Author William D. Cohan continued his publicity tour
yesterday, appearing on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” and WUNC’s “State of Things.” It’s
hard at this stage to escape notice that Cohan’s press appearances have heavily
tilted toward MSNBC and public radio, with a pending appearance at the Comedy
Channel. It’s almost as if his bookers believe that a pro-prosecutorial misconduct
message would appeal to liberals, a deeply troubling thought to those of us who
are center-left Democrats but don’t see a Nifong apologia as consistent with
the party’s values.
In the event, Cohan retreated from labeling Stuart Taylor
among “the haters” yesterday, so I suppose his message could be said to have
grown more temperate. On the other hand, he again referred to individuals in
their late 20s or early 30s as “boys” on both WUNC (at 3.01) and on MSNBC (at
Cohan led off his interview with WUNC’s Frank Stasio by framing
his interest as superficially neutral (2.05), noting the “high passion” in the
media against the players, followed by “high passion” against Mangum and
Nifong. First, whatever “passion” in the media
against Mangum passed very, very quickly; even after the announcement of innocence,
many media organizations, led by the Times
refused to identify her (until she wrote her book).
More important, the equivalence that Cohan posed was false:
on the one hand were falsely accused college students whose behavior wasn’t atypical
for Duke’s campus; on the other hand was a prosecutor who broke the law.
Discussing the case itself, Cohan identified as a “seminal”
moment Nifong’s recusal and Mangum’s insistence on going forward. She could
have, Cohan mused, simply admitted to Nifong, (5.08) “I’m bipolar, I’m a drug
addict, I’m not going to go forward with this.” To Cohan, her decision not to do so proved
Of course: because lots
of bipolar drug addicts willingly admit to their mental health problems when chatting with figures
of authority. Who could have imagined that Mangum would cling to her lies and,
indeed, tell new stories?
Cohan also slightly modified his something-happened thesis
to both MSNBC and WUNC. To WUNC, when asked what happened at 5.55, he sighed, “Let
me be clear on this: this is something we’ll never know.” But then a few
seconds later—based, he said, on his qualifications (6.31) as a “student of
human nature,” plus his discussions with Nifong and Bob Steel (really??
reading Tara Levicy’s report, “something happened in that bathroom that none of
us would be proud of.” He refused to say what that something
was. Cohan’s preemptive response: “His critics” (they’re
no longer “haters,” I guess) “love to seize on” him when he says something happened
but won’t say what.
Cohan did briefly discuss his reading of Tara Levicy’s
report (at 6.10). But in contrast to his assertions to several previous
interviewers, he didn’t claim to Stasio that he was the first journalist to
obtain access to that report. I wonder why
Cohan’s admiration for Nifong oozed through in this
interview. He referred to Nifong merely as “Mike” at 5.32, and almost did so
earlier in the discussion before catching himself.
By contrast, Cohan was far more contemptuous of the defense
attorneys in this interview than he was in his discussion with Diane Rehm. Seeming
to barely conceal disdain (at 3.19) in his tone, he observed, “It was brilliant legal strategy
for the defense—certainly one has to commend them for their legal acumen—for turning
the whole story on its head and exploiting every mistake that Crystal Mangum
and Mike Nifong made in this case.”
“Mistake.” What an interesting—even meek—word to describe a
prosecutor lying to a judge, or withholding exculpatory evidence, or improperly
inflaming community passions against the accused.
Cohan’s insinuation: well-paid defense attorneys got the
less-than-innocent “boys” off. But here’s another interpretation: when defense
attorneys confront an accuser who can’t tell the same story twice and a
prosecutor who can’t tell the truth to a judge, they have an ethical obligation
to “exploit” such conduct—since such conduct tends to be associated with an
In Cohan’s world, it seems as if lawyers who represent
innocent clients are just supposed to sit back and do nothing. I wonder how he’d
feel if his
children were ever tried
for a crime that never occurred and faced a prosecutor like Mike Nifong.
Cohan as Defense Attorney
The last eight-and-a-half minutes of the interview featured Stasio
asking at least reasonable questions (but only once following up) and Cohan
(sounding increasingly peeved) functioning as Nifong’s de facto defense
Stasio led with Nifong’s unethical statements. He wondered in
particular whether Nifong’s statement about someone not needing an attorney if
they hadn’t done anything wrong contradicted the entire principle of American
Cohan replied (at 8.00) that Nifong told him that “many of
his statements were ill-advised.” He then rushed forward with (at 8.36) his
bizarre assertion about Nifong informing him that if the players had met with
Gottlieb without attorneys and voluntarily consented to interviews and a DNA
test, there would have been no case.
