Wednesday, June 8, 2016

ARCHIVE POST: Criminal Justice: A Never-ending Story

Hi, friend!

I was reminded today about the documentary on the Duke lacrosse rape trial from years ago (Fantastic Lies, it's a 30 for 30 and it's on Netflix) and remembered that I wrote about it. I had this published on a news blog, and one of my college professors printed it and read it in class. She tried to get me to read it, but if you listen to the show you know how well that would have gone.

So without further rambling - and because I'm due for an update here - allow me to present this (unedited) piece written by 18-year-old me:

When O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in 1995, many begged the question, "What is wrong with our justice system?" Upon hearing of his book, If I Did It, the prosecutors of that case must have wondered how they didn't find him guilty. The same group of people begged the same question in 2005 when Michael Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges because the evidence "just wasn't there." Apparently the fact that he has sleepovers at his ranch wasn't a big enough clue. Reading of these two errors in judgment, one may believe that the justice system found a way to do things correctly for a change. Third time is the charm, right?

Fast forward to March of 2006: the Duke Lacrosse case. On March 13, members of the Duke lacrosse team threw a party off-campus and hired two exotic dancers. The next day, one of the dancers told police that she was forced into a bathroom and raped, beaten, and sodomized by three men. After all of the players underwent DNA testing, Duke suspended the team from play. The head coach, Mike Pressler, tendered his resignation a week later. This led to the eventual cancellation of the season by the president of the university. Although the accuser identified the attackers in a lineup, the DNA tests failed to connect any of the players to her. This should have ended the case right here. But of course, it was prolonged unnecessarily.

Despite having proof that none of the players raped the accuser, the Grand Jury indicted three team members: Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Co-captain David Evans. Evans, who was indicted a month after the DNA tests proved his innocence, called the allegations "fantastic lies." Six months after Evans' indictment, the director of a DNA lab testified that he omitted a key fact from a report: genetic material from several men (not team members) was found on the accuser's clothes and body. He omitted this discovery in an agreement with District Attorney, Mike Nifong, who called the team "a bunch of hooligans". Nifong also (somehow) won election to continue as D.A.

A week after this testimony, Nifong dropped the rape charges. He said that the woman was no longer certain whether or not she was penetrated. This didn't make much sense, but it shouldn't have mattered because the case should not have been going on at this point. However, the players still faced charges of kidnapping and sexual offense. If this girl can't decide whether or not she was raped, how can she claim to have been kidnapped (especially when she willingly attended the party)? And if the DNA tests proved the players' innocence, how can sexual offense charges still be present? Not surprisingly, these are questions remained unanswered.

A week after this event took place, the North Carolina Bar Association filed ethics charges against Nifong. Finally, a legal action that made sense. He was also accused of making inflammatory comments to the media regarding the athletes, withholding evidence, and lying to the court. Makes you wonder how he managed to win that election. In light of these accusations, Nifong asked to withdraw from the case. This left North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper, in charge. Two months later, Cooper dropped all charges against the players and accused Nifong of overreaching. Why he waited two months to close a case that lasted far too long is questionable (at least to someone who doesn't study law), but at least the debacle came to an end.

While the court didn't screw up the verdict like it did with O.J. and Jacko, it still made mistakes. A case that should have lasted less than a month ended up lasting thirteen. What's worse than the time and money that were wasted, is the reputations that were irrevocably damaged. Of course Duke will always be remembered for this scandal, despite the charges being dropped. But the one whose reputation was more seriously damaged is Nifong. He now faces ethics charges that could get him disbarred. He could have avoided this certain humiliation by dropping the case in April. Instead, his job is now on the line.

The happenings of this case simply demonstrate the aforementioned inefficiency of the American criminal justice system. The fact that this particular case lasted a year longer than it should have shows that someone isn't doing everything that he or she could (and should) be doing. Maybe Nifong isn't the only one whose job should be on the line.

(Note: Nifong was disbarred shortly after this case was dropped.)

And that's the kind of hard-hitting journalism I used to do. Thanks for stopping by, friends. I plan to watch the documentary soon, so I may post my thoughts. Also on the way: my top 25 N64 games (yes, I finally finished the list), so get excited!

Until next time, crap open a cold one!


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