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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Duke Case — October 16, 2007

Today's items - updated:

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Lax Players Civil Suit - No Cake Walk

Howard WassermanHoward Wasserman / Findlaw.com:
Visiting Associate Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law and Associate Professor of Law at FIU College of Law
The Civil Suit Arising Out of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case:
How It Illustrates the Limits of Civil Rights Litigation Even When Serious Wrongs Have Been Done -- The Duke Lacrosse Case is a multi-phase tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the American criminal and civil justice system. [...]

Earlier this month, the case entered a fifth phase, which is the subject of this column. The three former players who were charged and then vindicated --David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann--filed a federal civil rights action against sixteen defendants, including the City of Durham, the district attorney, and numerous Durham police officers. (A key federal civil rights statute allows the recovery of damages and injunctive relief for injuries caused by violations of constitutional rights.) In 155 pages, 559 paragraphs, and 22 counts, the plaintiffs detail the saga of the case and request compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees, and far-reaching injunctive relief.

The complaint describes a troubling story of government misconduct. Unfortunately, the story, though compelling, will not necessarily translate into success on the merits of many of the claims alleged in the complaint. [...]

Why Settlement Is Likely and May Well Include Some Departmental Changes

My prediction is that the case settles, as do most large-scale civil rights claims with strong facts. The defendants, particularly the city, may view settlement as a best option in light of the dramatic and disturbing allegations in the complaint, many of which already have been substantiated by the ethics investigation into Nifong's misconduct. [...]
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Duke Chronicle Poll:
Do you agree with former men's lacrosse coach Mike Pressler's decision to sue the University? --

Chronicle Poll: Presser's decision to sueThis The Chronicle poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole.
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KC Johnson:
Update: The Group's Openly Political Agenda -- The John Hope Franklin Institute is inviting Duke professors to apply for faculty fellowships for the 2008-2009 academic year. The six recipients will each receive a two-course workload reduction. The theme: “The Alternative Political Imaginaries.”

The co-directors: Group of 88 member Michael Hardt and Women’s Studies/”clarifying” professor Robyn Wiegman. Wiegman is best known for lobbing intellectually unsustainable allegations of racism against Steve Baldwin and for announcing that presuming the lacrosse players’ guilt wasn’t a “crime.” [...]

How many Duke parents, alumni, or trustees are aware that the University’s humanities openly state that their goal is not instructing students in the traditional disciplines of the liberal arts, but instead engaging in political activism based on a “critique of commodity culture, representational practices, colonial thought, patriarchal structures, tyrannical regimes, racial hierarchies, sexual normativities, and so forth”?
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Bradford Plumer/ New Republic:
How Serious a Problem are Rogue Prosecutors? -- The pretext here was the now-infamous Duke rape case, in which district attorney Mike Nifong tried to frame three lacrosse players for a crime that did not occur, while withholding exculpatory evidence. (Nifong has since been disbarred, booted from office, and is now the subject of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.) One panelist, Stuart Taylor, Jr., a National Journal columnist who has written a book on the case, argued that, while Nifong was an extreme example, prosecutorial abuses do occur "in enough cases that we need to think about reform." Indeed, a variety of studies and newspaper reports over the years have suggested as much--but they've usually been ignored. Now, though, between the Duke case and the Bush attorney scandals, is prosecutorial power finally going to get the closer scrutiny it deserves? [...]
related:
Editorial / Wilmington Star:
Enough power for prosecutors -- It isn't only Mike Nifong who's done that. Other district attorneys also have bent rules - even lied and suppressed evidence to win convictions. ...
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Anne Blythe / News & Observer:
Nifong wants state's help -- Faces legal bills in fighting lawsuit -- Dick Ellis, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said no decision had been made on Nifong's request."Our lawyers are looking at this," he said Monday.

"We're trying to decide if we're legally obligated."

Mary Ann Tally, a defense lawyer who has followed many prosecutorial misconduct cases, said that if the request is granted, some taxpayers might object to spending state money defending the discredited former prosecutor."

