Saturday, March 31, 2007

Remembering the Good, II

After DIW’s version of March Madness (the worst of op-eds; Duke faculty publications; “news” articles; and soundbites), I had a request to remember the best work of the case. Thursday’s post focused on the media outside of the Duke campus; today’s looks at the best from the campus along with the best from the political realm.

In this category, one figure is of towering significance: Jim Coleman. (If this point sounds familiar, it should.) In a period of maximum tension locally, when the Group of 88 and the potbangers were still riding high, he conducted a fair and impartial investigation of the lacrosse players. His conclusions showed the bad and the good—the team drank too much, but also the players were good students who treated athletic staff well, had a solid record of community service, and had a good relationship with the women’s team.

In the aftermath of the Coleman Committee report, only closed-minded ideologues could accept the caricature of the lacrosse players offered by Nifong, his media allies—the Herald-Sun and the New York Times—and his on-campus facilitators, the Group of 88.

On campus, meanwhile, the Duke Chronicle has provided a combination of news articles, analysis pieces, op-eds, and editorials that has been superb. It would be an interesting test to give a sample—without the bylines—of the Chronicle and the New York Times coverage to 10 people who hadn’t followed the case closely. I suspect nine of the ten would guess that the Chronicle was actually “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Four other categories:

Duke students

Kristin Butler’s superb weekly columns have provided one of the few pleasures associated with this case. Whether analyzing Nifong’s misconduct, the peculiar state of Duke-Durham relations, the informal press rule against naming the accuser, or the agenda-driven CCI, Butler has provided high-quality commentary that ranks among the best of the case.

Stephen Miller penned one of the most important columns of the case—on April 12, recognizing the extraordinary inappropriateness of the Group of 88’s statement a mere six days after the ad appeared. And he’s stayed on top of the issue, denouncing the apparent misconduct by Group member Kim Curtis, and organizing a Facebook group with hundreds of Duke students demanding an apology from the Group.

Confronting a lawless D.A. and a Police Department whose official policy was to treat Duke students differently from other Durham residents, the activists in Duke Students for an Ethical Durham responded in a way that would make any educator (except Grant Farred) proud—they organized Duke students to vote, trying to change the system from within.

Student Government president Eliot Wolf was a rare voice of reason on the Campus Culture Initiative. The sole CCI member willing to speak out publicly against the flawed process that resulted in the February report, he has been tireless in demanding a greater student role in shaping the culture in which students will have to live.

Faculty and Coaches

Chemistry professor Steve Baldwin was the only arts and sciences professor to speak out against Mike Pressler’s dismissal; and, in October, he was the first Duke professor to publicly criticize the Group of 88. The expected occurred: the next day, Robyn Weigman, head of the women’s studies program, attempted to silence him with an accusation of racism. But Baldwin refused to back down, and has provided an increasingly passionate critique of the Group’s dubious agenda.

Engineering professor Michael Gustafson has done his best to appeal to the better angels among his colleagues. The vision of Duke he has offered in his posts is one where professors actually care about their students, rather than focus on forwarding their personal, political, or pedagogical agendas. Like Baldwin, he has spent months on this effort, providing a public reminder that the Group of 88 doesn’t speak for all Duke professors.

Perhaps the most spectacular faculty move came in early January, when 19 professors, 17 of whom were from Economics, published a letter endorsing President Brodhead’s call for an inquiry into Nifong’s misconduct and affirming that all students—including student-athletes and lacrosse players—would be welcome in their classes. It would have been much easier for the Ec professors to remain silent and thereby avoid the inevitable attacks from the Group of 88. It was refreshing, therefore, to see a group of professors step up and do the right thing—just because it was the right thing to do.

Women’s lacrosse coach Kerstin Kimel was the first person affiliated with Duke to speak out publicly on the men’s players’ behalf. She also a critical person behind the scenes in keeping people on an even keel last spring—a time when the Duke administration appeared to abandon the players, both legally and on campus. Meanwhile, the 2006 women’s lacrosse team, by taking a public stance of support, generated torrents of criticism from the politically correct (led by Harvey Araton of the Times)—only to be wholly vindicated as Nifong’s case imploded.

Political Figures

Beth Brewer was the spokesperson and leading activist for the Recall Nifong-Vote Cheek effort. At a time when more experienced figures shied away from challenging the seemingly omnipotent DA, Brewer was outraged at Nifong’s misconduct and devoted hundreds of hours to the campaign. While the Cheek line didn’t prevail, no one did more to ensure that Nifong could not claim support from a majority of Durham voters.

Jackie Brown could have sat out the fall election, thereby not risking going against normal allies in groups like the People’s Alliance. Instead, she provided critical behind-the-scenes political know-how for the Recall Nifong effort, helping to transform what appeared to be a longshot campaign into a candidacy that—but for “Spoiler Steve” Monks dividing the anti-Nifong vote—could very well have ousted Nifong in November.

North Carolina congressman Walter Jones became the first member of Congress to publicly demand that the Justice Department do its job and launch a formal inquiry into Nifong’s behavior. The decision was more than a photo-op for him: Jones has been relentless in pressing the Attorney General to move forward—and, as more of Nifong’s misconduct has become public knowledge, Jones has looked prescient.

There’s little political benefit for a Democratic presidential candidate to endorse a federal inquiry—even though, of course, prosecutorial misconduct disproportionately affects minorities and the poor. So Hillary Clinton remained silent, as John Edwards hired a blogger who gleefully proclaimed the players guilty in January 2007. Barack Obama, meanwhile, stood up for principle, and called for the Justice Department to open an investigation.

Blogs/Websites

Liestoppers obviously has been the key player in this regard. John in Carolina has been relentless; Bill Anderson's columns have ranged widely and persuasively; Johnsville News has provided a useful clearinghouse; LaShawn Barber's forays into the case have been timely; Betsy Newmark and Craig Henry have brought their talents to the case.

Three sites, however, occasionally have gotten overlooked for their critical role in the case:

Jeralyn Merritt at Talk Left saw through Nifong almost from the start--from the perspective of a well-connected criminal defense attorney who was nationally known for her effective defenses of Bill Clinton during the impeachment trial. Alas, over the summer, the TL discussion forum got hijacked by a handful of Nifong enablers who reveled in others' misery and appeared to operate under the belief that an accused was guilty until proved innocent beyond all reasonable doubt. But that shouldn't set aside the many Merritt posts in April--when virtually no one was challenging Nifong--pointing out the DA's procedural shortcomings.

Kathleen Eckelt at Forensics Talk was probably the most helpful blogger for me in terms of information, because her posts explained--in terms a layperson could easily understand--the function of the SANE nurse. Since this was an area about which I knew nothing ten months ago, this blog could not have been anywhere near as effective without Eckelt's contributions. She convincingly showed the flaws in nurse-in-training Levicy's actions in this case, but she also persuasively pointed out the procedural flaws in the handling of medical evidence by Nifong and the police.

Finally, Duke Basketball Report is, without a doubt, the unsung hero of the internet and the case. DBR editors correctly understood that this was in part a sports issue--Nifong went after the players in part because they were athletes, and his enablers in the media and the Duke faculty seized on anti-athlete stereotypes to make their cases--but that the case was mostly a moral issue. DBR commentary was consistently first-rate regarding both the political and the legal elements of the case.

Reader Suggestions

Some appropriate additions, suggested by readers.

Provost Peter Lange, the only member of the administration wholly untainted by the affair, whose response to Houston Baker's race-baiting screed represents one of the high points of the administration's response to the case.

On the blogger front, Jon Ham and Right Angles, whose coverage has been great; and Ham's daughter, Mary Katherine, who produced my favorite video of the case.

Jason Trumpbour and Friends of Duke--which fell between my two categories (on and off campus), and has been perhaps the most significant grassroots organization of this case.

