Friday, July 01, 2011

Rushing to Judgment

[Updates, 4 July, 5.22pm: Two Daily Beast pieces worth noting. The first, from Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, uses the DSK case to analyze the problems with the public's response to rape allegations in general. Virtually Dershowitz's entire essay could apply to the lacrosse case, none more so than the following: "Special sex prosecutors and special rape prosecutors are often agenda driven. Too often they believe they’re on a mission and treat the alleged victim in a way that’s different from how they handle any other crime. They’re zealots; I call them Nancy Grace prosecutors. She behaves on her TV talk show as if there’s no such thing as innocence; everybody arrested is guilty. I believe there’s been a Nancy Grace aspect to this case. The prosecution presented its case in public as if there were no doubt about the alleged victim’s credibility or the complete guilt of the alleged offender."

Second, from DSK defender Bernard Henri-Levy. I'm dubious about the more general defense of DSK's character associated with Henri-Levy's earlier comments on the case. But his essay contains one very important item, in his reflection upon a letter by Bill Keller, the retired executive editor of The New York Times, in which "he said he was 'struck' and 'puzzled' by the fact that '57 percent of the French public' and, in particular, '70 percent of the Socialists' seemed to embrace the cause of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whereas 'one might expect' them 'to be ideologically empathetic to an African hotel maid.'"

That comment unintentionally offers insight into the Times' decision to so heavily slant its lacrosse case coverage in favor of Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum. It's no secret that the non-Murdoch media leans to the left, to such an extent that "one might expect" them "to be ideologically empathetic to an African"-American alleged student. Perhaps this is why, early in the case (see UPI, p. 120), Times editors made the conscious decision to downplay evidence of innocence in the paper's coverage.

[Updates, 2 July, 1.40pm: The Times today--showing an intent to explore the news that was sadly lacking in its Duke case coverage--brings more information, suggesting that the Nifong/Vance comparison might be more apt. Today's article reveals that a debate occurred as to how fast to press for an indictment, with the ultimate decision to rush ahead with an indictment (and to make public comments about the reliability of the "victim") before the investigation was anywhere near complete. That decision, obviously, was a grave mistake. See Ann Althouse's post for more on the effects of these actions; but also this counter-intuitive post from Feministe observing that, at the least, Vance's office turned over exculpatory information promptly to the defense, in sharp contrast to Nifong's handling of the Meehan report.

Two other matters: One, a question from the previous thread, asking me for what I considered Nifong's chances to be of his regaining his law license in 2012. My answer: his chances are very, very, very remote.

Two, see the comment in this thread from an "Edward G. Nilges" for evidence of how the unethical actions of Nifong and the DPD continue to harm the falsely accused players, and thus why the civil suit continues to matter. Even if only 1% of the American public is as ignorant as Nilges, we're talking about more than 3m people.]

The New York Times appears to have suddenly discovered the importance of evaluating the accuser’s credibility when reporting on sexual assault cases. Last night, the paper broke the story that the rape case against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been badly weakened (fatally undermined?) by enormous gaps in the accuser’s credibility. To get a sense of just how enormous, here’s the prosecutors’ letter on some of the problems.

One can imagine how the Times’ Duff Wilson (who was promoted after his coverage of the lacrosse case) would have reported the news: “Although DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. discovered big holes in the case, including the fact that his accuser is a serial fabricator, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury.”

Vance’s decision to affirm for the cameras a stronger case than he actually possessed was Nifongesque. And comparisons to the lacrosse case, which have appeared frequently in the last 24 hours, are hard to avoid.

That said, the comparison can be overdrawn, in at least two respects. First: while the decision to arrest clearly was made before anything resembling a comprehensive police investigation occurred, there’s no evidence (to date) that DA Vance personally corrupted the inquiry, as occurred with Nifong and the DPD. Second, and perhaps more important: the media critique of DSK’s personal characteristics seems largely correct. Regardless of the legal demerits of the case, this affair doesn’t seem to have been a case of character assassination, in sharp contrast to the lacrosse case.

