Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Thomas Sowell: The Real Issue at Duke

January 02, 2007
Thomas Sowell

In the wake of recent bombshell revelations in the Duke University "rape" case, even some of District Attorney Michael Nifong's supporters have started backing away from him.

It was not just that the head of a DNA laboratory testified under oath in December that he and Nifong both knew back in April that there was no DNA from any of the Duke University lacrosse players found on the body of the stripper who accused them of rape -- or even that the DNA of other men were found in her underwear and in intimate areas of her body.

What was really damning was that he and Nifong had agreed to keep this fact secret, despite requirements that exculpatory evidence be turned over to the defense. Moreover, last May District Attorney Nifong filed a statement saying that the prosecution "is not aware of any additional material or information which may be exculpatory in nature."

But he already knew what the DNA evidence was before he signed that statement.

The leading newspaper in town, which had supported Nifong in its editorials before these new revelations, now called his actions "flawed" and "inexplicable."

Nifong's actions are inexplicable only if you assume that his purpose was to get at the truth about what actually happened at the party where the stripper claimed to have been raped.

That assumption has never been made in this column. From day one, I have never believed that this case was about rape, about the Duke lacrosse players or about the "exotic dancers" or strippers.

District Attorney Nifong's actions are perfectly consistent and logical from start to finish, once you see that this case is about Nifong's own career.

Let us go back to square one. Where was Nifong before this case came along?

He had worked in the District Attorney's office for years and was appointed interim District Attorney himself only after the previous District Attorney left to become a judge. Now Nifong faced a tough election against a woman he had once fired and who would undoubtedly fire him if she became District Attorney.

Where would that leave Nifong? Out on the street at an age when most people are not likely to be starting a new career. His pension as well as his job could be in jeopardy. Moreover, his opponent was favored to win the election.

Then along came the Duke University "rape" case, like a deliverance from heaven.

Politically, the case had everything: white jocks from affluent families at a rich and prestigious university versus a black woman who was a student at a far poorer and less distinguished black institution nearby.

Above all, there were black voters who could swing the election Nifong's way if he played the race card and conjured up all the racial injustices of the past, which he would now vow to fight against in the present.

Who cared whose DNA was where? This case could save Nifong's career. There was nothing "inexplicable" about what he did. Despicable yes, inexplicable no.

His inflammatory outbursts against the Duke students in the media are not inexplicable. Neither was his failure to follow standard procedures in presenting the accuser with a lineup that included only white Duke lacrosse players.

The standard procedure of including in a lineup people who are not suspects in the case is intended to test the accuser's credibility. But why would he risk having the accuser's credibility tested before his election?

It was not a question of winning the case. It was a question of winning the election. As for the case, that was not scheduled to come to trial until a year later.

If you cared about justice, you would want to go to trial much sooner, either to nail the Duke students if they were guilty or exonerate them if they were not. But nothing suggests that this was Nifong's agenda.

Now that so many of his misdeeds have been so widely publicized, Nifong's agenda has to include keeping his job and avoiding disbarment or even being prosecuted himself.

1 comment:

Krystal said...

The DA did one good thing. He brought the problem of false claims of rape to national attention.

Each time anyone would bring up the subject of false claims of rape. "victims' Advocate" always cripple or stifle conversation or debate by clouding the issue with the sufferrings of rape victims to over shadow the suffering of victims of false rape claim.

The premise of these "victim advocates" is that it's not okay to be raped, but it's okay to be falsely accused of rape to protect the possible 50% of rape accusers who are actually telling the truth.

• According to the FBI, one of every 12 claims of rape filed in the United States are later deemed 'unfounded,' meaning the case was closed because the alleged victim recanted or because investigators found no evidence of a crime.
• Howard County Police classified one out of every four rape allegations as unfounded in 1990-91.
• The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers says around 600 teachers a year are falsely accused - a trebling since the 1989 Children's Act.
• Citing a recent USA Today article, discussing the miracle of DNA and FBI studies of sexual assault suspects, DNA testing exonerated about 30% to 35% of the more than 4,000 sexual assault suspects on whom the FBI had conducted DNA testing over the past three years.
• Purdue sociologist Eugene J. Kanin, in over 40% of the cases reviewed, the complainants eventually admitted that no rape had occurred (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 1, 1994).
• 1985 the Air Force conducted a study of 556 rape accusations. Over 25% of the accusers admitted, either just before they took a lie detector test or after they had failed it, that no rape occurred.
• 1996 Department of Justice Report, of the roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases analyzed with DNA evidence over the previous seven years, 2,000 excluded the primary suspect, and another 2,000 were inconclusive.
• Linda Fairstein, who heads the New York County District Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit. Fairstein, the author of Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape, says, "there are about 4,000 reports of rape each year in Manhattan. Of these, about 50% simply did not happen."
• Craig Silverman, a former Colorado prosecutor known for his zealous prosecution of rapists during his 16-year career, says that false rape accusations occur with "scary frequency." As a regular commentator on the Bryant trial for Denver's ABC affiliate, Silverman noted that "any honest veteran sex assault investigator will tell you that rape is one of the most falsely reported crimes." According to Silverman, a Denver sex-assault unit commander estimates that nearly 50% of all reported rape claims are false.