Over the past 12 months, most of my posts have tended to be critical. Lots of people have betrayed their professions in how they handled this case, ranging from Nifong to the Group of 88 to journalists such as Duff Wilson. But it's worth remembering that--both on campus and off--lots of other people ensured that the overall story was not an exclusively negative one.

Friday, March 30, 2007

More from the Legal "Experts"

I received an e-mail from Cash Michaels, author of yesterday’s piece in the Amsterdam News, noting that the News had very much edited the version he had submitted; and, therefore, he has posted the full version here.

The article contains several additional quotes from NAACP case monitor Irving Joyner and adjunct instructor Wendy Murphy. Joyner still doesn’t explain, however, how he determined that Illinois senator Barack Obama, in endorsing a DOJ inquiry of Mike Nifong’s misconduct, was “stating a position without a valid examination.”

In his additional quotes, Joyner notes that “a prosecutor is immune from civil suit for actions taken in the role as the prosecutor. The law provides absolute immunity even from civil rights claims.” Therefore, he notes, Nifong couldn’t be civilly sued for his decision to enter into an agreement with Dr. Brian Meehan to intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence.

I’m unaware of anyone who has discussed filing a civil suit against Nifong for actions that he took as a prosecutor. Michael Tigar, among others, has noted that Nifong appears very vulnerable to a civil suit for his false public comments. Moreover, Nifong was in charge of the police investigation from March 24 onwards; and, as Joyner well knows, has only qualified, not absolute, immunity from civil suits for actions that he took outside his capacity as DA.

Joyner also takes strong issue with the Bar’s decision to bring Nifong up on ethics charges for the DNA conspiracy, since “discovery is not constitutionally required unless authorized by the Brady Rule which deals with the providing of exculpatory evidence after a request has been made, an order to produce has been issued and the prosecutor violated that directive . . . That rule does not mandate immediate compliance with the discovery mandate and provides no more than that the discovery, after it has been ordered, must be provided at a reasonable time before trial. Even the North Carolina statute does not place a time line on when the discovery must be provided. Only that it is to be provided at a reasonable time before trial.”

If Joyner’s words sound familiar, they should—they mirror, almost word for word, the recent talking points of Mike Nifong’s personal attorneys. As the Bar noted in its response to Nifong, nothing in state or federal law would seem to justify Nifong’s “proposed bright-line rule” that because no trial date had been set, he didn’t have to turn over the exculpatory evidence.

Adjunct instructor Murphy, meanwhile, added that “having a federal civil rights investigation is such a joke. Nobody can justify such a ridiculous idea.”

Continuing her assault on the Bar, she asserted, “Even if this case were reviewed by a federal court, they would say there has been no constitutional violation and the defense has suffered no prejudice to their rights. If the courts would summarily laugh at such a claim, how can Congress say with a straight face that the claim merits a federal civil rights investigation?”

If the adjunct instructor’s words sound familiar, they should—they mirror, almost word for word, the recent talking points of Mike Nifong’s personal attorneys. As the Bar noted in its response, Nifong (and now adjunct instructor Murphy) appear to be confusing a violation that would lead to a court overturning a conviction with a violation of the Bar's ethics rules or state and federal law.

The Accuser and Law Enforcement

As we move past the one-year anniversary of press coverage of the case, the Liestoppers forum has been running remembrance threads, reproducing articles from the Herald-Sun, N&O, and New York Times. In this early period, the most significant piece was the March 25 N&O article, in which reporter Samiha Khanna portrayed the accuser as a courageous exotic dancer, an unquestioned “victim” of a heinous, racially motivated crime.

How would that story have played with the police photograph of the accuser from March 16, 2006, two days after the alleged “attack,” showing that she had no facial bruising or swollen eyes, as her father and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb would repeatedly claim? I suspect that most N&O readers would have looked skeptically on the accuser’s recollection that “my father came to see me in the hospital. I knew if I didn't report it that he would have that hurt forever, knowing that someone hurt his baby and got away with it.”

They probably would have looked even more skeptically on this recollection had they known—as we know now—that no evidence exists of the father coming to visit the accuser in the hospital.

Of course, neither Khanna nor the early reporters for either the Times or H-S could obtain access to the police photos. Duff Wilson, on the other hand, could and—according to his claim that he read all 1850 pages of the then-discovery file—did for his August story. For reasons that remain unclear, he decided that these police photographs showing the accuser with no bruises was not a significant item to mention in his August 25 story.

But all early reporters on the case could have ferreted out the accuser’s police record. Try reconsidering any of the one-sided March 2006 articles with a sentence that included a mention that the accuser was well-known to law enforcement, since in June 2002 she was indicted for “willfully and feloniously” assaulting a sheriff’s deputy by attempting to strike him with a motor vehicle. Such a sentence would have made it impossible to portray the accuser as a virtuous college student, moonlighting as a dancer to put food in the mouths of her children.

Now, imagine any of these March 2006 articles with any of the details below from the publicly available police report, prepared by Deputy John Carroll, of the accuser’s 2002 activity:

The suspect was driving a blue taxi cab [which she had stolen]. She was completely left of center within my sight without any lights on the vehicle. She then crossed back right and off the road into the shoulder and turning up dirt. [After traveling 70mph in a 55mph zone,] the suspect was then traveling south in the northbound lane . . . She traveled east until it came to a dead end. She then attempted to turn left and run through a fence but was unable to and it appeared that she was not going to go any further. I put my vehicle in park and exited it, and approached the suspect—telling her to turn the car off and get out.

When she saw me approach, she was laughing and put the vehicle in reverse and backed across the road and into the woods. It appeared that she was stuck. I had to run around my vehicle to get back to the driver’s side door, and as I began to approach the vehicle she put it in drive and drove towards me. I jumped out of the way to the right and she missed me. The suspect then struck the right rear quarter of my patrol vehicle . . . and then proceeded west on Briar Creek Parkway, almost striking Deputy Goss in his patrol vehicle.

After eventually being boxed in by pursuing police vehicles, the suspect

was boxed in. Deputy Goss and I approached the vehicle with our guns drawn, pointing at the suspect, giving verbal commands to exit the car. She refused until we were directly next to the car.

She then opened the door and would not get out, with her hand on the steering wheel and leaning out to the rear of the car. She finally got out of the car and laid down on the ground. She was taken into custody at that time. I put her in the back seat of my vehicle. She kept attempting to lay down but was advised to sit up. [Does this behavior sound familiar?] She was given an alcosensor and submitted, giving a 0.19 reading, and at the same time, while getting all the information together, the suspect passed out and was unresponsive. [Does this behavior sound familiar?]

Of course, publicizing this information in March would have prompted cries from Wendy Murphy that, as women never lie about rape, the accuser’s past record was irrelevant. But even the Group of 88 might have thought long and hard about linking their agenda to such a figure. The transformation of the case into a metanarrative might have been slowed.

The accuser ultimately pled guilty to two counts of driving while impaired, one count of assaulting a government official, and two misdemeanor accounts of fleeing arrest. In the sentencing guidelines, the accuser had four aggravating factors and no mitigating factors. The report noted that her aggravating factors “substantially outweigh” her mitigating factors.

Imagine any of the March 2006 articles with this material, coupled with a mention of the accuser’s ultimate sentence: two weekends in jail and probation. Such a seemingly mild sentence for the offenses in question might have led some people to ask whether Durham was Wonderland, and what kind of justice system the city really had.

The accuser’s criminal record was first reported on April 7. By then, Mike Nifong’s pre-primary publicity barrage had crested, and the outcry over the McFadyen e-mail and the cancellation of the lacrosse season minimized the impact of the information. The press, eager for new stories, never really returned to the item, and the accuser's record passed into the background as one of the many items in the case that should have caused people to, at the very least, slow the rush to judgment.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Legal "Experts" on Obama

This morning’s Amsterdam News—last heard from on the case, somewhat appropriately, through an op-ed from the disbarred Alton Maddox, one of Tawana Brawley’s former attorneys— features an article citing legal “experts” attacking Illinois senator Barack Obama for urging a Justice Department inquiry into Mike Nifong’s misconduct.

