Monday, July 10, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Questions for a Duke Law prof

Readers' Note: As JinC regulars know, I often post correspondence because doing so can be the best means of letting readers know "what's going on." That's what's I'm doing here. John

Professor Paul Haagen
Professor of Law
Duke School of Law

Dear Professor Haagen:

I blog as John in Carolina ( and have posted frequently on aspects of the Duke lacrosse case, including the Raleigh News & Observer’s coverage of it.

I want to ask you about remarks the N&O attributed to you and whether you knew how they would be used.

I’m referring to remarks which appeared at the end of the N&O’s Mar. 25 story,


A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence.
(No qualifying quotation marks were used by the N&O.)
As you may recall, the N&O’s story contains much more than a report of an interview. In its formal structure and its selective use of relevant information, the story resembles a prosecutor’s summation to a jury about to decide a felony case, with the remarks attributed to you placed at the story’s end where, whether you intended them to or not, they suggest to readers why the Duke students might have committed the violent acts of which they are accused in the story.

Please allow me explain what I’ve just said. I want to make clear that my intention here is to provide an opportunity for you to say what you will about the remarks attributed to you before I post further concerning them.

In the Mar. 25 story readers were told authorities had vowed “to crack the team's wall of solidarity.” A DPD police officer was quoted: "We will be relentless in finding out who committed this crime." The N&O said it granted anonymity to “victims of sex crimes.” The N&O failed to inform readers of the lacrosse captains’ extensive cooperation with the police until they and their teammates were advised by counsels to remain silent. None of the defense counsels were quoted. You are the only attorney the N&O quotes.

With all of that in mind, here, in italics, is the part of a post ("Duke lacrosse: Seeking to avoid responsibility," June 19) I wrote which includes the remarks attributed to you as well as the questions they raised in my mind.

The N&O ended its Mar. 25 story with this:

[Duke’s Paul] Haagen, a law professor who specializes in sports law, said studies show that violence against women is more prevalent among male athletes than among male students in general -- and higher still among such "helmet sports" as football, hockey and lacrosse.

"These are sports of violence," he said. "This is clearly a concern."

Prosecutors try to end their jury summations with something that helps the jurors understand why the accused would have committed the crime or crimes. They call it “the clincher.”

I don’t know if N&O reporters and editors have a name for their placement of Haagen’s remarks at the end of an interview in which the accuser “told her story.” (Well, one of them.)

I also don’t know whether Professor Haagen was told his remarks would be part of the accuser interview story or how they would be used. I plan to email him and ask. I’ll let you know what I hear back.


I hope you can see why I'd ask those questions as a matter of fairness to you.

Below my sign off are URLs for the N&O's Mar. 25 story and my June 19 post.

I look forward to your reply which I’ll post referencing this post and the June 19 post.





Anonymous said...

That is certainly a lot politer than he deserves.