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Monday, May 15, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Rape Case: Identifying the Accuser Debate

updated: May 20, 2006

The Johnsville News identified the alleged victim of the Duke Lacrosse Rape case on April 21, 2006. Her name is Crystal Gail Mangum.

No "reputable" news organization has identified her to date. It is never a good thing to be counted on the "disreputable" side of the ledger. But, neither is being a "hypocritical" news organization. The mainstream news media is hypocritical in its reporting of the Duke Lacrosse scandal.

hypocritical - adj
Definition: deceitful, pretending, characterized by hypocrisy,
also : being a hypocrite
Every news organization knows Ms. Mangum's name. Her identity is easily found through a search of the Lexis legal database using widely published information about her 2002 DWI arrest and 2003 conviction. Her North Carolina conviction records are a public record, available on the internet.

Ms. Mangum gave an interview to the reporters, Samiha Khanna and Anne Blythe, of the Raleigh, News and Observer, newspaper on March 24, 2006. Her family and ex-husband, Kenneth Nathanial McNeill, have granted numerous interviews.

It appears that ABC News is the only mainstream news organization to identify Mr. McNeill. The mainstream news media are extending the anonymity of Ms. Mangum to include her immediate family. Ms. Mangum's family is, in fact, conducting an informal public relations campaign on her behalf.

It is a matter of policy or tradition, not law that news organizations protect the anonymity for rape victims. Apparently, the policy is flexible enough to push the envelope of anonymity to include anyone who has the same last name as the alleged victim.

Feminist Wendy McElroy of Fox News says:
Shielding the identity of only one side of an accusation reduces justice, produces biased reporting and constitutes an invitation for abuse from those being 'protected.'
Ms. McElroy also shows - False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought.

Wikipedia on publication of the accuser's identity said:
On April 21, outspoken radio host Tom Leykis disclosed the alleged name of the rape accuser during his nationally syndicated talk-radio program. Leykis was unapologetic, stating "Protecting the identity of a victim--I mean alleged victim--as the media continues to do is a dopey, antiquated rule the Internet has rendered meaningless." [26] Leykis' outing has not been confirmed by any other mainstream news media, but blogs sympathetic to the Duke lacrosse team have disseminated the alleged identity.
The sympathies of The Johnsville News are to ethical fairplay and understanding the truth.

The debate at Wikipedia.org regarding identifying Ms. Mangum is very intense and interesting. It is an insightful microcosm for understanding some of the issues of identifying alleged rape victims. The Wikipedia.org has a citation for Crystal Gail Mangum. But, there is currently no information and the "page is currently under the scrutiny of the Wikimedia Foundation Office and is protected."

The Wikipedia debate, regarding Ms. Mangum, can be followed here: Talk:Crystal Gail Mangum

and here: Talk:Uncensored:Crystal Gail Mangum

The Wikipedians certainly got worked into a frenzy over the "outing" or identification of Crystal Gail Mangum. It's an intense debate especially between men and women.

Rape Shield Laws are misunderstood -

An important and often overlooked point made, regarding "rape shield laws," during the Wikipedia debate is:
The rape shield law prevents a rape victim from testifying about her past sexual encounters. It has nothing to do with the media choosing to publish or withhold names.
The National Center for Victims of Crime FAQ about "Rape Shield Laws" -
Rape shield laws are statutes or court rules that limit the introduction of evidence about a victim's sexual history, reputation or past conduct. Every state and theDistrict of Columbia has a rape shield law that applies in criminal cases; only a few extend such laws to civil cases. Many of these laws were adopted in the 1970s to combat the practice of discrediting victims by introducing irrelevant information about their chastity.
Discussing the crime of rape, Wikipedia currently says this:
Accused rapists are typically identified in the press immediately, while their accuser is granted anonymity (rape shield law) (see Kobe Bryant who later apologized to the alleged victim). Criticized as being unconstitutional, the absence of equal anonymity for accuser and defendant is seen as encouraging the trying of the accused in the court of public opinion. In highly publicized cases, critics argue that this policy may even ensure that a fair trial cannot possibly take place. Critics level that the imbalance allows for unrestricted false rape allegations (damaging even after being found to be untrue) by consensual sexual partners seeking vengeance for extra-legal wrong-doing.
Note that Wikipedia did not correctly use the term "rape shield law" in this entry.

An old 1994, pre-internet, survey of newspaper editors - Covering Crime and Its Victims:
Almost one-fourth of the editors (23 percent) disagreed with the idea that routine printing of the names of rape victims would remove the stigma of rape. Only 24 percent of editors agreed that not printing names of rape victims was a violation of the public's right to know. The survey also indicated that editors believe that the decision to withhold a name should be the newspaper's and not mandated by legislation prohibiting the press from publishing the name of a sexual assault victim. Almost three fourths of editors believed that such laws should be repealed because they violate the First Amendment.
From the American Society of Newspaper Editors - Code of Ethics:
Fair Play. Journalists should respect the rights of people involved in the news, observe the common standards of decency and stand accountable to the public for the fairness and accuracy of their news reports. Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond. Pledges of confidentiality to news sources must be honored at all costs…Unless there is clear and pressing need to maintain confidences, sources of information should be identified.
Bottomline: There is no clear and pressing need to protect Ms. Mangum's identity in this case. The First Amendment (freedom of speech, or of the press), the right to face your accuser, and ethical fairplay are reasons enough for the public to know who she is.

sources:

audio copy of Tom Leykis, April 21st, radio broadcast [1069freefm.com]
Anonymity for rape victims...should the rules change? [indiana.edu]
Journalism Ethics: Code of Ethics [JusticJournalism.org]
Code of Ethics [Society of Professional Journalists]
Duke Rape Case Raises Issue of Protecting Identity of Accused [FoxNews.com, April 26, 2006]
False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought [FoxNews.com, May 2, 2006]

related:
Open Letter to Crystal Gail Mangum [TJN, April 30, 2006]
Duke Rape Accuser: Crystal Gail Mangum [TJN, April 21, 2006]
Duke Rape Case: Emotional & Legal Fire Storm [TJN, April 20, 2006]

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