Who are these legal “experts”? None other than the Duke case’s Dynamic Duo—NAACP case monitor Irving Joyner and adjunct Wendy Murphy.

Joyner dismisses Obama’s move, commenting, “I don’t think that it means much within the scope of things other than his stating a position without a valid examination.”

The article contains no additional quotes from the NCCU law professor, leaving the reader to guess just how Joyner determined that Obama had not conducted a “valid examination” of affairs. Does the NAACP’s designated case monitor believe that only those who agree with his bland pro-prosecution perspective have conducted a “valid examination”?

Murphy, meanwhile, suggests that the accuser’s “civil rights” have been violated, though, as with Joyner’s critique of Obama, she supplies no details to sustain her assertion. She also expresses her concern about the North Carolina Bar, noting that “this case is being described as a ‘fraud,’ etc. by lawyers—officers of the court who are ethically obligated not to lie or mislead the public.”

Could it be that it’s because the State Bar—an organization composed of “officers of the court who are ethically obligated not to lie or mislead the public”—has cited Mike Nifong for “misrepresentation” and “fraud” that Obama, a lawyer himself, felt compelled to act? Murphy doesn’t say. Instead, she implies that by faulting Nifong for issuing misleading, inflammatory public statements and withholding exculpatory DNA evidence in violation of three North Carolina laws, the Bar acted improperly.

The adjunct instructor also argues that “Obama should call for a full disclosure of all the facts before anyone passes judgment n this case.” Coming from a person who has fantasized about the “broomstick DNA” solving the case amidst a parade of no fewer than 18 errors of fact in her public commentary on the case, this demand is particularly ironic.

Obtaining criticism from the likes of Joyner and Murphy is further confirmation that Obama did the right thing.

---------

For those who wanted a comprehensive review of the issue, they could have turned to the Chronicle, which interviewed two Duke law profs.

Jim Coleman: "I think Rep. Jones called for a national investigation independently of any ethical violation."

Thomas Metzloff: "That's their job, and I don't think it's inappropriate for politicians to ask these kinds of questions at all."

Remembering the Good, I

In the aftermath of DIW’s version of March Madness (the worst of op-eds; Duke faculty publications; “news” articles; and soundbites), I had a request to remember the best work of the case. Today focuses on the media outside of the Duke campus; tomorrow’s post will look at the best from the campus along with the best from the political realm.

In this category, one figure is of towering significance: Jim Coleman. In a June letter to the N&O, the Duke law professor became the first prominent figure to demand Mike Nifong’s recusal. He concisely explained what remains the most significant procedural flaw of this case—Nifong’s instructing the police to violate their own procedures and conduct a do-over lineup confined to suspects. The flawed procedure, as Coleman noted in June, “strongly suggests that the purpose of the identification process was to give the alleged victim an opportunity to pick three members of the lacrosse team who could be charged. Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice.”

Coleman was months ahead of virtually everyone else on the case.

Moreover, he continued to speak out about Nifong’s misconduct, most spectacularly in the October 60 Minutes broadcast, when he (correctly) noted that in the spring, Nifong “pandered to the community by saying ‘I’m gonna go out there and defend your interests in seeing that these hooligans who committed the crime are prosecuted. I’m not gonna let their fathers, with all of their money, buy you know big-time lawyers and get them off. I’m doing this for you.’ You know, what are you to conclude about a prosecutor who says to you, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to get this set of defendants?’ What does it say about what he’s willing to do to get poor black defendants.”

Two other categories:

Print Media

Those who have followed the case closely have, no doubt, lost count of how many stories Joe Neff and the team of N&O reporters—Ben Niolet, Michael Biesecker, Anne Blythe, Eric Ferreri, Jane Stancill—have broken. The N&O has published more quality articles on the case than the rest of the print media combined, and from a variety of different angles—Nifong’s procedural misconduct, Nifong’s personal background, police misconduct, Duke campus attitudes and actions.

Beyond the N&O, the non-campus print media has featured the horrific performances of the Herald-Sun and the New York Times, but there was one other significant print media performance: Newsweek. The June 29 article by Evan Thomas and Susannah Meadows provided a major turning point in how the mainstream media approached the case. And Susannah Meadows’ January profile of the Seligmann family reminded everyone that real people have been harmed by Nifong’s massive misconduct.

Commentators

Six people in this category stand out, in groups of two.

The first two significant dissents in the case came in early May, from very different figures. Jason Whitlock, a Kansas City Star sports reporter, case seems like an updated re-enactment of To Kill a Mockingbird.” He lamented, “If the Duke lacrosse players were black and the accuser were white, everyone would easily see the similarities between this case and the alleged crimes that often left black men hanging from trees in the early 1900s.” Whitlock concluded that the civil rights movement didn’t occur “so that the poor, black and oppressed could surrender the moral high ground and attempt to inflict injustice on the privileged.” In the same week, Stuart Taylor, National Journal’s senior writer, characterized the April 4 lineup as “so grotesquely suggestive and unreliable that one expert compares it to ‘a multiple-choice test with no wrong answers’” and blasted Nifong’s having “rudely spurned repeated requests by defense lawyers for a chance to show him exculpatory evidence.” “Such conduct,” Taylor maintained, “is not usually seen as grounds for disbarment. It ought to be.”

In early June came two new pathbreaking critiques of the case, from the New York Times op-ed page. Right-of-center David Brooks compared Nifong’s conduct to a witch hunt and apologized for having personally rushed to judgment. Left-of-center Nicholas Kristof urged “some deep reflection . . . about the perniciousness of any kind of prejudice that reduces people — yes, even white jocks — to racial caricatures. This has not been the finest hour of either the news media or academia: too many rushed to make the Duke case part of the 300-year-old narrative of white men brutalizing black women.”

Finally, over the summer, two figures who had initially presumed guilt reconsidered their assumptions. Reviewing the case in August, USC law professor Susan Estrich discovered “a failure to follow standard procedure that is rather mind-boggling.” “At the very least,” she argued, “standard procedure should have been to await the results of tests, and then, given the results, the inconsistencies in the woman's statements, the fact that at least one of the boys seems to have an airtight alibi, investigate further before indicting anyone.” In one of the single best lines this case has produced, Estrich concluded her essay by noting, “There are reasons you follow procedures. In general, they are there to spare outrage.” Estrich would pen three more articles criticizing Nifong, culminating with a New Years’ Day piece terming the accuser a “liar.”

Ruth Sheehan, meanwhile, broke from the pack in June, and after the Elmostafa trial, emerged as a ferocious critic of Nifong, both in her columns and in her blog. Those active in the Recall Nifong-Vote Cheek will recall Sheehan as the sole columnist, either in North Carolina or outside, who provided consistent aid to the Cheek forces.

Sheehan’s coverage of the Elmostafa trial provides a reminder of another high point of the case—an immigrant cab driver who told the truth when he had no personal agenda to do so, and who wound up the victim of a selective prosecution.

Hat tip: D.E.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Times' Party Line?

In October, former Times public editor Dan Okrent remarked, “The only thing we can look forward to now is what the Times will say to the accused once the charges are dropped, or once acquittals are delivered.”

Does Selena Roberts’ Sunday column preview the paper’s party line? If so, what we have to look forward to is ominous indeed. Defending the Times’ previous coverage by rewriting the past, Roberts minimized Mike Nifong’s misconduct, endorsed the Group of 88’s agenda, and maintained the character assaults on the lacrosse players—only now for behavior typical on virtually every college campus in the country.

