Thursday, May 24, 2007

INNOCENT: H-S v. N&O – 5-24-07

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
The Raleigh News & Observer and the Durham Herald Sun both reported on a Durham Superior Court hearing and decision yesterday in which the Duke lacrosse case was a factor.

How do the papers’ reporting compare?

Let’s start with the N&O’s report. It’s headlined: "Dismissal bears marks of Duke lacrosse case"

The reporter is Anne Blythe, who co-reported both the N&O’s biased and racially inflammatory March 24 story which “broke the case” and repeatedly referred to the accuser as "the victim," and the even more biased and racially inflammatory March 25 story which withheld the news that Mangum had said Kim Roberts, the “second dancer,” was also raped at the lacrosse team party while it reported the lie that the players had not cooperated with police.

Yesterday’s N&O’s story appeared in the “B” section of the West edition at the bottom right hand corner of the page.

The first five paragraphs read:

A judge dismissed assault and weapons charges against a teenager Tuesday and in the process admonished the district attorney's chief investigator for intimidating a witness.

The issue before Judge Orlando Hudson was whether Breon Jerrard Beatty, 18, could get a fair trial on charges that stemmed from a shooting in August.

Bob Brown, the defense lawyer representing the teen, complained that Linwood Wilson, a tall, hulking man who has been the district attorney's chief investigator since December 2005, threatened a witness charged in the same incident to the point where irreparable damage had been done to Beatty.

The two-hour hearing not only highlighted the specifics of one case, it provided hints that the climate in Durham County courts has chilled for prosecutors in the aftermath of the Duke lacrosse case.

At several points in the hearing, Hudson and Brown each referred in disparaging terms to the lacrosse case and to District Attorney Mike Nifong, whose handling of the case has him facing career-threatening ethics charges before the State Bar. …
Now yesterday’s H-S report of the same story.

The H-S headline: "Judge: DA's office ran afoul with tactic"

The reporter is John Stevenson. Last August I posted on a fake story he authored regarding a supposed DNA link to a lacrosse player. During the fall 2006 election campaign, Stevenson’s pro-Nifong stories were, IMHO, as helpful to Nifong as was Duke President Richard (“whatever they did was bad enough”) Brodhead’s silence.

The H-S story appeared on its front page in the upper left hand corner.

The first five paragraphs:
Durham's top judge ruled Tuesday that the District Attorney's Office used illegal witness intimidation to manipulate a shooting case against documented gang member Breon Beatty, meaning the charges against Beatty must be dismissed unless prosecutors mount a successful appeal.

Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson accepted an argument that the alleged intimidation, coupled with a threat, unconstitutionally deprived Beatty of a witness in his favor.

A DA's Office investigator linked to the alleged intimidation was Linwood Wilson, who played a key investigative role in the now-dismissed Duke University lacrosse sexual offense case. The DA's Office in that case was also accused by attorneys for since-exonerated lacrosse players of pressuring a witness, something Wilson insisted at the time was not true.

Regarding the DA's Office's behavior in the Beatty case, Beatty's lawyer, Bob Brown, said: "That is tampering with a witness. That is intimidation of a witness. If it was me as a defense attorney making these threats, I would be arrested. It is wrong. It is illegal."

Chief Assistant District Attorney David Saacks countered that no threats were involved, but Hudson wasn't convinced.
The entire N&O story is here and the entire H-S story is here.

Two differences between the papers’ reports:

1) The H-S goes into quite a bit of detail concerning Wilson’s involvement in the arrest and trial last year on a three year old shoplifting warrant of Moezeldin Elmostafa, the cab driver who helped confirm Reade Seligmann’s alibi. The N&O doesn’t mention Elmostafa by name and simply says defense attorneys in the Duke case complained that those “who could offer testimony that conflicted with the prosecutor's version of events were brought in on old warrants and intimidated by Wilson.”

2) The N&O did seek a statement from at least one Duke Hoax defense attorney:
"The Duke lacrosse case opened a window into the Durham District Attorney's Office and how they operate," said Joseph B. Cheshire V, one of the defense lawyers in that case. "That window allowed not only the public to look in, but it allowed judges to look in. Hopefully that will continue for the transparency of justice"
The H-S offered nothing from Duke Hoax defense attorneys and made no mention of trying to reach any.

Both papers failed to report something that should have been reported: Durham’s Chief Assistant District Attorney David Saacks, who prosecuted the Beaty case, also sought the non-testimonial court order directing all 46 white members of the lacrosse team to submit to police DNA testing and mug shot and torso photographing. Attorneys have said they can’t recall any other NC prosecutor signing a DNA testing request so broad in its scope. “A big fishing net,” one attorney called it.

How did the N&O and the H-S run stories with headlines Dismissal bears marks of Duke lacrosse case and DA's office ran afoul with tactic, and then fail to let their readers know of the prosecuting ADA’s very important involvement in the Duke Hoax case?


Anonymous said...

"...and told readers Crystal Mangum the victim..."

That's misleadingly phrased, since they didn't name Mangum.

JWM said...

Anon@ 2:42 pm,

Thanks for the catch.

I've corrected it.

I appreciate readers like you who point out my mistakes. You make JinC a better place.