The news from the Durham County courthouse Friday was riveting, even if one is not a junkie of the Duke lacrosse non-rape case. Here was Brian Meehan, the director of a private forensics lab that had examined DNA samples of the 46 lacrosse players and of the accuser, testifying under oath at a hearing that he and Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong had colluded to hide exculpatory evidence that would have been quite favorable to the three defendants, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans.
While Nifong claims not to have withheld evidence — he told the press that the defense could “have asked for that material all along” — last spring, when the defense attorneys first asked for the material, Nifong told the court that it did not exist. Thus, someone is lying, and that lying has taken place in a court of law in official circumstances where the penalities for lying include prison.
The Duke non-rape case is a very sorry tale that is wrapped around a large number of other sorry tales. While Nifong still contends that a crime was committed at the lacrosse team party that night — rape and kidnapping, to be exact — the evidence that continues to unfold tells us that the first crime — false reporting of rape — did not occur until a couple of hours after the party ended.
Indeed, the accuser’s false tale was only the first of a series of crime — a crime wave, if it were — that would occur from that point, and still is going on. I have documented many of them, as has K.C. Johnson, but in this piece I will deal with simple issues of honor and truth, something that Nifong and his ilk might consider to be quaint, but something I believe is at the heart of this matter. Furthermore, it is not just Nifong and the city of Durham, North Carolina, that has abandoned honor, but also Duke University itself.
Like other institutions in this country, the court system runs on the basis of trust. Given the fact that economic transactions ultimately depend upon trust, the courts are not unique, but the fact remains that the various court systems in this country declare themselves to be trustworthy and honest. Note that I did not say that the courts claim to be perfect; no one expects perfection, but one does have the right to expect that the officers of the court will operate in an honorable fashion.
Paul Craig Roberts recently wrote that U.S. courts are quickly becoming little more than mechanisms by which prosecutors frame defendants, and I would not disagree. From what I have seen just in the State of North Carolina over the past two decades, it seems that this is a state that seems to go out of its way to promote injustice.
However, in most of the cases in which there was malfeasance or outright misconduct by prosecutors, these things generally were found out or brought to light after the trial and conviction. I cannot recall a case in which the prosecutor has been caught in lie after lie even before the trial has commenced, and yet much of the Duke University faculty, as well as large numbers of people from Durham, as well as the Durham Herald-Sun, still are calling for Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans to be put on trial and convicted. (The Herald-Sun has editorialized that a trial would be a venue for the three to "prove their innocence," but since one cannot prove innocence at a trial, in effect the newspaper was declaring that they are guilty.)
That there literally is no evidence that even remotely demonstrates guilt means that as long as the State of North Carolina continues to force this hoax to trial, the state government itself is complicit in this massive deceit. I can think of no other case, save the bogus child molestation witch hunts of the 1980s and 1990s, that can compare to what we are seeing in Durham.
Thus, we need to ask why it is that so many people are demanding a trial, even as Nifong is demonstrated to have lied throughout the case. Simply put, the answer is that people are demanding a trial because of the politics of race and rape. A black woman has accused white males of rape, and that is the only reason that Durham and Nifong are demanding a trial. Nifong himself has declared:
"Anytime you have a victim who can identify her assailant, then what you have is a case that must go to the jury." ~ Mike Nifong, April 11, 2006
The key words here are "victim" and "assailant." If there is no rape — which medical and DNA evidence clearly indicate — then there is no "assailant." What Nifong is trying to claim is that the mere accusation always requires a trial. The law makes no such requirements.
A telling account from K.C. Johnson’s Durham-in-Wonderland blog puts light on what is happening today, especially when one considers Nifong’s quote. Johnson recounts a 1989 rape accusation in Durham:
It was, to borrow a phrase, a crime that talked about what the community stood for — a crime that needed a prosecutor willing to make a statement for the Durham community that this was not the kind of activity it condoned.
On April 10, 1989, a 21-year-old woman told police that she endured a horrific experience at the Woodcroft Shopping Center, in southern Durham at the intersection of NC 751 and NC 54. The May 26, 1989 Herald-Sun recounted the accuser’s harrowing ordeal:
"Four men approached her in the shopping center’s parking lot and forced their way into her car.
"The woman told detectives one of the men drove south on NC 751 nearly to the Chatham County line before parking the car in a deserted area. Each of the four then sexually assaulted her before returning her to the Woodcroft Shopping Center."
The woman filed a complaint, and Investigator M.J. Thaxton took over the case. (Thaxton did not respond to several e-mails asking for comment.) A microfilm search through old issues of the Herald-Sun and N&O uncovered no reference to the prosecutor’s office making any public statements on the case as the investigation proceeded. Despite the public nature of the kidnapping, no one from the D.A.’s office branded the alleged rapists "hooligans," or used the bully pulpit to demand that witnesses step forward.
Thaxton, nonetheless, had an accuser — and she could identify her assailants. The heinous nature of the crime — a gang-rape of a poor, defenseless woman — necessitated getting the criminals off the street as soon as possible.