Roberts’ March 31, 2006 column asserted that “something happened March 13” that “threatens to belie [the players’] social standing as human beings.” Roberts compared the players’ behavior to that “of drug dealers and gang members engaged in an anti-snitch campaign.” She bizarrely called a search warrant a “reported court document.” She praised the “heartening” protests of the potbangers—people, it’s worth remembering, who carried signs reading “Castrate” and “Measure for Measure.” She falsely stated that none of the players “have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.” She falsely contended that a “court document” described the accuser as “the victim of a hate crime.” She noted that the accuser was “reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape.” The reports, alas, were false; no correction ever appeared.

Basic human decency—if not a desire to uphold journalistic integrity—would suggest that a columnist with such a record would issue some sort of mea culpa, an admission that she got the story horribly wrong.

Instead, last Sunday, Roberts remained as intense in her criticism of players’ character as she had been in March 2006. Now that the case against them has collapsed, she criticized those who linked the case’s outcome to a critique of campus culture—even though, when it looked as if the players were guilty, she herself had enthusiastically made such a linkage. She mocked the “lacrosse pipeline to Wall Street” even as she herself has chosen to live in a lily white Fairfield County suburb whose median household income is more than $100,000 above the national average.

Of Mike Nifong, meanwhile, Roberts could say nothing worse than he is “one part clueless Columbo.”

Perhaps most outrageously, Roberts left the impression that her basic assertion from last March—“something happened March 13”—is now and will remain valid. She quoted an unnamed Duke professor (Orin Starn? Grant Farred?) calling for dismissing the case because the investigation “has been so screwed up”—as if what occurred in Durham were a version of Floyd Landis’ Tour de France drug test, with strong evidence of guilt accompanied by the lab having “screwed up” by mislabeling part of Landis’ B-sample.

And just to make sure everyone got the message that it’s still possible that “something happened,” Roberts noted, “As the father of the accuser recently told The Herald-Sun, of Durham, he still believes in his daughter.”

In that interview, Travis Mangum asserted that the accuser had swollen eyes on the night after the “attack.” Yet, as this March 16, 2006 police photo showed, the father—to whom Roberts gave credence—was not telling the truth.

It’s convenient, of course, for Roberts to pretend that this photo never existed. On August 25, it was similarly convenient for Duff Wilson to do so. Wilson’s 5,600-word magnum opus has been widely, and correctly, faulted. It bizarrely treated Sgt. Gottlieb’s “straight-from-memory” notes as credible. It falsely contended that the accuser’s story had been largely consistent after the first few hours. It contained four outright factual errors, each of which tilted the story in a pro-Nifong line. It erroneously left the impression that no evidence existed to determine what occurred between 12.04am and 12.50am on March 14. It excluded the assurance from Nifong’s own office that DNA results would exonerate the innocent. It repeated Nifong’s speculation that the attackers might have worn condoms, even though Wilson claimed to have examined “the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution” and therefore knew Nifong’s claim to be false.

As Stuart Taylor observed shortly after it was published, the article “highlights every superficially incriminating piece of evidence in the case, selectively omits important exculpatory evidence, and reports hotly disputed statements by not-very-credible police officers and the mentally unstable accuser as if they were established facts.”

Taking Wilson at his word—that he examined “the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution”—we know now his performance was even worse than Taylor had suggested. Wilson had access to two pieces of information that all but proved Nifong’s case was a fraud. And he never even mentioned them.

First, Wilson—who examined “the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution”—saw the same results that Joe Neff did for an October article: that the accuser made enormous errors (outside of the three players she picked) in the April 4 lineup. She said she was 100 percent certain of recognizing people the prosecution knew weren’t even at the party. She misindentified the person who made the broomstick comment, picking a player with a different hair color and body build. She no longer recognized people she was 100 percent certain of seeing when she first did a lineup on March 16.

How did Wilson characterize this information? He withheld it, and instead raved at how the “full transcript shows some precise recollections, three weeks after a relatively brief encounter with a large group of white strangers.”

Second, Wilson—who examined “the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution”—saw the same March 16, 2006 photo that all readers of this blog did last week, showing an accuser wholly without facial bruises or swollen eyes, despite the claims of her father.

How did Wilson characterize this information? He withheld it, instead noting, “Sergeant Gottlieb writes that the accuser appeared to be in extreme pain when he interviewed her two and a half days after the incident, and that signs of bruises emerged then as well . . . During that [March 16] interview, the woman, who is dark skinned, said bruises were beginning to show from the attack. A female officer took photographs and confirmed that 'she had the onset of new bruises present,’ Sergeant Gottlieb wrote. (The female officer’s report does not mention bruises.)”

Basic human decency—if not a desire to uphold journalistic integrity—would suggest that a news division with such a record would issue some sort of mea culpa, an admission that the Times got the story horribly wrong. Yet, incredibly, Wilson remains on the story. Just like Roberts, then, he’s in a position to end the case by maintaining the Times party line while also minimizing his earlier journalistic failures.

It’s na├»ve, I suppose, to expect a paper that has been so unfair in its coverage to date to change its approach now. Given what we saw Sunday from Roberts, Times readers should dread what we will see from Wilson if and when charges are dismissed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Selena's New English

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday’s New York Times, Selena Roberts denounced what she termed “the irrefutable culture of misogyny, racial animus and athlete entitlement that went unrestrained that night.” [emphasis added]

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, irrefutable is defined as “impossible to refute: INCONTROVERTIBLE.”

Roberts correctly notes that it is “irrefutable” that racial animus was on display after the lacrosse party—though she withholds from her readers Kim Roberts’ admission that she began the racial taunts; or that none of the three accused players were even at the house by that point in time.

Roberts also withholds from her readers the “irrefutable” racial animus we have seen in this case from figures such as Chan Hall, or Harris Johnson, or officials of the NAACP.

But was the party an example of “the irrefutable culture of misogyny”? Such a claim would presuppose, it seems, that the hiring of strippers is a males-only activity at Duke. Yet, as this Liestoppers post observed, women’s groups at Duke also seem to have hired strippers.

A case could be made, of course, that such behavior is crass, and I’m sure that Roberts’ friends among the religious right would agree with her. Yet how can behavior be irrefutably anti-female if female groups also engage in the same behavior?

Finally, Roberts’ claim that the party demonstrated an “irrefutable culture of . . . athlete entitlement” is, to put it bluntly, absurd. To begin with, non-athletes were at the party. A brief search through webshots.com, a photo hosting service, shows that “spring break party” reveals 291,548 photos; “spring break drunk” reveals 61,682 pictures; “spring break beer” brings up 40,309 snapshots; and the number for “spring break naked” is more than 6,500. Youtube reveals thousands of videos of sexually tasteless activities over spring break. Based on these figures, can Roberts seriously contend that holding a spring break party with beer and sexually explicitly entertainment is a characteristic of “athlete entitlement” and not a more general college experience?

Perhaps the Times uses a different dictionary, one in which “irrefutable” doesn’t mean “incontrovertible.” Or perhaps Selena Roberts overstated her argument.

Selena on Diversity

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday’s New York Times, Selena Roberts positioned herself as an aggressive champion of diversity, while also appealing to class-based sentiments by taking a negative tone to former lacrosse players' Wall Street jobs.

Such a figure, no doubt, practices what she preaches, and demonstrates a deep commitment to diversity in her personal life, correct?

Not quite.

According to her Times bio, Roberts is a resident of Westport, Connecticut, a suburb in Fairfield County. The US Census Bureau's fact page reveals that Westport is a bastion of neither racial nor economic diversity. Of its 25,598 residents, 24,560, or 95.5 percent, are white. Westport has a grand total of 292 African-American residents. Barely 1 percent of Roberts' fellow townsfolk, in other words, are black.

What about economic diversity? The median family income in Westport is $153,131, more than $100,000 greater than the median family income for the United States as a whole. And a grand total of 104 families live below the poverty level. Barely 1 percent of Roberts' fellow townsfolk, in other words, are poor. The town website has forms for people who need to store their boats--either on water or on land--and for residents-only tennis and golf facilities.

