Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Duke lacrosse: Ten days in March (II)

LieStoppers has a terrific piece of detective work on the crucial early days of the hoax:

How the Duke Rape Hoax Became the Duke Racial Epithets Crime-of-the-Century Hoax (and Remains So Today)
LieStoppers notes that the lax story exploded into the headlines because of the racial aspect: white-on-black gang rape after a prelude of racial slurs. What this article demonstrates is that this element of the narrative did not appear until 24 March. The early police statements do not contain the allegations of a barrage of slurs. Yet, suddenly, the Duke faculty hears of the epithets, the News and Observer gets an interview with the accuser who then claims, for the first time, that the dancers were the targets of racial epithets, and the Duke police inform the administration about the slurs.

As LieStoppers notes, “it may be coincidental, but it is certainly a notable convergence.” Of course, Goldfinger was more jaundiced: “Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.'”

Duke PR flack John Burness takes another hit in this piece. Yaeger has already noted that Burness “became famous for ‘off-the-record, not for attribution’, slamming of the players” to reporters.” Here we see that he passed along second-, third-, and fourth-hand accounts of the alleged slurs to faculty members,

In the early days of the hoax, Burness was fanning the flames. He helped turn a manageable PR crisis into a publicity nightmare that has tarnished both his employer and Duke students.

The News and Observer also comes off poorly in the LieStoppers article which shows that they have lied repeatedly about the 24 March interview with Precious. Nor have they ever come clean about the contacts between their reporters and the DPD. LieStoppers dissects both points with great skill.

Yaeger’s book adds one other crucial piece of information on this score. On 23 March the subpoena for the DNA dragnet was issued. The players decided not to fight the broad (overly broad?) request. They even decided to make it easy on the police and go immediately to the crime lab.

[Attorney Wes] Covington telephoned investigators and informed them that the players would arrive voluntarily as a group if it was promised the news would not be leaked to the media. Covington was assured the media would be kept unaware.
It was a lie. When the players arrived at the lab, they found the reporters waiting and the doors locked. The DPD had arranged the perfect perp walk for their media friends. The tabloid frenzy was about to begin.

The next day the story was on the front page of the News and Observer. The day after that came the notorious interview with the accuser. The N&O was leading the pack in pursuit of a story that was really a red herring.

The N&O has done a great job following up on Nifong’s mistakes and ethical lapses. They have shown no such interest in examining the actions of the DPD in the first 10 days of the hoax.

Is it because their reporters and editors were too eager to play the role they were assigned by the rogue cops?

The DPD’s lies and choreographed perp walk is another black mark against Duke. From the beginning of the hoax they knew that the players were cooperating and that the DPD was lying. Yet the administration was silent when the police and prosecutor claimed that there was a “blue wall of silence”. They did nothing while the police tried to run roughshod over their students. At times they even ran with the hounds as when they suspended McFayden for his stupid email.

To date, Duke has not owned up to their miserable cowardice.

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