The sad truth of the matter is there are a lot of people who already are concerned, and those who aren't may be when they see, 'This affects my pocketbook,' " Tally said. "They say, 'I can either have the schools, the roads, or I have to defend a rogue prosecutor.' "
related:
News14:
Nifong asks AG's office to defend him

discussion:
LieStoppers forum:
I needs a lawyer!, M.B. Nifong Requuest

FreeRepublic:
Nifong Wants State to Represent Him in Civil Case

Brunette / BlueNC.com:
Nifong -- Hello BlueNC -- I'm brand new, and realize that my "virgin" post has the potential to inspire heated responses, but this is what I'd like to say this evening: Nifong is right. He was acting in the scope of his employment and the state should pay for his defense.

I think it is important that every taxpayer be mindful that when a guy wins an election because he's promising to fulfill the bloodlust of those who want to rush to judgment, there might, just might be consequences for everyone.
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John in Carolina:
A suit, two stories & a slime -- the differences between the N&O and H-S stories are “night and day.”

H-S reporter Gronberg dug and worked the story to get facts and let readers hear from both parties; Blythe took what Duke "handed" her. [...]
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Ray Gronberg / Herald-Sun [reg. req.]:
City honors 7 Duke championship-level teams -- City officials honored seven championship-level sports teams from Duke University on Monday, including the men's lacrosse team that's been at the heart of a controversy that continues to dog Durham's government.

The ceremony for the Duke teams -- all of which won an Atlantic Coast Conference title or reached the NCAA Final Four in their sport -- paralleled one officials staged in April for five teams from N.C. Central University.

Similar events for other community groups are a regular part of almost all of the council's televised business meetings.

But Monday's ceremony was noteworthy for the presence of lacrosse coach John Danowski and three seniors from the team that a year ago was the focus of what proved to be an unfounded rape charge.

The tables have since turned, and the men falsely accused last year recently sued the city government, alleging that police and other officials massively violated their civil rights.

City and Duke officials avoided direct allusions to the controversy, with perhaps the closest to one coming when Mayor Bill Bell noted that the men's lacrosse team had reached the NCAA Final Four in two of the last three years.

The missing year in that string was 2006, when school President Richard Brodhead canceled the team's season, partly in response to Bell's urging, at the height of the media firestorm over the false charges.

Brodhead – whose handling of the case has drawn fire from some alumni – praised the lacrosse players and the other athletes in attendance in the strongest terms.

"They're hardworking and outstanding students, and excellent members of the Duke community and this community," he said.

Interviewed before the ceremony, Danowski said coaches and team members had discussed the invitation after it arrived and were "delighted" by the recognition. [...]
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Duke Chronicle / October 16th:
  • Lee Hamel guest column:
    [Lee Hamel, Duke '62, is a former federal prosecutor]
    The lacrosse affair: call for an independent review [See Comments] -- The root cause of the evil resulting in the lacrosse athletes' indictments was a lying alleged victim and a corrupt district attorney-for which Duke's leadership cannot be blamed. But the administration's reaction to the allegations denied the lacrosse athletes their right to fair treatment by the University, whose power exercised over them and over the lacrosse team's coach and season appeared judgmental-words of presumed innocence notwithstanding. Exacerbating this conduct was the administration's admitted failure to distance the University from the ad signed by 88 faculty members, which, most charitably put, prejudged the athletes' guilt. [...]

    discussion:
    LieStoppers: Former Federal Prosecutor Asks Independent Review

  • Christine Hall:
    City concil honors Duke athletes -- Standing in the packed City Council chambers, seven Duke athletic teams were honored by City Council members for outstanding achievement in sports before the Council began business as usual Monday night.

    "We're going to need a bigger auditorium if you guys keep winning all these trophies," Mayor Bill Bell said as the athletes began filing down to the front of the crowded hall.

    President Richard Brodhead, who was present at the meeting, said he was honored to have the students-who are members of women's basketball, golf, field hockey, volleyball, men's and women's lacrosse and men's soccer teams-recognized by the City Council. [...]