In this respect, the more appropriate comparison might be the Garrett Wittels case. In late December, to widespread national coverage, the FIU baseball star was arrested in the Bahamas, charged with rape. To their credit, unlike the Duke administration, the FIU administration upheld the presumption of innocence and didn’t suspend Wittels; and, unlike the Group of 88, “activist” faculty at FIU didn’t choose to publicly go after one of their students. (A handful of hacks did try to exploit the case, offering bizarre arguments in the process.)

Wittels always maintained his innocence, and his accusers’ story always seemed less than plausible. Last week, all charges against the player and his two friends were dismissed, amidst signs that his accusers had lied as part of a scheme to exploit money. Yet the turn of events generated far less coverage than the initial allegations against Wittels; and the false charges had an effect—Wittels went undrafted in the MLB draft, apparently because of “character” concerns.

The Wittels and DSK cases do serve as reminders that the lacrosse case isn’t the only evidence against the “women-never-lie” claim of sexual assault.


Gary Packwood said...

I was completely taken aback with the speed at which the cleaning people from the NY hotels were organized into a street mob threatening the accused.

Until I remember how quickly the Castrate March people were organized, replete with poster signs, in front of Dave, Reade and Collin's house in Durham.

Same speed. Same strategy.

The Violence Against Women strike force must be on someone's speed dial.

Does NYU or Columbia like Duke, have a Violence Against Women grant from the U.S, Department of Justice?

Edward G Nilges said...

DSK had mens rea, the intent to commit a rape. Even if the housekeeper staged resistance, DSK believed that he was overcoming resistance and therefore was guilty at a minimum of attempted rape.

Likewise, the Duke Lacrosse players, their American Psycho theme party intended the evening to have a happy ending with the rape of the sex worker. Since the hero of American Psycho is also a mass murderer, the Lacrosse players were in my opinion lucky not to be charged with attempted murder.

"No" means "no". In the case of the Duke incident, a "no" from a whore even after she's paid must be respected by the John since bodily integrity trumps commerce. In the case of DSK, even if the chambermaid faked resistance in a sting operation, DSK had both mens rea and actus reum. The cops are always getting the poor to commit REAL crimes using sting operations: therefore, if the chambermaid did so, it is irrevelant to DSK's guilt.

Public prosecutors, including Nifong and Vance, represent the people in criminal charges and a public interest in not having rich people abuse sex workers and chambermaids by showing criminal intent and criminal acts.

When the pleasure and convenience of the rich are at stake, the sky's the limit: we can no longer smoke in bars. But the safety of chambermaids is not important in NY.

Their case is based on the facts, not the "credibility" of the accuser. In the case of DSK, we have DNA evidence and evidence of struggle, and if we can verify that he emerged butt naked from the shower, at that point, no matter the credibility of the accuser, he was committing sexual assault as a prelude to sexual battery.

Women demand simply that rape no longer be treated as a special case where the decision depends on the credibility of the accuser, and not on the facts.

But in response to this demand, the wealthy and powerful, who have access to courts and high-priced legal talent, will now destroy public prosecutors. It's clear that Cy Vance's office is hitting the chicken switch in fear of being "Nifonged".

Anonymous said...

Another clear distinction:

In the Duke case, there was no DNA evidence of any sexual or physical encounter between Mangum and any of the lacrosse players; to the contrary, the DNA conclusively excluded that possibility. The whole tale was a fantastic lie.

In the hotel case, sexual contact did occur between these individuals, so it comes down to a more purely "he-said/she-said" situation, potentially involving subtleties of personal intent -- the sort of thing that juries traditionally decide.

Of course, in both cases, the accuser's credibility is the linchpin of the case. But at least in that hotel, it is a fact that "something happened," even if there is little basis to believe the accuser's version of it. At the lacrosse party, nothing happened except the hatching of evil, false accusations in the twisted mind of a deranged sex worker.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 9.17:

Well-put; I completely agree. Indeed, construing the facts of the New York case in the manner most favorable to DSK shows that "something happened," and what happened suggests DSK to be a slimeball. And that, again, is construing the facts of the case in the terms most favorable to him.

