At a little past 2:30pm today (EST), NC Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all remaining charges against the 3 accused men of the Duke University Lacrosse team. At a little past 3pm today, news outlets all over the Net and elsewhere were devouring the finer details of this mess of a prosecution...and taking full aim at the accuser. Now fully named in numerous outlets (including a front page headline on The Drudge Report), and complete with her old mug shots accompanying the copy in some, it's open season in the print today. For the former accuser's sake, I hope she does have some familial and mental help available, as it's clear that the media sharks are out for blood to such a degree it would weaken the strongest of spirits. Even the relatively even-handed local News & Observer paper is running multiple stories on today's developments, and have teased with not only one but two in-depth follow-ups about the former accuser and DA Nifong (and Nifong's will be a 5 part series, no less). Yes, we have resuscitated our own soap opera.
It's also with some amusement and chagrin that I keep reading how this dismissal leads to an 'end' of this whole controversy. Oh, no, folks...we're just getting started, unfortunately. There's going to be a lot of name-calling and finger-pointing...and Lord knows how many civil suits...before this story finally 'ends'. With any luck, we might even make it someday as a 'Movie of the Week' on one of the cable TV channels. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek, folks.) No matter how the final chapter is written, though, it will be years down the road...and it will have to be written by the community left behind itself...after all the hoopla and analysis has faded away, after the satellite trucks have moved on to another town's tragedy, after some more money is made at someone else's painful expense. Now the hard work begins here: preventing this from ever happening in our judicial system again. And that work should not...and cannot...be dismissed.
From MSNBC (via the Associated Press), the official statement from AG Cooper.
And, if I were Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and his counsel, I would be feeling in a very precarious position tonight, indeed...as he well should be. I was personally taken aback by how stinging AG Cooper was of Nifong and that simply cannot bode well, even though Cooper tried to sound relatively impartial during the question and answer session that followed the above statement. Nifong has went from a relative unknown to one of the most-reviled men in the state, if not the nation at large. In June, we'll find out what the North Carolina Bar Association rules about Nifong and his ethics and practices in dealing with this case.
Time will tell, though, also just how much rope Duke University will be given by the now totally-free men and their families...bettors around here are allowing just enough for a public relations (and bank account) hanging. Evans/Finnerty/Seligmann Fieldhouse anyone? Or perhaps several fully-endowed scholarships in Criminal Law at the Duke University Law School? Or perhaps a whole new major, with an emphasis in Criminal Science Investigation? If Duke University gets away 'clean' on this (in light of everything, good and bad), it will have to consider itself very lucky indeed. Though I'm not sure it deserves that blessing.
Who knows, maybe the defendants are changing. But something tells me that maybe Justice still has some distance to go.