But by the time Nifong made his first
statement on the case, the players
had already given DNA. How does the giving or non-giving of DNA in any way
relate to Nifong’s pre-primary publicity crusade? Is Cohan really saying that
absent the benefits of publicity, Nifong would not have moved forward with the
case? What a damning, if apparently unintended, admission.
On the DNA (at 11.15), Cohan chastised those who have closed
minds on the issue, and failed to appreciate Mike Nifong’s tale. He told Stasio
(correctly) that Nifong promptly turned over DNA evidence from the state labs
to the defense; Cohan did not explain what this action had to do with Nifong
concealing the exculpatory DNA from the Meehan tests. (Stasio didn’t ask.) Regarding
the Meehan material, “Mike Nifong would say that he did
turn over the complete DNA evidence in a timely fashion,”
thereby allowing Brad Bannon (“cleverly,” according to Cohan) to discover the concealment
in the Meehan report.
And, the author added a few minutes later, “As we know, Brad
Bannon likes to talk about how he found the evidence.” I’m not sure how Cohan
knows what Bannon does or does not like to do, since Cohan didn’t ask
Bannon for an interview.
According to Cohan (at 12.40), Nifong was a “champion”(!!)
of turning over evidence to the defense. In the event, the author continued,
Nifong told him that the “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of
absence.” What this truism has to do with Nifong and Meehan producing a report
that concealed DNA test results they were legally obligated to turn over Cohan didn’t
say, and Stasio didn’t ask.
Nonetheless, Cohan argued that Nifong’s cliché is key to the
case. Offering his personal interpretation of the role of DNA in sexual assault
prosecutions, Cohan reasoned that for “thousands of years” (at 13.10) when DNA
was not identifiable, “rape charges were brought, and people were convicted or
found not guilty.” I’m not sure even the politically correct listeners of WUNC
would be persuaded that it’s OK to prosecute people according to evidentiary techniques
from “thousands” of years ago.
But the author was just warming up. “I think,” he fumed, “the
justice system in this case was rigged so there was no trial in this case. That’s
not the way the system’s supposed to work.” Stasio, to his credit, finally
asked a follow-up question, noting that a prosecutor not turning over
exculpatory evidence is “another way of rigging the system.”
Cohan’s response: (at 15.40) “I’m not sure that that’s true”
that Nifong withheld the evidence. Perhaps at some point in his press
appearances, he could point to the section in the Meehan report in which the
former lab director—as he was required to do by law—revealed the results of any
test that he conducted.
Cohan’s segment on “The Cycle” was shorter—but perhaps his
most incredible appearance yet. (The opening question—“How did this situation
get go out of control?”—set the tone.) Over the course of eight minutes, the four co-hosts did not ask Cohan once
about any exculpatory evidence—and (of
course) he didn’t mention any.
Nonetheless, in these friendly confines, Cohan broke new
news (at 1.08)—implying that Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty joined Dave
Evans (“three privileged, elite athletes”) in “inviting” strippers to “their
party.” Cohan didn’t reveal how he discovered that Seligmann and Finnerty co-hosted
the party—because, of course, they did not.
After wildly claiming (at 2.18) that “a lot
of people think that Mike Nifong should be put in a grave, in
an early grave,” Cohan mused on how a trial was necessary (at 5.00) because it
seems as if Mangum’s newest theory—assault by broomstick—might be credible. In the
book, at least, he (or perhaps, it might now be assumed, he at the insistence
of either his editors or Scribner’s lawyers) pointed out that even Tara Levicy’s
report (to which Cohan gives Rosetta Stone-like powers to understanding the case
in all other respects) didn’t corroborate Mangum’s new claims that the hospital staff
had to pull wooden shards out of her.
When asked point-blank whether he believed Mangum’s newest
story, Cohan responded, “I don’t know what to believe.” But he quickly moved on
to his catch-phrase—“something happened in that bathroom that none of us would
be proud of.” And he added a new item a bit later in the interview (at 5.55)—“we’ll
never know what happened, or who did it.” Who did what
? Cohan didn’t say.