The 5.32am comment, as I noted in an update to the general post, unintentionally provides civil-suit evidence of how the unethical actions of Nifong and the DPD continue to harm the falsely accused players.

There was, of course, no "American Psycho theme party." Even the wildly unethical Nifong or the serial fabricator Mangum never presented a version of events from which it could be construed that "the Lacrosse players were . . . lucky not to be charged with attempted murder."

And this description of the party--"In the case of the Duke incident, a "no" from a whore even after she's paid must be respected by the John since bodily integrity trumps commerce"--is, again, far more extreme than anything offered by the unethical Nifong or the fabricator Mangum, and suggests that the commenter is wholly ignorant of the factual record of the case.

A Duke Dad said...

@ 5:32 am :

Don't hold back.

Why haven't you mentioned Cannibalism ?

A falsis principiis proficisci, indeed. (to set forth from false principles).

Certainly, a posse ad esse. (from being possible to being actual fact).

A matter of ab irato. (A decision or action that is detrimental to those it affects and was made based on hatred or anger, rather than on reason.)

The Hounds of TASSers'ville said...

This from wikipedia's Mike Nifong article talk page:

"...have removed "disbarred" because it's libel and in violation of Wikipedia's policies re biographies of living persons. It does not identify Nifong and although true it is malicious to foreground this fact. Nifong was overzealous, perhaps, but the real bad behavior here was a bunch of shitheads [sic] who staged an American Psycho theme part with the criminal intent, the mens rea if you please, to committ a rape. They could not because they were small dick white boys but this doesn't change the law. Their behavior has NO PLACE on a college campus but their rich Daddies saw that Nifong was destroyed, because the Lacrosse players are spoiled brats.

Edward G. Nilges"

We hope that Mr. Nilges responds as to exactly how, though Nifong was officially disbarred by the N.C. State Bar Association, a statement affirming such constitutes as libel.

Posted by Hound No. 2
The Hounds of TASSers'ville

Anonymous said...

Where is Linwood Wilson when we really need him?

Cy Vance, Jr. has proven himself to be as flaky as his father.

Cy is a rich, spoiled brat who would have suffered Nifong's fate except for the legions of staff to protect him.

Mike Nifong is simply a poor "Cy Vance, Jr."

Michael said...

The ideologues are coming out of the woodwork! Particularly noxious comment about "remember Duke Lacrosse"; as the rallying cry that will "do more to shelter rapists...than any force on earth could hope to accomplish."

As if the failure of the system to recognize non-rapists somehow means that real rapists will be ignored.

Do the folks who print this stuff have even the most basic understanding of philosophy or reason?

Gary Packwood said...

Concerning Ann Althouse's post in the update and the Nifong/Vance comparison for their actions on these very isolated court case.

It seems to me as the cases unraveled, both Nifong and Vance needed to move quickly to determine if more victims needed to be identified.

More victims at Duke and more victims at high-end hotels in NYC.

If there is one 'stalking' cleaning woman with a support group at a high-end hotel in NYC there will be more and they will all be tied together.

Yet, Nifong and Vance and Althouse all speak about one isolated case at a time.

Only a skilled defense team would be looking for an organized effort to entrap the unsuspecting.

But it sure would be difficult to identify and then locate the victims which no doubt, was/is the idea in the first place.

carmen said...

The New York Times did report that the DSK case was going south, but it had little choice but to do so.

