Duke and Durham: The Whitewash Continues

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In the wake of the Duke Non-Rape, Non-Kidnapping, and Non-Sexual Assault Case, people have been asking how it was that such transparently false charges could have remained in play for as long as they did. Despite the fact that the first investigating police officer said shortly after hearing Crystal Gail Mangum’s numerous accounts on the morning of March 14, 2006, declared that she was lying, the case was pursued, indictments secured, and a process of state-sponsored injustice ensued.

Stung by condemnation from across the country for the actions of its police force, Patrick Baker, the city manager compiled a brief report to examine "what went wrong." Those of us who have little confidence in an entity of government to point out how another entity of government engaged in malfeasance waited with very, very low expectations. On Friday, May 11, 2007, Baker released his report and, true to our expectations, it is a whitewash of great proportions.

Perhaps the lead sentence in an article on the WRAL website says it best:

A report by the Durham Police Department found no wrongdoing by investigators in the Duke lacrosse case and addressed, in detail, a photo lineup in which the accuser identified her alleged attackers. (emphasis mine)

Now, here is a case in which it has been demonstrated that police lied about the nature of the injuries to Mangum (according to the medical report, there were none, but police insisted there was "blunt force trauma"), and then rigged a picture lineup in order to get warm bodies for indictment, but, no, this does not constitute "wrongdoing." As K.C. Johnson wrote on his Durham-in-Wonderland blog:

The report is out. It is divided into two parts, one a memorandum by City Manager Patrick Baker, the other a memo by Police Chief Chalmers. Both use the adjective “typical” to describe the DPD’s behavior in this case — all but begging a federal intervention.

A quick summary: Baker clings to the preposterous story that the April 4 lineup wasn’t a lineup, but rather an attempt to identify witnesses — even though (a) Sgt. Gottlieb told Crystal Mangum that everyone she would see the police believed attended the party; and (b) the police made no good-faith effort to contact any of those identified as “witnesses.”

Not only is the illegal lineup suddenly declared a non-lineup in which the police allegedly only were looking for "witnesses," but we now find out why it was that this case dragged on for 13 months: those defense attorneys who insisted on holding onto the exculpatory evidence themselves, as though the material could be unlocked only through a secret code. Writes Baker:

I need to state that I am deeply troubled by the repeated allegations that the Durham Police Department investigators were not interested in discovering the truth in the matter or as the Raleigh News and Observer put it, "did not pursue basic evidentiary trails to learn what happened at the lacrosse party." The investigative file is replete with numerous attempts by our investigators to contact witnesses and their attorneys seeking exculpatory statements and evidence. Aside from the initial meeting with the team Captains (including David Evans) there was little if any exchange of the critical exculpatory information and evidence with the Durham Police Department that could have aided in bringing this matter to its rightful conclusion in the early stages of the investigation. One of the examples cited as evidence of our alleged indifference to the truth is the fact that our investigators never subpoenaed photographs apparently in the possession of Kevin Coleman. This assertion ignores the fact that our investigators made repeated requests of numerous attorneys to obtain copies of those photographs to no avail. Furthermore, these photographs along with a video recording and all of the remaining exculpatory evidence the Attorney General found to be so compelling in favor of dismissal were ultimately provided to the special prosecutors by the defense team without the need for a subpoena. In attempting to answer what I believe to be the penultimate question as to why justice took nearly thirteen months to arrive on the scene in this case, I would submit the answer rests primarily in the contrasting relationship between the defense team and the two prosecuting agencies in this matter. The working relationship between the Durham District Attorney’s office and the defense team during the first 10 months of this case was not conducive to an efficient and thorough review of the facts of this case.

This simply is a most stunning paragraph. Attorneys from the beginning begged to meet with Nifong and the police, only to be rebuffed. When attorneys said they had exculpatory evidence, Nifong replied that he was "not interested in reading fiction." Another time, during a rare meeting with attorneys, Nifong simply put his hands to his ears to signify that no one had anything to say to him.

Yet, according to Baker, there was nothing wrong with Nifong’s actions, as he declared that the interaction between the defense and the police and prosecutors was the “typical relationship between the police and the prosecutor.”

Take Baker’s following statement: "The investigative file is replete with numerous attempts by our investigators to contact witnesses and their attorneys seeking exculpatory statements and evidence."

That simply is not true. For example, police never interviewed the examining physician, Julie Manly, who spoke to no one until attorneys for the players interviewed her in October, 2006. Police never tried to speak to Jason Bissey, who was next door when the alleged rape occurred, and witnessed the angry exchanges between the lacrosse players and Kim Roberts and Mangum.

However, police were very interested in Moez Elmostafa, the cab driver who picked up Reade Seligmann at about 12:20 a.m., supposedly at the same time that Seligmann was supposed to have been involved in a 30-minute beating and rape. In fact, they were so interested that they arrested him on a bogus shoplifting charge.

You see, Elmostafa was a witness to exculpatory evidence, and, according to Baker, the police desperately wanted to find such information with which the attorneys were playing Battleship. So, we see just how truthful Baker really is; the police, when faced with someone who could give that information that they allegedly were seeking, were not interested and arrested him and tried to force him to change his testimony.

(The police could not have arrested the security camera at the bank teller where Seligmann was photographed taking money out of an automatic teller shortly after Elmostafa picked him up. Maybe they could have arrested the bank branch manager.)

The report goes on and on with the same kind of nonsense. There is nothing as to why a medical report that did not show any signs of a brutal rape that police claimed had occurred could lead to police claiming that Mangum was choked, raped, beaten, and sodomized. There is nothing as to why police destroyed all of the tapes from the first night — after the attorneys asked for those tapes.

Instead, Baker insists that when the police came to the Duke dorms on a surprise visit on April 13, 2006, to "interview" the players — knowing that the players had attorneys who were not present and would not have let the players speak to police — the police actually were searching for "exculpatory evidence." Right. The police, as we now know, were trying simply to make the players look guilty.

All throughout the report, Baker insists that the police looked for nothing but the truth, but the players and their attorneys placed a "wall of silence" between them. That is a bald-faced lie, period. If there is a "wall of silence," it is with the Durham Police Department, and now the lies that the police have told are being spun as the truth.

For many years, I have written articles that are extremely critical of government. I do not consider myself to be a reformer, as I believe that governments are beyond reform. Patrick Baker, in his whitewash of a report, simply confirms once again that the state is a lie, and that Baker has no interest in changing that fact.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, in dismissing the charges in a stunning press conference last month, provided a moment in which it seemed that at least some individuals in the employ of the state did care about the truth, and one commends Cooper for what he did. However, as I read Baker’s self-serving and thoroughly dishonest report, I am left to conclude that Cooper’s performance, as good as it was, simply was the exception. Patrick Baker and Durham are the rule.

May 12, 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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