Today’s Raleigh N&O has a front page correction of a dating error in reporter Joe Neff’s Sunday, Aug. 6, story, "Lacrosse files show gaps in DA's case."
Neff said a memorandum by Durham PD Inv. Michelle Soucie was written on April 17. In fact, the memorandum was actually written of April 4.
In its correction, "Story on Duke case erred on DA's order,"the N&O says:
“This error changes the implication of the first five paragraphs of the story: that the conversation between Nifong and Soucie was an example of the words and actions of police and persecutors outpacing the facts in the file.”No, the dating error doesn’t do that. As historian and blogger KC Johnson points out :
“[I]n fact, as Neff’s original article claimed, “the conversation between Nifong and Soucie was an example of the words and actions of police and prosecutors outpacing the facts in the file.” (bold KC’s)Look at just some of what KC lays out to contradict the N&O's correction and demonstrating that Neff's article is far more damning of Nifong's conduct than many people, including me, realized. An excerpt from KC post, “The Soucie Memo:”
Neff made a rare error, however, in the story, inaccurately describing a memorandum by Durham PD Investigator Michelle Soucie as having been penned on April 17, when actually the memo was written on April 4. The N&O promptly issued a correction.There is a lot more in KC's post, all of it just as devastating to Nifong's "case."
The error, however, meant only that Neff’s story was excessively kind to Nifong, and affected none of the story’s conclusions. The material in the excerpted portions of the Soucie memo, in combination with other facts and documents already publicly available, reinforces the pattern of this case: the more material released, the more indefensible Nifong’s behavior appears.
The previously unreleased Soucie memorandum brought four items to light. In its correction statement, the N&O writes that the corrected date for the memorandum (from April 17 to April 4) “changes the implication of the first five paragraphs of the story: that the conversation between Nifong and Soucie was an example of the words and actions of police and prosecutors outpacing the facts in the file.”
The words of the correction were poorly chosen. For, in fact, as Neff’s original article claimed, “the conversation between Nifong and Soucie was an example of the words and actions of police and prosecutors outpacing the facts in the file.”
Before April 4, Nifong gave dozens of interviews to the state and national media commenting with certainty on the “events” of the “rape.” Here are three typical examples of his remarks:
March 29, MSNBC:“The circumstances of the case are not suggestive of the alternate explanation that has been suggested by some of the members of the situation. There is evidence of trauma in the victim’s vaginal area that was noted when she was examined by a nurse at the hospital.”
March 29, WRAL: “My reading of the report of the emergency room nurse would indicate that some type of sexual assault did in fact take place.”
March 30, CBS News: "The victim was examined at Duke University Medical Center by a nurse who was specially trained in sexual assault cases. And the investigation at that time was certainly consistent with a sexual assault having taken place.”
Yet, days after Nifong made these and other similar statements, Soucie recorded the following, according to the memo the N&O uncovered: "Mike Nifong stated that: Also need documentation on escort service and how they do business. Need to nail down what victim did on the day before arriving at 610 N. Buchanan so we can show that she did not receive trauma prior to the incident—with witnesses."
Neff’s original conclusion is correct: Nifong “had said repeatedly on national television that he was certain the dancer had been raped. Yet the prosecutor was still trying to rule out other explanations for the vaginal swelling a hospital noted in its examination of the accuser. The words and actions of police and prosecutors had outpaced the facts in the file, and not for the first time.”(Bold added)
This memo, in short, is the clearest example to date of misconduct by Nifong in his public remarks. Not only was he violating the state bar’s prohibition against statements “that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused,” he was, to put it bluntly, dissembling.
Shortly after he dismissed “the alternate explanation” for the accuser’s alleged injuries (which, as things turned out, were far less severe than the D.A. claimed) to MSNBC, Nifong admitted to Soucie that he wasn’t sure if an “alternate explanation” did exist—namely, that “what [the alleged] victim did on the day before arriving at 610 N. Buchanan” could explain her trauma.
Neff’s words—“the words and actions of police and prosecutors had outpaced the facts in the file”—are charitable in describing the misconduct here.
The N&O obviously had to issue a correction regarding the date of the Soucie memorandum, pointing out that it was written before Nifong sought indictments. But, contrary to the insinuation of the correction text, the memo’s earlier date actually raises more questions about Nifong’s conduct, rather than weakening any of the article’s conclusions.
Three matters are immediately apparent.
First, the order contained in the Soucie memo had one immediate effect: the obtaining of the statement of Jarriel Johnson, the figure generally described as the accuser’s “driver.” Johnson provided his statement to police two days after Nifong instructed Soucie “to nail down what victim did on the day before arriving at 610 N. Buchanan.”
Unfortunately for the district attorney, however, Johnson’s affidavit - reproduced at page 27 of this motion (I was unable to access the motion - JinC)- provided no help in showing “that [the accuser] did not receive trauma prior to the incident.”
Johnson revealed that the accuser had engaged in a variety of private “events” in the hours before the lacrosse party, including at least one that involved use of a vibrator. As Liestoppers blog explained yesterday, “While Nifong instructed DPD to find witnesses to show that the accuser's nether region was unswollen, instead they found him Jarriel Johnson whose description of accuser's activities seemed to do the exact opposite. Nifong asked for proof that the swelling couldn't have been caused by the accuser's escort service activities, and instead found proof that it could very well have.”
Yet [Nifong] sought indictments anyway. The correct dating of the Soucie memo thus shows Nifong’s closed-mindedness to any evidence contradicting his theories as early as April 6. So much for his duty, under the state bar’s ethics code, to serve as “a minister of justice.”
When you finish KC's post, I hope you agree that the N&O needs to correct today's correction. As the N&O's correction now stands, it tells readers something KC's post demonstrates is not true.
I'm going to make a comment at the N&O exec editor for news Melanie Sill's Editor's Blog. I intend to ask Sill to read KC's post and than prepare a much needed correction of the N&O's erroneous statement today that a simple dating error:
“changes the implication of the first five paragraphs of the story: that the conversation between Nifong and Soucie was an example of the words and actions of police and persecutors outpacing the facts in the file.”I'll also will request the N&O conduct and publish a major interview with KC.
I hope many of you do the same.
Throughout the Duke lacrosse hoax the N&O has served readers anonymous interviews with the woman it called "the victim" and some of her family members. It's also served up interviews and op-ed columns from members of the now discredited and widely-ridiculed Duke faculty Group of 88.
The N&O should now give readers something very different: a major story/interview with a distinguished historian who's remarkably well-informed about Nifong's actions and how they violated investigative procedures and bar association ethics and guidelines.
If you want to email Sill it's: firstname.lastname@example.org
N&O's public editor Ted Vaden's email is: email@example.com
I hope you all make your voices heard.