However, rather than mending its ways, The New York Times - at least via columnist Maureen Dowd - is up to its old tricks. Just four days after DSK's arrest Ms. Dowd published a piece in which she assumed the accused's guilt and the innocence of the hard-working, struggling single black mother who was certainly his victim(sound familiar?). By early July, however, Dowd was faced with displeasing revelations that this poor, struggling, etc. may have been hard-working, yes, but as a prostitute (sound familiar?) who had claimed rape before (sound familiar?), so Dowd felt compelled to publish a second piece. In it she not only fails to apologize for having rushed to judgment, she fails even to mention that she did. Dowd goes further: outrageously, she reports that unnamed law enforcement figures "privately" believe that DSK raped the woman, and she ends her new piece by stressing that DSK is a "predator".

All this, rather than admit that she may have been wrong. I don't think in Dowd's case her refusal to back down is based so much on the old "women never lie" mantra; it's simply a fierce unwillingess to look like an ass. But of course, she does anyway.

Anyway, it doesn't seem that The New York Times has changed much at all. They love too much to think they're on the side of the angels, and no matter what lengths they may have to go to prop those angels up, they're ready.

Anonymous said...

There's video tape evidence the girls lied in the Wittels case.

Why, oh why, aren't they being prosecuted?


sceptical said...

Garrett Wittels was just signed by the St. Louis Cardinals to a free agent contract-- two weeks after he was cleared the court in the Bahamas. Wittels was not chosen in the MLB draft while charges were still pending. For more see:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Nilges is a bit of an internet nut bag, as a quick Google reveals.

Anonymous said...

"she ends her new piece by stressing that DSK is a "predator". "

I'm no Dowd supporter, but this doesn't seem a stretch considering the numerous French women who have came forth saying this very thing.

I also don't see mentioned anywhere above that one major issue in this case was the flight/extradition issue, lending at least some support to Vance's initial behavior.

Anonymous said...

The difference is that DSK left his DNA. The innocent students left nothing.

DSK also is being charged by Ms. Banon. Her mother, a committed Leftist, entreated her not to charge DSK some 8 years ago.
And now DSK is threatening to countersue Banon.

This case only has the superficial elements of the Lacross Hoax. The biggest difference is that the accused is a serial slimeball. I expect more women to appear to testify against him, just as more pictures showed up of the Congressman-putz's protruding putz.

Anonymous said...

I would hate to live in a world where your idea of the law was in the acendance. Your concept of "facts" and "guilt" are truly terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Nancy Grace was "sick" the day after the Duke Lacrosse case was dropped... Yeah, .

Anonymous said...

From Tonights WSJ editorial by dorethy rabinowitz:"It should have been no surprise to hear that the career and reputation of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had sustained a deadly blow as a result of revelations that the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn had collapsed. The DA had, after all, conducted himself in an unusual way. He had recognized quickly that the accuser's credibility was in shambles, that the accused might well not be guilty as charged—and he had made this recognition public. No small shock in a society accustomed to prosecutors whose instant response to the discovery of facts that undermine their case is to dig in all the more aggressively—recall the Duke University lacrosse case, or the notorious child abuse cases of the 1980s—with assurances that the case against the accused is stronger than ever."

Chris Halkides said...

NPRs Talk of the Nation had a segment on rape on 13 June. They read the following email:
Both your guest and your host used the word "victim" to refer to the person who has made or might make an allegation of rape. The correct term is "alleged victim." The presumption of innocence is an absolute principle, and using the word "victim" chips away at this central pillar of our criminal justice system. Given that the Duke lacrosse case is barely five years behind us, there is no excuse in failing to acknowledge that some rape allegations are false.

Edward G Nilges said...

"Do the people that posted this stuff have the most basic understanding of philosophy or reason?"

I've taught several sections of Philosophy 210 (Logic) to undergraduates.

Today, I prepare students for study at Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics by introducing them to the study of Western philosophy.

I've published articles on philosophy.

But if having this understanding means believing that rich white males aren't the cancer of history then I guess I don't have your "grasp" which I believe is on your own member, you dig me, punk?

Chris Halkides said...

A recent newsweek cover has a black-and-white photograph of DSK looking unkempt and angry. The accuser's photo is in color. After the egregious DL cover, I would have hoped that Newsweek would have learned something. It appears I was too optimistic.