Friday, September 14, 2007

An N&O news story or ad?

Newspapers in Europe regularly run ads on their front-pages. I’m told some papers in America are now doing it, while others are considering it.

Today the Raleigh News & Observer has a front-page story:

Lacrosse panel stuck in idle
Mayor still wants an accounting
that reads like an advertisement Durham City leaders purchased in order to present in the best possible light the city’s involvement in the attempted frame-up of three innocent Duke lacrosse players and the ongoing cover-up of same.

The entire N&O story follows, after which below the star line I explain why I think the news story reads more like an ad for Durham City.

The N&O's story:

The city-appointed committee set up to review the police department's handling of the Duke lacrosse case is on hold indefinitely, Mayor Bill Bell said Thursday.

Bell said he hoped the panel would reconvene at some point to get a full accounting of what went wrong in bringing false rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players.

"We really need to know what occurred," Bell said in a meeting Thursday with News & Observer editors and reporters. "I don't think the community's going to be satisfied until we do."

The city's insurance company has advised that further investigation by the panel could turn up information that might hurt Durham in a civil lawsuit.

It was reported last week that the former players have told the city to pay them $10 million each or face a civil lawsuit. Sources with knowledge of the pending lawsuit said the players' attorneys gave the city a month to consider the offer.

Bell and City Manager Patrick Baker were asked Thursday whether they would have done anything differently.

Baker said he thinks the city had its hands tied by then-District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Telltale sign

Baker noted that the police never filed an arrest warrant, a sign they didn't think there was evidence to charge Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

Investigators did testify before a grand jury, which wound up indicting the players.

"I don't know that there was any constitutional authority for us to say, 'You know, Mr. District Attorney, we're not going to answer your subpoena to testify in front of the grand jury. We think it's time to shut [the case] down,' " Baker said.

"There's a good bit of frustration in the police department," he said. "At some point in time, they'll say what they need to say."

Bell said he thinks city officials' decision to more or less keep mum about the investigation -- including then-Police Chief Steve Chalmers -- was wise. "On balance, I think we did as best we could have done, given the circumstances we were dealing with."

So it’s all Nifong’s fault and “Baker said he thinks the city had its hands tied by then-District Attorney Mike Nifong.”

Were the city’s hands tied when Durham Police spokesperson Cpl. David Addison told WRAL on March 24, 2006: "You are looking at one victim brutally raped. If that was someone else's daughter, child, I don't think 46 (tests) would be a large enough number to figure out exactly who did it?"

This from the March 25 N&O: "We're asking someone from the lacrosse team to step forward," Durham police Cpl. David Addison said. "We will be relentless in finding out who committed this crime."

Why was Addison saying that?

And why is Bell touting “city officials' decision to more or less keep mum about the investigation?”

Bell knows that isn't true. Last March Addison seemed to be in a race with Nifong to see who could give the most media interviews.

And what about this N&O report on January 13, 2007:
Deputy Police Chief Ron Hodge said Nifong's stepping aside won't change the substance of the evidence collected by the department's detectives that a sexual assault occurred.

Hodge said he thinks that the case will still go forward and that the remaining charges will be prosecuted.

"I don't think it changes anything that we've done," Hodge said. "It just means that we'll have to deal with a different attorney."
Did any of the N&O reporters and editors meeting with Bell and Baker ask the questions I’ve just asked? And ones like them?

Or did they just accept what Bell and Baker said the way a newspaper advertising department accepts copy for an ad?

Folks, I wonder if the reason the N&O ran what was more an ad than a news story isn’t this: The N&O reporters and editors knew if they started asking Bell and Baker the questions they should have asked them, Bell and Baker would have responded with something like:
“What about your telling your readers all about your use of Nifong as an anonymous source last March? And why didn’t you report in your March 25 story the information you had about the players’ cooperation with police? And what you knew about Mangum’s background?”
What do you think?

You can read more about Hodge hyping the attempted frame-up here.

The Liestoppers Blog Hooligans are all over today’s N&O “ad.” Take a look here.


Anonymous said...

When you are subpoenaed to testify, not only are you required to appear as directed, but you are also required to give truthful testimony.

The article suggests that the cops options were limited to (a) ignoring the subpoena or (b) showing up and syaing whatever it took to get indictments. They ignore choice (c) which is giving truthful testimony so that the system can function properly and a proper and just decision can be reached.

There is not much of a differece between ignoring a grand jury subpoena and refusing to testify, which you obviously can't do, and obeying the subpoena but testifying untruthfully, which the Durham PD obviously did. Both constitute contempt of court.

If the DPD officers went before that grand jury and told them the whole truth, there would not have been any indictments handed up (except maybe against Cystal Mangum). That is what they were supposed to do. That is what they were obligated to do (regardless of what the DA wanted) and that is what they did not do, which is why they are finding themselves in trouble.

When you go before the grand jury and lie, or don't reveal important facts damaging to your case, you are enabling the hoax and you are liable for the damage the hoax causes.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what was said before the Grand Jury - neither does anyone else except the DPD. I do know that almost without exception legal commentators say "A Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich."

Anonymous said...

Yeah. If a witness goes in and says "I saw that ham sandwich doing something illegal" and swore to it. But, if the witness told the truth, the ham sandwich would walk.

The reason why that saying is out there is because usually, at the grandjury, th edefense has no opportunity to cross examine witness and evidence or call its own witnesses. The presentation is entirely in the hands of and at the discretion of the prosecutor.

The prosecutor presents his evidence, unimpeded by a defense. The sole purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendants. So, yeah, the threshhold is very low to get an indictment. But they still shouldn't be able to indict a ham sandwich or three innocent people (even if they are white and privileged and athletes) with no evidence or false evidence.

Anonymous said...

Great questions, John. The "It was all Nifong's fault" defense should make any reporter's eyes roll but critical thinking is in short supply these days. Granted Nifong is the main culprit, but many people bet their reputations on his version of the story and it is time to settle accounts. However, it certainly isn't hard to understand why the N&O is sympathetic to this line of defense. By keeping the light focused on Nifong, they are hoping no one notices who is standing in the shadows and the role they played in creating this hoax ex nihilo.

Brant Jones