The prosecutor didn’t wait for the next meeting of the grand jury to seek indictments; instead, Thaxton arrested the four men, who were lawn-care workers, while they were on a job in Cary. One was 28 years old, a second was 22, the other two were 18. All were either black or Hispanic. Each was charged with first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rape. Because they were arrested, of course, each received a right to a probable cause hearing.
Displaying the community’s outrage, a judge imposed bond of $100,000 for the two alleged ringleaders. Since neither could meet the bond, both remained in jail.
After filing charges, however, the prosecutor and his office failed to keep in touch with the accuser. By the end of May, the prosecutor publicly conceded that the "victim has left residence . . . [and] her whereabouts are unknown."
Even more startlingly — at least after what we’ve all witnessed over the past eight months — Thaxton actually decided to investigate whether the accuser’s story was credible, rather than maintaining that only a jury could decide the issue. He discovered that the accuser’s report to police contained what the prosecutor described as "numerous demonstrably false statements." Thaxton also uncovered "highly embarrassing" information about falsifications in the woman’s allegations. Therefore, the officer concluded that the "charges appear to be without substance."
The prosecutor agreed. On May 25, 1989, all charges against the four men were dropped.
While the original arrests certainly were regrettable, it did not take police long to realize that the charges were a hoax and act accordingly. The great irony here is that the prosecutor who recognized the false statements and dropped the charges was Nifong himself. This irony obviously leads to the next question: What happened in the past 17 years that would make Nifong literally abandon all prosecutorial ethics, lie to the court, withhold evidence that the law requires him to make available, and run roughshod over the law?
The answer, in a word, is "honor." Or, in Nifong’s case, it is the lack of honor. In those intervening 17 years, he himself admitted that he discovered that prosecutorial work was "about winning," or at least he interpreted his job in that narrow fashion. Winning takes precedent to honor, especially now that he has been focused on winning elections.
I am not the only person to publicly say that Nifong has lost his sense of honor. Susan Estrich, the lawyer and law professor who ran Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988 (and who started out last spring supporting Nifong) has written:
What is going on in the prosecutors’ office in Durham North Carolina is disturbing in ways that go beyond the ugly allegations that started this case.
The District Attorney has clearly lost sight of his mission, and with it the last remnants of any ethical compass. The case has been characterized, since the outset, by a clear failure to follow the office’s own procedures and practices.
Estrich simply is saying that Nifong, in the vernacular, is "dirty," and dirty people have no sense of honor and integrity. Even in an age of dirty prosecutors, Nifong still manages to stand out from even his most dishonest peers.
Unfortunately, this dishonesty seems to be lost on both much of the faculty and administration at Duke University, which seems hell-bent to dispose of whatever honor the institution once had. I already have documented the exploits of the 88 faculty members and their allies who are trying to turn Duke into a Marxist re-education camp, and I never have known academic Marxists who cared a whit for truth and integrity, so one cannot discuss a loss of honor about people who never saw honor as being important.
However, an entity like Duke’s law school is different, because it is paramount that the legal system have honor and integrity. (Yes, I know that it is a pipe dream, but one does not take an oath of speaking truth under pain of perjury charges when one stands up and says something in a classroom.) Yet, when a local attorney and Duke graduate Robert Ekstrand recently circulated a petition at the law school regarding Nifong’s dishonest conduct, most people on the faculty took a powder. (James Coleman, the black constitutional law professor, has been a noteworthy exception, as he has pounded Nifong from the start. But he is the only one, and this pillar of legal respect has been branded an "Uncle Tom" by the blacks in Durham.)
The lacrosse case is not a theoretical occurrence in a far-away place; it literally is in the front yard of Duke University, yet few members of the Duke faculty and administration seem to care. The president still prattles on about the need for a trial in order to (his words) give the lacrosse players a chance to "prove their innocence." These are the "talking points" of the Herald-Sun, and one thinks that a president of an elite university could come up with a line that at least would differ in substance than what a newspaper which effectively has been a house organ for the prosecution would give.
Unfortunately, none of the people in positions of influence and authority in this sorry tale care for honor and truth. Ironically, it seems that the only people in this whole affair who have told the truth are the lacrosse players themselves. When confronted immediately after the party, they told people in the administration what happened.
When police demanded that they come to headquarters to make a statement, they came. When a judge gave an overly-broad order that required all white members of the lacrosse team to give DNA samples, they did so without any resistance. When police entered the house where the alleged rape occurred, the three occupants (including David Evans), the young men openly co-operated with them.
When the young men took lie detector tests, they passed. At every point, they did the honorable thing, yet it is they who are being held up as villains, while Duke University continues to fete Nifong and pay homage to those in the black community who are demanding that a jury at a trial ignore all exculpatory evidence and go directly to a conviction.
What is wrong with this picture? Everything is wrong with it. Those people who are telling the truth are vilified, while those who are lying, breaking the law, abusing the courts, and doing wrong at every turn are given places of honor.
One hopes that Judge W. Osmond Smith III, who now is hearing this case, and who has witnessed Nifong lying to him directly in a court of law, will have the honor and integrity to do what is right. So far, literally no one in North Carolina with authority has done even one thing to slow down the Nifong machine. I only can hope, but it seems that truth up to this point has meant nothing to those in the "justice" system in the State of North Carolina.
December 20, 2006