Mike Nifong, the North Carolina prosecutor who pursued a case of rape and kidnapping against three Duke University lacrosse players, has been found to have been reckless and deceitful in the discharge of his duties according to the state’s attorney general. He abused the power the people of Durham granted him. Based on the public record of what he did in this case, he may well be properly disbarred.
The accuser in this case has been shown to be either a vicious liar or a troubled fantasist.
The three young men who she accused are truly innocent of the charges brought against them according to the North Carolina Attorney General and the investigation led by his office.
But perhaps the outpouring of sympathy for Reade Seligman, Collin Finnerty and David Evans is just a bit misplaced. They got special treatment in the justice system–both negative and positive. The conduct of the lacrosse team of which they were members was not admirable on the night of the incident, to say the least. And there are so many other victims of prosecutorial misconduct in this country who never get the high-priced legal representation and the high-profile, high-minded vindication that it strikes me as just a bit unseemly to heap praise and sympathy on these particular men.
So as we rightly cover the vindication of these young men and focus on the genuine ordeal they have endured, let us also remember a few other things:
They were part of a team that collected $800 to purchase the time of two strippers.
Their team specifically requested at least one white stripper.
During the incident, racial epithets were hurled at the strippers.
Colin Finnerty was charged with assault in Washington, DC, in 2005.
The young men were able to retain a battery of top-flight attorneys, investigators and media strategists.
As students of Duke University or other elite institutions, these young men will get on with their privileged lives. There is a very large cushion under them–the one that softens the blows of life for most of those who go to Duke or similar places, and have connections through family, friends and school to all kinds of prospects for success. They are very differently situated in life from, say, the young women of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.
And, MOST IMPORTANT, there are many, many cases of prosecutorial misconduct across our country every year. The media covers few, if any, of these cases. Most of the victims in these cases are poor or minority Americans–or both. I would hate to say the color of their skin is one reason journalists do not focus on these victims of injustices perpetrated by police and prosecutors, but I am afraid if we ask ourselves the question honestly, we would likely find that it is. Look for a moment at what James Giles endured:
I hope we all keep him and others in mind, as we cover the celebrated exoneration of well-heeled, well-connected, well-publicized young men whose conduct, while not illegal, was not entirely admirable, either. They aren’t heroes. They aren’t boys. They are young men who were victimized by a reckless prosecutor–and had the resources the fight him off.