Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Damaged Caused By The Duke Lie

The charges have been dropped against the Duke lacrosse players because there was not sufficient evidence, plus the alleged victim kept changing her story.

Now, I'll admit that once the story first broke, I thought they were guilty. A normal knee jerk reaction when you hear about a bunch of rich, white guys partying at an expensive school who allegedly raped a black stripper. These ingredients gave this so much coverage at first. But I had enough experience as a newspaper man to step back and say "OK, let's cool down and let's look at the evidence before final judgment can be made."

And once the evidence came in, DA Michael Nifong should have closed the case. Both the state crime laboratory and a private one, DNA Security of Burlington, showed that none of the 46 of the 47 team members tested had sex or raped the alleged victim, Crystal Gail Mangum. Interestingly enough, Nifong went to DNA Security of Burlington after he saw the results of the state crime lab.

In fact, Mangum kept changing her story so much that the only person she could ID as her attacker with 100 percent accuracy in two photo line-ups was Brad Ross, who was with his girlfriend the whole time the alleged incident took place and was not even at the party. Cell phone records and a sworn affidavit from a taxi driver that he used confirm this.

And it’s important to note that she kept changing the number of her attackers, their identities and the type of sex/rape acts done to her.

But I am glad that justice has been done: Those boys are cleared of a crime they didn't commit, the alleged victim is known as a liar (and interestingly enough, is not the first time she accused someone of raping her but failed to help in that investigation) and that Nifong is shown to be the incompetent DA that he is.

And how Nifong, whose actions are questionable and might be disbarred, allowed this case to be dragged out for so long is anyone’s guest. But it is interesting that since January of this year, that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper found these young men innocent after taking in the facts of the case in only three short months.

However, once someone is accused of such an atrocious crime, even if they are shown to be innocent, the damage is done. These people will be accused all their lives, even though there was adequate evidence from the very started that provided their innocence. There will be those small-minded or doubtful people who will still say they are guilty and nothing will change their minds, even if they hear Mangum’s own confession.

This is a painful lesson that destroyed many lives and ruined careers and hopefully, DAs and those looking to make a quick buck will think twice the next time an accusation is made. And it should be noted that Mangum damaged the credibility of real raped victims. How she is not punished is a crime in itself.