Saturday, July 29, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Local media misses important matter

An article in today’s Durham Herald Sun reminded me of a very important aspect of the Duke lacrosse case that media in Durham and Raleigh are ignoring.

First, the H-S article which begins:

The Duke lacrosse rape case likely will get an "exceptional" designation from the state Supreme Court that would be the first of its kind for a criminal issue in Durham, officials said Friday.

The designation, which must be approved by the chief justice of the state's highest court, could speed the case by providing one judge to handle every detail from now until the end of a trial.

With only one judge making all the decisions, consistency and efficiency would be vastly improved, officials predict.

"I think it's a great idea," lawyer Bill Cotter said Friday.

Cotter represents Collin Finnerty, one of three Duke lacrosse players indicted on charges of raping an exotic dancer in March at an off-campus party.
A defense lawyer wanting a speedy trial. To paraphrase President Reagen: “There they go again.”

From the time Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted defense lawyers have been asking for a speedy trial while Durham DA Mike Nifong seems very contents to let time go by. He’s never joined defense attorneys in their requests to speed up the trial.

Our local media - the Durham H-S, Raleigh N&O, WRAL – TV, and News14 - to name a few, haven’t done very much that I’ve noticed to point out how unusual it is for defense attorneys to be demanding a speedy trial while the DA is content to smile during procedural hearing, make disparaging remarks about the defense, and wait, wait, wait for a trial date.

Usually DAs want a trial ASAP, especially if the case will depend heavily on eyewitness testimony.

DAs usually want to go as quickly as possible from indictment, when they‘re supposed to present to the grand jury the reasons why they should take the case to trial, to the trial itself.

Trial delay only gives time for witnesses to become forgetful or, if they’re not forgetful, there’s the matter of a jurors listening and saying to themselves, “The witness is so sure after all this time. But I wonder. Coaching? Rehearsal?”

Delay also gives the defense to find supporting witnesses, find new exculpatory evidence, etc.

Nifong’s willingness to accept delay and the defenses’ eagerness to go to trial are big stories that should be examined and reported extensively.

Baker did not get back to Charns

I got an email about 5 p.m. yesterday from Charns telling me that.

There was nothing more in the email.

Charns was responding to my cell call.

I'm still traveling but will be home tonight at which time I'll send Charns an email thanking him for his update and letting him know I'll call him Tuesday; also that I plan to call Baker starting Monday to get his update on the CrimeStoppers posters and subsequent Durham City actions, if any.

I also intend to ask Baker if the city has learned anything more about the "vigilante poster(s)" distributed at at least one rally on Duke campus, in the Trinity Park neighborhood and, I'm told, others and published on Apr. 2 by the Raleigh News & Observer.

I'm going to keep at it.


Friday, July 28, 2006

The Churchill Series – July 28, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I’ll continue Monday the series of posts dealing with a three month journey Churchill and his brother Jack, and their sons, Randolph and Johnny, took across Canada, then down the American West coast, and then by rail across America to New York and their boat trip home.

Today, I’ll share a portion of Churchill’s My Early Life which I have with me now on my own trip.

What follows is a part of Churchill’s account in of the Battle of Omdurman fought in the Sudan in September, 1998, when Churchill was a twenty-three year old cavalry Lieutenant. The battles was massive by the standards of the day, It would between native Dervish and a mixed Army of British and Egyptian forces. The battle is best remembered now for its cavalry charge in which Churchill rode. Looking back thirty years later Churchill tells us something of the battle and lessons he drew from it:

In one respect a cavalry charge is very like ordinary like. So long as you are all right, firmly in your saddle, you horse in hand, and well armed, lots of enemies will give you a wide berth.

But as soon as you have lost a stirrup, have a rein cut, have dripped your weapon, are wounded, or your horse is wounded, then is the moment when from all quarters enemies rush upon you.

Such was the fate of not a few of my comrades in the troops immediately on my left. Brought to an actual standstill in the enemy’s mass, clutched at from every side, stabber at and hacked at by spear and sword, they were dragged from their horses and cut to pieces by the infuriated foe.
How could the young officer who fought at Omdurman and wrote about it as Churchill did in the late 1920s have any part in an appeasement government in the 1930s?

As you know debate in Commons follows upon a government action which a member than questions after which, if the question is in order, the Commons debates the question.

When the first of the appeasement budgets was presented, I believe in 1932, Churchill began his “wilderness years” of unremitting questioning and challenging of the Government‘s appeasement policy.

Churchill’s first question in Commons challenging the first appeasement budget was: “Does the Government wish for war?”

Churchill was the last surviving officer of the charge at Omburman.

