Readers Note: Even those of you with just a “headlines” familiarity with the Duke frame-up attempt will understand the email below to Raleigh News & Observer editorial page editor Steve Ford.
Dear Editor Ford:
I’m a subscriber and blog as John in Carolina.
I read your editorial today regarding General Petraeus’ testimony and the war in Iraq.
How are you able to opine so confidently on such complex matters when you so often bungle simple matters?
Consider your opining on what the N&O said was a young black mother’s “ordeal” which ended in “sexual violence.”
Excerpts from your Mar. 28, 2006 editorial:
DNA testing can help build a case, but it also can clear the innocent. That's a greater good justifying a compromise of the whole group's privacy when lacrosse team members had to report to a crime lab for DNA sampling.When the DNA testing came back negative for all 46 Duke students, you said nothing about that “clear[ing] the innocent.”
The woman's reporting to the police that she was attacked was an act of courage on her part[.] …
Shutting down the lacrosse program until the cloud of suspicion can be lifted would send the right message.
Instead, you remained one of Mike Nifong’s most important supporters.
The accuser’s story was wildly improbable. That all the white members of the team were ordered to submit to DNA testing 10 days after the alleged “attacks” was an obvious sign she’d not been able to identify any of her alleged “rapists.”
So intelligent, fair-minded people were thinking of a possible false accusation.
How did you determine the accuser reporting “she was attacked was an act of courage?”
Did you know on Mar. 28 the N&O was suppressing news it had reported on June 25, 2002 which contradicted statements the accuser made in an interview with an N&O reporter which the N&O reported on Mar. 25 without noting the contradictions?
Did you know on Mar. 28 the N&O was suppressing statements the accuser made to an N&O reporter on Mar. 24, 2006 that the second dancer had also been sexually assaulted but had failed to report it for fear of losing her job? Also, that the accuser had said the second dancer would do anything for money?
Did you know when you wrote your Mar. 28 editorial that the N&O had used Nifong as an anonymous source before he began speaking publicly about the case on Mar. 27?
After Nifong’s victory in the general election you wrote on Nov. 12:
... Does it amount to some kind of travesty, then, that Nifong is set to continue as D.A.? Not in my book.Yes, we have trials and, of course, we don’t decide the merits of criminal charges at the polls.
That's not to say anybody should be comfortable with Nifong's performance in the case that has drawn scads of unwanted attention to Durham, Duke University and their uneasy co-existence.
But to throw him out of office on the sole basis of that performance would have had the effect of substituting the judgment of voters for the judgment of jurors. That's no way to settle the question of whether a crime occurred and, if so, who was responsible.
We have trials to settle such things, and we insist that matters of guilt or innocence be decided according to very specific rules meant to safeguard the rights of both accusers and defendants. What we don't do in this country is decide the merit of criminal charges at the polls. ...
That’s why, Editor Ford, even if Nifong had lost, the trial(s) of David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann could have gone forward if a successor DA choose to continue the prosecution.
The law also permits a reelected DA Nifong to drop all charges at some point or even to do what Duke Law Professor James Coleman five months earlier recommended he do: step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take over the case.
So the Durham DA election wasn’t about, as you said, “substituting the judgment of voters for the judgment of jurors.”
It was about Durham’s citizens doing what citizens everywhere else in North Carolina can do: vote for the person they think will do the most to give them fairness and justice in the DA’s office.
But you missed the obvious in Nov. ’06 as you had in Mar. ’06 and wound up a principal enabler of a frame-up attempt.
I don’t know of any reason to believe you’ll be a better guide to the extremely complex issues affecting Iraq, when you were so wrong on a hoax and frame-up attempt which was easy to get right.
If you care to respond, I’ll publish your response in full.
John in Carolina