Roberts, as an affluent columnist, has the right to live wherever she can afford. Yet, judged by the severity with which she condemns others for exhibiting insufficient sensitivity to minorities or the poor, it comes as something of a surprise to see that she has chosen to live in a lily white, upper-class suburb.

Hat tip: E.F.

Selena on the Faculty

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday’s New York Times, Selena Roberts lashed out at those who criticized the rush to judgment:

Some of them have expressed their anger with threatening e-mail messages to Duke staff members who had voiced opinions on the scandal.

Fresh from her appearance in Durham alongside Group of 88 stalwart Grant Farred and anti-lacrosse extremist Orin Starn, Roberts happily accepted the Group of 88’s e-mail canard. Even though she was in town, she gave no evidence of acting like a reporter and actually checking with either the Durham or Duke Police to determine whether an investigation had begun into these “threatening” actions.

What “opinion on the scandal,” by the way, have such “Duke staff members” voiced? Roberts doesn’t say.

Perhaps she was referring to William Chafe’s suggesting that the whites who lynched Emmett Till provided the appropriate context through which to interpret the behavior of the lacrosse players.

Or Houston Baker’s describing the players as “farm animals.”

Or Karla Holloway—in the name of upholding a university’s basic principles—passing along fifth-hand, unsubstantiated, slanderous gossip about her own school’s students.

Or her co-panelist Grand Farred’s accusing hundreds of Duke students of harboring a “secret racism.”

Roberts describes such items as the above with the bland clause “voiced opinions on the scandal.” I wonder why she was so eager to withhold from her readers exactly what opinions her ideological comrades among the faculty have expressed?

Selena on Selena

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday’s New York Times, Selena Roberts presented the new “party line”—she (and the Times) have been criticizing the culture, not the crime. She writes:

To many, the alleged crime and culture are intertwined . . . but the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive.

In the first section of the item quoted above, Roberts, perhaps, might have been speaking of this columnist, who wrote on March 31, 2006:

The season is over, but the paradox lives on in Duke’s lacrosse team, a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.

And this:

But why is it so hard to gather the facts? Why is any whisper of a detail akin to snitching? “The idea of breaking ranks within a team is identified as weak,’’ said Katie Gentile, an assistant professor and the director of the Women’s Center at John Jay College, adding, ‘‘The bottom line is, your self-esteem is more valuable to you than someone else’s life.”

And this:

Does President Brodhead dare to confront the culture behind the lacrosse team’s code of silence or would he fear being ridiculed as a snitch?

It certainly seems that the above columnist is among those that Roberts now criticizes for contending that “the alleged crime and culture are intertwined.”

The name of that March 31, 2006 columnist?

Selena Roberts.

Selena's Selective Standards

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday’s New York Times, Selena Roberts mocked those who defended the lacrosse players, claiming that they wanted her to:

lay off the lacrosse pipeline to Wall Street, excuse the khaki-pants crowd of SAT wonder kids.

In a recurring theme of her columns, Roberts has suggested that boosters exercise too much power in college athletics, that they exploit athletes to massage their own egos or to advance agendas that contradict the goal of higher education.

Yet the lacrosse team—as Roberts herself now, apparently, concedes—has a 100 percent graduation rate, many are very good students (more than half on the conference academic honor roll), and most get good jobs upon graduation.

Yet the tone of her Sunday column suggests such a record is a bad thing?

Selena's Comparison

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday’s New York Times, Selena Roberts described the prosecution in the following manner:

The North Carolina attorney general’s office—which took over the Duke lacrosse case in the winter from Michael B. Nifong, one part district attorney, one part clueless Columbo—denied any decision [to drop the case] was imminent.

How did the AG’s office take over the case? Roberts never says. That the Bar charged Nifong with engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” and conspiring to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence? Roberts doesn’t mention it.

How, instead, does she describe Nifong? “One part district attorney, one part clueless Columbo.” Columbo, played by Peter Falk, “put on a good show of being dim-witted so that the criminals and even his colleagues would be more at ease around him”; he was the “deceptively bumbling” lieutenant who used his appearance as the fool to solve the crime.

So, in describing Nifong as “one part clueless Columbo” and withholding any mention of the ethics charges against the district attorney, was Roberts intending to remind readers that, each week on TV, Columbo deliberately used his “clueless” nature to solve the crime?

Or was she just using a sloppy comparison?

Selena's Source?

In her screed against the lacrosse team in Sunday's New York Times, Selena Roberts passes along the following nugget:
As a Duke professor mentioned, “There is a ‘let it end’ sense to it because the case has been so screwed up.”
Not a demand to end the case because innocent people were prosecuted.
A let it end’ sense” because Nifong screwed up.” The implication: maybe a rape occurred, maybe it didn't, but the prosecutor's mistakes mean that people should let” the case end.

To make sure that readers know her belief that it's unclear whether or not a rape occurred, in her next sentence, Roberts quotes the accuser's father, Travis Mangum, who says he still believes his daughter.

During her jaunt to Durham, Roberts sat on a panel with two professors: Group of 88 extremist Grant Farred and anti-lacrosse stalwart Orin Starn. Which of the two was her source for the suggestion that
“because the case has been so screwed up,” rather than a lack of evidence, is why the case should go away?

Remembering Kirk Osborn

The memorial service for Kirk Osborn is scheduled for tomorrow. A colleague writes, “Kirk Osborn was a hero, in this case and all cases he took on. It did not matter how young, old, black, white, rich, poor, guilty, or innocent his clients were: he fought for all of them and gave them (and the system) the advocacy that justice cannot do without. He fought many noble battles in the courtroom, and those of us who were lucky enough to fight with him along the way have lost a true friend and inspiration, as well as a face that managed to smile and a spirit that managed to infect a cause with optimism no matter how difficult it might have been. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed greatly.”

Some other remembrances:

Orange County DA Jim Woodall: “Not only was Kirk Osborn a very good friend, he was also a zealous attorney and a stellar representative for his clients and showed great professionalism in the courtroom.”

Joe Cheshire: “North Carolina has lost one of its true warriors.”

Buddy Conner: “He hated injustice. That was the essence of his life. He carried a tremendous amount of credibility, but he did it without getting all angry and aggressive and arrogant.”

Judge and former DA Carl Fox: “I often said that if I had a situation where I needed to be represented, I would call him. He was never a person who was very showy or anything like that. You’d never see him in the paper for a lot of the cases. That just wasn’t his thing.”

Jeralyn Merritt: “I too am shocked to learn of Mr. Osborn’s untimely passing. I didn’t know him, but he did a great job for Reade Seligmann in this case. May he rest in peace.”

Bill Anderson: “My heart goes out to his family, his loved ones, and all who knew him. He will be missed, and missed greatly. I ask for the Mercy of God to be upon him.”

Osborn’s passing generated a number of thoughtful comments on this blog, at Liestoppers, and at Talk Left. Below is a sampling.

“As an attorney, I have greatly admired Mr. Osborn’s work in this case. It is not easy to stand up against the ‘establishment’ in one’s own professional arena, and when someone is courageous enough to do it, it usually has quite a cost associated with it. I wish his soul a safe and speedy journey to the next world, and may the love and protection of God surround his family and friends at this difficult and painful time.”

“I am so very sorry to hear about Kirk Osborn. My earliest memories of him are those of a dapper man about town....always with an air of sophistication. A classmate of mine considered Kirk a role model and went into law because of him. His amazing role in this case will be remembered.”

“Mr. Osborn’s achievements in addressing the state’s abuse of his client, its own justice system, and the public trust compel our attention and respect. I join with all of those honoring his life and grieving his death. And I pray that like Moses, Mr. Osborn could see well the inevitable success of his worthy strivings and that his vision of eventual triumph was very sweet.”

“Kirk Osborn is one attorney I have always admired. If courage is grace under pressure, then his appearance in court with Reade Seligmann was courageous. His website with the text of the defense motions was the sunlight that illuminated the darkness, especially early in the case. He understood the forces Reade and his fellow defendants were up against and he acted with great foresight and strategy. His passing is a sad loss but he lived his life with dignity and purpose. Rest in peace.”

