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

“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

Cohan’s self-interpretation.

Due Process

“[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.


Anonymous said...

"Cohan still hasn’t revealed precisely what makes Stuart a “hater.” "

As the saying goes, truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth.

Anonymous said...

“'[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 ignores that two of the people Crystal identified with 100% certainty could prove with 100% certainty that they had not been present at the alleged crime scene at the time of the alleged crime. Of course, according to Cohan, that was an indication that they were guilty.

Cohan ignores that Crystal identifies a man with a mustache as her third assailant, that David Evans never had a mustache. Even in the wanted poster which was circulated showed David Evans as clean shaven.

Anonymous said...

“'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

A number of Crystal advocates say that Tara found things consistent with rape. That statement is legally meaningless. As I recall, a SANE is not to render a legal opinion but to document the presence of injuries.

If the case had gone to trial, if Tara had taken the stand, a defense attorney would have asked her, what were those injuries. She might have listed a number of injuries. The attorney would have asked, where are those injuries documented in the record. Tara would have had one possible response, they aren't. Then the attorney could have quoted from some resource on SANE which said the SANE is supposed to document specific injuries. And how would Tara react when she realized she had just hung herself.

Anonymous said...

These comments are just crazy but it is good for the INNOCENT lacrosse players that Cohan is showing his hand, i.e. that his thinking is on par with Nifong's and the other perpetrators in Durham. The interviews are a warning to potential readers of Price of Silence that the truth, clarity, do not await them in this strange book.

Because the world has some nutty people in it who also have the right to free speech---the kind who twist the facts, the innocent lacrosse players will be fodder for the rest of their lives. They deserve more than whatever the payout.

I am re-reading Until Proven Innocent and am re-amazed by how bad it got. I hope the falsely accused are getting on with their lives and opportunities have not closed to them because off their notoriety. Our children are about the same age and I know how much opportunity and reputation matters. I know how much it took to get them this far, on solid ground. The Duke families, how they must have suffered.

Anonymous said...

Still puzzled: Why would an established author and a reputable publisher take on an eight-year old story, unless there were solid new info? The entire project makes no sense otherwise, as this and other critiques have made so obvious.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps DIW has covered this at length previously?

Any review or recapitulation of the lacrosse saga includes the key role of the SANE. I'm not in health care or law enforcement, yet I'm struck by the language on the Int'l Assn of Forensic Nurses website concerning SANE, which appears to presume that anyone presenting is a "victim" who has "experienced sexual assault or abuse." Not intending to discount the incidence or trauma of assault / abuse; or to minimize the importance of providing expert care, compassionate support, and legally-solid forensic evidence, this language nevertheless strikes me as seriously unbalanced.

"Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of the patient who has experienced sexual assault or abuse.

"A SANE cares for patients who have been victims of sexual assault and abuse. This patient population requires expertise in physical assessment and advanced clinical skills. The SANE normally works in concert with a collaborative, multidisciplinary group of professionals to develop a plan of care for the patient at discharge.

"... These professionals are also striving to assure that the response to a patient who has been sexually assaulted in their community is victim-centered and compassionate and ultimately may provide the potential for a successful criminal justice response."


Does this particular case suggest, indeed, that a SANE with "expertise in physical assessment and advanced clinical skills" should reasonably have engaged a "multidisciplinary group of professionals" -- including mental health specialists -- to develop a compassionate plan of care?

Anonymous said...

Is Cohan trying to re-sell the public on Duke's storyline?

Anonymous said...

...and King Herod asked: "Is there no one who can provide witness against this man?" Different place, different time, different persons, same policy.

Big Al

Anonymous said...

"Is Cohan trying to re-sell the public on Duke's storyline?"

Obviously, yes.

Gregor Samsa said...

You let the review in the Independent off too easily. It speaks of a "botched prosecution" and Mangums's "bungled account". Nice euphemisms for lies. And it says "eight years later we are still more or less where we started." Eight years agoinnocent men were wrongfully accused. Then the state attorney general said they were "innocent". How often do you hear that, instead of some shuffling about inadequate proof or lack of evidence?

kcjohnson9 said...

To Gregor:

Agree. That said, the review's significance was that it came from a guilt-presuming publication--and even it was savage about Cohan.

Anonymous said...

Cohan still hasn’t revealed precisely what makes Stuart a “hater.”

Unlike Woody Allen who can look into the soul of another, I can't comment on WDC's opinion of ST. But I can tell you about some behaviors that I hate. For starters, how about a prosecutor:
- making ethically improper public statements, over a period of several months
- improperly withholding exculpatory DNA evidence
- lying to a judge in open court

Anonymous said...

In a perfect world, Mr. Cohan and his book would be mocked ceaselessly, and some of the media organs which gave glowing reviews would be treated in similar fashion.