[update, 4.33pm, two additional items:
1.) Courtesy of Harvey Silverglate, this depressing column from Rodney Balko, on the lingering effects of prosecutorial misconduct in the 1980s witch-hunt day care/"child molestation" trials (where Wendy Murphy got her start as a prosecutor!).
The book that had the most impact on my analysis of the lacrosse case was Dorothy Rabinowitz's No Crueler Tyrannies. As in the hoaxes that Rabinowitz exposed, the lacrosse case featured the presumption of guilt, the lack of evidence was simply presumed to mean the defendants must be guilty, and the purpose of the trial became (to paraphrase Pres. Brodhead) giving the defendants their one chance to "be proved innocent."
2.) A mindboggling dissent filed by Justice Scalia this week, in a death penalty case:
This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.
The statement was all the more troubling coming from Scalia, who has shown occasional libertarian instincts on civil liberties issues.]
Forbes is the latest national publication to produce a college ranking list, and I doubt that this item will make Duke alumni mailings. Duke is ranked 104th, behind Hendrix College (Arkansas), Berea College (Kentucky), St. Mary’s College (California) and conservative favorite Hillsdale College in Michigan.
The lead reader comment: “Unfortunately, though I greatly valued my Duke experience, I would not recommend Duke now to any high school senior. The takeover of the faculty by hateful race/class/gender extremists, as personified by the Group of 88, has essentially destroyed the university.”
Ranked below Duke, however, is Cornell University.* This semester, graduate students in Cornell’s African-American Studies Department get to work with a new director of graduate studies—Group of 88 extremist Grant Farred. Farred is best remembered as the 88’er who denounced Duke students as racist for registering to vote in Durham; and who published a book with the preposterous thesis that Houston Rockets center Yao Ming was “the most profound threat to American empire.”
Imagine how fairly Director of Graduate Studies Farred would deal with a student whose dissertation, say, cast a skeptical eye toward the use of racial preferences in education or in the workplace.
Last week, I noted that if the Bruce Lisker case had occurred in North Carolina (and if Lisker were African-American), the disgraced ex-DA Mike Nifong’s defenders would seize upon it to claim prosecutorial misconduct. In the minds of Nifong defenders, the conviction of people who actually were innocent (at least if they are African-American) is in and of itself evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Of course, the state’s ethics requirements make no such holding.
As if to prove the point, the Nifong publicity blog “justice4nifong” is up with a post claiming that Wake County prosecutor Tom Ford committed “actions . . . far more egregious than what former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong was accused of doing in the Duke Lacrosse case.” Those “actions,” from the post, appear to be Ford attempting to negotiate a plea bargain with one of the defendants. No one appears to have claimed that Ford withheld exculpatory evidence; or ordered the police to violate their own procedures; or made dozens of ethically improper public statements; or lied to a judge.
It would, I suppose, be too much to expect defenders of the disgraced Nifong to have any understanding of ethical standards.
[Updated, 3.57pm]: I have steered clear from the Lombard case. But the contrast between the campus reactions to it and to the lacrosse case is striking, and the subject of a sensational letter in today's Chronicle from two members of the Class of 2008, Hamish Russell and Drew Braucht:
In the wake of Frank Lombard's arrest on child sex charges, it is interesting to evaluate the response of Duke's administration and faculty and the city of Durham. What if President Brodhead, the Trustees, the faculty and the city reacted in the same impetuous way they did the last time a member of the Duke community was accused of such a heinous crime?
Imagine it now: Students take out full page ads condemning the faculty and administrators as a whole; the Trustees suspend all Duke officials from normal work; protests are staged outside of the Allen Building to chant obscenities and taunt any individual attempting to enter; people that previously had no interaction with the administration are suddenly thrust into positions to analyze the "administration subculture on child sex and how it proliferates in the general Duke population."
Based on the precedent set in Spring 2006, in which the lacrosse team and entire student body were systematically maligned, this seems like the rational way to handle controversy and crisis on the Duke campus. And given that no one has admitted any wrongdoing in the wake since (aside from President Brodhead's "heartfelt" address at an obscure Fall 2007 law school event), one is led to assume that no lessons were learned from that ordeal.
In no way do we condone the charges brought before Frank Lombard, and the evidence seems quite condemning. However, this isolated event has again brought to light the hypocrisy and lack of culpability still embedded in the Duke lacrosse scandal, a reality that continues to negatively affect the fabric of the Duke community.
Hat tip: J.H., O.S.