Boulder, Durham, and Sham Justice

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One of the many "crimes of the century" had been solved. Everyone was relieved. A man who apparently had intimate knowledge of the 1996 killing of six-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey confessed to having committed the crimes, thus solving a mystery that began with a botched police investigation.

With much fanfare, authorities flew John Mark Karr from Thailand to the United States in order to face charges in the Ramsey case. Not surprisingly, there was a huge media crush, as journalists fought one another for a space from which to photograph the perpetrator.

Everything was set up for the grand fanfare, in which prosecutors and police finally could put the case to rest and convict and punish the criminal who had committed this despicable act. However, a few snags developed on the way, and ultimately these snags would doom the case.

First, prosecutors quickly realized that Karr’s DNA did not match the DNA found in the young girl’s underpants. Second, witnesses, including Karr’s ex-wife, declared that Karr was elsewhere during that fateful night. Thus, authorities knew that if Karr was not present at the scene of the crime when it was committed, he could not have been the perpetrator. In the end, they decided not to charge him, given that no reasonable jury would have convicted him.

Indeed, this is how this bizarre incident should have ended. In fact, prosecutors and police should have been asking these questions on the front end instead of joining in with the happy throng who were convinced that the mystery had been "solved." Unfortunately, this was something that simply was too good to be true — and, indeed, that ultimately was the situation.

In the annals of justice, we know that if there is a lack of physical evidence and if a criminal suspect was not present when a "crime" was committed, then it can be assumed that the person in question could not be the guilty party. Even though the police and prosecutorial authorities in Boulder have proven themselves to be utterly incompetent, at least in the Ramsey case, they did have enough sense to realize that certain things must be in place before they can charge someone with a crime.

One would think that such reasonable traits would be universal, but there are at least two exceptions. The first involves police and prosecutors in Durham, North Carolina, and the second is the editorial desk of the New York Times. Over the past several months, I have written a number of pieces regarding the infamous Duke non-rape case in which Reade Seligmann, Colin Finnerty, and David Evans have been charged with kidnapping and raping a black stripper who was performing at a party for Duke’s lacrosse players. (The three accused men are white, which has given the case the racial overtones which ultimately have been its driving force.)

However, there are some major holes in the story. First, after having declared with much authority that DNA would "solve" the case, prosecutor Michael Nifong decided to charge the young men with rape despite the fact that there was no DNA evidence whatsoever to link them to any contact at all with the accuser.

Second, despite photographic, eyewitness, and electronic evidence that Reade Seligmann was not even present at the party when the alleged rape occurred, Nifong and the Times still are trying to convince us that he was able to be in two places at one time. (If Seligmann really could simultaneously withdraw money from a bank teller and rape someone in another location, he would be possessing powers that would prove him to be from another planet. Also, Finnerty’s camp has hinted that it also has strong evidence placing him away from the scene when the non-rape occurred, although no one has released the information publicly.)

Moreover, there is no real evidence that anyone raped the accuser at all. Unlike the Ramsey case, where there was a real body, police in Durham have nothing but a woman’s claims and some very questionable reports written by a police sergeant. As I pointed out in a previous article, Mark Gottlieb’s report does not begin to pass the smell test, yet the New York Times, desperate to keep the prosecutorial lies alive, accepts it without reservation.

In Boulder, Colorado, authorities are intelligent enough to know that if the evidence does not show Karr to be the perpetrator of Jon Benet’s death, then they cannot charge him. Unfortunately, such basic wisdom is not present in Durham, North Carolina, where a case which is based only upon an illegal identification process moves on, and where a rogue prosecutor is seeking to perpetuate what most people know to be a lie.

One hopes that the authorities ultimately will find the child’s killer and obtain enough evidence to bring that person to justice. In Durham, the people who need to be brought to justice are the authorities themselves. John Mark Karr may be a liar and publicity hound, but he is not as dishonest as Michael Nifong and his underlings. Karr has had his 15 minutes of fame, and his time on the stage is over. One wishes that were true for Nifong.

August 30, 2006

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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