An Open Letter to Roy Cooper, Part III: What to Say When You Drop the Charges

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In my previous two open letters to you, I urged you to do the right thing and drop charges. I also urged you to tell the truth, as opposed to continuing the "something happened" fiction that has been driving the Duke Non-Rape, Non-Kidnapping, and Non-Sexual Assault case.

In this my third and last open letter to you, I am including the statement that I believe you should make when you announce that you are dropping the charges. While you may not appreciate my suggestions, I think that you would be wise to follow them — if you want to get to the bottom of this case. Should you decide to do what others have done, then you will pay no attention to my words, but if you want to do what is right, well, you know what to do.

Before launching into the speech that you should make, let me state one more important point: Up to now, not one person associated with the State of North Carolina, Durham County, or the City of Durham has told the truth. Literally every government employee has lied. Police, prosecutors, the Durham city manager, and others not one time have made a public utterance on this case that was true. That is not an impressive record, sir, and you have a golden opportunity to reverse this sorry track record.

Thus, I will present the speech that I hope you will make when you (finally) drop these false charges:

I would like to thank everyone for coming today. First, and most important, I am announcing that the State of North Carolina is dropping all charges that have been levied against David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann. Second, in dropping these charges, let me emphasize that these charges never should have been filed in the first place.

This was a fraudulent case from the beginning. There never was a rape, a kidnapping, or sexual assault. None of these ever occurred, and we can find no evidence whatsoever that any of these three young men even touched the accuser, Crystal Gail Mangum.

I give you the accuser’s name — which most of you know already — because her lies have caused horrific damage to these young men and their families, to the other lacrosse players and their families, to Duke University, to Durham, and to the State of North Carolina itself. She did not have to lie, but she did, and terrible things have happened since then.

In the course of conducting this investigation, however, I can say that we have uncovered a number of potential crimes that were committed. None of these involved the young men in question; instead, these alleged crimes were committed by the Durham police and Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong. These are serious allegations of criminal misconduct, and if they warrant charges, our office will aggressively pursue them to the fullest extent of the law. We cannot and will not forget that Mr. Nifong was seeking to have these young men thrown into prison for perhaps the rest of their lives on false charges — charges that he should have known were false. This is a grievous abuse of the law, and it cannot and will not remain unchallenged.

At the beginning of his "investigation," Mr. Nifong made a number of public comments that claimed that members of the Duke University lacrosse team were rapists who had engaged in a hate crime. I do not intend to follow his example and declare that he and members of the Durham Police Department are guilty; instead, we will permit the legal process to work — as it should have in the first place.

In defending themselves against these obviously false charges, the families of the defendants have incurred millions of dollars in legal bills. To help make things right, the State of North Carolina will reimburse them for their expenses. While this does not lessen the legal liability that the state has brought upon itself through this false prosecution, at least it will be the beginning of what we hope will be a healing process. Had the system worked in the way in which it is supposed to work, they never would have had to incur any legal bills.

During the past decade, the justice system of North Carolina has gained a less-than-stellar reputation, with high-profile wrongful convictions and false prosecutions. This practice must stop immediately, and it will stop only when prosecutors begin to take seriously the codes of conduct which govern their work. You can be assured that this office will zealously and tirelessly seek to make sure that prosecutors work to charge and convict people who have committed serious crimes, as opposed to creating "crimes" out of whole cloth, or bringing the wrong people to trial. We can restore public confidence in our office only if prosecutors are honest and forthright in their dealings. That clearly was not the case in the false prosecution of these three young men, and all of you can see the price that must be paid when prosecutors no longer care about doing what is right.

I would like to give my most sincere apologies to the families of Mr. Evans, Mr. Finnerty, and Mr. Seligmann. It has been a most difficult year for all of you, and these young men have been robbed of many things because people entrusted with guarding the justice system decided to seek their own political gain. Although I cannot return that year to them, I can promise them, their families, friends, and loved ones, that this office will be tireless in its investigation of what went wrong and why Mr. Nifong decided to bring these false charges even though he had no credible evidence.

It is a dark day for justice in North Carolina, but let me add that it also is a good day. Any time someone in my position can help to right a serious wrong, it is a step in the right direction. I hope that there will be no need of future announcements like this because prosecutors and police will be diligent in seeking the truth instead of seeking to bolster their own personal and political fortunes.

Granted, Mr. Cooper, this does not cover everything that is needed, but I think you get the picture. The State of North Carolina wronged these young men and their families, and wronged them greatly, and while you cannot restore the time lost and repair all of the damage that your "justice" system has done to them, at least you can begin the process of making things right.

Many of us are counting on you to do the right thing. During this three-month investigation, you found that there was no basis at all for bringing charges, and I can only imagine the abuses of the law that you uncovered. Please shine as much light upon those abuses and seek to apply the high bar of justice wherever it may lead.

Doing such things not only would be the morally correct thing to do, but it also would be your best political move. As I pointed out in a previous letter, Nifong’s support in the black community of Durham is next-to-zero, and most people have come to understand that the entire affair was a hoax. Thus, the way is paved for you to properly investigate Nifong’s actions and those actions of the Durham police and to let that investigation lead you to wherever it points.

This is your opportunity, sir. Take advantage of the circumstances and do what is right. That is all that I ask, and all that the families of these young men will ask.

April 10, 2007

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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