Whoever followed the so called “Duke Lacrosse Rape case” when it began about a year ago had to be somewhat bewildered by the veracity of the Durham County District Attorney, one Michael B. Nifong, and his conduct of more than seventy news conferences and interviews he gave right after he had filed charges against three Duke University students. These three, David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann had attended an off-campus party where two exotic dancers had been invited to dance for them. All party attendees were reportedly members of the Duke La Crosse team and they all had chipped in to pay for the two dancers.
One of the dancers, Crystal Gail Mangum, made accusations afterwards she had been raped in the bathroom of that house by several players and she subsequently identified the three aforementioned players. District Attorney Nifong brought charges against them and went out of his way to make certain that the world would know about it. His actions and statements were soon followed by the expulsion of the three accused by the University, the Lacrosse team’s schedule was cancelled and the coach was asked to resign. 88 Duke University Faculty members signed a letter condemning the apparent rapes by those three players. Since the accuser was black, it did not take long to have Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton get involved and pile on as well. The media smelled a juicy story and kept reporting on it for weeks on end.
The district attorney was also running for re-election and found himself against a formidable candidate who happened to be black. But with his inflammatory public remarks against the three white students, he managed to garner enough of the black vote in
Durham to beat his primary opponent and Nifong was eventually re-elected in fall for another term as District Attorney. He had also very early on declared that this case would not be brought to court until the spring of 2007. He gave no reasons for this other than claiming his “heavy workload”. In the meantime, the three accused students declared their complete innocence but where carrying a heavy load by suffering the consequences of the District Attorney’s actions.
Last December, Nifong dropped the rape charges against the three accused but charges of kidnapping and sexual offense remained. This was apparently the result that DNA test results found no evidence of rape and also the constantly changing stories by the accuser who changed her mind several times and became totally unreliable for the D.A. In January, Nifong was facing ethics charges and mounting criticism and he recused himself from the case and asked the North Carolina State Attorney General, Roy A. Cooper to take over the case.
A subsequent thorough investigation conducted by his office has now resulted in a total vindication of the three students, in fact Cooper has pronounced them Innocent! Cooper also charged the District Attorney with “a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations, there were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado. In the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly.”
The North Carolina State Bar will now investigate several ethical violations by Nifong, including withholding exculpatory evidence and misleading the judge who presided over the case. The investigation could lead potentially to Nifong’s disbarment. State officials against the accuser, Ms. Mangum, will apparently bring no charges for making false accusations and misleading authorities. Whatever civil actions against Nifong, the accuser, the University etc will be taken by the three now fully vindicated former Duke University students remains to be seen.
The Main Unanswered Question
Whatever happened to “Innocent until proven guilty?” The District Attorney’s actions and behavior from the very beginning were so suspect and transparent, yet no one with authority questioned him and his motives. It was easy to recognize that this man had one main objective on his mind: His re-election to his post as D.A. of Durham County. He misused the power of his office to file charges and turn this into a racial issue. He thought that by bringing rape charges against three white students (from somewhat wealthy families) when the victim was a black girl would bring him the necessary support and votes from the black populace in Durham County and we have to agree – he was correct in this cruel calculation; they voted for him and he got re-elected! We have to wonder if his gamble would have worked had the roles been reversed. Would a white girl allegedly being raped by three black students have brought the outrage as this case did? We think not.
No matter what though, we think that this was an abomination in the name of justice. This person, Michael B. Nifong has done more damage to our justice system than can be tolerated. He deserves to get the full punishment of the law for misconduct in office and the laws in all states should be reviewed so that this sort of behavior in the future should be, if not abolished at least be punishable with such severe penalties that any future prosecutor will think twice before he or she try to use a case for personal gain. But the blame does not stop there. The Duke University faculty and its president deserve severe reprimand as well, as do those in the public domain and the media. Stop jumping on bandwagons when you do not have the facts. Do you hear us, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Remember: One is Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, regardless of ethnicity!
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