by Locker Room contributor
The Herald-Sun, that is. The News and Observer had an editorial today about the potential Duke players’ case against Durham. Let’s just say my response will speak for itself.
Being wrongly accused of rape is no picnic — let’s be honest, it’s a nightmare — but it isn’t necessarily worth $10 million.
Golly gee! It’s not a picnic? You chose that bold statement as your lead sentence? You’re a crazy group, N&O editorial staff!
But let me think for a minute. Having your life (nearly) ruined by an overzealous DA backed by a blind public and enabled by a self-righteous media, along with being railroaded through the judicial system, crucified as the embodiment of wealthy-white-male-northern-athletic privilege, abandoned by your university’s leadership and faculty, and lambasted almost every night on the news from coast to coast, that has to be worth so much more.
But no one deserves to be falsely accused of rape, as the three were by one of the strippers, or to be hounded by a district attorney seemingly blind to any evidence that showed the students may have been telling the truth — that no assault took place — and obsessed with winning the next election.
Evidence the students MAY have been telling the truth? MAY? What about Reade Seligmann’s air-tight alibi, with a witness, cell phone calls, bank records, and an ATM photo? What about Dave Evans’s polygraph? What about the entire team’s cooperation with an overbroad warrant that demanded DNA samples? What about the lack of a DNA match?
Let’s not forget it wasn’t just the DA. Nifong has become the whipping boy for the Duke lacrosse case (which the N&O has downgraded to “controversy”) but there are many, many, many guilty parties. What about the compliance of the Durham PD up and down the chain of command? What about the bizarre “note-taking” habits of Durham PD officers, which included a dry-erase board or entire reports produced with no written information months after initial interviews? What about the April 4 line-up that any Law & Order fan knew was illegal? What about the Crimestoppers alert that a Durham officer put his name to, that said a savage rape, beating, and sodomization had occurred?
Fortunately, the system worked: Although the students were indicted, the charges were dropped and the three were declared innocent by the state attorney general. The district attorney, Mike Nifong, was disgraced, disbarred, thrown out of office and sent to jail for a day.
Wow. Are. You. Kidding.
The Duke lacrosse case shows how the system WORKS? Is there any part of the system that didn’t seem to be HORRIBLY BROKEN as this nightmare unfolded?
The turning point in the case was Brad Bannon spending his nights teaching himself about DNA and sifting through the 1000+-page DNA report provided by Brian Meehan’s now-disgraced lab, and finding the information that Nifong had withheld. Is that the system working? An attorney spending hours upon hours going many, many extra miles? What about attorneys who don’t have that kind of time or patience? More importantly, what about defendants who can’t afford to pay those legal fees?
If that’s the system when it works, I shudder to think what could convince the N&O that it’s broken.
Subtract $5 million in liability insurance coverage, and that amounts to about $119 in city funds for each of Durham’s residents to cover the remaining $25 million. And that’s despite the fact that Durham detectives were among the first to tell Nifong his case was weak.
I wish there were words in the English language to express my emotions at this moment. Durham detectives among the first? Gee, they have a funny way of showing it. Seems like nobody was willing to stand up and call Nifong a jerk until his bar ethics hearing. The only detective who expressed doubt at Crystal’s bizarre story from the get-go was ignored. Many (see Linwood Wilson) were willing to fill in as many holes as they could. Isn’t that how Crystal Mangum produced a story in a December interview that magically solved all the problems in Nifong’s case and rendered Reade’s alibi useless?
And it’s true that the police department’s performance in the case leaves it open to criticism.
I could see this same editorial column doing a great job for criminals like Michael Vick. “It’s true that Michael Vick’s role in an illegal dog-fighting circuit that brutalized animals will maybe taint his career just a little.”
Apparently on orders from Nifong, the Durham police conducted a photo lineup of the students that violated department procedures, and the students were indicted following a secret (that’s routine) grand jury hearing where a manipulative prosecutor could have brought unfair influence to bear.
APPARENTLY? Give it up, guys! Don’t you know the facts of the case have been settled? Did you miss Nifong’s hearing before the bar?
And, please, as much as I like to hear Nifong railed in the news, he didn’t do this on his own. What made these offenses so egregious was that they involved law enforcement officials at every level. Maybe the Durham PD should have refused to violate its own policy. Maybe a Durham PD officer (Gottlieb) shouldn’t have pushed and guided Crystal into making a positive identification.
Let’s also change that last phrase: “…where a manipulative prosecutor and police officers serving as witnesses could have brought unfair influence to bear.”
Congratulations on a great editorial, guys. When you’ve outdone the Herald-Sun on the Duke case, you know you’re doing something.