Michael Gaynor
Beware Duke case revisionist history and political correctness spin
By Michael Gaynor
January 21, 2009

Alas, political correctness run amok has contaminated America's education system at all levels

Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitiz recently chose Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and The Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, by Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson, as one of the best five books about big legal cases.

Professor Dershowitz: "'Until Proven Innocent,' an account of the Duke lacrosse case, should be ranked high among works that disprove the notion that those charged with serious crimes are invariably guilty and that those who are acquitted somehow beat the system. Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson pillory not only the prosecutor in the supposed sexual-assault case — he was eventually disbarred after charges against the three players were dropped before going to trial — but also the president of Duke University and those on his faculty who were willing to sacrifice innocent students as a bizarre form of racial reparation. The Duke case demonstrates how contemporary political correctness, run amok, can deform the legal system just as dramatically as other prejudices have in the past."

How true!

Because the book is a devastating expose of political correctness "run amok" (to use Professor Dershowtiz's words), it has not received the attention it richly deserves from the liberal establishment.

Apparently because the book did not note or undercredited some leading conservatives for their efforts in exposing the injustice that is referred to as the Duke case, it has not received the enthusaistic support it should receive from conservatives.

BUT Until Proven Innocent is the best book on the Duke case and the one to buy for those people who want to find out what really happened.

Now there is a new book by Michael L. Seigel titled "Race to Injustice: Lessons Learned From the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case."

Mr. Seigel is a professor at the University of Florida Frederic G. Levin College of Law.

Unsurprisingly, FloridaLawOnline is promoting the book.

Scott Emerson, in "New book examines the legal ethics of the Duke lacrosse rape case": "The Duke lacrosse rape case was a train wreck of criminal injustice, and for 13 months the public couldn't look away. The new book Race to Injustice: Lessons Learned from the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case examines this high-profile pile-up between a prestigious university, an alleged rape, an unscrupulous district attorney, and a news industry ravenous for the next big scoop.

"In the book, author and editor Michael Seigel, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, assembles legal- and forensic-science experts who join him in dissecting this messy clash between due process and the public's right to know. The result is 14 unique perspectives on a case rife with false allegations, unethical prosecution tactics and simmering racial tension.

"'The Duke lacrosse case was unusual in that it amounted to the "perfect storm" of factors making it of intense interest to the media, public and academics,' Seigel said. 'An alleged rape of an individual working in the sex industry makes it even more controversial. Add the fact that the allegations were made by a poor African-American woman against young Caucasian men who — merely by their attendance at Duke University — were individuals of relative privilege, and you have an explosive situation involving race and class.'

"Each chapter of Race to Injustice, published by Carolina Academic Press, provides academics and legal minds with an opportunity to evaluate and consider how the justice system could be improved. Chapter one sets the stage by outlining the facts of the case in chronological order.

"Subsequent chapters provide readers with analytical cross-sections of the case ranging from the reactions of Duke faculty, town-gown relationships, to DNA-profiling and the presumption of guilt.

"'I don't think it would be fair to say that the contributors disagreed on specific matters; rather, I'd say that each possessed a unique point of view on the important lessons to be learned from the case,' said Seigel.

"'Some wanted to use the case to teach about things such as prosecutorial ethics, forensic DNA evidence, proper line-up procedures, and the impact of pre-trial publicity on a defendant's reputation. Others saw the case as an opportunity to examine the historical mistreatment of black women in Western society, or the treatment of female sex workers in the United States.'

"Seigel said he refers to the case when teaching entry-level criminal law courses. He added that in the future, he will use the book to teach the case to second- and third-year law students.

"'We designed the book to be an excellent vehicle for teaching "capstone" seminars in law school, pertinent master's degree programs, or at the upper class undergraduate level,' Seigel said. 'Through the book, students already schooled in the basics will be able to study how various forces of the law, procedure, ethics, society and evidence sometimes converge into an explosive real-life situation.'"

Publisher Carolina Academic Press is based in Durham. North Carolina.

Its promotion of this book reads as follows:

"The American criminal justice system, though undoubtedly one of the best in the world, is far from perfect. Every once in a while a notorious case comes along and reveals its uglier side — for instance, its differential treatment of whites and people of color. Such cases often garner huge amounts of national media attention and capture the sustained interest of a normally restless American public. Whatever their outcome, they provide academics with exceptional opportunities to study, learn, and teach about the justice system. They also offer the chance to study related matters, such as the conduct of particular law enforcement and other officials, as well as the underlying causes of crime and the public's reaction to it.

"The Duke lacrosse players' rape prosecution is one such case. One evening in March 2006, members of the lacrosse team held an off-campus party where alcohol was served and two erotic dancers were hired to perform. A disagreement broke out between the dancers and the players; later, one of the former, Crystal Mangum, alleged that three players had raped her. Mangum was black and relatively poor; the accused were white and relatively privileged. Up for re-election in a jurisdiction with many African American voters, District Attorney Mike Nifong pursued the case very aggressively. He used questionable identification procedures and was unusually outspoken in numerous local and national media appearances. Even after DNA evidence indicated that the defendants had not engaged in sexual activity with the victim, he declined to drop the charges. Worse, he hid other exculpatory DNA evidence.

