For the last 408 days, this blog has had (at least) a daily post on the lacrosse case. Today’s is the final such post. For the next several weeks, I’ll be doing weekly posts to wrap up some of the themes and events of the blog as new developments (civil suit negotiations, the election) warrant. These posts will appear on Mondays, through October and into November.
The blog had 1,099 posts, totaling 870,364 words. (That number would translate into roughly 2,500 published pages.) These posts generated over 90,000 comments. Some comments were intellectually dubious; a few were vile. Most, however, came from people knowledgeable about the case, and provided insight not only for me but for other readers.
The blog had 3.192 million unique visitors, and 5.755 million hits. Readers came from all 50 states (focused in the Triangle and in the corridor from
I first noticed this case because of the Group of 88’s ad. Published on April 6, 2006, it unequivocally declared that something happened to Crystal Mangum and publicly expressed thanks to protesters who had carried “castrate” banners and blanketed the campus with “wanted” posters. Such a document betrayed the signatories’ duties as professors to defend due process and seek the dispassionate evaluation of evidence. My subsequent discovery that none of the departments listed on the ad as endorsing its contents actually voted to do so, a basic violation of academic protocol, only heightened the impropriety of the statement.
Because I was following the case more closely than I might otherwise have been, I read the entire Coleman Committee report when it was published, on May 1, 2006. The document demolished the caricature of the lacrosse players so gleefully provided by elements in the media and activist faculty. It was also clear by that date that—even if a rape occurred—Mike Nifong had indicted a demonstrably innocent person, since Reade Seligmann was videotaped someplace else at the time of the alleged “crime.”
I was startled to see that relatively few people seemed to care that Seligmann’s indictment flowed from Nifong ordering the police to run a lineup that violated their own procedures. Indeed, for months, reputable figures suggested that Nifong must have something in reserve, as if a veteran prosecutor would have chosen to massively violate procedures if he actually had a case.
The situation, as we know now, was much worse than anyone could have known: like Seligmann, Collin Finnerty had unimpeachable electronic evidence that he was not at the party at the only time the “crime” could have occurred. Finnerty’s attorney, Wade Smith, kept this information quiet, fearful that releasing it would prompt Nifong to try and change the timeline—as, indeed, the ex-DA tried to do in response to Seligmann’s alibi.
That such a procedural monstrosity lasted for as long as it did is horrifying. Even more horrifying, however, is that it occurred with the implicit and sometimes explicit support of the institutions that we think of as defenders of civil liberties—elements in the media, civil rights groups, and academics. By this stage, few should be surprised at the continued refusal to apologize of most in the Group of 88 (and other anti-lacrosse extremists, such as Orin Starn or Peter Wood): they staked their reputations on their performance in this case, and were found wanting. Duke alums and trustees should take account of their behavior, and also the Brodhead administration’s unwillingness to confront the faculty extremists in its midst.
Similarly, newspapers such as the New York Times and Durham Herald-Sun appeared to view it as their responsibility to prop up Nifong’s case rather the traditional journalistic goal of exposing governmental misconduct. And the North Carolina NAACP repudiated the legacy of Thurgood Marshall as it functioned as an organization devoted to little more than race-baiting.
As for the blog itself: it was more work than I had expected. I also failed to anticipate the unwillingness of some—especially in the media and at Duke—to alter course even when confronted with facts of the case. Indeed, the reverse occurred: people like Group of 88’er Cathy Davidson, hardly the most extreme member of the Group, invented a reality that never existed to rationalize both the ad and the activist faculty’s dubious behavior.
I am grateful to those who spoke to me, on or off the record, to better my understanding of Durham politics, or conditions at Duke, or legal matters, or the proper role of a SANE nurse. These sources improved my writing and helped me avoid many errors. All remaining errors, of course, were my responsibility.
Over the course of the blog, I repeatedly requested comment from Mike Nifong and from those Durham Police officers (Mark Gottlieb, David Addison) whose behavior in the case was dubious. None ever replied. At Duke, however, John Burness always answered my questions, while Dean Sue Wasiolek and Group of 88 member Lee Baker sometimes did so, even though each doubtless understood that my perspective on the case was strongly critical of the Group and increasingly critical of the administration. I am grateful to them for the professionalism with which they treated me.
Finally, I would like to thank all who read the blog over the course of the past 18 months.
The first of the “blog epilogue” posts will appear on Monday, and I hope that readers will continue to drop by from time to time.