

Why should the most eloquent Duke three supporters waste their time preaching to the choir at Liestoppers just because TL gets a bit obnoxious. And just in case you're refering to my thread as a conspiracy theory I bet it would seem a lot less peculiar if the main conspirators weren't attorneys. Think of all the business they'd lose if folks weren't always having to defend themselves or helpless females didn't need restraining orders during their divorces

Dc Victm

Anonymous said...

The false accuser will never receive a penny from the families of the falsely accused. If she is lucky she will serve the minimum senctence by admitting the false allegations, for perjury she will recieve the maximum times 3, thats 60 years in jail. Times running out Crystal. Fess up.

Anonymous said...

To 8:56 Bill Anderson: The FEDs don't see these young men as "terror suspects". They know these young men are innocent, falsely accused and caught in the trap of a corrupt DA. If anyone is the terrorist it is Nifong and the DPD who has terrorized the falsely accused and anyone who steps up to defend them or is a witness for them. On voting day, Nifong harrased and intimidated voters. The man is a bully and has taken his power way to far.

kcjohnson9 said...

To DC Victim:

No, I wasn't referring to your thread--sorry!

I was referring to the sporadic comments of figures who claimed that the defense attorneys (and 60 Minutes, Dan Abrams, etc.) were all part of some grand conspiracy to present a false view of the discovery file.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that I have no use for Nifong at all and would love to see him prosecuted and convicted. If the feds do it, or the NC Bar gives him what he deserves, I will be thrilled.

My point is that many of the watchdogs have taken the role of the fox guarding the henhouse. Maybe I will be proven wrong here, and if so, I will be the first to celebrate. I do not WANT to be correct in my assessments!

Anonymous said...

4:37: wonderful post

i am not a nifong supporter, but i do find JIC to be a bit weak in the gray matter

don't feel sorry for the "poet": the good news is that stupid people have higher self-esteem than the intelligent, according to psychologists:

Thus u have wonderful phrases like "brilliant like spike lee"--u get my drift?

it's a guilty pleasure, but i believe a lot of white and asian people would miss the affirmative action contingent: they are a lot of fun to make comments about

Here's an idea for a reality show: get rid of all whites and asians at duke, and revisit the campus in 3 years with a copy of ed listings in US News--

that says it all: nothing more to say

Anonymous said...

4:37 and 1:01,
If you don't like JinC, don't read it, and spare the rest of us your rude comments.

Anonymous said...

The thing about JIC is that he deletes posts that are critical of the lacrosse players, which makes his site sort of a joke.

Anonymous said...

precisely--i'm defending them, but based on their "60" interview, they struck me as privileged doofuses

c'est la guerre!