“As others have said, Kirk walked beside Reade while thugs in the ridiculous NBPP party shouted threats to him...Kirk walked with Reade while looking very positive and UNAFRAID...his presence right beside Reade must have been a great comfort to this young man, who at this time had barely started his adult life. I find myself with tears in my eyes, thinking about a man I never knew...but I knew, through the work he had done on Reade’s behalf, that he was a good, decent man...Reade was well-represented by this man, and he will surely be missed...but Kirk I’m certain will be with Reade still...God bless the family of Kirk Osborn, and all those who loved and knew him.”

“Kirk Osborn was one of the good guys. I think he saw the writing on the wall early on and he was proven right time and again. He fought to move this case forward and I’m very sad that he won’t be here to see it end. He did a wonderful job for Reade. As a future lawyer, he’ll be someone I remember and strive to emulate. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

“When I read of the people Kirk Osborn had chosen to defend as a lawyer—those accused in the Little Rascals scandal and now Reade in the Duke Rape scandal—I thought at once of a passage in the Bible: ‘Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is’ (1Corinthians 3:12-13). My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of such an honorable man as Kirk Osborn.”

“As a person who recently lost his father due to a sudden, massive heart attack, I can truly empathize with the Osborn family. This is devastating for them and my deepest, heartfelt condolences go out to them. May he rest in peace and hopefully he took comfort in knowing that many people appreciated his efforts in this case.”

“I hope that a suitable tribute can be made in honor of Mr. Osborn. I believe when the whole story is told he will be viewed as a Hero. There was a time when the world was caving in on Reade and Osborn stood by his side unflinching in the face of the New Black Panthers and the Power of the State. Judge Stephens, Nifong, and the Durham PD were stacking the deck and Kirk was the man who stood up to them.”

“My condolences to Mr. Osborn's family and associates. Early on, I emailed him to tell him that I believed in Reade and thought the charges were untrue. He emailed me back and thanked me for my support. I was surprised because I had not expected any response. He was a man of courage and integrity. I am so sorry for his family and for the Seligmann family that they have lost such a wonderful, honorable man who cared so deeply about justice. I have always believed that immortality is really the memories and stories that we leave behind us with those we’ve loved and those whose lives we have touched. Kirk Osborn leaves a legacy that goes far beyond Durham and North Carolina—small comfort to his family, I know—but he has touched the lives of people he never met, in cities and towns he has never seen. God bless him and keep him and hold him in the palm of Your hand.”

“Even though he was involved as a defense attorney, Kirk Osborn showed tremendous courage walking into the courtroom past the protesters with Reade and in the courtroom itself. At a time when the judge did nothing to bring reason to the proceedings even as death threats were being hurled at the 3 boys, Osborn stood proudly with the confidence of someone who knows truth is on his side. Rest in peace, Kirk.”

Monday, March 26, 2007

NewsBusters on Selena Roberts

A thorough-going critique of Selena Roberts' Sunday screed in NewsBusters, which notes that Roberts is "apparently angling to become the Amanda Marcotte of the New York Times."

Hat tip: G.I.

Obama and the DOJ

In an item first reported at Liestoppers, ABC News Law & Justice Unit has confirmed that Illinois senator Barack Obama has joined the chorus of lawmakers demanding a Justice Department inquiry into Mike Nifong’s misconduct. The story subsequently has been picked up by the AP and by Drudge, and represents the most media attention to the issue since North Carolina congressman Walter Jones became the first Member of Congress to issue such a plea in December.

The Democratic presidential candidate is the first member of the Senate to publicly endorse such a call. As a former adjunct at the University of Chicago Law School, he has impeccable legal credentials. And as a man with a strong following in the African-American community, he has impeccable political credentials to issue such a plea.

The Law & Justice Unit also reports that at least two more members of the House, Representatives Trent Franks (R-Arizona) and Tom Feeney (R-Florida) have also called on the Justice department to do something. They join Long Island Democrat Carolyn McCarthy and New York Republican Peter King. Durham congressman David (“States’ Rights Democrat”) Price is the only member of the House to explicitly oppose a DOJ inquiry.

Nifong attorney David Freedman played the States’ Rights card in responding to Obama’s recommendation: “The state bar is conducting a very thorough investigation into all aspects of Mr. Nifong's handling of the case. It's appropriate for this to be dealt with by a North Carolina agency, not by someone from another state. I do not see the need for any other agency becoming involved at this point.”

But, as Freedman is well aware, the State Bar’s inquiry deals with Nifong’s law license. The Bar doesn’t have authority to bring criminal charges. That the Bar’s complaint contended that Nifong broke three laws and violated the Constitution would suggest that the Bar endorses a criminal inquiry.

Men of the Cloth

That figures of the cloth have been associated with prosecutorial misconduct and the passions of the mob is one of this case’s many ironies. Rev. William Barber presides over the state NAACP, which posted an inaccuracy-laden “memorandum of law” on the case. The four-term former head of the Durham NAACP, Rev. Curtis Gatewood, contended that North Carolina Bar aided “the lynching mobs in Durham who have verbally lynched and sought to politically assassinate DA Mike Nifong,” and described the ethics charges against Nifong as part of a “conspiracy to disrupt justice in this Durham case.” At the April 11 NCCU forum, Pastor John Bennett proclaimed that he would lead a protest outside 610 N. Buchanan every week until the suspects were not only arrested but led away in handcuffs. A week later, Nifong obliged.

Alas, such behavior is not confined to religious figures outside of Duke. On April 2, Duke Chaplain Sam Wells opened his sermon by noting that President Brodhead “has consistently reminded us to be patient and withhold judgement until the facts are forensically established.” He then—Group of 88 style—placed the allegations in “a disturbingly extensive experience of sexual violence, of abiding racism, of crimes rarely reported and perpetrators seldom named, confronted, or convicted, of lives deeply scarred, of hurt and pain long suppressed.”

Wells implied that the lacrosse players had broken the “law” of the university. He placed their actions in a “subculture of reckless ‘entitlement’, sexual acquisitiveness and aggressive arrogance goes against every aspect of this law. It commodifies and consumes the bodies of others, with no generosity, no patience, no searching for truth or beauty, and no regard to its social significance. It undermines the university because it corrupts the imagination on which the whole university rests. It breaks the university's law. It debases desire.”

“The last week,” he contended, “has exposed the reality that sexual practices are an area where some male students are accustomed to manipulating, exploiting and terrorizing women all the time—and that this has been accepted by many as a given.”

Wells concluded by thanking the campus protesters—who were, of course, the potbangers and their student allies who had blanketed the campus with vigilante posters, and who had held daily rallies proclaiming the players guilty. These protesters, he noted, “have responded with an extraordinary outbreak of loving attention, generous dialogue, deep respect, a quest for goodness, and an acute regard to the wider social affects of their actions. Duke has, tentatively, been articulating more of what it means for a university to have a law.”

In an e-mail last fall, Wells told me he didn’t consider his sermon to be about the case itself, and that his most inflammatory remarks dealt with the broader issue of sexual violence. Yet he said something different in a May 6 interview with the Herald-Sun, noting that he had shelved his planned sermon, since everyone else was talking about the case. In any event, he allowed the sermon to appear, without any qualifications, as an op-ed under his name in the Herald-Sun the following week. And his performance as a member of the CCI did little to calm doubts about his judgment.

Wells was not the only Duke figure of the cloth to deliver remarks that failed to stand the test of time. One year ago today—March 26, 2006—Fr. Joseph Vetter, Duke’s Catholic chaplain, addressed the lacrosse case in his sermon. He opened with a comment that people have become “desensitized” to crime and violence because of video games and other cultural trends saying that “violence is OK.” “I want you to think about how desensitized we are now.”