"The case split the Duke campus, the Durham community, and observers at large into sharply divided factions. Desperately trying to preserve its hard-won reputation as an upper-echelon school, the university cancelled the lacrosse season, suspended the three indicted players, and commenced a series of internal investigations. After months of dramatic twists and turns, the North Carolina Bar Association charged Nifong with violating several ethics provisions based on his handling of the prosecution. Within days of being charged, Nifong relinquished the case to the North Carolina Attorney General who, after reviewing the proof, dismissed all remaining charges against the lacrosse players and publicly declared their innocence. After a thirteen-month ordeal, the case was finally over. Eventually, the disgraced Nifong was disbarred.

Gushing promos include the following:

"This book is a fascinating expose. The story of this shocking case is an unforgettable reminder of what can go wrong when politics and justice collide. It is full of lessons to be learned by anyone interested in prosecutorial discretion, sexual assault, campus administration, evidence, media coverage of crime, grand juries, college drinking, race relations, or wrongful convictions." Nancy J. King, Lee S. and Charles A. Speir Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University School of Law

"A wonderful compilation of materials that provide an incredibly insightful look at many facets of law and society through the lens of a single case." Ellen S. Podgor, Associate Dean and Professor of Law, Stetson University College of Law

"This book not only provides all of the rich factual detail that one could want about one of the most conspicuous legal cases of our generation, but also delves deeply into its legal, sociological and cultural ramifications. Its impressive array of prominent authors uses the occasion of the Duke lacrosse prosecution to help us learn a surprising number of nuanced and trenchant lessons about our legal system, our society and ourselves." Christopher Slobogin, Milton Underwood Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University Law School

Unfortunately, Professor Seigel's past performance suggests that the new book is fundamentally flawed.

Hero of the Hoax "John in Carolina" checked out Mr. Seigel and what he found was shameful.

"John in Carolina":

"On April 17, 2007, a week after the NC attorney general said there never was any credible evidence of a rape and declared the three Duke students indicted in a malicious frame-up attempt innocent, Seigel published an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel."

"...[Seigel]...singled out the Duke lacrosse players as the poster students for the behaviors he was condemning. In doing that, he was sloppy with facts and smeared the students on the lacrosse team."

"John" noted:

"None of the lacrosse players' behaviors Seigel listed involved assault, injury or unwanted sex; and only one involved property destruction.

"In Spring '06 the now disbarred Mike Nifong, certain Duke faculty, the Raleigh N&O and the Durham H-S all smeared the lacrosse players.

"But Seigel smeared the students on the lacrosse team just a week after the NC attorney general had irrefutably shown them to be the victims of a malicious public trashing by many, and a vicious frame-up attempt led by a man the attorney general called a 'rogue' prosecutor.

"You'd think a law professor would know better and do better."

With all due respect, after the performance of Duke professors in connection with the Duke case, why should one think a law professor would both know and do better?

Alas, political correctness run amok has contaminated America's education system at all levels.

Michael Seigel's article misused statistics to defame the lacrosse players.

What IS both noteworthy and heartening is this factual information provided by "[a] person extremely familiar with Duke and the lacrosse case":

"I had previously reviewed student misconduct statistics (2005-2006 academic year) prepared by Duke's Judicial Affairs dept. and presented on their website. The following information is relevant:

1) In the six most recent academic years ending in 2006, there were a total of 377 incidents of academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, etc.) by all students. None were lacrosse players.

2) In the six years ending in 2006, there were a total of 46 incidents of physical abuse, fighting and endangerment. None were lacrosse players.

3) In the six years ending in 2006, there were 20 incidents of sexual misconduct. None were lacrosse players.

4) In the six years ending in 2006 there were 96 incidents of drug related misconduct .Only one was a lacrosse player (smoking marijuana in his room in 2001) and he was not a member of the 2006 team.

5) In the three years ending in 2006 (not sure earlier years are available) there were 171 alcohol related medical calls to DUPD/EMS. None were lacrosse players. It's likely that these are the most serious, and dangerous alcohol related violations.

6) About 60% of the lacrosse players, based on the 2006 team, had GPA's of 3.0 or higher.

7) The lacrosse players have a 100% graduation rate.

8) Per the Coleman Report, the lacrosse players' 'conduct has not involved fighting, sexual assault or harassment, or racist behavior'....'By all accounts, the lacrosse players are a cohesive, hard working, disciplined and respectful athletic team.'

"The great majority of the lacrosse players' incidents of misconduct involved underage and/or public drinking; and not involved assault, injury or unwanted sex.

"Their behavior, while in certain instances lamentable and deserving of criticism, was typical of a high percentage of college students."

"John" observed:

"Seigel needs to explain why, in talking about the lacrosse players, he ignored the evidence of their outstanding scholarship, academic honesty and other praiseworthy achievements as listed above and as reported by many op-ed writers and bloggers.

"It was all available to him in April 2007."

Unless Seigel's book includes a sincere apology of which I am not aware, it's not worth buying.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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