Stuart Taylor and I were guest-blogging last week at the Volokh Conspiracy. Here’s a full list of our posts for the week.
- Nifong Before Lacrosse
- Nifong: The Banality of Evil
- “Conservatives” and the Lacrosse Case
- The Group of 88
- The Group of 88’s Effects
- Media Mob Descends on Duke
- Duke Coverage: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
- Stuart Taylor Responds
- The Administration’s Response
- Explaining Brodhead
- Nifong’s Enablers
- A Corrupt Legal Culture
Said Jim Coleman, the driving force behind the project and the voice of moral clarity in the lacrosse affair, “The lacrosse case attracted a lot of publicity, but is not the only case in which innocent people have suffered harm through the state’s legal system.”
Associate Dean Theresa Newman added, “What we hope to be able to do is certainly educate more of our students on the causes of wrongful convictions and other aspects of the criminal justice system. We're also hoping to reach out beyond the walls of the law school to the Durham community, the Piedmont region, the state of North Carolina, the Southeast and even beyond that.”
Intriguingly, the program envisions an undergraduate component as well. Based on events of the past 18 months, this initiative should be housed in the Economics Department.
For those who haven’t yet seen it, Johnsville News has a new feature, “The Duke Saga in Pictures,” that takes the case from start to finish in a visual form.
Friday and Saturday, I will be in Durham to participate in Duke Law School’s “Court of Public Opinion” conference. Former federal judge David F. Levi, now dean of Duke Law School, noted, “All of these cases raise fundamental questions about the proper balance between the rights of the individual and the public, and about appropriate conduct by members of the bench, bar and media in response to intense public interest.”
I’m presenting at a panel on the new media and high-profile cases; and will have several posts on the other panels as the conference proceeds.
More than one week after the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People formally endorsed Victoria Peterson—a vicious homophobe who urged burning down the lacrosse house, appeared on the platform with the leader of a hate group, and suggested that Duke Hospital had tampered with DNA evidence—the Herald-Sun editorial pages have had nothing to say about the move.
Imagine if, say, Friends of Durham had endorsed a white candidate who appeared with the KKK; suggested that all gay people were cross-dressers who would die of AIDS; and had advocated burning down Crystal Mangum’s house. Does anyone believe that Bob Ashley would have been silent?
The silence speaks volumes about the paper’s more general philosophy.
So, what does concern Editor Ashley and his colleagues on the editorial page? Resurrecting the Campus Culture Initiative report, which was produced by a committee spearheaded by anti-lacrosse extremists Peter Wood, Anne Allison, and Karla Holloway; and which included Chauncey Nartey, the Duke student who sent an e-mail the Presslers considered threatening to their daughter.
Unsurprisingly, given this composition, the CCI produced a report that appeared to indulge the wildest fantasies of the Group of 88.
Last week, Ashley and his board expressed displeasure that Duke provost Peter Lange appeared unwilling to endorse the CCI’s extremist proposals.
“We hope the university will keep focusing on some of the worthy goals contained in the initial report. It said that the stereotype of Duke students as hard-working and hard-partying should be challenged. The campus should become ‘a more inclusive academic community . . . in which openness and engagement with difference of all types . . . are expected and supported.’ It also suggested reevaluating the university's policies on alcohol use and athletics. All of those analyses should continue.”
Ashley, et al., continued, “There are those who will say that because the lacrosse charges were found to be bogus, any concerns or issues raised by the case are also bogus. We don’t buy that, and we don’t think the university does either.”
The latter statement could well be true. But it’s equally true that those who so misjudged lacrosse events—such as the Group of 88 or Ashley’s Herald-Sun—have lost any and all credibility to lecture others on the appropriate lessons to draw from the case.
Last week, in an interview with Boston’s public radio station, Ashley was asked, given the repeated inaccuracies in his paper’s editorials, whether he feared a libel suit against the Herald-Sun.
His quite astonishing response? “That’s probably the sort of thing that’s best for me not to comment on, one way or the other, quite frankly.” (The quoted item appears at 21.21 of the linked interview.)
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his own work. I’ll have much more on this interview in Tuesday’s post.
The N&O reports that the Durham DA’s office has dropped trespassing charges against Group of 88 stalwart Anne Allison and anti-lacrosse extremist Orin Starn. (The duo had been cited for trespassing as part of their latest ideological crusade.)
The decision, at least, spared the office the burden of prosecuting two people who did so much to bolster the DA office’s basic storyline over the past 18 months.
Camille Paglia has an incisive and delightfully written review of three new gender studies books in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. Her essay serves as a reminder that the one-sided response in the lacrosse case from advocates of the race/class/gender trinity is a commonplace occurrence on academic issues that attract little or no outside attention.
Her concluding passage: “When any field becomes a closed circle, the result is groupthink and cant. The stultifying clichés of gender studies must end. But in the meantime, all faculty members should vow, through their own scholarly idealism rather than by external coercion, not to impose their political or sexual ideology on impressionable students, who deserve better.”
Delaware attorney general Beau Biden (son of the senator and presidential candidate) had a powerful editorial last week explaining why Mike Nifong’s actions were so harmful. He wrote that prosecutors playing to the media “further erode[s] the public’s confidence in the fair administration of justice.
“One such extreme example is Mike Nifong, the former district attorney, who falsely prosecuted three members of the Duke University lacrosse team and conducted more than 50 newspaper and television interviews before any indictments.
“As The Los Angeles Times observed, Mr. Nifong ‘lost control of his tongue and participated in the transformation of this incident from a case into a cause—usually an ominous development for the administration of justice.’
“Rogue prosecutors like Nifong use the media for strategic advantage in criminal cases. They have been known to conduct perp walks, hold ‘over-the-top’ press conferences, issue inflammatory press releases and leak opportunistic information to favored journalists, all in the name of obtaining a conviction and furthering their own careers.
“At the same time, such conduct has helped sell newspapers and boosted television ratings. This conduct has created an unholy alliance between the media and the few prosecutors who engage in such behavior.
“This is simply unacceptable.
“Win-at-all-cost practices violate a prosecutor’s sacred and ethical duty to protect the accused’s right to a fair and impartial trial.
“Moreover, they are inconsistent with the fundamental constitutional principle that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“As the American Bar Association’s standards for criminal justice advise, a prosecutor should not make any public statement he or she ‘knows or reasonably should know ... will have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing a criminal proceeding.’
“The rush to judgment—or to comment—on the part of prosecutors like Nifong and the media understandably erodes people’s confidence in the administration of justice. Such conduct makes it harder for the vast majority of honorable and committed prosecutors to do their jobs.”
Finally, a scheduling announcement. In the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that some case-related events (the civil suit against Durham, the possible launch of a federal criminal inquiry, the fate of the Whichard Committee, perhaps a few other matters) will extend beyond the blog’s scheduled closing date of October 1.
As a result, I am planning weekly posts, every Monday, for October and probably into November. This handful of posts will be limited in nature—along the lines of several recent posts that summarized key events, quotes, or people in the case. They will, in essence, be an afterword to the blog.
I didn’t want to leave the blog in an incomplete state, and, since most case-related matters are either winding down or (as with a possible criminal inquiry) transitioning into events beyond the scope of this blog, this approach seemed to me the most sensible one.