Friday, February 22, 2008

Chronicle Suit Report Confused, Avoids Duke Questions

I just sent the following email to Chronicle editor David Graham.

Dear Editor Graham:

In your story today - Lax lawsuit targets Duke, Durham – you report, without actually quoting him, that Duke Law professor Thomas Metzloff said “it was also surprising that Nifong was not included because his bankruptcy proceedings do not bar him from being listed as a defendant. Metzloff added that this might be a move to highlight other defendants' involvement.”

But yesterday Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said Nifong was not named because the current bankruptcy proceedings protect him from being named a defendant in a suit in federal court.

Would you please determine whether Metzloff or Cooper is right and report on that?

You quote Metzloff speculating on why he thinks individual faculty were not named as defendants. From The Chronicle’s story:

Law professor Thomas Metzloff said he thought it was significant that individual faculty members were not named.

"With the actions of some faculty and how they were interpreted, I think some people were expecting individual faculty to be named as defendants," he said. "It's kind of the old move to cast a blanket-at this point, it's the usual suspects."
Yesterday Cooper spoke specifically to the matter and explained why individual faculty were not named.

From your story it’s not clear whether Metzloff was aware of Cooper's explanation but rejected it and was therefore speculating as to what Cooper and the plaintiff’s actual reason(s) was. Of course, it could also be the Metzloff speculated because he wasn’t aware of what Cooper had said.

Finally, here’s a portion of KC Johnson's post concerning the Cooper suit filing which raises some extraordinarily important issues and questions The Chronicle’s story today ignored:
Duke, the suit contends, “took two actions directed toward bolstering the credibility of Mangum’s rape allegations. First, Officer Day of the Duke Police added a “continuation page” as an addendum to his police report prepared at Duke Hospital on March 14, in which he had noted the manifest inconsistencies in Mangum’s allegations. Day’s ‘continuation page’ purported to cast doubt on the reliability of his own contemporaneous report, which Duke had not yet disclosed to the lacrosse players or the public, by indicating that it was based on hearsay and imperfectly overheard conversations.

Upon information and belief, Day was coerced to write this continuation page by Duke administration officials, who had previously prevented his exculpatory version of events from becoming public.

“On information and belief, in addition to suppressing the Day report, Duke police officials, at Nifong’s request, also directed Duke police officers who had been present at Duke Hospital on March 14 to write deliberately misleading accounts of what they witnessed that night.

The Duke police officers were directed to prepare statements that suppressed exculpatory facts about Mangum’s lack of credibility, selectively asserted facts suggesting the guilt of the players, and mischaracterized their own conduct that night by casting the Duke police as mere bystanders.

In particular, on information and belief, one Duke officer who prepared such a statement later admitted that, based on his observation at the time, Mangum was ‘faking’ the whole thing; and another Duke officer was directed to suppress the fact that she had overheard a Durham Police sergeant, upon emerging from Mangum’s hospital room, say loudly, ‘I think she is lying!’”

Duke’s response: “If these plaintiffs have a complaint, it is with Mr. Nifong.” This is, to put it mildly, a peculiar argument: it’s not clear to me how Nifong was responsible for Duke’s decision to allow its faculty and students to violate the University’s anti-harassment policy; or for Officer Day to rewrite his report; or for Duke’s failure to supervise Tara Levicy; or for Duke’s decision to supply federally protected student records to the police.
Why has The Chronicle failed to investigate and report in detail on the very serious, possibly criminal, actions cited in the filing and noted by KC?

Did you ask Metzloff about the portions of the filing mentioned here?

If so, what did he say?

If you didn’t ask him, please explain why The Chronicle didn’t.

I hope you’ll respond in The Chronicle to the matters I’ve raised here.

Most of us in the Duke community want to know about them. We believe The Chronicle has a duty to report on them.


John in Carolina