Why I Write on the Duke Lacrosse Case

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In mid-April, I wrote my first article on the Duke lacrosse situation, never thinking that eight months later, I would be writing article #21 on this same case, with more surely to come. Since then, I have come to conclude even more that this case is a sham, and a criminal sham at that.

Soon after I started writing on it, I began to receive emails taunting me for paying attention to something as unimportant as some rich preppie jocks being charged with rape. "What’s the big deal?" the emailers wanted to know. After all, there is the war in Iraq, the sham "War on Terror" that really is nothing more than a war that the government is waging against innocent people at home and abroad.

Other emailers insisted that the Duke lacrosse players had engaged in gang rape, while some called me a racist, and others insisted that the entire thing was an International Jewish Conspiracy. (I’m serious about the last one.) Yet, despite the negative emails I was receiving, it was clear that I was reaching a large number of people who already had concluded, as I, that the government court system in the United States is unjust at best and a fraud at worst.

Perhaps the most surprised emailers were parents of Duke University lacrosse players (who were not indicted). To a person, they have said that before this case began, they had believed that the players in the criminal justice system basically were honest and above board. I suspect that had I told them before their sons had become "suspects" in a rape case, they would have doubted anything I might have said about criminal justice in this country.

No more. What is important here is that white, middle and upper-class people have come to understand what many other people already knew: prosecutors and the police are more likely to lie than to tell the truth. After seeing a prosecutor lie to them — and watching the Duke University administration de facto side with the prosecution — they are beginning to understand the rottenness of American criminal justice. (That there are a gaggle of prosecutors, journalists, and others willing to support Michael Nifong’s illegitimate case tells us that it is not only Durham, North Carolina, that supports legal corruption.)

Yet none of this explains why I have concentrated nearly all of my efforts on this case since this past summer. In fact, I have put a number of academic projects and papers on hold, and much of my other work has suffered as well. (As some readers might have noticed, I have written only a few articles on economics. Most of my writing efforts have been aimed at the Duke case.)

If one wishes to know why I write as I do on this case, perhaps one first should go back to the Little Rascals case in Edenton, North Carolina, in the early 1990s. Prosecutors were claiming that seven people (some, but not all, associated with a day care center there) had engaged in massive amounts of child molestation, and had whipped the town into a near-frenzy. However, even a casual observer could tell that the charges were nonsense, as they tended to demand that one suspend logic, time, and laws of mathematics. The charges ranged from cooking babies in microwave ovens (no proof needed, just charges) to throwing children to sharks swimming in a nearby bay.

As I began to follow the case, which was highlighted in a series of excellent "Frontline" reports on the Public Broadcasting System (something a government network actually did well), I realized that I was observing a massive travesty of justice. Parents were thrown into prison and separated from their young children, unable to make the million-dollar bond that prosecutors imposed. (Inmates imposed their own "justice" upon these accused "child molesters." No doubt, prosecutors approved of the physical attacks on these people.)

At the time, I did freelance writing for World Magazine, which is a well-known evangelical Christian news magazine headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina. I begged the publisher to let me go to Edenton to write some stories on this travesty; he replied that he did not want World’s readers to think that the magazine somehow "condoned" child molestation. In other words, the charges themselves were enough to convince the publisher that these people were not worth defending, despite the fact that some of the accused were confessing Christians.

(To World’s credit, the magazine did do a devastating story on the bogus child molestation charges against a Pentecostal minister and others in Wenatchee, Washington. The Wenatchee case was the last of series of child molestation witch hunts that began in the early 1980s. Most convictions were overturned, but there still are innocent people convicted in Florida and elsewhere serving life sentences.)

Thus, while I followed the Edenton case, depending upon one-sided mainstream journalism (other than PBS), I realized I could do nothing at all. I knew the case was a fraud, but I had no forum from which to voice an opinion. Not surprisingly, a number of people were convicted and spent many years in prison before the North Carolina appellate courts overturned the convictions.

At the time, I told myself that if I ever were in such a position again and had a forum from which to write, I would not be silent. Fortunately for me, Lew Rockwell, who I had come to know through my association with the Mises Institute during my graduate school studies at Auburn University, began his own libertarian website in 1999. While I am not surprised at the website’s success, I am surprised that I was able to carve out a niche myself on that site, given the very good writers who are regulars there. (I certainly do not claim equality with people like Lew and the others, and am grateful that Lew permits any of my pieces to appear.)

After I had started writing for LRC, I read The Tyranny of Good Intentions by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence Stratton published in 2000. It was the first time I ever understood the Anglo-Saxon law we had inherited from England, and it also was the first time I really came to understand the systematic corruption that rules American courts. If the prosecutor ever was a "hero" in my eyes, after reading Tyranny, I knew differently.

As LRC readers know, I have used my small bully pulpit to attack the federal criminal justice system, dealing with the likes of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and also condemning the prosecution of Martha Stewart. But although I have concentrated on the federal system, that did not mean I was giving state courts a free pass. And when the Duke case broke, I already had become enough of a skeptic to see through the lies coming from Nifong the prosecutor and the Durham police.

So here I am. The Duke case is nearly nine months old, Nifong’s "evidence" has been shredded by attorneys and the blogs, yet the case continues toward trial because government courts are not about truth or justice, but rather are a plaything for prosecutors. It is obvious that truth does not matter either to the prosecutors or the judges, but I also know that truth serves as sunlight. I think of what I am doing as shining a light on cockroaches, something that makes them scatter.

I do not know how this fiasco will turn out. My hope is that a judge drops the charges, given the massive procedural corruption that occurred during the alleged ID process. But whatever happens, I will be writing about this injustice until the book finally is closed. Should there be a conviction (it would require a reverse jury nullification, but the potential jury pool in Durham seems up to the task, given what I have heard in public comments), then I will be beating the drums for the appeals process. But I will be beating the drums.

Thank goodness, I will have lots of company. Unfortunately, the falsely accused people in Edenton had to depend upon whatever their attorneys could say to reporters, but the mainstream news coverage clearly was slanted toward the prosecution, and the press did not take the defense seriously. Likewise, the coverage in the Duke case, and especially at the beginning, has favored the prosecution. However, there is a new twist in the information game, that being the blogs. From K.C. Johnson’s devastating Durham-in-Wonderland to Liestoppers to John in Carolina, and others, the prosecution has found itself being pummeled daily by researchers, writers, and extremely motivated people.

As I pointed out last summer, the blogs are fighting valiantly against the mainstream media, and they seem to signal a new era in news. Whereas the pro-Nifong Durham Herald-Sun has loaded its editorial pages with letters and columns condemning the Duke lacrosse players and praising Nifong, the blogs are able to counter with parodies of the H-S operations, calling them the "Snooze Room."

I am very happy to be part of this motley crew of bloggers, and in the end, I think our efforts will help balance what not long ago would have been a pure railroad job against the Duke 3. As I see it, we are in the right, and as long as this case lasts, I plan to be on the front lines.

December 4, 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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