On April 23rd Raleigh News & Observer news columnist Ruth Sheehan wrote what she said she hoped “will be my final column on the Duke lacrosse case.” She. apologized to the Duke lacrosse players for vilifying them last year.
I admired Sheehan for admitting her mistakes and apologizing. She couldn’t have picked a better way to end her series of Duke Hoax columns.
But the end was not the end.
Sheehan’s back today with a column headed: “Lacrosse house … what if?”
When I saw that headline, I said to myself, “Could this be it? Finally!”
I began reading:
John Burness, vice president of public affairs and government relations for Duke University, had just begun our tour of the university's community outreach efforts when we turned on Buchanan Boulevard.Yes, I thought, it’s about to happen.
He slowed as we passed a ramshackle white cottage with black shutters hanging from the hinges.
"There's a house I've seen before," he said.
We both sighed.
The house [Duke owns], of course, was the scene of the infamous Duke lacrosse team party.
Burness is going to park the car in the driveway beside the house.
Then he and Sheehan are going in to look at the small bathroom where Mike Nifong and certain Durham police officers and their supervisors said three large athletes brutally beat, strangled and gang-raped a woman for thirty minutes with none of the four sustaining so much as one cut that required a single stitch, to say nothing of multiple sprains and fractures,
Finally, a reporter is going to go into that bathroom and see what many people who’ve been in the bathroom have been telling me since Crystal Mangum first told her lies: if you know how small the bathroom is, you’ll wonder how four people could’ve even squeezed in there together, much less had room to do all the things Mangum said happened.
But Burness and Sheehan didn’t stop. They cruised right past the house.
Folks, do any of you know of a single reporter whose been in that bathroom? I haven’t heard of one who has even asked to see it.
Yet viewing an actual or alleged crime scene and describing it in detail for print readers or showing it on TV is standard journalism practice.
But in the Duke Hoax case, Sheehan and reporters at the N&O and other news organizations just don’t want to show the public the bathroom in that house on N. Buchanan Blvd.
Last Spring the N&O and other news organizations were eager to tell us about “how it happened.” Then DA Mike Nifong even used himself to demonstrate how he said the alleged “strangulation” occurred in the bathroom and the media duly reported that.
But no one in the media that I’m aware of has ever said to Burness: “Can I please go to the bathroom. I want to tell my readers/viewers about it. ”
So what did Sheehan and Burness talk about as they rode around town?
Well, one of the things was something Sheehan says “still kills” Burness. She ended her column with it:
Burness said that he had advocated for the purchase of the Buchanan Boulevard house and several others four years earlier....I groaned and wished Sheehan’s April 23rd column had really been her last Duke Hoax column.
Imagine, Burness said, if the university had made that purchase years earlier. The house might have been renovated and in the hands of a first-time homebuyer.
The Duke lacrosse case might never have happened.
"It would have been a different year," he said.
We both sighed again.
I also wondered whether a year or two from now Mike Nifong will be saying:
“Your Honor, if Duke had purchased that house years earlier, the whole lacrosse thing might never have happened. Even John Burness has admitted that.
So I’m really a victim of Duke’s failure to purchase quickly enough. That’s why I’m suing Duke.”