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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Duke Case — Civil Suit, more reactions

Today's items - updated:

News & Observer:

discussion continues:
LieStoppers forum: Case filed- Durham N.C.City et al
L/S forum: Media Alert, how the lawsuit is being reported
FreeRepublic: Duke lacrosse players sue Nifong, city
TalkLeft: Civil Suit filed
DBR: Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Imminent
Jerry Seper / The Washington Times:
Herald Sun:
Joan Foster / LieStoppers blog:
John in Carolina
David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann on April 11, 2007Laurence Viele Davidson & Thom Weidlich / Bloomberg:
Former Duke Lacrosse Players Sue Prosecutor, Police -- Three former Duke University lacrosse players, falsely accused of rape in a racially charged case that ultimately cost a district attorney his law license, sued the former prosecutor and the city of Durham, North Carolina.

The players today sued ex-District Attorney Mike Nifong, the city, police officers and lab personnel in federal court in Durham, asking for unspecified damages. State law allows punitive damages of three times actual damages, law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond said.

Defendants knew that these charges were completely and utterly unsupported by probable cause, and a total fabrication,'' the players said in their complaint, calling the case ``one of the most chilling episodes of premeditated police, prosecutorial and scientific misconduct in modern American history. [...]
Duke Chronicle:
More discussion about Coleman/Kasibhatla letter

Letter to Duke Chronicle:
Criticism of Brodhead, faculty disheartening --
We are impressed with President Richard Brodhead's continued attempts to reach out to all members of the Duke community to promote healing and reconciliation in the wake of last year's lacrosse incident, as evidenced by his recent remarks at the Duke School of Law. We are disheartened, however, by the continued drumbeat of destructive criticism of the administration and faculty by some within and outside the Duke community. More importantly, as chairs of two of the five committees that examined various issues brought to light by the lacrosse incident last spring, we take issue with the biased and inaccurate rhetoric espoused by some of these critics.

Firstly, we reject the characterization put forward by critics like Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson that the Lacrosse Committee report, that examined the past behavior of the lacrosse team, is a "stunning vindication" of the team [...]

James Coleman
Professor of the Practice of Law
Duke School of Law

Prasad Kasibhatla
Associate Professor
Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
KC Johnson's comment in reply to Coleman/Kasibhatla letter:
I quote from p. 209, of Until Proven Innocent, the book that Stuart Taylor and I co-authored on the case:

"The [Coleman] committee issued its twenty-five page report on May 1, the first day of final exams. It demolished the negative stereotypes of the players that Nifong. much of the media, the Group of 88, and Duke administrators (less egregiously) had worked so hard to establish. But the media largely ignored the report's highly positive major findings. Those who reported on it at all triumphantly highlighted its conclusion that the laxers got drunk too often. Relying on statistics provided by Dean Bryan--and later challenged by parents as misleading--the report said that the lacrosse players drank more than most Duke students, or at least athletes, and had a disproportionate percdentage of alcohol-related citations from Durham police. But it also noted that all of these alleged offenses were routine matters such as holding an open beer container, underage drinking, or making too mjuch noise: "Their typical conduct has not been different in character than the conduct of the typical Duke student who abuses alcohol. [Durham Police Captain Ed] Sarvis said lacrosse players did not represent a special or unique problem . . . in fact, none of the houses rented by lacrosse players was . . . among tghe top 10 houses about which neighbors complained the most.'"

"Alcohol aside, the Coleman Committee's portrayal of the lacrosse players could hardly have contrasted more dramatically with Nifong's ("hooligans") and Brodhead's ("racist language," "disorderly," allusions to slavemasters and sexism). The committee said the players had no record before March 13 of bullying, fighting, racist talk, hostility toward women, cheating, or other serious misconduct."

Chronicle readers can judge for themselves whether this description is an unjustified misrepresentation of the facts; the full committee's report remains on the Duke website, and I urge people to read it.

[It is worth noting that the committee's report occurred before it came to light that Duke had endorsed the Durham Police Department's official policy of disportionately punishing Duke students for minor offenses for which all other Durham residents received no official punishment--a policy that certainly casts a different light on the arrest records of all Duke students, including lacrosse players.]

As to whether the criticism of the faculty who chose to advance their own pedagogical, ideological, or personal agendas on the backs of their own school's students in this case represents a "rush to judgment": my blog has done 158 posts on faculty-related matters, over the past 18 months. If Profs. Coleman and Kasibhatla do not feel that sufficient information about the Group of 88's conduct has come to light to render a fair judgment, I hope that they'll endorse the call I made several weeks ago in the Chronicle in June urging a Coleman Committee-like review of the Duke faculty's response to the lacrosse affair, not for the purpose of punishment, but for the purpose of learning from the mistakes of the case.

Finally, while some Duke professors (Starn, Holsti) have appeared to question the need for Pres. Brodhead's apology, I described it in a blog post the next day as "a powerful and emotional address, one that touched on several important points in an impressive fashion."
Stuart Taylor comment in reply to Coleman/Kasibhatla letter:
I am surprised and saddened to see Professor James Coleman joining in a grossly misleading attack on KC Johnson's and my work on the Duke lacrosse case, and in particular to see his attack on our characterization of the May 1, 2006 Coleman Committee report as – on balance –a stunning vindication of the lacrosse team.

I agree entirely with KC's response. I write to add these facts and observations:

I first wrote that the Coleman Committee report was, on balance, a "stunning vindication" of the team members' characters more than 16 months ago, on May 22, 2006, in National Journal: "Alcohol aside, this report's findings are a stunning vindication of the characters of a group of kids who have been smeared from coast to coast as racist, sexist, thuggish louts." KC has repeatedly made similar comments on his blog. Yet until now, Professor Coleman has never hinted to me, and as far as I know has never hinted publicly, that I or KC had mischaracterized his committee's report. If he really believed that, he has passed up numerous opportunities to say so. One such opportunity came during a panel discussion this September 14, with Professor Walter Dellinger moderating and Professors Erwin Chemerinsky, Coleman and I as panelists. Although Professor Coleman did criticize our book's criticisms of Duke faculty members on that occasion, he never suggested that our book had mischaracterized his report. Professor Dellinger ended the panel on a gracious note, which I paraphrase: Surprise! Three liberal Duke professors disagree with the book's criticisms of liberal Duke professors.

I wonder what pressures Professor Coleman has come under from colleagues, and/or from the Duke administration, that have motivated him suddenly, 16 months late, to misleadingly accuse us of mischaracterizing his report.

It should also be clear that neither KC nor I has ever dismissed or ignored the Coleman Committee report's criticisms of the lacrosse players' drinking and drinking-related petty misconduct.

As for the Coleman-Kasibhatla letter's attack on our portrayals of the dozens of Duke faculty members who joined the rush-to-judgment mob: I do not see how anybody who reads the detailed facts in our book – not one of which the Coleman-Kasibhatla letter disputes – could take their letter seriously. It is a lamentably lame apologia for shameful conduct by a very substantial minority of the Duke faculty.

Our book praises Professor Coleman's wisdom and courage in going against the rush-to-judgment crowd while the case was pending. I am very sorry to that his wisdom, at least, has run dry.

Sincerely, Stuart Taylor
Duke Chronicle comments [+100]

LieStoppers forum:
Criticism of Brodhead, faculty disheartening
, James Coleman :O(

John in Carolina:
The Coleman-Kasibhatla Letter

Calculated Risk

MishTalk - Mike Shedlock

Paul Krugman - NY Times

The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz

naked capitalism - Yves Smith

Pragmatic Capitalism

Washington's Blog

Safe Haven

Paper Economy

The Daily Reckoning - Australia