Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 11, 2006

Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 am

So, nearly the entire Duke mens’ varsity lacrosse team was accused of raping a woman — or more precisely, 46 out of 47 players were accuesed of being among the three to rape this particular woman. As a punishment, a few games, and then the rest of their season was cancelled (that is, forfeited), their coach resigned (was he fired?) even thought he wasn’t even there when it (allegedly) happened, protests and vigils were held all over campus, and there were ugly allegations of a racist conspiracy from the race hustlers both on and off campus, since the alleged rapers were white and the alleged rapee was black. Never mind how it could be racist when practically no one was supporting the accused players; in fact, all 46 were regarded as guilty even though they woman only claimed that 3 of the 46 touched her.

Then, there were some inconsistencies in the timing of the alleged events.

And now it turns out none did. The DNA tests have come in, and not a trace of even a single player’s DNA was found anywhere on the woman’s body.

Furthermore — get this — there was no DNA of the victim in the room where the alleged rape was supposed to have occurred. And there was no DNA of anyone else either — in fact, the test results indicated the alleged victim had not had any kind of sexual contact with anyone in the recent past.

Now, let’s see if the candlelight vigils are cancelled, and if anyone apologizes to the team. I’m not holding my breath — in fact, the DA says he’s still going to prosecute!

District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he would have other evidence to make his case should the DNA analysis prove inconclusive or fail to match a member of the team.

“I believe a sexual assault took place,” Nifong told The News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday. “I’m not saying it’s over. If that’s what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed.”

He would not comment about the results to the AP.

Earlier he said that they used to prove rape cases before there was such a thing as DNA evidence, so if the DNA evidence didn’t match, he’d just prove it the old way — you know, “he said, she said, she wins.” The trouble is, he doesn’t seem to realize that DNA evidence works both ways — it’s more or less impossible to commit a rape without leaving DNA evidence. The fact that it’s not there is as close as you’ll ever get to proof that the crime did not occur.

Meanwhile, someone has soem explaining to do. That’s because the state crime lab said, based on evidence taken from her body at the emergency room, that there was no evidence the alleged victim was raped at all. Yet, according to a warrant sworn out by the police,

A Forensic Sexual Assault Nurse (SANE) and Physician conducted the examination. Medical records and interview that were obtained by subpoena revealed that the victim had signs, symptoms, and injuries consistent with being raped and ….

(If you want the gory details, look here. This is a family blog!)

The bottom line is, either this is the most incompetent state crime lab imaginable, or someone somewhere between the emergency room and the police department is blatantly lying. And it looks like the latter.

Now here’s something really interesting — the world champion of DNA evidence is Peter Neufeld of “The Innocence Project,” which searches the entire country for death penalty defendants who can be exonerated by DNA evidence. They keep hoping that they’ll find someone who’s been executed who can be proven innocent, so they can get rid of the death penalty, but so far they’ve just found some people who haven’t been executed yet, and gotten them off death row. They claim that DNA is the best way to prove innocence. Or at least, when the defendant is a non-white on death row. When the defendants are white scholarship athletes at an elite college, suddenly DNA isn’t so useful anymore:

“The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence,” said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

I’ve been a cautious supporter of The Innocence Project in the past, because like any decent person, I really, really don’t want to see innocent people punished. But their hope of finding an innocent person who’s already been executed ahs always struck me as kind of creepy — clearly, they care more about the principle that the death penalty is bad than they do about the welfare of innocent people wrongfully convicted. But now we find out that it’s only if those innocent people are the right sort of innocent people.

La Shawn Barber has more long-term perspective.

2 Responses to “Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do!”

  1. Different River Says:

    Durham D.A. Will Prosecute Anyway
    Despite that fact that DNA evidence seems to have exonerated the Duke lacrosse players, the Durham Country District Attorney says he’s going to prosecute them anyway:

    DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Durham County’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday he will no…

  2. Ben Says:

    Rush to judgement, indeed. The DA originally went to the media, got WAY ahead of the evidence and the story, and committed himself to action of some sort. The players saw their season vanish, are being administratively penalized, and will probably face a review of their scholarships, which are extended on a year-to-year basis. The coach was forced to take the fall. (Yes, he was basically told to resign. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/colleges/14300031.htm)

    And now, nobody will come out happy.

    Given the current state of affairs, it is difficult to see how the DA will get an indictment. If no charges are brought (or if it amounts to piddly lesser charges like “hate speech”), those who believe the woman’s story will feel betrayed and angry. And those who believe the players’s story will be angry that the coach lost his job, the players lost their season, and have to bear other punishment for unsubstantiated allegations.

    If somehow charges are brought, I frankly cannot see how the players would be convicted. If anything, the woman’s supporters will be even more incensed with a not guilty verdict than they would be with no charges at all. And the players and coach would have been subjected to substantial punishment for actions which could not be proven.

    The only way out is if charges are successfully brought and the DA gets a conviction on a serious crime. The woman and her supporters are vindicated and the players and coach get what they deserve. I find this scenario extremely unlikely, but since it is the only way out, it is no surprise that the DA continues to pursue it. Remember, he is running for elected office as we speak (http://blogs.newsobserver.com/voters_guide/index.php?title=title_50&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1).

    I have little problem with Duke disciplining the team and perhaps the coach even if the players were not guilty of anything criminal. The players had a blowout party, on campus, with strippers, and behaved boorishly at best and contrary to the university’s code at worst. This is not in dispute. I have no problem with games being forfeited and players being punished, perhaps to include not renewing some scholarships.

    The really unfortunate part is that whether or not a crime was committed, Duke has committed itself to adding yet another layer of kum-ba-ya committees and “let me tell you how I feel” sessions (http://dukenews.duke.edu/2006/04/rhbletter.html). And the really, really unfortunate part is that the professional race-baiters will use this case to trumpet their cause and draw more power to themselves, while everyone else discounts them, driving a wedge between these groups and further preventing them from coming together.

    LaShawn Barber is all over this (http://lashawnbarber.com/archives/2006/04/10/channeling-tawana-brawley/).

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