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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Asymmetrical Justice in Durham

The Duke rape hoax has shown that many citizens of Durham do not want justice, they want revenge. Revenge is not justice, it is asymmetrical justice. Three Duke lacrosse players, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann, have been falsely charged with rape and kidnapping. The charges are based on nothing more than the hopes and wishes of a corrupt district attorney, and the lies of a money grubbing stripper. It is a blatant criminal abuse of the justice system, and it now stares us in the face every day.

Critical issues like due process, civil rights, exculpatory evidence, and moral responsibility have all been cleverly disposed of or overlooked by North Carolina's political, legal, and media establishment. This hoax has exposed the sordid side of city that wants to pretend it is part of the future, the so called Research Triangle. Instead, Durham has shown it is a city of the ugly unjust "Jim Crow" past.

Revenge against three northern white boys has become the rallying cry for a coalition of the avenging. Revenge, sweet revenge for who knows how many past grievances fueled a large portion of the electorate that supported the corrupt district attorney, Mike Nifong, in the November election. The coalition of the avenging cuts across racial lines; it includes Duke faculty members, Durham law enforcement, members of the African American community, Durham power brokers, and even some Duke students.

This coalition has confused revenge with justice. For them, the Duke case is not about a single alleged rape, it is about a host of past wrongs that have been hurled like rocks in a public stoning of these three innocent men. The coalition wants them punished as symbols and not duly protected as presumed innocent individuals under the justice system.

Advocates for the avenging coalition have taken to referring to David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann as the "Duke three," or just the lacrosse players, instead of using their proper names. They certainly find it more convenient to attack symbols than it is to attack three uniquely innocent men with names and families. Depersonalizing an act of revenge makes it easier, who dares to look their intended victims in the eye and acknowledged them by name? Societal retribution is best administered anonymously.

So when you read or hear the term "Duke three" thrown around, consider for a moment what that symbolically represents. It has become a code word for revenge and the application of asymmetrical justice in Durham.