Cohan concluded his MSNBC appearance by saying “I just don’t
understand why” Roy Cooper “refused” to “share” with him Cooper’s “investigative
This isn’t a terribly difficult question to answer, especially for
a self-described “investigative reporter” of Cohan’s . . . skill. Oddly, it appears
that Cohan has never come across §
of North Carolina’s general statutes. (There are several provisions
of the state’s general statutes, including those regarding the prosecutor’sobligation to turn over the results of all tests
, with which Cohan also appears
to be unfamiliar.) In the event, the provision is unequivocal: “Records of
criminal investigations conducted by public law enforcement agencies, records
of criminal intelligence information compiled by public law enforcement
agencies, and records of investigations conducted by the North Carolina Innocence
Inquiry Commission, are not public records.” It’s not clear to me why Cohan
expects North Carolina’s chief law enforcement officer to violate state law to
satisfy Cohan’s personal curiosity.
Perhaps the most revealing section of the interview came (at
5.34) when Cohan described the thinking of “all the defense attorneys” (the
people, it’s worth reiterating, that he never sought to interview). What was
their theory (at 5.34)? That the case was a “grand conspiracy . . . that this
was a completely made up story, that everybody got together to try to prosecute
these three angelic boys who, you know, didn’t do a darn thing.”
This description of the defense attorneys and their beliefs,
by the way, came immediately after
Cohan expressed his commitment (at 5.23) to present the case “as fairly and dispassionately
as I possibly could.”
Just imagine what an unfair
William D. Cohan would sound like!
" those of us who are center-left Democrats but don’t see a Nifong apologia as consistent with the party’s values"
Well, you and Stuart Taylor aren't much of a voting bloc. Or a TV demographic.
To the 4.48:
Perhaps--but it's worth remembering that given Durham County's strong dem tilt, many Dems voted against Nifong in the 2006 election.
"It’s almost as if his bookers believe that a pro-prosecutorial misconduct message would appeal to liberals, a deeply troubling thought to those of us who are center-left Democrats but don’t see a Nifong apologia as consistent with the party’s values."
And God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness...
One wonders what Durham would be like today were it led by someone like Barry Goldwater. It certainly wouldn't be the cess pool of darkness that we find now.
Are other's reminded of the Brittany Spear's fan after reading the recent Duke Anonymous apologist who has been posting lately?
Leave Duke Alone! Leave Durham Alone?
"1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?
There is no “pat answer” to your question. The circumstances of the investigation (particularly the victim’s recounting of the events when it is available) almost always need to be taken into consideration. For instance, consider a situation in which a woman asserts that she was raped by a single individual and that she had not had sexual contact with any other individual for many days. If investigators identify a suspect and then find that his DNA profile is not the same as the source of semen from the victim, then those test results can be construed as proof that the suspect was not the perpetrator." link
This answer comes from Professor Dan Krane, and IMO you can take what he says to the bank. The host of the blog formulated slanted questions, but at least he got qualified people to answer them. The answers are better than the questions.
Wouldn't the statement by Cohan that Seligman and Finnerty hosted the party be actionable by them, even at this late date? It is provably false, already known by even cursory/amateur journalists, and indeed damages their reputations. It would seem they have a claim to book proceeds with provably false statements about them which can be therefore only malicious in nature.
Having just listened to the WUNC interview, I give great credit to Frank Stasio for, finally, asking William Cohan questions that clearly took him off his stride and forced him to acknowledge several of the inconvenient (for him, Nifong and Mangum, that is) facts of this case. While to be sure there could have been more follow-up, this interview was light-years better than the ones conducted by the Morning Joe panel and Diane Rehm.
What this interview also makes clear is that, when confronted with the facts, Cohan will retreat back to his talking points over and over again. In that, this interview was actually very reminiscent of Mike Nifong's Bar hearing. It is more apparent than ever that William Cohan is nothing more than Nifong's mouthpiece and that this once-respected author's reputation is suffering severe, and likely permanent, damage.
"It would seem they have a claim to book proceeds with provably false statements about them which can be therefore only malicious in nature."
I agree completely--BUT, any suit would first have to go up against Scribner's team of lawyers, as well as Cohan's, and who knows who else.
And another five years of legal stalling by our sclerotic legal system is not what I think anyone wants. (As Mark Steyn says of the US system, the process IS the punishment.)
