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Friday, August 25th 2006

You Better Find Me Some News!

H/T Drudge

The New York Times goes over the Duke lacrosse rape case in detail. Sadly, they try to find news where there simply isn’t any. They rely heavily on the most recent evidence turned over to the defense,

Crucial to that portrait of the case are Sergeant Gottlieb’s 33 pages of typed notes and 3 pages of handwritten notes, which have not previously been revealed. His file was delivered to the defense on July 17, making it the last of three batches of investigators’ notes, medical reports, statements and other evidence shared with the defense under North Carolina’s pretrial discovery rules.

Wait, wait, wait, the Gottlieb who ran the victim’s “ID” of her attackers? Maybe the one suspended in July in investigation with an assault.

The NYT piece is just searching for a headline,

[Our review of the files] shows that while there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong’s case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury.

They give us gems like this,

The defense has argued that the accuser gave many divergent versions of events that night, and she did in fact give differing accounts of who did what at the party. But the files show that aside from two brief early conversations with the police, she gave largely consistent accounts of being raped by three men in a bathroom.

And you just know that editor was just wondering if he could get away with printing this,

But the files show that aside from two brief early conversations with the police, she gave largely consistent accounts of being raped by three men in a bathroom.

Okay, here’s the story from Sgt. Shelton, the first Durham officer on scene. Certainly this is no small change, and no amount of “confusion” can explain this away from the NYT,

The version that she had been groped, not raped, was what she told Sergeant Shelton at the hospital. “She told me that no one forced her to have sex,” he wrote. Sergeant Shelton, who had struggled with her earlier in the night, called his watch commander to say the woman was recanting. Then he heard her tell a doctor that she had been raped.

Or explain this,

The woman gave a variety of accounts about what each of the men did during the alleged assault and in what order. For example, in initial statements, she said “Adam” had closed the bathroom door and told her “I’m sorry, sweetheart, you can’t leave.” But in her April 6 written statement to the police, she said “Matt” told her that. In two separate accounts, she also gave two different names of the man she said raped her orally.

And there are other changes as well, one officer reported that the accuser claimed the other dancer was in the bathroom or saw in the bathroom during part of the rape, but that is clearly not the case and wasn’t mentioned again.

The Times review of the case disposes of some gossip, but pretends like it does something to strengthen Nifong’s case.

Really the NYT is just treating Gottlieb’s file as gold. Suspiciously though, as even they take the time to report, the notes

appear to strengthen Mr. Nifong’s case and [the defense is wary] because [the notes] were not turned over by the prosecution until after the defense had made much of the gaps in the earlier evidence [and]…Sergeant Gottlieb had told defense lawyers that he took few handwritten notes, relying instead on his memory and other officers’ notes to write entries in his chronological report of the investigation.

There’s also this that should set off a warning,

The accounts of this accuser’s first description of the suspects, however, are ambiguous: the two investigators who interviewed her at home recorded the conversation differently.

In Officer Himan’s handwritten notes, the woman described all three as chubby or heavy. Adam: “white male, short, red cheeks fluffy hair chubby face, brn.” Matt: “Heavy set short haircut 260-270.” Bret: “Chubby.” The descriptions in Sergeant Gottlieb’s notes [the one's just released!] are more detailed and correspond more closely to the men later arrested: Collin Finnerty, 20, a slender 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds with light hair; Mr. Evans, 23, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and with dark hair; and Mr. Seligmann, 20, who is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds with dark hair.

It is alarming the Gottlieb’s notes appear to present a much more favorable view of the situation for the prosecution than any other source (including other Durham PD accounts).

Even with the new notes however, we haven’t even come close to closing some of the massive holes. Such as the fact the accuser seems to have claimed that the attackers didn’t use condoms but they defintley ejaculated. She may have retracted that as well, or dropped it from her narrative, which would amount to another ‘change’. But, stunningly, as the NYT prints,

There is no DNA evidence directly linking the suspects to the accuser.

I’ve gone over the holes in the case multiple times. But, just as a summary, the NYT piece does nothing to lessen the hurdles Mr. Nifong must clear in this case. Those include:

An accuser with a shaky past and a filed and dropped sexual assault claim, a lack of corroboration of the accuser’s story, a solid alibi for at least one of the accused, the accuser changing her story, a lack of DNA (despite claims that no condoms were used), the failure of the woman to quickly identify her attackers, the discrepancies in the description of her attackers, the procedure used in the accuser’s identification of her attackers.

If there has ever been a he said-she said case, this is it. Unfortunately, at least as it is being protrayed in the media it is playing out as the accuser said versus the accused, dozens of uncharged lacrosse players (who have consistently said nothing happened), a taxi driver (who provides an alibi), and the other dancer (who has at times called the accusations baloney). The NYT can try to make news here, but nothing has changed. Mr. Nifong has a long, long road ahead.