Duke lacrosse: Triangle media still spin for Nifong
The Durham Herald-Sun
and the Raleigh News and Observer
have weighed in again on the Duke Lacrosse case. Both opinion pieces still try to shore up the travesty that is DA Nifong’s politically motivated prosecution of an absurd case.
Let's talk sports
Put lacrosse case on a faster track
The first is an op-ed by a Duke professor (Orin Starn). Both Robert KC Johnson (“Shameless
”) and John in Carolina (“Prof misrepresents Coach K
“) do an excellent job of addressing the errors and omissions packed into that short column. One point deserves mention here.
But beyond the alleged sexual assault, there remain reports, uncontradicted so far, that some of the 46 white lacrosse players shouted the n-word at the two women at their party; and that one made that ugly "B-, Thank your Grandpa for my cotton shirt" comment. It's hard to understand how Coach K or anyone else could not see a "racial aspect" here, as much the result of loutish drunkenness as it may have been.
Starn is not quite honest here. The reports of the “n-word” come mainly from the two dancers themselves. Both have given contradictory accounts of the evening and both have a motive to portray the lax players in as bad a light as possible. The comment overheard by the neighbor (the cotton shirt remark) came in response to a racially-charged comment by the second dancer. The good professor leaves all this out.
This is not a minor point. By focusing on the racial aspects of the case, Starn is helping to poison the jury pool in Durham. At this point Nifong’s best hope is to make the case about race and not about the facts. Starn and the News and Observer are helping him.
In its editorial the Herald-Sun
girded up its loins and . . . issued a bold call for a speedy trial. Like its “rival” the News and Observer
, it still spins for Nifong even when it tries to take a bold, forthright position. Like most of the MSM, it refuses to confront all the disturbing facts in the case when it issues its agonizing reappraisals of the mess that is Durham justice.
Here are some of the lowlights:
To say that the case is like any other on Durham's docket is to deny reality. Intense national media scrutiny has been fed by attorneys' efforts to try the case before reporters and pundits instead of a judge and jury.
Talk about blaming the victim. The media frenzy took off before any of the defense attorneys said anything. The lacrosse team was convicted in a trial by media that Nifong fed with his interviews. But the H-S ignores that and implies that the defense team is at fault.
Defense attorneys have released a stream of damaging evidence -- although there is much they do not divulge -- that seems to undercut the prosecution's case and leads many to question Nifong's judgment.
They also are in error here. NBC’s Dan Abrams has seen the whole file that Nifong turned over.
And we hate to imagine the fallout if the lacrosse case winds up being decided by an election instead of in court.
Oh yes, the fallout (whatever do they mean?). That would be terrible. More terrible, apparently, than the way Nifong used the case to decide an election.
Duke and Durham need to learn lessons from this incident and decide how to make positive changes. But the healing can't really begin until all the truth comes out -- which is the purpose of a trial.
Actually, criminal trials are not the venue for establishing truth or helping Durham “learn lessons” or make “positive changes.” Trials determine the guilt of individual defendants.
The Herald-Sun is still dissembling as it calls for a speedy trial and it is shirking its duty. Instead of waiting for he truth, the paper should start digging into the mistakes made by the media, Nifong, and Duke. Isn’t that what a watchdog press is supposed to do?
The paper has no appetite for such work. Like most local media, they are loyal lapdogs for prosecutors. This is made clear by the gentle way they handle the questions about Nifong’s handling of the case.
Nifong's critics have questioned everything from his character to his legal savvy. We think that the 25-year veteran of the prosecutor's office must have some evidence, or he would have dropped the case long ago.
The DA gets the benefit of the doubt. From the beginning, the lax players were presumed guilty; their presumption of innocence went out the window back in March. But Nifong—he “must have some evidence.” The Herald-Sun does not tell us what it might be, but they are sure he must have something. It is a touching to see the media place such childlike faith in a politician. It is a faith that is contradicted by the facts we know—no DNA, no severe injuries, no date rape drug, no viable timeline, multiple false statements by the DA, absurdly contradictory accounts by the accuser and the second dancer.
Why, then, does the Herald-Sun cut him so much slack?
UPDATE: 7/6/06. I'm getting a lot of new traffic for this post. I invite new readers to take a quick glance back through the May and June archives. There are over a dozen posts on the Durham travesty there. For example:
Duke lacrosse: The News and Observer is still covering for Nifong
From the cone of silence to Emily Litella