Second, the courts might just decide that even though the book was malicious, it would be "bad law" to find an author guilty (it might have a "chilling effect" on future authors); and so, they won't find for the plaintiffs (or will award them only a penny).
Finally, a trial would only provide a forum for Cohan to publicize his assertions even more--claiming that "something happened", and that if it didn't, let the players prove their own innocence.
IOW, only a pig enjoys rolling around in mud; everyone else just ends up getting dirty.
Again, this affair is a real life example of the search for Tom Wolfe's Great White Defendant(s), right out of "The Bonfire of the Vanities," with a touch of "I Am Charlotte Simmons."
"It's almost as if his bookers believe that a pro-prosecutorial misconduct message would appeal to liberals, a deeply troubling thought to those of us who are center-left Democrats but don't see a Nifong apologia as consistent with the party's values."
It was obvious since 2006 that there are liberals who overlook prosecutorial misconduct if people like the Duke Lacrosse players are the target. What else explains the national media (and some Duke faculty)) jumping on this case and relentlessly attacking the accused? Why does a member of the "media elite" produce a Nifong apologia years later?
Not all liberals are like this by any means.
Regarding how center-left Democrats may respond to Cohan's current statements and his book, it depends upon whether or not the people in question are principled liberals or not. For example, where I teach, most of the political science faculty (indeed, most of the faculty members I know) consider themselves to be Democrats first, and if principles will help the Democratic Party advance in political power, then they will be principled.
However, if principles (i.e. the Bill of Rights) work against Democratic Party interests, then they are going to support the suppression of rights. For that matter, John Ashcroft, as a U.S. Senator during the Clinton administration years, opposed passage of a law similar to the Patriot Act because he said is "smacks of Big Brother."
A few years later when he was Attorney General, he considered opposition to the Patriot Act to be subversive and downright evil. So, access to power often will trump principles.
K.C. is consistent in his principles, and he stands up for them with integrity, which makes him unpopular with some colleagues, hence his famous tenure fight at Brooklyn College. (I knew of that fight long before there was the Duke Lacrosse case.
Furthermore, K.C. is not going to be patient with people who claim to be principled, but really seek only power. Contrast that to a man like Cohan, who is writing and saying some very cynical stuff. Then compare UPI with Price of Silence. Enough said.
I agree completely: in Cohan's many interviews, Stasio was the first person to ask him intelligent questions, and he was almost singularly unable to answer them.
What comes through in the interviews is that Cohan just doesn't seem to know much about NC law. When I started with the case, I didn't, either; but I read and tried to learn as much as I could. Cohan, on the other hand, just seems to have taken whatever Nifong says the law is at face value.
Presumptive and confirmatory tests for semen exist. Were these tests run, and what result was obtained?
At Amazon, Cohn's book now has 25 one star reviews.
First question for Mr. Cohan-
We're talking about the same Mike Nifong who was convicted of 27 charges including making false statements, withholding exculpatory evidence, lying to a judge, and was subsequently disbarred?
This is the guy we're supposed to believe? Or should we consider the myriad reasons for trusting Crystal Gail Mangum?
What you are describing, K.C., is a man who did not do his research. Yet, we are seeing the book being praised for its "depth" and "detail."
As I see it, the book is full of trivial stuff or it essentially lifts accounts from elsewhere. But I really am surprised at how shallow it really is, given all of the praise that proceeded it. Again, I cannot help but wonder if Cohan suddenly became a shallow and vapid writer, or if his previous books are overrated.
Here's a direct link to the MSNBC "The Cycle" segment Justice system ‘distorted’ in Duke rape case.
To the 2.29:
Thanks for the link; have updated the post.
I spent the three evenings reviewing videos of the State Bar Hearing, looking for the proper response to Mr. Cohan's book and subsequent public statements. I found hours and hours of material that speak directly to the point, but you need only understand the 2 minute, 52 second excerpt linked below to blow Mr. Cohan's misguided, if not malicious, rumblings out of the water.
Mr. Brocker addresses the following points:
Misleading Condom Statements
* March 21: SANE Report Received
* By March 29: Nifong had read the SANE Report
* March 30: SBI no DNA on rape kit
* March 31: MSNBC spoke with SBI lab and condom statements
Please pay particular attention to Mr. Nifong's facial expressions and overall body language.
Nifong Day 5 - Brocker Statements
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