10 June 2006

The Duke Lacrosse Saga Teeters Unchecked (Again)

For those of you who have been reading this blog, you know I initially was giving regular updates about the almost soap-opera like fiasco that is the Duke University Lacrosse Team alleged rape scandal. The incident, which happened supposedly during the late hours of 13 March into the early morning of 14 March, has been fraught with allegations, disputed facts, public press conferences, and repeated DNA testing. It became a bit much actually to keep up with all of the affairs, as they were coming quickly and any mention here would be outdated before it ever got read anyway. So I took a break from the story, although I have been trying to formulate a timeline that I will post here soon, with all of the additional 'facts' as they've been reported in the media.

In addition to all of the above, though, it would appear that what this story has become has absolutely nothing to do with an alleged rape, robbery and beating, but instead a bullseye microscope on the Durham City Police Department and the Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong. (For clarity's sake, the city of Durham compromises almost the entirety of Durham County, so the same citizens are represented by both.) To say Nifong and the Durham Police's actions in this entire affair have been called into question may be one of the greatest understatements of this state in a great many years. Repeatedly, defense attorneys for the 3 alleged attackers have tore into the evidence presented to them...everything from a non-match of 2 sets of DNA testing, to a photographic timeline of one of the alleged attackers' activities on the night after the party, to the credibility of the two women involved (Kim Roberts, the second dancer, has allegedly changed her story at least once and has also apparently lied to the police at least twice...so far)...and Nifong and Co have yet to respond back, at least publicly. Unless Nifong has some major piece of incriminating evidence that has not been made available to the defense team (and, in theory, through them to the mass of public reporters), it would appear this whole investigation and subsequent arrest and future trial may have been foolhardy.

Introducing the latest updates, courtesy of the two local newspapers and also picked up by the majors (including websites such as The Drudge Report):

The Herald-Sun focuses on what Lead Investigator Himan (please, control the ironic smirk) may have omitted from his sworn probable-cause affidavit that eventually led to the DNA testing, police lineup and eventual arrest: "Officer's 'omissions' targeted in lacrosse motion". Keep in mind, the police lineup is an additional thing that is being highly contested, as it violated NC and US Department of Justice mandates about how it should be done: the Durham Police and District Attorney Nifong both freely admit that the lineup only consisted of Duke lacrosse team members. In essence, there is no way the alleged victim could not have selected a team member as her assailant(s), because that's the only options she was given. This article also points out some new details about the alleged victim's drinking and also her initial distrust of her fellow dancer's involvement concerning the alleged rape and robbery. (It should also be noted that Ms. Roberts has been convicted of embezzlement and was recently in court herself regarding a probation violation stemming from that crime.)

The News & Observer goes down a different path (which seems to be the standard process now against The Herald-Sun, each covering different facts instead of fighting over the same scraps): they give a detailed report of the inconsistencies of what Himan used in his affidavit versus what allegedly was actually told to the medical authorities after the attack on 14 March. In addition, further character attacks can be made by the defense team, as this article gives a timeline of the alleged victim's activities before the team party. Such activities include having 4 different appointments as an exotic dancer (which other publications and organizations here state have been sexual encounters and not just dancing, as the accuser did admit to using a vibrator at one of these visits), and a visit to a local strip club...all within 48 hours before the party on Buchanan got underway. "Filing disputes lacrosse probe" also has defense attorneys contending that all of this previously-unreleased evidence amounts to the unlawful DNA testing, police lineup, and subsequent identification.

And I finish with two other corkers from The News & Observer:

* Kim Roberts' initial statement to the police on 22 March does not support her fellow dancer, and also does not support her current statements about the timeline of events and how long she and the accuser were even there. However, this still does not explain why she called 911 that night and complained of racial epithets in a story that changed mid-call, but refused to give her name to operators nor stay around and wait to give a report to the police. (This was all previously mentioned in my earlier entries about this, and I won't bore you with any repeats now.) "Tale 'crock,' 2nd dancer told police" .

Again, it's important to point out that this statement was apparently made before Ms. Roberts decided to contact public relations firms in New York to represent her 'to spin this to the best possible advantage', and also before she started giving interviews. A brief interview with her will be in the next issue of Vanity Fair magazine, which follows on the heels of a damning expose of Duke University party life in a recent edition of Rolling Stone's cover article: "Sex & Scandal at Duke". (This article is a fascinating read on so many levels, and not just because of the sex and party life on a major American university...because that's not new...but because it documents the changing attitudes of sexual hookups by the female college coed. I'm frankly not surprised given the culture these days, but I depressed about how little many of the women here seem to have of their own self-worth. If feminism was supposed to make things more equal among the sexes, and that now is starting to happen sexually as alleged in this article...why do women not feel any more empowered and proud sexually then of their conquests? But I digress...)

* And, then what many here locally is a sign of something Big Brotherish and also weirdly desperate: District Attorney Nifong's recent subpoena requests for sweeping amounts of information from Duke about all of the Duke lacrosse team members and 2 other students. It's a demand for information that smells to many here of a glorified fishing expedition, one that has Ahab realizing he has nothing unless he casts out a much larger net. Now, the targeted students' own attorneys are having none of it and are fighting back with legal action as well. Motion protests DA's bid for data.

This, folks, has become a glorified mess on a variety of fronts. Stay tuned, because no matter what the resolution, the handling and the attitudes about this entire process will resonate for years to come, and far beyond the hallowed confines of Duke University. God help Durham officials if this case is nothing but smoke and mirrors, yet they are blindly proceeding with it anyway. (Nifong did win a tough re-election runoff in May, and there have also been dozens of demonstrations for the accuser since this story broke, so the political pressure is formidable.) God help Durham also, though...and particularly her female residents who may be assaulted by someone of privilege or money in the future...if this entire accusation ends up being a horrific and devastating hoax.

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