Friday, May 09, 2014
Cohan's Greatest Hits
Now that author William D. Cohan appears to be wrapping up his publicity tour—and his review process ended with a biting item from the Independent—it might be worth reviewing some of his “greatest hits” in interviews. A general comment: in a highly unusual approach to a book tour, Cohan was far, far more aggressive about the case than he was in the book itself. Could it be that freed from the constraints of Scribner’s editors and counsel, Cohan could be himself?
“I certainly feel sorry for Mike Nifong, the prosecutor, whose life was ruined because of this.”—WAMC
I’m sure that Darryl Howard shares Cohan’s sympathy.
“It’s a 600-page book; 580 pages of it are a condemnation of [Nifong’s] behavior and his decisions and his judgements along the way.”—New York
…suggesting that author Cohan either is prone to misstatements or didn’t read his own book.
“I was able to speak to people who had never spoken before about this, like Mike Nifong.”—Diane Rehm Show
It’s true Nifong had never spoken about this, if we overlook dozens of press and political appearances and his testimony, under oath, before the State Bar and Judge Smith.
“This idea that he was exploiting this case for his election, I think, is ridiculous . . . he was already an announced candidate.”—Jim Campbell Show
Political analyst Cohan: once a candidate announces for election, he can no longer politically exploit an issue that emerges.
“[Mangum] truck me as rational, thoughtful, articulate.”—WAMC
Cohan, on Nifong’s “victim.”
“So within a week’s time he gave up [his preprimary publicity crusade] and basically didn’t talk to the media again and but he was crucified for doing it in that very publicly and during that week.”—CSPAN
Despite Cohan’s claims, Nifong, Durham’s Christ-like figure crucified for his sins, didn’t refrain from speaking to the media after a week; he just spoke less frequently. Lexis/Nexis and a basic Google search can, sometimes, assist even a “serious investigative journalist.”
Approach to the Book
“In the cool light of day, just gather up everything I could about what happened, talk to anybody and everyone who would talk to me, and just start at the beginning.”—New York
Talk, that is, to everyone other than anyone who tangled professionally with Mike Nifong in the courtroom.
“LAMB: Where is [Kim Roberts] today?; COHAN: I have no idea. She…; LAMB: Did you try to find her?; COHAN: I did, but I didn’t even know where to look.”—CSPAN
A “serious investigative journalist” in action.
“I wasn’t trying to prove that these kids were innocent, as [Stuart and KC] were.”—New York
For reasons he has never explained, Cohan appears to believe that the actual writing of UPI occurred in 2006, when there was any doubt that “these kids were innocent.”
“I have tried to present all sides to this fairly and dispassionately, but the - the - the haters like Stuart Taylor don’t want anything to do with a fair and dispassionate assessment of this case.”—Diane Rehm Show
Cohan still hasn’t revealed precisely what makes Stuart a “hater.” Outrage at an author bedeviled by sloppy reasoning?
“LAMB: How did you approach doing this? COHAN: Completely dispassionately.”—CSPAN
For those in need of a good chuckle.
“Why? Why? Why? If there’s nothing to hide—if it were me, and this had happened to me, . . . and somebody like me was writing a book about it, I would immediately want to talk to that person despite what my attorneys were telling me, or despite what I might have signed in a settlement with Duke.”—Michael Smerconish Show
Cohan, on the need to uphold personal legal obligations.
“I thought for sure as the President of Duke University, my Alma Mater, knowing my reputation as a serious investigative journalist, he would have at least have the courtesy to meet with me.”—CSPAN
“[Mangum] eventually did identify, with the help of the police, [emphasis added] in an identification process, she did identify three of the players, two with 100 percent certainty, one [sic] with 90 percent certainty, and those were the three who were indicted.”—Leonard Lopate Show, WYNC
Cohan, describing (and seeming to defend) the rigged photo array.
“Mike Nifong would say that he did turn over the complete DNA evidence in a timely fashion.”—WUNC
Why, then, did Nifong lie to Judge Smith about doing so?
“For thousands of years [when DNA was not identifiable,] rape charges were brought, and people were convicted or found not guilty.”—WUNC
Civil liberties, according to the man who (except for at WUNC) was the toast of the town on usually civil-liberties friendly public radio stations.
“It’s not inconceivable that something happened that none of us would be proud of.”—Michael Smerconish Show
Cohan, carrying Richard Brodhead’s mantra that a trial could prove his students innocent to a new extreme.
“Between Nifong, Crystal, and Bob Steel, the consensus seems to be something happened in that bathroom that no one would be proud of.”—Bloomberg TV
In around a dozen interviews, Cohan always refused to say what happened—even when he was directly asked the question by a savvy e-mailer.
“The defense attorneys claim that Mike Nifong withheld that information from them. But that’s just simply not true . . . He didn’t make it easy for them. He didn’t put a nice bow around it. He made them dig through it.”—Diane Rehm Show
“[Defense attorneys] claimed that he did not disclose the so-called exculpatory DNA in a timely fashion. But, you know, actually that’s not true!”—Jim Campbell Show
We moved from “simply” not true to Diane Rehm to, a few days later, “actually” not true to Jim Campbell. Either version of events is, to borrow a phrase, not true.
Erroneous Descriptions of Evidence
“So my question is: how did David Evans’ DNA get on those fingernails?”—Jim Campbell Show
“On one of those fingernails was David Evans DNA with 98 percent certainty. Which seems pretty high to me, but I guess sometimes DNA experts say that two percent probability means that it’s not related at all.”—CSPAN
So at what point in the few days between his CSPAN appearance and his Jim Campbell appearance did the “serious investigative journalist” decide that a probability DNA experts say “means that it’s not related at all” was longer a necessary qualifier?
“The nurse who examined her found evidence that she had been brutalized and that she had been hurt very badly . . . The medical records, I guess . . . nobody made that public until now. I got my hands on it and reported it faithfully in the book.”—WAMC
Tall Tales, with William D. Cohan.
“Each of the boys [Cohan is describing people in their late 20s or early 30s as “boys”] – each of the three indicted players got $20 million each from Duke.”—CSPAN
Alas, word on the street in “Duke and Durham” isn’t always reliable, as a “serious investigative journalist” should know.
And, finally, my personal favorite, a nonsense-sentence uttered by someone pretending he knew something about the law, on the Leonard Lopate Show, WYNC:
“Again, it’s [innocence] not a word that’s used, uh, in jurisprudent lexicon.