Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sowell: Right early and now

One of my favorite pundits is syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell. He almost always “gets it right;” usually before most others.

He’s been that way with the Duke lacrosse case. Back in April “righteous townies” were banging pots, Duke faculty were demanding to know “why they haven’t been expelled?’, and the Raleigh News & Observer was running the “Swagger” story and publishing the “vigilante” poster. In that atmosphere Sowell offered this:

People who were not within 1,000 miles of Duke University have already taken sides in the case of a stripper who has accused Duke lacrosse players of rape. One TV talk show hostess went ballistic when a guest on her program raised questions about the stripper's version of what happened.

Apparently we dare not question accusations of rape when it involves the new sacred trinity of race, class, and gender.

Media irresponsibility is one thing. Irresponsibility by an agent of the law is something else -- and much more dangerous. Prosecutors are not just supposed to prosecute. They are supposed to prosecute the right people in the right way. In this case, prosecutor Michael Nifong has proceeded in the wrong way.

Having an accuser or a witness pick out the accused from a lineup is standard procedure. That procedure not only serves to identify someone to be charged with a crime, it also tests the credibility of the accuser or witness -- or it should, if the lineup is not stacked.

A lineup should include not only people suspected of a crime but also other people, so that it tests whether the accuser or witness can tell the difference, and is therefore credible. But the stripper who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team was presented with a lineup consisting exclusively of photographs of members of the lacrosse team.

In other words, whoever she picked out had to be a lacrosse player and would be targeted, with no test whatever of her credibility, because there was no chance for her to pick out somebody who had no connection with the team or the university.

Apparently District Attorney Nifong was no more wiling to test the accuser's credibility than was the TV talk show hostess who went ballistic, though credibility is often crucial in rape cases
To put a bit more perspective on Sowell’s column, he wrote it more than seven weeks before Duke Law Professor James Coleman wrote his excellent letter calling on Nifong to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take charge of the Duke lacrosse case because the public had lost confidence in Nifong’s handling of the case.

The rest of Sowell’s column is here. I hope you read it; and ask yourself whether, with the benefit of seven months of hindsight, there is anything Sowell said in that column that hasn’t stood up.

Sowell's Nov. 17 column is here.


Anonymous said...

Sowell is brilliant. Coleman should be president of Duke.

TombZ said...

11:47, I agree Sowell is a lion.

But I don't think Coleman should have to limit his ambition, which he would have to do to stoop to the level of King Richard the Rathearted.

I don't think Coleman would sell out either his ideals or the 3 players. Brodhead took his 60 pieces of silver some time ago.

Thank you, Professor Coleman.

Georgia Girl said...

Perhaps I tend to place too much credibility in the words of victims, but there's a reason for that. Let me tell you another rape story --- decades old.
A string of skillfully executed rapes occurred in the early 1960s by an upperclassman living on fraternity row at Georgia Tech where the bond of Greek brotherhood remains every bit as unshakable today as it did in the sixties. I was a virgin, set up in advance (twice!) by a person I trusted. I was drugged. My life was derailed, but I would never tell (jeeze, it was the "sixties"). I could not even confront the rapist. To confront the rapist would mean acknowledging to myself that "rape" actually happened. Even worse, the second scenario was "gang rape". Nobody can imagine what I went through ... depression, anger, repressed memories, and flashbacks for 43 years. This monster belongs behind bars for the malevolent tactics he used to dehumanize me and other unsuspecting women. Instead, he golfs, plays gin and sips scotch at the club. And with much arrogance, he recently said to me (after I finally confronted him), "Is this some kind of joke?".
As with any rapist, lies the incessant need to overpower, but Jim Dickinson's single most compelling reason for the degradation of women was this:
"the constant and overwhelming struggle to convince himself that he liked girls (in that way), and to prove his masculinity to the brotherhood".
Aww, the good ol' days in Atlanta! Dodd Stadium, the Varsity Drive-In, Hank & Jerry's Tavern, Witts Inn, Aunt Fanny's Cabin. Such innocence! Date rape drugs didn't exist back then? Wrong! How about Special K. Frat members robbed animal clinics to get their hands on those magical drugs.
Now then, if this could happen to a so-called nice girl from a traditional family in an upper-class neighborhood, you can bet that date-rape was a huge weekend draw on fraternity row. Their only prerequisite? Make sure the girl wasn't too smart. I believe that not "all" the brothers participated, yet "all" operated under a veil of secrecy -- all in the name of brotherhood and bonding.
Thank you for the opportunity to post this comment. Anyone can contact me at

january said...

My sympathies to Georgia Tech Rape Victim, but I really do not understand the relevance of her post here. The two cases are hardly comparable. This was not a "skillfully executed rape." There was no question of a date rape drug - the accuser admitted to taking flexaril and mixing it with alcohol, and the tox report was negative. And we are not talking about a virginal coed seduced and corrupted by Fraternity Row. We are talking about a woman who has described a rape of 30 minutes committed by, variously, 3, 5, and 20 men. There is absolutely no forensic evidence to support her claim, and there is much reason to call it into question.

Georgia Girl said...

January, admiteddly, my circumstances are completely different from those of the accuser. But let's consider 2 commonalities:

1. Rape is rape (no two are alike).

2. The accused comprise of men belonging to a culture that thrives on male dominance and aggression.

I agree with you that the evidence supporting her claim is lame, but the prosecution hasn't even begun yet.

I also realize that the lacrosse team, if innocent, has suffered a great injustice, as have their families.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes the prosecution has made its case -- early and often -- in the media. As a woman, I empathize with victims of sexual assault. As a human being, I empathize with the wrongly accused, and I deplore the depravity and mendacity of false accusors and those who enable them.