Vetter than discussed the issue frankly (44.37, at this link): “All of us are very much aware with what is going on at Duke this week, how Duke is in the news in an unfavorable way. As I was going to mass this morning, going down Buchanan Blvd., there were 100 people out in front of this house, where this incident took place with the Duke lacrosse team, or at least some of the members of the Duke lacrosse team that live in that house.”

Vetter was referring here to the potbangers’ infamous Sunday morning vigil, at which they carried their “castrate” and “measure for measure” banners. Like most people at Duke, he appeared to have no problem with the activists’ rush to judgment. At least—unlike the Group of 88 or Rev. Wells—he didn’t thank them. Vetter continued:

And we don’t fully yet know what happened, and no one is guilty—everybody is innocent until they’re proven guilty—but it seems pretty apparent that something was going on there that was pretty bad the other night.

In an earlier portion of his sermon, speaking of both underage drinking and the hiring of strippers, Vetter had said, “I know that’s not uncommon.” Did listeners interpret his “pretty bad” comment as referring to something else? Vetter, in any event, left little doubt that his presumption of innocence was in name only:

(46.02) But, you know, we become desensitized. We think that [drinking] becomes normal. When we get caught up in patterns like that, sometimes it gets really out of control. And apparently something happened the other night where it really got out of control. At least the person claims that she was raped, that she was beaten, that she had racial slurs used against her. And if all that’s true and if the people that were involved are convicted, then some young people are going to go to jail and pay some really serious penalties for those crimes.

That’s really tragic, because I’m sure that none of those people who were involved in that incident had any idea that something like that was going to happen. Nobody would set that up. Nobody wanted that to turn bad—but it did.

One lacrosse parent who attended the service approached Fr. Vetter afterwards, reminded him of the presumption of innocence, and said that part of the priest’s job was to minister to Catholic players on the team.

Vetter’s response? “Tell them to confess their sins first.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kirk Osborn

The N&O has just reported the very sad news that Kirk Osborn, one of Reade Seligmann's attorneys, died this morning in Chapel Hill, after suffering a massive heart attack.

The Seligmann family released the following statement:

We are heartbroken over the death of Kirk Osborn.

Kirk stood up for Reade at great personal cost. He stood by Reade and together they faced the mob that was outside the Durham County Courthouse a year ago; Kirk never flinched and faced both that mob outside the Courthouse and the bias within the Courthouse with the courage that he showed throughout this case. He passionately believed that the truth would emerge and that the world would know of the injustice that was done that day and every day of this baseless prosecution.

While it is now plain to anyone with any reason and objectivity that there was no sexual assault and that Reade has been the victim of an unprincipled prosecution, we are nonetheless saddened that Kirk did not live to see the day when Reade will be completely exonerated. While that day will come, it will now come too late for Kirk to share in it. When that day does arrive, it will be as a direct result of Kirk’s courage, skill and passionate belief in the truth.

Our hearts go out to Kirk’s family. We ask that everyone remember them in their prayers. We will never forget Kirk and his sacrifices for Reade and for justice. Kirk’s fight for the truth and for justice in this case met the highest standards of ethics and professionalism and stand in stark contrast to those who condemned Reade. He is an example of what a lawyer should be.

We will be forever grateful to Kirk and will never forget what he has done for us.

As Joe Neff and Ben Niolet observed, Osborn played a critical role in the case:

Osborn's court filings [on May 1] announced to the world that despite Nifong's assurances that a rape occurred, Seligmann had phone records, receipts, security camera images and a cab driver that would show he was almost a mile away when the woman said he was participating in her rape.

Seligmann's alibi, which Nifong protested proved nothing, helped convince many that the allegations against Seligmann, Dave Evans, 23, and Collin Finnerty, 20, were untrue.

I got to know Kirk over the past several months. He was a gentle, decent man, a perpetual optimist about the case. As we move toward the expected dismissal of all charges, it seems horribly unfair that he will not be able to experience the culmination of an effort to which he devoted countless hours and energy.

Sunday Roundup

Liestoppers yesterday broke the news that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has endorsed calls for a Justice Department inquiry into Mike Nifong’s misconduct. In a letter to a constituent, the Illinois senator wrote, “This independent inquiry is needed, and I will be following its progress closely.”

Compare Obama’s approach to the case with that of his two main rivals for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Clinton has remained wholly silent on the issue—even though one of her constituents (Collin Finnerty) is one of the three people who suffered at Nifong’s hands. Moreover, as those who recall the workings of Kenneth Starr are fully aware, Clinton has a good personal reason to be sensitive to the workings of a prosecutor run amok.

Then there’s John Edwards. Amidst a high-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct that effectively defined North Carolina justice for the nation, Edwards first remained silent, then hired as his chief blogger Amanda Marcotte, and then declined to fire Marcotte even after her indefensible remarks about the case went public. (Marcotte eventually resigned from the campaign.)

It’s not difficult to see which of the three candidates has been on the right side of the case.

---------

Speaking of the Justice Department, other North Carolina district attorneys are using the current scandal of Alberto Gonzales’ dismissal of U.S. attorneys to beat back a proposal in the North Carolina legislature dubbed by some the “Nifong bill.”

The bill is actually far too mild: it gives the governor authority to suspend a district attorney if and only if the Bar both moved to have a disciplinary hearing and asked the governor to suspend the D.A.

Such a scenario, it would seem, rarely if ever would occur: most D.A.’s would have enough respect for the law to request a leave of absence if they were charged by the bar with multiple ethics violations, breaking three state laws, and violating the U.S. Constitution. The state does need, it would seem, some more flexible check on what is now the all-but-unlimited authority of local chief prosecutors.

Nonetheless, North Carolina DA’s, who were slow to move against Nifong (though, on December 29, they did so), strongly protested the measure. In an interview with Herald-Sun reporter Ray Gronberg, Orange County (Chapel Hill) DA Jim Woodall said, We really have to be on guard that it’s never used as a political or tactical tool to dissuade a district attorney from taking a difficult case or taking a position in a case that’s unpopular. It really seems to open the door for both political or tactical maneuvers to chill a DA or remove a DA from office because somebody doesn’t agree with something they’re doing that’s very proper.”

Such cautions are well-taken. Yet the DA's position would be considerably stronger if they recommended an alternative. The state should have had some mechanism in place to remove Nifong once it became clear—by early May, certainly—that he was prosecuting the case in a highly unethical manner.

---------

Yesterday’s posting of the police photo of the accuser, taken on March 16, 2006, gave the lie to the claims by the accuser’s father, Travis Mangum, that his daughter had swollen eyes following the “attack.”

It’s worth raising the photo in another case of journalistic malpractice—the August 25 Wilson/Glater article in the New York Times. Upon, they claimed, reviewing the entire discovery file then available (more than 1800 pages), Wilson and Glater wrote,

But in addition to the nurse’s oral description of injuries consistent with the allegation, Sergeant Gottlieb writes that the accuser appeared to be in extreme pain when he interviewed her two and a half days after the incident, and that signs of bruises emerged then as well . . . During that [March 16] interview, the woman, who is dark skinned, said bruises were beginning to show from the attack. A female officer took photographs and confirmed that “she had the onset of new bruises present,” Sergeant Gottlieb wrote. (The female officer’s report does not mention bruises.)

Did Wilson and Glater believe that the photo suggested the onset of new bruises? If not, why did they repeat Gottlieb’s claim as if it could be true? Or, perhaps, did they actually fail to review the entire discovery file, as they had claimed?

---------

Speaking of the Times, the paper’s ideology-infused journalistic standards remains on display, with Selena Roberts—fresh from her appearance at Orin Starn’s Friday anti-lacrosse hate-fest—returning to the Duke case after a months-long absence. When last heard from, Roberts was mysteriously describing a search warrant as a “court document,” falsely stating that none of the players had cooperated with police, and comparing the team to gangsters or drug-runners.

