Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The N&O's false report on Coleman

Readers’ Note: If you're familiar with the portions of last Sunday’s 60 Minutes Duke Nifong episode that involved Professor Coleman, you may want to skip the transcript portions below and go down to where the star line ******** begins.

John
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From CBS 60 Minutes’transcript of Sunday night’s Duke lacrosse episode:

[Ed Bradley speaking:] 60 Minutes asked James Coleman, a prominent law professor at Duke University Law School who helped establish guidelines in North Carolina designed to protect against false identifications in police line-ups.

He says this line-up broke one basic principle: there were no “filler” photos, no pictures of people not connected to the case. The accuser only saw photos of lacrosse players who police told her were at the party.

"If she’s told all of these people who were considered suspects were at the party, so you pick three and we’ll indict those three," Coleman says.

"So she can’t make a mistake," Bradley remarks.

"Can’t make a mistake," Coleman replies.

Professor Coleman says the line-up ordered by the D.A. for the Duke lacrosse case violated local, state and federal guidelines. The D.A. has been quoted as saying that will be up to a judge to decide.

Asked why a district attorney would order a line-up that breaks virtually every rule in the book, Coleman says, "Well that's a good question for the D.A. But I assume that, you know after his initial performance, in this case, he needed to indict at least three players. And charge them with what he said was a rape that had occurred." […]


Brodhead formed a commission to investigate the behavior of the lacrosse team over the past five years, and he appointed Professor James Coleman to head it.

Coleman found that while many of the players drank alcohol excessively, they had no history of violent or racist behavior. Professor Coleman believes that the three indicted players are victims in this case – victims of an overzealous prosecutor who pandered to the black community in the middle of an election campaign.

"I think that he pandered to the community by saying 'I'm gonna go out there and defend your interests in seeing that these hooligans who committed the crime are prosecuted. I'm not gonna let their fathers, with all of their money, buy you know big-time lawyers and get them off. I'm doing this for you.' You know, what are you to conclude about a prosecutor who says to you, 'I'll do whatever it takes to get this set of defendants?' What does it say about what he's willing to do to get poor black defendants," Coleman asks.

Asked if he thinks the D.A. committed prosecutorial misconduct, Coleman says, "Yes, I mean I think that’s the whole point. And if this case resulted in a conviction, I think there would be a basis to have the conviction overturned based on his conduct. I think in this case, it appears that this prosecutor has set out to develop whatever evidence he could to convict people he already concluded were guilty." […]
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OK, there are the Professor Coleman portions of 60's episode.

But what about the Raleigh News & Observer which framed the players in the public’s mind before Nifong ever spoke publicly about the case or completed the indictment phase of his frame-up?

How did the Raleigh N&O report the Coleman portions of the episode?

In an almost 800 word, 25 paragraph story, "Suspects, dancer contradict accuser," you find after the tenth paragraph these two, brief paragraphs :

During the segment, James Coleman, a Duke University law professor, said he thought Nifong had committed prosecutorial misconduct by speaking out before charges were filed.

"If this case resulted in a conviction, I think there would be a basis to have the conviction thrown out based on misconduct," Coleman said.
That’s all the N&O “reports” about Coleman.

And that little bit is false.

Reporter Anne Blythe (co-bylined on the Mar. 24 and 25 stories) and her editors mislead readers with
"Coleman … said he thought Nifong had committed prosecutorial misconduct by speaking out before charges were filed."
That’s something Coleman may believe but he didn’t say it in the episode and Bradley didn’t report he said it to him.

Bradley did report: “Professor Coleman says the line-up ordered by the D.A. for the Duke lacrosse case violated local, state and federal guidelines.” […]

The N&O, of course, had to leave that out or it’s falsehood wouldn’t fool most people.

The N&O also had to leave out of its story the portions of Coleman’s statement in bold:
Asked if he thinks the D.A. committed prosecutorial misconduct, Coleman says, "Yes, I mean I think that’s the whole point. And if this case resulted in a conviction, I think there would be a basis to have the conviction overturned based on his conduct.I think in this case, it appears that this prosecutor has set out to develop whatever evidence he could to convict people he already concluded were guilty.
Why didn't the N&O report Coleman believes Nifong set out to “develop whatever evidence he could to convict people he already concluded were guilty?”

Why did the N&O instead create a falsehood?

I think because Coleman is so obviously describing a frame-up.

What do you think?

And why do you think the N&O left out of its story every other thing Coleman said or Bradley reported he said?

The discussion and illustrations of the Nifong/Gottlieb “no wrong answers ID” travesty, such an important part of their frame-up, were among the most critical parts of the episode. Why’d the N&O make no mention of them?

And why no mention of Coleman’s saying Nifong “pandered to the community?”

I'll send this post on to Reporter Anne Blythe, Executive Editor for News Melanie Sill and Public Editor Ted Vaden. I'll invite their comments and let you know if I hear anything back.

6 comments:

gc said...

The transcript of Coleman's comments on 60 Minutes is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Good catch on the way the N&O mischaracterized Coleman's remarks. I agree with your assessment.

Anonymous said...

Why does Melanie think she can keep getting away with this?

kbp said...

That was weak!

My first comment on the program provided Coleman the greatest praise of all the guests.

In the summary I stated he had "Tried, Convicted and Executed" Nifong in bold fonts.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of Neff and occasionally Niolet, the N&O continues its disgraceful reporting of the lacrosse case. The same reporter who mischaracterized Coleman's remarks was one of the bylines on the now-infamous March 24 and 25 stories. Were the same editors involved? Perhaps the CEO of McClatchy or the company's board members could provide a response to this latest N&O story.

Anonymous said...

that was not a mischaracterization. coleman definitely said that the da was guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. also, 60 minutes mischaracterized some of the things in coleman's own report about the lax players. they conveniently left out the part where it stated that the lax team had more criminal charges and more duke disciplinary charges than any other sports team at duke in the last several years. so much for accurate reporting on 60 minutes