Friday, September 07, 2007


Yesterday, Abigail Thernstrom had a review in The Wall Street Journal of a new book by Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson about the Duke lacrosse team rape case. Her conclusion:

Messrs. Taylor and Johnson make it clear that the Duke affair--the rabid prosecution, the skewed commentary, the distorted media storyline--was not some odd, outlier incident but the product of an elite culture's most treasured assumptions about American life, not least about America's supposed racial divide.

OK, here's my question: If the prosecution of the lacrosse players and mistreatment they received in the press were the fault of "elite culture" (read: liberals), then who was responsible for the dismissal of charges and the downfall and disgrace of DA Mike Nifong?

Did elite culture suddenly cease to exist when we weren't looking, despite the fact that it was all-powerful right before that?

In fact, within weeks of the alleged rape, some elements of the "elite" "liberal" media were questioning the narrative.

The "night in question" was March 13, 2006. This is from the April 10, 2006, issue of Newsweek:

There is, however, possibly a different side to the story -- a chapter from another Tom Wolfe novel, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," a tale of a prosecutor exploiting racial tensions with a trumped-up charge. The players say they are completely innocent, that no one had sex with the stripper that night and that they will be vindicated by DNA tests expected early this week. Joseph Cheshire, a lawyer representing one of the players, says that the prosecutor has unfairly tried the players in the media to serve his own political agenda. (Nifong is up for re-election in May and one of his opponents is black.)

...if the three lacrosse captains who occupy the house had anything to hide, they didn't act like it. They cooperated in the search and voluntarily went down to the police station to give statements, without lawyers present. Their offer to take a lie-detector test was rebuffed by police....

And here's ABC News on April 17:

ABC News has obtained a tape in which a security guard -- who may have been the first person to see the alleged victim of a Duke lacrosse gang rape after the alleged attack -- says there were no signs or mention of rape or sexual assault.

...On the tape, which was recorded April 3, three weeks after the lacrosse party, the guard can be heard saying, "There ain't no way she was raped -- ain't no way, no way that happened."

The security guard says she smelled alcohol on the driver, but not on the alleged victim. She says that the alleged victim "couldn't talk at all.... She was out of it." The security guard also suggests the alleged victim may have been high on drugs....

In the blogosphere, Jeralyn Merritt of Talk Left published a series of skeptical posts, starting on March 31 with "The Duke Lacrosse Players Rape Allegations: Truth or Scam?"

In fact, this incident wasn't the fault of the "elite culture." This incident was the fault of one rogue, amoral DA. Yes, the "elite culture" may have been willing to believe him, but it was also more than ready to take in -- and, in the case of the press, to publish -- information that exonerated the defendants and damned the DA.

And that happened rather quickly -- the case itself crumbled in less than a year, and Nifong's downfall was swift. I can't blame the defendants and their relatives, friends, and supporters if they think I'm minimizing what they went through in that time -- but compare their plight, difficult as it may have been, to the stories of other people in this country who've been falsely accused:

There have been 207 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history....

* Fifteen people had been sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence and led to their release.
* The average sentence served by DNA exonerees has been 12 years....

(Oh, and by the way, about 70% of DNA exonerees are non-white.)

The Duke lacrosse players have their whole lives ahead of them. A lot of innocent people who've been falsely accused in America can't say that. Which part of the culture is to blame for that?

(Cross-posted at Too Sense.)

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