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September 28, 2007

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It seemed from close to the action that the very powerful defense team assembled by the parents of the 3 accused Duke students won the case in the press, with some help from some ineptitude on the part of Nifong, and an accuser who had a questionable history, a questionable occupation, and no reliable witnesses (her compatriot told several stories and bragged of "cashing in" on the notoriety).

North Carolina had a great deal to lose by the tarnishing of its one "Ivy League" University. There were no Nifong supporters among state government, and the state attorney general threw the former DA well under the bus. One still wonders just what did happen that night. The boys were after all engaging in a sexual bonding rite of some sort, and it was stained with racism as well. No one disputes this.

DANG! Marcy's in my environs (I was actually even in Chapel Hill today) and I hadn't seen your posted travel plans till too late. Well, hope you got some Eastern NC Q at least--The Q Shack in Durham is well worth the trip over from West Campus, but I'll be you got some catered anyways. Hope you had a great time in the Southern Part of Heaven! Come back soon, y'all. :-)

Yes, Beel, I think some people do dispute that, at least the "engaging in a sexual bonding rite of some sort" part. I have heard no credible proof of anything other than a bunch of college guys had a drunken party and called a stripper. I got news for you, that happens all the time, every weekend (and weekdays to sometimes) at every college and university in the country with the exception of Regent or something. As to the racism part, you have no idea in the world who at the party said that, or even if it truly was said, or what the context was. so , that is disputable too. The legal team was not that high powered, they were all local defense lawyers; it is not like any of the families flew in Roy Black or Gerry Spence. The case was finally "won" due to the detailed and professional work of the Attorney General. The press "pressure" had been intense for months with no result prior to the AG review.

EW - I do think it is appropriate for different standards for the prosecution and defense; in fact, that is pretty much the natural interpretation of the standard ethical canons. A defendant is entitled to due process and a fair trial from the government; they should do or say NOTHING that could even have the appearance of affecting that. If the defense team does something to affect it, that is their fault; but the state has not affected their rights.

What bmaz said. From the statements about prosecutors it seems a foregone conclusion that talking to the press is the way prosecutors inform the public of their work. Maybe them as a person, in which case, "who cares what the DA himself thinks about the case." It doesn't matter whether they personally abhor some behavior or another, it's what the law says. Anything else is politicking.

EW,
Wish I had known you were in NC, you could have a free place to stay had I known possible dinner and such. Hope those that you are interacting with show you great hospitality. Glad you are here and that the weather is good for you.

Sexual bonding rites and college campuses. Hmmm, there's a topic!!When you say Bmaz, that a bunch of college guys got drunk and hired a stripper and that this was NOT necessarily a sexual bonding rite... well, I question this.

When I was in college, I did an expose for my newspaper. Back then I was a journalism student. I managed to interview a female victim from every single one of 7 fraternities on our campus, and at least two pledges from two different frats who refused to participate in the "process" of gang raping a drunk coed, for the sake of "hazing". It was quite an expose and my journalism teacher wanted me to send it to major publications to be published. I graduated early from college and got married instead.

These hazings would take place on the night before ceremonies. The two pledges of course dropped out of the process and both were very upset by what happened. I think they both ended up dropping out of school altogether in the end. These two boys were shocked and disgusted by the practice. They were ruthlessly thrown out of the house that night and black balled, suffering "the silent treatment". I was forever touched by their anguish.

I interviewed these men with the perspective that these guys were also victims. Of course these sources did not want to be named. This was back when they were just beginning to make reforms in hazing. The year was 1983.

I was shocked to find this practice as rampant as it was. One of the frats had "ugly" parties, where gang rape was the goal. The girl across the hall from me was a super smart, accounting major with straight A's who could not be weighed on a scale at the hospital because she weighed more than it would measure.

She was the one who started my interest in this topic. During her freshmen fall, she was gang raped by 15 or more members of the most popular fraternity on our campus and then "courted" at 3:00 am once or twice a week by the president of the fraternity. She had been sexually abused by her father...this I didn't learn until years later.

My newspaper refused to print the story, but I was asked to speak in several different forums about the problem. One girl tried to press charges but the campus really fought against her. All of these girls left the college and went somewhere else.

My perspective was to advocate for these women, but also for the men who really had trouble standing up to the pressure of these "initiations". None of these freshmen guys stopped what was happening. None of them called the police. Most of them had horrible guilty and conflicting feelings about what had happened. They all lied in unison with one another about the topic and many had a jaded perspective about these situations before they left college.

So, I don't know the details of what happened in that house. Today, I am a mental health counselor at a womens organization and have seen so much of this that it seems more a habit of college life, than a strange occurrence. I work with the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse.

Perpetrators are really good at picking their victims. They know who will be believed and who will not.

Being drunk, a drug addict, super obese, hookers, these were the characteristics of most of the victims that I interviewed back then, and who I work with today. These frats did not gang rape any victim who would be believed or who would NOT have credibility problems.

