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Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Rape: Credibility of Crystal Gail Mangum

The credibility of the alleged victim, Crystal Gail Mangum, is the eye of the storm in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation. The Duke Administration was slow to respond to the case for several reasons. A Duke report says one reason for the slow response was Duke officials were led to believe by Durham police that Ms. Mangum "kept changing her story and was not credible."

This case raises numerous questions: is a claim of rape made by an intoxicated or impaired person a "legitimate" claim? At 1:51 a.m. on March 14th the Durham police were reporting of Ms. Mangum: "She's just passed out drunk." They then took her to a substance-abuse center. However, at 2:50 a.m. Durham police are initiating a "rape investigation" at Duke University Medical Center. Is a person ever too impaired to make a "legitimate" rape allegation? Or do rape allegations supersede any level of personal impairment?

When can the police use their discretion, experience, and judgement to determine if an allegation of rape is valid or not? Does an alleged sexual assault victim have a right to a full investigation regardless if the police believe them to be credible or not?

Perhaps alleged rape victims should have time to become sober, collect their wits, and then turn a rape allegation made while "impaired" into a formal "legitimate" allegation or not. Suffering no legal consequences whatsoever should they decide not to make a "legitimate" or formal allegation. Rape investigations, of course, would proceed without pause, starting from the point of any allegation.

Here is the relevant section from the report discussing Ms. Mangum's credibility in the context of Duke's response.

The Duke Administration's Response to Lacrosse Allegations

by William G. Bowen and Julius L. Chambers, May 4, 2006

William G. Bowen - former president of Princeton University Julius L. Chambers - former director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.
William G. Bowen & Julius L. Chambers

We were asked by President Richard Brodhead to investigate the handling by the Duke administration, including the athletics department, of the allegations against lacrosse team members associated with a party held on March 13-14 at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. In carrying our charge we have, we believe, received full cooperation from everyone with whom we have had contact at Duke....


A. Slowness in Responding...The slowness was primarily the result of two failings---both errors in judgement.

1) First, there was a major failing in communications, and here the Duke Police Department and those to whom it reports bear primary responsibility....

2) A second major failing -- apart from communications problems but related to them -- was that Duke administrators (especially Duke police, Dean Wasiolek, and Vice President Moneta) seriously underestimated the seriousness of the allegations. There are reports from several sources that members of the Durham police force initially (March 14) made comments to Duke police officers and others to the effect that the complainant "kept changing her story and was not credible;" that "if any charges were brought, the would be no more than misdemeanors," and that "this will blow over." When Dean Wasiolek called her colleagues to inform them of the incident, she also conveyed the police's assessment that the alleged victim was not credible. The discounting by police and others of the importance of the seriousness of the allegations may have reflected a belief that the matter would not be pressed because the charging party was on that important or reliable. When President Broadhead first learned of the allegations on March 20, he called Vice President Moneta, who told him that "the accusations were not credible and were unlikely to amount to anything."

Taking at face value the reported comments of Durham police officers (and perhaps others), and allowing their interpretations of credibility and seriousness to shape Duke's thinking, was a major mistake. Dean Wasiolek told us that she now agrees with this assessment and in the future will do much more to check out serious allegations on her own, rather than rely on second-hand information and the judgements of others.2 A member of the Duke law faculty was similarly categorical in stating: "Duke can't rely on second-hand reports about credibility."

This underestimate of the seriousness of the matter affected the lacrosse players as well as the thinking of the Duke administration. The players may have been lulled into a false sense of security about the events shortly to unfold and might well have sought legal counsel sooner had theybeen aware of the stakes. Some parents of the lacrosse players were (and are) distressed by the failure of Duke authorities to alert the students and their families to the seriousness of the situation in the days immediately following the party

2 Duke officials might possibly have reacted differently had they been aware that one female member of the Duke Police Department, who was on the scene at the Emergency Department of the hospital and who attempted to calm down and reassure the young women, saw that she was "crying uncontrollably and visibly shaken...shaking, crying, and upset"--a description of behavior which doesn't suggest that the case was likely to just "go away." This on-the-scene account was provided only on March 28, in response to a request from the Durham police. We regard this as another communications gap.

B. Responses by the Athletics Department and Student Athletes

updated: ABC reported -

Durham City Manager Patrick Baker told Eyewitness News earlier Tuesday that he had never heard that she claimed 20 men had raped her.

But Duke police released a copy late Tuesday of its report from the morning after the March 14 party.

"The female was picked up at the Kroger on Hillsborough Rd., and she was claiming that she was raped by approximately 20 white males at 610 N. Buchanan Street," the report says.

"The victim changed her story several times, and eventually Durham Police stated that charged would not exceed misdemeanor simple assault against the occupants of 610 N. Buchanan," the report later states.

The Duke Administration's Response to Lacrosse Allegations (pdf) [duke.edu, May 4, 2006]
Interview with William Bowen [MSBC, The Abrams Report for May 9]
Police Report: Accuser Said 20 Raped Her [abc, May 9, 2006]
Duke Univesity | Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against Men's Lacrosse Players [duke.edu]
Duke Lacrosse Rape Timeline [TJN]

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