Unfinished business in Duke lacrosse case

June 21, 2007|By Thomas Sowell | Thomas Sowell,Creators Syndicate

The disbarment of Durham County, N.C., District Attorney Michael B. Nifong should be just the first step in remedying the gross and cynical fraud of last year's "rape" case against Duke University lacrosse players.

Not only is Mr. Nifong still liable to civil lawsuits from the three young men whose lives he tried to ruin, and criminal prosecution for his obstruction of justice and making false statements to a judge, but there are also many other people who disgraced themselves in hyping a lynch mob atmosphere when this case first broke last year.

The New York Times, which splashed these Duke students' pictures on the front page along with inflammatory charges against them, and went ballistic on its editorial page, carried the story of Mr. Nifong's disbarment for prosecuting them on Page 16.

The 88 Duke University faculty members who took out a hysterical ad supporting those local loudmouths who were denouncing and threatening the Duke students apparently have nothing at all to say now. Not only did many Duke professors join the lynch mob atmosphere, but so did the Duke administration, which got rid of the lacrosse coach and canceled the team's season, without a speck of evidence that anybody was guilty of anything.

This is one of the few times when the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is speechless, even though he was loudly supporting the bogus "rape" charges last year.

A local civil rights activist even had the gall to accost the mother of one of the accused students at Mr. Nifong's disbarment hearings to say that she still believes they were guilty.

The sad and tragic fact is that the civil rights movement, despite its honorable and courageous past, has over the years degenerated into a demagogic hustle, promoting the mindless racism its leaders once fought against.

Although the committee that disbarred Mr. Nifong said many things that needed to be said, it muddied the waters by saying that he may have deceived himself before he deceived others.

Nothing that Mr. Nifong did suggests that he ever thought these players were guilty or that he ever intended to bring them to trial.

The photo lineup presented to the stripper was so completely different from standard procedure that it was virtually an invitation for a judge to throw out any identification resulting from it - and without that identification, there was no case.

This was not about winning a case. It was about winning an election.

Mr. Nifong could not allow a standard lineup to be used to have the accuser identify her alleged attackers, or else her unreliability would have been exposed early on, depriving him of a case to use to get the black vote in his election.

There is not the slightest reason to believe that Mr. Nifong was deceived or mistaken. He was not some kid fresh out of law school. He had decades of experience as a prosecutor. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Nor were the 88 Duke faculty members who promoted a lynch mob atmosphere naive. Most were from departments promoting the "race, class and gender" vision of victimhood.

This case served their purposes. That trumped any question about whether the charges were true or not.

Don't expect any of these people to recant or apologize. But be aware of how wide and how deep the moral dry rot goes.

That such people are teaching students at an elite university is a chilling thought. That they promote a campus atmosphere where political correctness trumps the search for truth is painful.

That such attitudes and such atmospheres are not peculiar to Duke University, but are common on elite college campuses from coast to coast, is a time bomb with the potential to destroy individuals and ultimately undermine the whole society.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His column appears Thursdays in The Sun. His e-mail is info@creators.com.

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