14 December 2006

Justice for All

Much ado has been made about the Duke Lacrosse team and their rape scandal. This story has made the national news, complete with the talking heads bloviating on the subject, of which they had little knowledge.

The basic story is this, at a party thrown by members of the Duke Lacrosse team on March 13, 2006, there were strippers. These strippers left before their appointed time and then called police, saying that one of them had been sexually assaulted by three members of the team.

From there the story gets ugly and muddied. Starting off is the fact that the two "exotic dancers" were black, while all but one member of the lacrosse team is white. Of course the usual suspects had to weigh in with their opinions just because of the race issue. Other than being a factual side note, the matter of race has little to do with the story.

The three accused have alibis for the time of the alleged incident. One was actually at an ATM when the assault supposedly took place, ATM cameras record him there and he has the time stamped receipt. The cab driver that took him to the ATM backs his story. The other two have as alibis the testimony of their teammates, which admittedly is not as ironclad.

The victim could not, at first, pick her alleged assailants out of a lineup. Finally after much deliberation she identified her attackers from a photo montage of the team members. No persons other than team members were included in the photo display.

Physical evidence is limited to DNA samples taken from the victim. These DNA samples identify five male persons, none of whom are on the Duke Lacrosse team. This information was not included in the lab's final report, and defense attorneys were not made aware of this until October 2006 when they were able to study documents made available from the lab through court order. The lab initially refused to provide this documentation, citing privacy and cost issues.

Mike Nifong, Durham County prosecuter, rode the issue into a re-election campaign. Before the election he spoke publicly and often about the case, giving more than fifty interviews with various news media outlets. After the election he seems to have lost interest in the case. Deliberations are not scheduled to begin in the case until spring of 2007, a year after the initial accusations were made. In fact, according to court testimony in October of 2006, Mr. Nifong had yet to discuss the case with the accuser.

The Durham police have also been tainted with the scandal. The cabbie that provided the ride, and therefore the alibi, to one of the team members was charged with shoplifting in a case where the shoplifter used his cab as a getaway vehicle without his knowledge. He was cleared in court. The police also set up the flawed lineup, and the head investigator on the case has been accused of bias against Duke students in past incidents.

In the meantime, the lacrosse season has been cancelled, the head coach has resigned due to threats made on his well being, the team's reputation has been dragged through the mud, members of the team have had their pictures with the legend "rapist" posted about the community, many of them have been threatened, and three young men have had their lives put on hold until the trial actually commences.

Why the accusation was made if there was no actual assault remains a mystery. My own theory is that the girls wanted to leave early with their pay, and the boys wanted at least some of their money back if the girls were leaving early. The accusation, in my mind, is more of a revenge issue. Of course it could be that the accuser was so addled that she thought an assault had actually taken place. I guess we won't know for sure until the trial, and maybe not then.

Duke University apparel sales, especially Lacrosse T shirts, have tripled.

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