Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why was Sowell right when so many at Duke were wrong?

Yesterday I posted Sowell on Mascot Politics. It concerned Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas Sowell's assessment of the effects of liberal policies which give preference to Blacks based on race. It's drawn a number of responses. Some I agree with, at least one IMO misses Sowell's main point, but all are serious.

Together, the comments have led to a good conversation. I plan to add my two cents this evening. I hope you visit the thread.

Now I want to call your attention to another Sowell column published more than two years ago. It concerned the Duke Hoax and frame-up attempt.

What follows is part of a Nov. 2006 post, Sowell: Right early and now , which includes an extract from a Sowell column published Apr. 24, 2006 and a link to the entire column.

April 24 was exactly one month to the day the Duke lacrosse story "broke;" and eight months before Duke President Richard Brodhead calculated it was in his interest to finally say something critical of the now disbarred Mike Nifong.

I encourage you to read Sowell's Apr. 24, 2006 column and then ask yourselves two questions:

1) With the benefit of hindsight, can you find anything Sowell said in April 2006 about the hoax and frame-up attempt that hasn't stood up?

2) Why did Sowell get things so right while so many at Duke University were getting them so wrong?

From Sowell: Right early and now - - -

One of my favorite pundits is syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell. He almost always “gets it right;” usually before most others. He’s been that way with the Duke lacrosse case.

Back in April “righteous townies” were banging pots, Duke faculty were demanding to know “why they haven’t been expelled?’, and the Raleigh News & Observer was running the “Swagger” story and publishing the “Vigilante” poster.

In that atmosphere, Sowell published a column on April 24 which began:

People who were not within 1,000 miles of Duke University have already taken sides in the case of a stripper who has accused Duke lacrosse players of rape. One TV talk show hostess went ballistic when a guest on her program raised questions about the stripper's version of what happened.

Apparently we dare not question accusations of rape when it involves the new sacred trinity of race, class, and gender.

Media irresponsibility is one thing. Irresponsibility by an agent of the law is something else -- and much more dangerous. Prosecutors are not just supposed to prosecute. They are supposed to prosecute the right people in the right way. In this case, prosecutor Michael Nifong has proceeded in the wrong way.

Having an accuser or a witness pick out the accused from a lineup is standard procedure. That procedure not only serves to identify someone to be charged with a crime, it also tests the credibility of the accuser or witness -- or it should, if the lineup is not stacked.

A lineup should include not only people suspected of a crime but also other people, so that it tests whether the accuser or witness can tell the difference, and is therefore credible. But the stripper who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team was presented with a lineup consisting exclusively of photographs of members of the lacrosse team.

In other words, whoever she picked out had to be a lacrosse player and would be targeted, with no test whatever of her credibility, because there was no chance for her to pick out somebody who had no connection with the team or the university.

Apparently District Attorney Nifong was no more wiling to test the accuser's credibility than was the TV talk show hostess who went ballistic, though credibility is often crucial in rape cases.
To put a bit more perspective on Sowell’s column, he wrote it more than seven weeks before Duke Law Professor James Coleman wrote his excellent letter calling on Nifong to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take charge of the Duke lacrosse case because the public had lost confidence in Nifong’s handling of it.

The rest of Sowell’s column is here.