Stuart was present at yesterday's event--what he terms, correctly, "an extraordinary event in American legal history"--and has just posted a web commentary for Newsweek.
Six paragraphs into his statement, Cooper ended [the players'] agony: “We believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.” Innocent. Watching on TV, the defendants and their parents, teammates, and friends burst into cheers.There are few people who can speak with greater credibility on this case than Stuart.
Cooper did not stop there. “We have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night,” he said. “The eyewitness identification procedures were faulty and unreliable. No DNA confirms the accuser’s story. No other witness confirms her story. Other evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself. ”
The attorney general had done what prosecutors almost never do, and what many of the falsely accused students’ supporters had feared could never be done: He gave them their reputations back . . .
With Nifong leading the assault, the three young scholar-athletes had been smeared from coast to coast as thugs, racists, and probable rapists-by dozens of their own professors, by black and feminist leaders, and by many in the news media, for the better part of a year.
Nobody but cranks and haters will ever be able to hurl those lies at them again.At a defense press conference later in the day, the three defendants and their lawyers mixed eloquent testimonials to one another with expressions of anger-forcefully articulated by defense lawyer Joseph B. Cheshire V-at the Duke professors, journalists, and others who had so eagerly joined Nifong’s mob. But they also spoke thoughtfully of a broader lesson: If affluent young men able to afford the best legal talent in the business could be victimized in this way, imagine what must happen every day to countless poor defendants who lack the means to fight back against bad prosecutors and cops.
“This has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice that I had never imagined,” Reade Seligman told a ballroom full of reporters, teammates, and others. “We all need to take a step back from this case and learn from it.”
To prevent similar persecution of others, Roy Cooper called for a new law giving the state Supreme Court the authority to remove a case from a prosecutor who has shown himself unfit to continue handling it. Dave Evans and Collin Finnerty called for reforming the grand jury system to make it a real check on prosecutorial abuses; under current law, grand juries are rubber stamps, because prosecutors control what evidence they can hear and allow no transcript that would help keep them honest.
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,” added defense lawyer Wade Smith, quoting Shakespeare. “They have been tested in great fires,” he said of the three defendants, “and something great will come of this.”