I agree that there were not enough facts to prosecute these guys and that the case was mishandled. But I do not believe these guys were "innocent" victims.

Even the act of hiring a hooker is pretty much having sex with someone who is "faking" consent. Prostitues are not truly consensual partners most of the time, because of pimps, drug addiction, childhood sexual abuse that destroys their self esteem, and a lack of social support that would free them from the handcuffs of this need in society for vulnerable women.

The fact that men want a woman who will do what they want for money speaks volumes to what prostitution truly is, in my humble opinion. The money puts men in control.

Consensual sex, with two people who are truly enjoying the experience and trust one another is a completely different experience. One requires "power and control" and the other does not. My boys were taught that sex with a prostitute is coercive and not consensual sex.

I am not a man hater, but I speak out about this issue because so few boys know that this happens when they enter the college campus or know how to stand up to this kind of pressure. Once these boys have been indoctrinated in this silent club, how can they ever speak out against it? I think this lack of knowledge perpetuates the cycle.

We work with husbands, brothers, and fathers of those who have been sexually assaulted. You would not believe how often this past behavior becomes a confounding factor in how they cope with the sexual assault of a loved one.

I speak out with a compassionate voice, not my angry Irish temper, because compassion and education will go further to change this. When I speak on this topic I am often approached by men who appreciate the truth of my words. Like so many issues in life, the judgments about it, only create barriers, but the truth will set us free.


Darclay

I'm a guest of the law school, so I'm being taken care of splendidly, thanks. I've got some old friends from grad school who are entertaining me tonight.

KJ - I do not disagree with a word of what you said. What set me off just a tad was the phrase "No one disputes this". That was mostly what I was responding to. After a good long period working day in and day out in the criminal justice system, you learn to dispute a whole lot of stuff, and the Duke case was chock full of it on every front. I have to admit, I was not picturing a group of guys hiring a stripper as necessarily a "male bonding experience", but after your explanation, I see your point (maybe Beel's as well; but the "not in disutee" part is still bogus). However, that said, there is a vast difference between the gang rape scenarios and what appears to have happened at Duke. There was never one shred of credible evidence supporting the "victim's" story; it never held up to scrutiny from the start if you have experience in these kind of cases. The problem was, it did not happen in Tempe, or Ann Arbor, or Lincoln or Columbus. It happened in Durham, a city with an unfortunate but quite real 100 plus year history of very rich white kids and college versus a black populous on the other end of town. It is literally almost a case study for these kind of tensions, and the pulses and forces from this overtook the actual Duke case facts immediately. I hold no love for the Dookie lacrosse players; I have little doubt that, especially when they were in a group or pack that they were every bit the arrogants they have been described as. But individually, as suspects and defendants in the criminal justice system, they were victimized, reamed and railroaded in the worst way. Ironically, they were given the same treatment and prejudice that blacks often suffered in the historical south. I objected, and still do object, to that just as much. I fully admit that I sometimes have a different way of viewing these things because of what I have done and seen in my career, so my opinions should be taken with that grain of salt.

bmaz, I take your point about "dispute." Since everything was in dispute in the case, surely I'm wrong there. However, the simple facts of the case--a couple of black strippers, an all white male team (no girl friends--the party was about boys getting a group turn on provided by two black women in hire), the fact that the two women left the house at one point amid racist slurs (I think this is a fact), and then were coaxed back... it's just very sleazy of these "kids," something close to the edge. I agree that Nifong jumped too fast, that the complainant's story fell apart. But it's hard to see these guys as victims in quite the way they are presenting themselves, and I think some of the lawyers were pretty high powered--one worked for Bill Clinton I believe. Anyways--you're certainly right that really everything is in dispute. But I think there's something to the side Katie Jensen above sketched out far better than I did.

It's a different point, but I'm also appalled that the guys are now threatening to sue Durham for $30 mil. There was a person in Winston Salem, NC who was recently released from prison after 18 years incarceration for being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. His name is Darryl Hunt. He was awarded $2 mil. What's the message in that?

Beel - Now that I pretty much all agree with; and I apologize for being a bit reactionary above. As I said to Katie, I am probably a bit of an odd duck in the way I view these things. My law partner and I represented numerous plaintiffs in Section 1983 Civil Rights cases for malicious prosecution. I am very familiar with the Daryl Hunt case, and it is very ugly. By the way, there is a movie on it that is simply stunning and powerful; if you haven't seen it, you should, it is excellent. If you ask me, the settlement Hunt received was way to small (I thought it was closer to 1.5 million, but am not sure). In some ways, I think there is quite a bit of similarity between Hunt and the Dookies, in that both were driven by malicious and grossly unethical prosecutors hot after personal publicity. What are the Dookies entitled to? Whatever and how much they can get. The verdicts and settlements in these cases are more about sending a message than they are about recompensing the plaintiffs to make them whole; no amount of money can right these kind of wrongs. But big money awarded does send a message for the future that rests in the back of prosecutor's minds and governmental risk managers to do a better job and be vigilant for possible problems. To be honest, in today's society, one or two million is not enough to make this impression. I wish I didn't have to say that; but it is the truth. And thanks to politicians trying to "eliminate technicalities" and be "tough on crime"; along with the politicizing of prosecutorial offices and the judiciary, the more standard protections via the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments have been substantially eviscerated. In most situations, the exclusionary rule for evidence is almost totally gone.

