7.10.2006

Troubling

Like most of you, I'm sure, I take rape allegations awfully seriously. Considering what an accuser has to go through, and the whole slow-rolling machinations of the judicial system, not to mention the damage done to reputation by false accusations, it's all a very big deal and should be taken as seriously as humanly possible, and pursued assiduously. However, this Duke thing has me really disturbed.

I sure hope someone is keeping a close eye on events in Durham, because Mike Nifong, the coincidentally-up-for-reelection-and-desperate- for-the-African-American-vote district attorney prosecuting the alleged rape at the Duke lacrosse players' party house in March is either on a crusade of a decidedly unholy type, or he's hoping that when it all blows up in his face, enough time will have passed for him to skate away Scot free.

Just a refresher by way of a little timeline with some pesky little facts that make the continued prosecution of this case a complete mystery to me:

March 13-14: two exotic dancers (oh, ok, let's call them strippers, because what the hell is the difference? I think it's asinine to assume that strippers are whores, and I do think these women were hired to dance nekkid and nothing more) perform at a Duke lacrosse party. One, whom we'll call "A" (for Accuser), gets picked up in a mall parking lot, too drunk to get out of her car, and carrying no i.d., and is taken to a local hospital's mental ward because she cannot tell the citing officer her name. She becomes lucid enough to tell hospital personnel that she was sexually assaulted and beaten, expanding her story to include the claims that she was raped vaginally, anally and orally, and kicked and beaten and threatened with death. She specifically recounts that none of her three attackers used condoms. A rape kit yields DNA and shows some vaginal swelling, but no tears or other trauma to anywhere in "the region". The other dancer, "B," makes a statement that her friend was drunk and belligerent and that when they'd left the party before the men thought they should, the "n" word was thrown after them in a fit of ugly fury. B called in the epithets to police, and then drove her friend to the mall where they were found by police (in a sidenote, B was briefly arrested and released on bond as a co-conspirator in the crime).

As reported in The News & Observer, on March 18 D.A. Nifong's office "asked a judge to order all 46 white players to sit for mug shots (for current hair styles and complexion), upper torso photographs (for evidence of scratches from the accuser) and mouth swabbings (for DNA testing). The request -- searching a pool of 46 people for 3 suspects -- was unusual. To obtain the DNA and photos, the law requires reasonable grounds to suspect that the person named had committed the crime. By definition [that is, because A said she had been raped by 3 people, whose names she gave as Adam, Matt and Brett], 43 of the named people had not." All 46 white members of the squad voluntarily gave DNA samples to the police department in March. The lone African-American player was exempted because A said her attackers were white.

Before the DNA results came back, Nifong indicted -- on who knows what trumped up nonsense he laid out before a grand jury. This is where his grandstanding and showboating reached their most fervid heights, and by his own admission he gave more than 50 interviews on the case. David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were charged with rape and kidnapping and have been freed on bail. All have been suspended by the university pending the outcome of the case, which is another troubling aspect: whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty (please note the Michael Jackson exception to this rule, because despite the jury's verdict in that case, y'all know Michael's guilty, and a sick fuck, to boot)??

Nifong has since made assertions that contradicted his own investigators' and the police's files: he suggested the players used condoms (presumably to explain away his utter lack of physical evidence); he accused the players of erecting a wall of silence to thwart investigators (when in fact they had cooperated fully); and he said the woman had been hit, kicked and strangled (which she alleged but of which not an ounce or sign of physical evidence was ever found).

On May 12, Nifong released the second round of DNA test results to defense lawyers. Here's the kicker, and the thing that should keep this guy up at night, considering he has not only not backed away from his indictments, but shows every sign of continuing his prosecution, regardless of what the evidence shows: There was no DNA connected with any player found in or on the accuser. The tests showed that A had recently had sex with her boyfriend. None of A's DNA was found on the floor, rugs or towels in the bathroom where the rape allegedly occurred -- as surely would be the case if someone had been subjected to the traumatic sexual and physical abuse A reported. (Ickily, but perhaps not surprisingly, it later turned out that semen samples from two other residents of the house and Dave Evans were found on the bathroom floor and on towels on the hallway floor.)

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think you can in good conscience pursue a case with no physical evidence and a dead-drunk declarant -- let's not forget that B said she didn't think A was raped, not least because she wasn't away from her for the half hour or more the assault was supposedly commited in.

(Mark Edwards, a Durham defense lawyer uninvolved in the case, said the DNA evidence does not appear to have any connection to the state's rape case. Amusingly, if ungrammatically, he said, "This has nothing to do with nothing. This has to do with 19- 20-year-old males full of testosterone looking for an outlet. What this evidence tells you is that when you're walking around these guys' house, make sure you have shoes on.")

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