Duke Lacrosse and media coverage

I'd really been meaning to do a thorough Duke Lacrosse posting this week, but just ran out of time in the rush of things to get done before leaving town.  After watching today's coverage of the news that Nifong had dropped the rape charge, I've got to take a minute and write something, though.  Nifong basically had to drop the rape charge after it was revealed that DNA testing from months ago had in fact identified the semen of five men on the victim, none of whom were Duke Lacrosse players.  And, just has bad, Nifong had, unconstitutionally, in fact, kept this information from the press until now.  After dropping the rape charge, the defendants are still up on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault, which do not rest on the physical evidence to the same degree.  I was incredulous to hear national news reports saying this morning that this could, perhaps, strengthen the case.  That proposition is just absurd and outrageous.  These two latter charges depend quite considerably upon the testimony of the alleged victim, who has now completely impeached her own credibility in saying she's not actually sure she was raped.  Yet, the national media just go with their ludicrous, “he said, she said” frame and pretend as if there is actually a legitimate case for Nifong left to prosecute.  There is not.  Anybody who has followed this case and simply watched a half dozen Law and Order episodes should now enough by now to know that there is absolutely no way that these players could be convicted of this crime and that they are almost certainly innocent of the charges against them.  But, the news is almost always too timid to actually call things as they are– be it politics or a high-profile legal case. 

I'll end with a snippet from today's Charlotte Observer editorial (via KC Johnson, who writes an amazing blog covering the case):

The paper?s editorial board notes that the dismissal of the rape charge ?came, conveniently, after the discovery that Mr. Nifong might have asked a DNA lab to selectively report its findings.? It concludes, ?This latest twist leads you to conclude either (a) Mr. Nifong has been misled by an uncertain or unreliable witness; (b) he is incompetent; (c) he skillfully manipulated a case charged with racial and class overtones in an election year where he faced a challenge; or, (d) all of the above.?

(d) would seem like the correct answer.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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