Column/To hell and back
Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2007
Finally and thankfully, the Duke lacrosse case is over, but the fallout is just beginning. In Raleigh on April 12, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper made a very strong statement, dismissing all charges against the three Duke lacrosse players, David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.
At the announcement ceremony, the three student/athletes all made eloquent statements, with David Evans characterizing his dreadful 13 month experience as a trip “to hell and back”. I feel sure that his two fellow team members, along with all three families, share David’s sentiments.
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players had been charged with rape, kidnaping
and assault as a result of a team party that occurred off campus on
March 13, 2006, involving drinking and two black female strippers, who were students at nearby North Carolina Central University. Interim District Attorney Mike Nifong brought the charges shortly after the alleged event , and a big-time national media circus erupted.
Grand jury indictments took place on April 17 and May 15 – and before that – the Duke lacrosse team was suspended from play. Lacrosse coach Mike Pressler
was fired on April 5, and the Duke lacrosse season was canceled the same day. The handling of this “scandal” should go down in Duke history as one of the University’s darkest, most shameful moments.
Whatever happened to the “presumption of innocence” in the criminal code, and where were the Duke leaders in the administration?
Instead of offering support to the three students against the alleged, unproven and bogus (as it turned out) charges, Duke’s president, Board chairman and Athletics Director jumped right on the “they’re guilty bandwagon,” leaving the three young men “hanging and swaying slowly in the wind.” Shame on them!!
However, when looking for the most despicable character of them all – in this sorry episode – one
needs to look no further than to District Attorney Mike Nifong. Mr. Nifong, who was the interim DA at the time, turned out to be a totally self-serving, ambitious politician with no sincere interest in seeing justice prevail.
What Nifong wanted and received was being elected to the position of Durham County’s full- fledged District Attorney. Nifong
had already played the “race card” to get the indictments against the three student/athletes, and the black
vote was clearly the difference in the election.
Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the Black Panthers and the national media, along with Nifong had already declared the young men guilty of the charges, enjoying the role of being the prosecutor, the jury and the judge, and hoping to see the boys thrown in prison for 30 years.
Nifong issued a mush-mouthed, pathetic apology the day after Attorney General Cooper had declared the three boys INNOCENT, with all charges dropped.
The students have not accepted Nifong’s apology. Thus far, as of April 14, 2007, no apologies have been forthcoming from Duke’s president, the Board, Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et,al. Don’t hold your breath!
Nifong is now facing ethics charges from the North Carolina State bar, which could result in disbarment.
Another outrageous development that occurred soon after the rape allegations was the full-page “manifesto” that was published in the Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle. This statement was made by the “Group of 88” Duke professors, mostly humanities professors, demonizing the lacrosse team and suggesting that the “scandal” was the result of a long-standing “disaster” at Duke, created by “institutional sexism and racism.”
A high percentage of these activist professors were a combination of liberal Blacks and Whites-with many being instructors in African-American studies. Of course, apologies from this “Group” are not expected.
Mike Nifong was characterized by AG Cooper as an “overreaching rogue prosecutor”, and the national media was properly chastised for judging the accused before the legal system does. The 13 month duration of the case was prosecuted by a selfish DA who put his personal political ambitions ahead of the truth -and in doing so-he tarnished the reputations of three young men and their families.
Additionally, he did damage to Duke University, its lacrosse/total athletic program, precipitated the firing of the lacrosse coach and the suspension from school of two of the players.
Hopefully, Mr. Nifong will now have to endure the most serious of consequences-in the form of disbarment and serious legal action against him. It may be possible that Duke, Durham and the State of North Carolina will all be vulnerable to legal action
In the end- in my opinion – justice will best be served if Mike Nifong, instead of going to “Hell and Back”, will experience the
equivalent of a one-way trip to that feared fiery place!
May justice prevail for all!!
Byrd Looper is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.