Those protections and the loss of ability to use evidence, or often outright dismissal of the case, were potent hedges against prosecutorial and police misconduct. With their evisceration, big money, and the notoriety and shame the award of it brings, is the only deterrent any more. In a way, this discussion kind of ties in nicely with the USA Purgegate scandal in that it exhibits in crystal clear detail the god like powers of prosecutors and justice officials. When the are not high minded and fair, and devoid of political influences, bad things happen and a dark cloud is cast over the morality and efficacy of our entire government. I guess my point is this, I understand the hesitancy to have a big award go to the Dookies; but it is not all about them. They are a vehicle for social correction. If there had been a huge amount given to Daryl Hunt, or others before him, maybe something would have clicked in Nifong not to act as he did. For the point to be made, very often some person is the beneficiary of more than they are entitled to; and that may be the case here. It is about all of us though, not just them. Without that threat though, individual defendants/plaintiffs become simple risk calculations and cops and prosecutors are willing to risk a couple of million here and there in order to serve themselves and do lazy jobs on criminal cases because "they know what happened" or they have outside motivations to pre-determine a particular result. this is what Ford famously did with the exploding Pintos. They determined that they would do better by paying out some number of judgments and going ahead and selling a deadly dangerous product. People's lives became a risk management calculation. That is not acceptable from Ford motor Company, and it damn sure is not acceptable from our criminal justice system.

Aw bmaz,

I have been on both sides of this issue. One of my clients was accused of an assault. The woman got drunk, he (my client) drove her home, they made out, he in his drunkeness left the reed of his horn (so to speak) on the floor of their bedroom. No rape charge, till hubby found the reed. Then rape charge. He was the sweetest guy. She saw one of the other counselors in the agency who had a suspicion about her story before she had even heard about him.

I also have worked with at least two women who were threatened with false reporting charges because they wanted to drop charges after they realized the reality of a rape trial. The prosecutors were ruthless. One was a date rape charge against a guy who was a marshall arts specialist. He began his date by telling her that he could kill her with one move of his hand. He then coerced his way into her apartment and sexually assaulted her.

She did not physically fight back because she believed he could kill her. She did file a charge and he was picked up. It was only then that she began to realize that her compliance would be difficult to prove. So she tried to drop the charges. The prosecutors ticketed her for false accusation. She ended up paying a fine. I have had more of my clients end up with this charge, then I have seen actually file and win a case. Not kidding here.

I have sat with clients who admitted to false accusations, but not one of these clients went through with the case. Everyone of those cases where the client lied were found out or felt guilty or got caught in the lie detector tests. Also every one of the women who made false accusations who admitted to our agency were severly abused sexually as children. They were trying to lay blame some where "safer" than the the truth. We have got to do a better job understanding the effects of violence on children.

Prosecution of rape is still way too difficult for victims. I'd buy what you were saying Bmaz, if I had tons of clients winning legal cases against rapists. But that is so far from reality. In our town, the case will never see the light of day, if she's been drinking, if she was on a date, if she had a prior relationship or if they were married, and forget it if she was a prostitute. It will never make it to court under those circumstances.

I do believe the greatest thing to happen to truth about sexual predators has been dateline. I think this is exposing for the first time, the vast number of sexual deviants and predators in our society. It's helping us realize that these guys are distinguished lawyers, doctors, judges, senators. And it's amazing to me, that not one woman has been caught in these stings. Somewhere this behavior has been reinforced and enabled in our social structure.

I am sorry that innocent people get accused. It shouldn't happen. But I am more sorry that so many predators have been enabled by a legal system that does not work for rape victims.

love ya, bmaz, and I think we probably are not that far apart. It is just such an important issue for both men and women, it's my higher purpose to educate and speak up on this issue. You tangled with my higher purpose as I did yours.

KJ - And I agree with pretty much everything you said there. There are all kinds of forces, prejudices and problems impacting on these cases. Some, if not most, will never be engineered out of the system totally, but they can be hopefully cut to a minimum. We are really looking at different, but complimentary areas. You are focusing on greater societal forces in domestic and interpersonal dynamics. I am griping about the criminal justice system, and whether or not the cops and prosecutors provide a level, fair, and professional playing field. Both are vital and both have not nearly enough people in society that understand them.

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