  • Yousef AbuGharbieh:
    City seeks distance from ex-DA -- Mike Nifong is in need of counsel-and the city of Durham won't be providing it.

    Although a civil suit filed earlier this month implicates the former Durham County district attorney, DNA Security, Inc., and the city of Durham in the mishandling of the lacrosse criminal case, Durham will not provide representation for either Nifong or the employees of DSI-the company that handled Durham's forensic analysis in the case-because neither worked for the city, Durham Public Affairs Director Beverly Thompson told The Associated Press earlier this month. [...]
Duke Chronicle / October 15th:
  • Chelsea Allison:
    Pressler files contract bridge suit -- Less than a week after the exonerated former lacrosse players filed suit against the city of Durham, the Durham Police Department and Durham's former district attorney, their former coach Mike Pressler is suing the University, seeking relief from a confidential agreement he reached with Duke in March 2007. [...]

  • Editorial:
    Reserve judgment of Pressler lawsuit -- Although the University has sustained much criticism for the numerous lawsuits recently filed against it, we have learned all too well that we cannot rush to judge Pressler or the University as details of the settlement are confidential. This board awaits new information to come to light to evaluate this highly sensitive case.

    Indeed, at this point, we know very little about this suit in particular and don't pretend to know much about the intricate legal processes at play. We need to give both the University and Pressler's attorneys time to present their arguments before reaching conclusions.

  • Editorial:
    Homecoming a rousing success -- This past weekend was a refreshing reminder that Duke knows how to throw a Homecoming, even if football was not its centerpiece.

    It is good to see that events like the President's Homecoming Dance have become annual rites. An impressive student turnout at the actual Homecoming football game, however, would make our rich Homecoming experience even richer.

    Duke did well to plan an interesting assortment of events on campus that created an atmosphere people wanted to be a part of-and attracted a diverse cross-section of both past and present Duke students. [...]

  • Julia Torti:
    The Devil’s in the detail -- Campus Culture. It's catchy. It's alliterative. And most of us agree that it's less than perfect. There are problems, we've been told, for nearly every segment of Duke society. But as we go about our daily, slightly self-absorbed lives, the status quo doesn't always seem that bad. It is-you just have to pay attention. [...]
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Ray Gronberg / Herald-Sun [reg. req.:
Mayor, police chief: City still safe -- On the heels of two weekend slayings, Mayor Bill Bell, City Manager Patrick Baker and Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez held a news conference Monday to stress that the incidents were isolated and that the city remains safe.

Speaking in the mayor's office, Lopez said cooperation from witnesses enabled police to quickly identify a suspect in the stabbing death of Keanan James Odom Saturday night at Northgate mall. Suspect Xavier Moore's family helped police persuade him to turn himself in, Lopez said.

Sunday night's Walker Avenue drive-by shooting death of Jeffrey Lee Wells remains under investigation, but Lopez said he's confident investigators will make an arrest "in the near future."

While they don't have any "absolute suspects" at this point, they do "have people [they're] talking to in reference to it," the chief said of Wells' slaying, adding that police are "looking for the community to come forward" with information. [...]
discussion:
LieStoppers forum: Mayor Bell, Police Chief insist City is Safe!
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Tom Sears book review / The Daily Star [NY]:
[professor of accounting at Hartwick College in Oneonta]
From The Right: Book tells truth about Duke event -- If anyone wants to read a great book about the true story of the Duke lacrosse non-rape event, you should read ``It's Not About The Truth, The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered,'' by Don Yaeger. A Duke alumni had read my column about the Duke case and student athletes in general and graciously sent me a copy. [...]

All in all, the Duke administrators, media, police and the radical leftist faculty who prematurely jumped at the perceived social mistreatment of minority women owe a huge apology to all of those individuals whose lives were affected by these false claims. Think they have gotten them yet? I'm sure you know the answer. If not, I think you'll be interested in the next column and the associated sad facts.
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