What’s the first thing you think of?
Rape? Athletes getting away with anything they want? Misconduct? Violence? Jocks? Gorilla Frat Boys? Binge drinking? Well it’s time to think again.
The Duke Lacrosse team, as well as the entire university seems to have, in my opinion, been the butt of a very harsh political scam. Now this is just my opinion but nothing gets me going like a good sports scandal so I followed this one pretty closely while it was in the media and tried to get some info on it when it started to be surpassed by other, more pressing media concerns.
Read up a little bit on the case here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/04/11/duke.lacrosse/index.html
Let’s take a quick look at the history of this case:
The characters your know:
- 3 Duke Lacrosse Players: Reid Seligman, David Evans, and Colin Finnerty
- The District Attorney – Michael Nifong.
- A 28 year old student at North Carolina Central University, working as a stripper, who accused the 3 Duke University students of raping her.
- lawyers for defense, maintaining innocence the whole time.
- the Judge, obviously.
An important character you may not know: Nifong’s competitor in the election for district attorney.
The basic facts: Last spring the Duke Lacrosse team, at an off campus house, had a party, with this stripper. There was drinking going on, and later that night she claimed that she was raped in the bathroom by these 3 kids. Sensationalism ensues. Public outrage breaks out. People start to worry that college athletes are given too much leeway, its time to put our collective foots down and stop this attitude of omnipotence before something even more horrible and terrible happens. DNA testing of the whole team happens. Hmmmm, no matches, but nobody has to know that and the stripper can visually ID the three guys she claims raped her, so a case is born. Michael Nifong, the DA, mercilessly attacks these guys, throwing everything he can think of at them, even to the point of possibly misleading a Judge so that their case won’t be dismissed.
In the middle of all this, as many big Court cases do, a lull comes, it takes 30 days to insert this into evidence, 45 days to answer that, another 30 days to file for production of documents, 2 weeks to obtain the police report and so on ad infinitum. The public’s attention span isn’t that long about very many things and so the newspapers would insert a short quip here and there updating us to the facts, but it had lost page 1 status and was relegated to places where it had to be sought out.
One of the things these little, often overlooked, snippets told us was that Michael Nifong had a lot to lose with this case. His approval rating was worse than our current President’s and his competitor was gaining popularity all the time. He needed something to restore the public faith in him being able to do his job better than anyone else. Now I don’t think this was any sort of a conspiracy and he sent her over there for whatever, but I do think lady luck sat on his shoulder for a brief period of time. This rape charge comes in, and he gets fired up. Ignoring that there was no DNA match, and that the stripper changed her story from rape (once rape became an impossible thing to prove as none of the boys DNA matched DNA she had, which means she had had sex later that night…atypical behavior of rape victims, or the rape occurred with someone else and she lied and blamed the Duke kids) to kidnapping, Nifong, in an effort to keep the story in the media and keep the public excited about his efforts, led the Judge to believe the boys refused to cooperate, that they were hiding things, and he didn’t give the full truth about the test results to the media. He then made it about race as the Lacrosse players were white and the young woman was African American. Public opinion for Nifong was reborn, suddenly he was the champion of the little guy (or girl), he was standing up to the big bad college athletes and not letting them push him around. He won reelection, quietly. Now there is very little evidence that rape happened, or that the players kidnapped the woman, the charges are likely to be dropped according to CNN, and Nifong is standing in front of the North Carolina bar ethics board, waiting to hear whether or not he’ll be disbarred for the grossly unethical way he handled the boys’ case.
This humble writer’s opinion (after all, isn’t that what these postings are all about?)…Disbarrment isn’t enough. I won’t say that the base, general, and otherwise blueprinted idea here isn’t bad, in many cases collegiate atheletes are given too much freedom, get away with far too much, and have no fear of reprisal. I will be the first to confess that when this story broke I, just like most people I know, just assumed the boys were guilty. Athletes, especially Lacross players, have a meathead reputation that would allude to proclivities to create situations such as this. It seems that I was wrong, lots of people were wrong, and one of the reasons it took us so long to realize we were wrong is because the district attorney wasn’t forthcoming with the truth. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think it is the job of the district attorney to get convictions, it is to pursue justice. This case became a witch hunt, where the DA knew that the evidence wasn’t there to convict these boys and pursued them viciously anyway, seemingly for political gain. I hope it doesn’t pay off for him. I hope the ethics board revokes his license to practice law, and I hope a message is sent to LAWYERS about honestly and justice and ethics, but most of all I hope people hear this story, because those boys are always going to face discrimination now, there will always be people out there who still think they did it, and that is a real shame.
And now for the goose. I could be totally wrong about this, it may be a huge coincidence that this case got Nifong reelected and the DNA tests were poorly done and these boys are guilty as sin, and my heartfelt sentiments are going to the wrong party because Nifong may get disbarred for doing the right thing in pursuing these kids. Fight me.