The Durham City Council voted yesterday to approve an investigation of the police department’s conduct in the lacrosse case. Chairman Willis Whichard will be joined by four police chiefs, three of whom are white males; the fourth is a black female.
The Council members will choose the remaining seven members according to a hard quota system: two white females, two black men, and three black women. The panel makeup automatically prevents any Council member from choosing a white male, seeming to fly in the face of ensuring that the best available people are selected.
[Update, 8.41am: The H-S reports that the hard quota idea came from none other than Councilwoman Diane Catotti, who remarked, "This case raises so many race and gender issues it's important to have that parity." Does it make any sense to have the one member of the Council who opposed any inquiry at all be the guiding force on such an important issue?]
For instance, this inquiry desperately needs to include the perspective of defense lawyers. The North Carolina Bar website does not contain a demographic breakdown of its members, but, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 67 percent of lawyers in the United States are male, and just under 90 percent of the nation’s attorneys are white. Assuming that North Carolina’s breakdown is fairly similar to the national average, that would mean that a majority of the defense lawyers in the state are white males.
An ideal person for this commission, of course, would be Jim Coleman; and North Carolina obviously has many first-rate female or African-American attorneys. But, as City Councilman Mike Woodard noted, “I want us to find the best seven people we can.” With that as a goal, does it really make sense for
This hard quota arrangement is disturbing in a number of ways. First, it fails on its own terms. According to Durham’s population figures, more than 11 percent of the city is neither white nor African-American. Under a hard-quota philosophy, that 11 percent total entitles citizens from other races to one member (8 percent) of the 12-person commission of inquiry.
Second, one of Mike Nifong’s critical contributions to the lacrosse case came in his injection of race into the case. The disgraced DA took over personal command of the investigation on March 24, 2006. That’s the same day that Cpl. David Addison began his campaign of public slandering against the lacrosse players. Then, on March 27, when Nifong joined the publicity barrage, he repeatedly played the role of racial demagogue. The police and Nifong even elected to mislead the public to highlight the alleged racial angle of the alleged crime—as when Nifong and Kammie Michael suggested that someone other than Kim Roberts made the first 911 call, thereby creating the public impression that the lacrosse players hurled racial slurs at two innocent black women who just happened to be walking by the house.
By calling for a committee evenly divided along racial lines, the Council has effectively endorsed Nifong’s reasoning that the case should be examined primarily through the prism of race. As Brad Bannon told the H-S, "I always thought race was inappropriately injected into this case from the beginning by the district attorney with his comments. Race didn't need to be the factor it became."
Third, the purpose of this inquiry is not to retry the lacrosse case, although it appears that one Council member, Diane Catotti, is eager to do so. Catotti vehemently opposed even having an inquiry, and also denounced her colleague, Thomas Stith, for demanding that Mike Nifong resign.
At the council meeting, Catotti announced that she would use her selection power to name someone from the
What’s the mindset of people who work at the
Ottinger, who had just left her job at the
Whatever the ultimate outcome of the AG’s inquiry, Oettinger asserted, “that doesn’t mean a crime didn’t happen that night.”
Does Oettinger reflect the general mindset at the
It is always the prosecutor’s perogative [sic] whether or not to move forward with a case. The circumstances from which these charges arose – a party where women were hired to gratify young men – only served to denigrate men and women and further reinforce harmful stereotypes. The fact that underage drinking took place at this party highlights the reality that alcohol is a well-known aggravating factor in sexual assault, especially on college campuses.
There’s a rather significant problem with that statement: there was no rape. So how does the presence of alcohol at a party where no rape occurred highlight “the reality that alcohol is a well-known aggravating factor in sexual assault, especially on college campuses?”
The Attorney General has publicly stated that no rape occurred. So has City Manager Baker. So has Police Chief Chalmers. So, even, has Mike Nifong. Yet Councilwoman Catotti is determined to appoint a representative of an organization that still appears to believe that a rape took place? Does Catotti understand that the purpose of the inquiry is to determine what the police did wrong in producing the indictments of three innocent people without probable cause—or does she think that the inquiry represents a last-ditch effort for the “something must have happened” crowd?
There is an alternative. In 2004, Darryl Hunt, who was wrongly incarcerated for almost two decades, was freed after DNA tests revealed that another man had raped and killed a 25-year-old woman named Deborah Sykes. In response, the city of
The City Council should go back to the drawing board, and call for a commission peopled by figures with diverse backgrounds and experiences relevant to investigating the issue of police misconduct. Every effort should be made to make the committee diverse on racial and gender grounds, but hard quotas should be rejected. And every member of the committee should be willing to start from a basic premise: no rape occurred.