Did she use her column to offer a mea culpa? Absolutely not. The sexual-assault case involving Duke lacrosse players may soon be over, but that won’t end the race and class divides that long existed within the radius of Duke.” In other words: Roberts claims that she was right all along.

In her March 31 column, Roberts all but stated that a rape occurred, and seemed to be demanding that the players be charged with obstruction of justice. Now, she says, the rape allegation was irrelevant to the broader cultural issue: the
irrefutable culture of misogyny, racial animus and athlete entitlement that went unrestrained that night.

Roberts concludes her column by urging Duke to implement the recommendations of the Campus Culture Initiative. CCI leaders Peter Wood, Karla Holloway, and Anne Allison no doubt are heartened by the endorsement from their ideological comrade.

---------

Reporter Julia Lewis noted that James Coman and Mary Winstead have not spoken to the media, but have met with defense attorneys. They also have interviewed several members of the lacrosse team.

Nifong, of course, did none of these things. While he was eager to meet with the media in his pre-primary publicity barrage, he had no eagerness to actually obtain evidence that the people he was targeting might be innocent.

UNC law professor Joseph Kennedy, a Nifong critic, praised the behavior of the special prosecutors: “In a high-profile investigation like this, they assume the very first action on the case will be seriously scrutinized.”

Kennedy added that it was perfectly appropriate for the prosecutors to have repeated meetings with the accuser to discuss the events of the evening. “Given some of the questions raised about the accuser’s story, they’re probably trying to resolve any sort of ambiguity or contradictions. And secondly, make an overall determination if the person would come across credible in the courtroom.” Nifong, of course, never met with the accuser to discuss the case, and didn’t send anyone from his office to meet with her until December 21, when the accuser told a tale that contradicted each of her previous myriad, mutually contradictory, stories.

Of course, as ABC’s Law & Justice Unit has reported, the accuser has decided to perform as “The Uncooperative Miss M,” refusing to answer prosecutors’ detailed questions about the evening’s events.

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A good cartoon of Nifong's difficulties before the Bar. And this well-written post summarizes the Nifong response to the Bar as "the dog ate my legal obligations."

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The Chronicle continues its common-sense approach to the Campus Culture Initiative report with another first-rate editorial, this time on the CCI academic proposals. The editorial board praises some of the worthy suggestions of the CCI, particularly the call for increased faculty-student interaction.

Yet, quite appropriately, Chronicle editors criticize the mandated “U.S. diversity” course, a/k/a the “Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative.” The paper concludes: “At best, then, this recommendation will be superfluous, codifying something that students already do on their own. At worst, it will be interpreted as little more than a public relations play-damage control in response to last year’s events. Either way, students are likely to chafe against any such changes. Students don’t want, nor do they need, to be force-fed diversity and difference.” Such thinking, of course, is anathema to the Group.

In another academic story, the paper notes that President Brodhead has committed to creating a new dean’s position. The position is designed, according to reporter Iza Wojciechowska, to “better integrate the multiple aspects of undergraduate life-including student affairs and academics-and will act as the University's principal spokesperson on undergraduate education.”

Sounds like a great idea, right? The chair of the search committee for the new position, however, is Peter Burian, chair of classical studies. Burian was last heard from signing on to William Chafe’s latest embarrassment, the February 23 Chronicle op-ed that begged people to act as if no new facts had emerged in the case since April 6. The article used the Group’s favorite tactic of anonymous quotes from alleged students to make the faculty member’s point, although in this case, Chafe was caught recycling alleged student quotes that he had previously had described differently.

Will Burian bring the Chafe mindset to the search committee? His willingness to affiliate with the Chafe op-ed does not offer encouragement.

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With the lacrosse case imploding, Group of 88 member miriam cooke (she does not capitalize her name) appears to have found a new protest cause--Palestinian terrorists. Sami al-Arian was a former University of South Florida professor who pled guilty to conspiring to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization. (He entered the plea deal after a trial on more serious charges ended in a hung jury.)

Given that al-Arian admitted his crime, most people would consider him guilty. Not, apparently, cooke. Here she is with members of a group called "Fight Imperialism Stand Together," holding a sign reading, "No More Persecution."

It's good to see that cooke has moved from one mainstream cause to another.

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Finally, a great column in Friday's New York Post from John Podhoretz, noting one of the great ironies of this case. Even as Nifong's career implodes, and the accuser is seen nationally as a liar, and the city of Durham has exposed itself to massive civil liability, "some of the most disgraceful actors in this case will go unpunished."

Podhoretz speaks, of course, of the Group of 88, and campus allies such as Peter Wood and Orin Starn--professors who exploited the case to advance their personal, ideological, or pedagogical agendas on the backs of their own students. As he astutely notes, "It is not too much to say that many of the adults at Duke, who should be stewards for their students, actually wanted the false rape story to be true because it fulfilled their ideological predilections."

Brodhead, Podhoretz notes, might not survive this affair--everything, of course, depends on the reaction of Duke alumni, and particularly of donors. But "for those 88 professors - what consequences will they experience?" Podhortez concludes:

Consequences? Don't make me laugh.

The tenured ones will continue to enjoy their aristocratic installment in Durham. The untenured will be supported in their efforts to find similar perches elsewhere by the rest of the Gang of 88, because that's how academic politics works.

How about even the loss of even a single night of sleep?

Oh, no. Not these folks. They're fighting the white patriarchy. They're on the side of the dispossessed and oppressed. They're giving voice to the voiceless. They're giving hope to the hopeless.

They're fools at best and monsters at worst - and neither fools nor monsters are much troubled by attacks of conscience.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Thousand Words

Friday’s Herald-Sun contained an interview with the accuser’s father, Travis Mangum. According to reporter BriAnne Dopart,

He still believes wholeheartedly his daughter was brutally raped and assaulted on the night of March 13, 2006—he recalls in vivid detail his daughter’s swollen eyes and cut arms.

On several other occasions, Mangum has made such a claim, always mentioning the swollen eyes. Nor is he the only case-related figure to suggest that the accuser had readily detectable physical injuries. On March 16, 2006, when Sgt. Mark Gottlieb’s team conducted their first interview with the accuser, Officer R.A. Reid photographed the accuser. In his “straight-from-memory” report, Gottlieb wrote that “Reid stated [the accuser] had the onset of new bruises present.”

Below is a photograph of the accuser taken by Reid on March 16, 2006.


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As is readily apparent, the accuser had no bruises. Nor did she have any evidence of swollen eyes. It would seem, in short, that both Gottlieb and Mangum did not tell the truth.

That should come as no surprise. Reid's report made no mention of any bruises: Reid wrote that the accuser had "both knees bandaged, cut on heel of one foot and big toe."

And, of course, if there really was an onset of bruising that day (March 16, 2006), why didn’t Gottlieb himself note it in his narrative of his interview—which occurred at literally the same sitting as the picture above? He was obviously dramatic about the accuser’s extraordinary “pain,” and yet he chose to leave out the observation of actual physical injury? This from the guy who observed her (and her face) on March 16 so intently to write, so dramatically:

The victim had a very slow gate [sic] that was obviously painful while she was walking. Her facial expressions conveyed her pain as she ambulated. She moved extremely slow and had difficulty in turning from a direct line. She used the back of the sofa for assistance as she ambulated to sit down in the living room. The victim had to take time to position herself carefully on the sofa so that her exterior portion of either hip was making contact with the cushion. Anytime her bottom touched the sofa cushion while repositioning during our visit, she groaned and had a facial expression consistent with pain. The victim made art effort to/console her kids when they would enter the room to see if she was ok for a brief minute, but was obviously having difficulty in moving to ensure them everything was fine. She stated the kids do not know what had happened to her and didn’t know how she would speak to them about it when it carne up. The victim became emotional when describing her attack. Tears ran down her face freely, and her nose began to run.

In this case, it would seem, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. It’s worth more than anything contained in Gottlieb’s file, and anything Travis Mangum says months after the fact.