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Sunday, January 21st 2007

A Week Without DA Nifong

In what I swear didn’t get enough media attention, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong asked that the North Carolina Attorney General take over the Duke lacrosse rape case,

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, hamstrung by a flip-flopping witness and dogged by allegations that he made inflammatory statements to the media, had asked Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office Friday to appoint a special prosecutor.

Cooper said Jim Coman, a former director of the State Bureau of Investigation and head of the attorney general’s Special Prosecution Section, and Mary D. Winstead, a prosecutor in that division, would now oversee the case.

Drudge has an op/ed from the News & Observer actually criticizing the selection of these two prosecutors, it points to another case in which Jim Coman came in as a special prosecutor.

Alan Gell was wrongly convicted of murder in 1998, when the exonerating evidence and prosecutorial misconduct in the original trial came to light Jim Coman got the retrial. But the News & Observer doesn’t completely fault him for not merely dropping the Gell retrial (when it was clear, according to them, Gell had been wrongly imprisoned) but instead of trying to defend the actions and missteps of his colleagues who had originally prosecuted the case,

While you might be tempted to give Coman a pass for being a good soldier and arguing a dog of a case regarding Gell, he deserves no slack for what he did when Hoke and Graves were hauled before the State Bar’s disciplinary committee: Coman argued that they’d done nothing wrong and that he would have withheld the evidence, too.

Knowing that Coman is loyal to his colleagues is admirable; knowing that he is loyal to the law would be even more so.

The case is coming to a head.


From Lie Stoppers

Beyond the major news about Nifong, the Duke community is also having to (try) to make amends for its previous reactions to the case. It was already news when the school finally gave the two ungraduated players permission to return. Now however, the group of faculty who notoriously published this ad, aren’t coming up with an apology for assuming the students were guilty but trying to justify the action

The ad has been read as a comment on the alleged rape, the team party, or the specific students accused. Worse, it has been read as rendering a judgment in the case. We understand the ad instead as a call to action on important, longstanding issues on and around our campus, an attempt to channel the attention generated by the incident to addressing these. We reject all attempts to try the case outside the courts, and stand firmly by the principle of the presumption of innocence.

As a statement about campus culture, the ad deplores a “Social Disaster,” as described in the student statements, which feature racism, segregation, isolation, and sexism as ongoing problems before the scandal broke, exacerbated by the heightened tensions in its immediate aftermath. The disaster is the atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus. The ad’s statement that the problem “won’t end with what the police say or the court decides” is as clearly true now as it was then. Whatever its conclusions, the legal process will not resolve these problems.

But that is ridiculous. Even if the ad did not proclaim the player’s guilt it assumed that this “case” was an example of the racism and sexism mentioned in that ad. That was the judgment they jumped to: that this event was part of that percieved culture.

What the hell were all those voices condemning now that the facts in this specific instance have come to light?

Racism?

Sexism?

Rape?

Where is the evidence for any of this? This ad was more than just an expose about a school’s general shortcomings. It specifically and repeatedly mentioned the Duke lacrosse rape case as an example.

That is what everyone who protested, who wrote those op/eds, who participated in this ad are at fault for. They passed judgment that this accusation was an example of the a trend of poor racial interactions, of sexism, of a general elitism.

It turns out this case represented none of that.

All those who published the ad can take credit for is the politically correct consciousness to not come out and flatly label the accused of being guilty of actually breaking the law (although I’m sure they would’ve if they could’ve).

No, all we can take from the ad is that they had judged the three players as being guilty of participating in a perceived culture, of being part of this “social disaster.” But even that judgment looks foolish now.

To those faculty who signed on: You thought you saw an outrage; a perfect time to show how socially conscious you were about the relationships between the races and sexes and the haves and have nots on Duke’s campus, how enlightened you were, how you were willing to go to bat to make Duke a better place.

You wanted the credit for all of that when the case first broke, but you can’t seek the credit without taking the blame. This case, it now seems, represented very little of what you spoke out against. Swallow your words; admit you were wrong, and save at least a little of your credibility so that when a real example of this “social disaster” does arise people at least pay some attention to what you say.

There is elitism, racism, sexism on college campuses. It isn’t limited to the Duke or the south (although in my experience you’re probably more likely to encounter it on campuses down ‘here’). Working to change that “social disaster” should be respected, but the argument that that was all that that original ad was doing is ludicrous.

This was a condemnation of a specific event. And that condemnation required a massive rush to judgment which makes all those who made such a “leap of faith” look like jackasses. Every single faculty member who continues to pretend that such a judgment wasn’t made should have their heads examined.

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