For JinC Regulars and Commenters - short - 7 - 28 - 06

Many of you know some of the best fact-gathering and commentary on the assault incident at Blinco's sport bar can be found on the most recent comment threads at the Editor's Blog.

You know because some of you are part of it. Too bad N&O reporters aren't also. But maybe they're reading and will learn.

I continue to appreciate and learn from your comments. Some of you send on some humor stuff. I like that too. Where did Liestoppers come from? It's a laugh place unless you an N&O journalist or work for DA Nifong.

Please keep your comments coming. They inform, encourage and remind me.

Yesterday someone sent me a take on the difference between the "wanted" and "vigilante" posters. I worked part of it into the "vigilante" questions post comment I left at the Editor's Blog. What the commenter gave was right on time to what I was doing and in the parts I used better than what I had.

The same day that the Friends of DU put their ad in The Chronicle someone tipped me: The Chronicle's editorial that day was PC with nary a mention of the injustices committed against the editors fellow students. I'm working on a response.

Didn't get a post done yesterday calling Sheehan out for her terrible "Team's Silence is Sickening" post on the four-month anniversary of its publication. I'm sorry I missed the date but I'll get that one done.

I plan to call Charns this afternoon. I may not connect with him. Also, Patrick Baker may not have responded to Charns.

Whatever happens, I'll let you know Saturday.

A couple of things about the CrimeStoppers/Charns matter.

I got into it because no one back in May was paying attention to it. It looked like a small thing to many people.

But if you recall the DPD was not commenting to Charns. Cpl. Addison, so talkative in Mar. and Apr. had gone silent and has remained so.

But the matters about which Charns was inquiring and making disclosure requests, and about which I later inquired of DPD and interviewed Maj. Lee Russ, are questions about what should under proper circumstances be matters of routine for police. We weren't talking undercover investigations.

CrimeStoppers is meant to be a very public kind of police/community activity. But in the case of the CrimeStoppers DL "wanted" posters: Silence from the police when Charns asked who and why.

A take it to the bank two-part rule:

1) When police do something like CrimeStoppers right, they'll shout it from the roof of the station house. And why not! They have tough, dangerous jobs and the good ones never get the thanks they deserve.

2) When police are silent on a CrimeStoppers kind of activity, it's always because
they know they did something wrong and are trying to cover it.

Sunday or Monday I'll say more about CrimeStoppers and what its posters help tell us about the Duke lacrosse police/DA investigation.

I think you know where I'm going.


Duke lacrosse: Nifong website gets a truth hit

Sure,hackers are rough on websites. But do you know about historian and blogger KC Johnson?

In just a few minutes KC can shread one of those very expensive, skillfully crafted campaign websites. If you don’t believe that, just ask DA Mike Nifong. KC hit his site today.

Mike and his staff are in shock. They’ve turned the task of counting the number of facts and reasoned statements KC used in the attack over to Durham Police Sgt. Mark Gottlieb.

According to press reports, Gottlieb has told Nifong and Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers he’ll have an incident report ready “within my lifetime.”

The Associated Press says Gottlieb plans to conduct the investigation from a sports bar in Raleigh. When asked for a comment tonight, all Gottlieb would say is “He isn’t worth it.” He refused to say whether he was refering to Nifong or KC.

Well, none of that seems new,does it?

Here's a sample of what KC did to Nifong. We come in as KC is poking at Nifong’s self-puffery but you’ll see KC almost immediately “puts the wind” to Mike’s procedural “garments” and leaves him where only someone like the Durham Herald Sun’s Bob Ashley would excuse Nifong’s injustices. From KC’s post:

In [an “interviewer’s”] “conversation with Mike,” the district attorney opines, “The shortsighted prosecutor concerns himself only with victory in the courtroom and is willing to take whatever advantage he can, no matter the consequence.”

I wonder how Nifong would reconcile this statement with his decision to order the Durham Police Department to violate not only its own procedures but all statewide norms, and confine the accuser’s photo ID session to lacrosse players. This decision would seem the action of a “shortsighted prosecutor” concerned “only with victory in the courtroom” and “willing to take whatever advantage he can, no matter the consequence.” In this case, the consequences included the indictment of a demonstrably innocent person, Reade Seligmann.
There’s a lot more like that here.

If KC keeps it up, who knows, maybe Bob Ashley will refuse to play the Fig Leaf role in the Duke Allen Building’s production of “All’s Well that Brodhead Let’s Nifong End.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

No Churchill Series post - 7 - 27 - 06


I have a heavy work load today and can't get a series post done.

I'm sorry.

I plan to be back tomorrow. I hope you are too.


Duke lacrosse: What about McClatchy's "vigilante" poster?

On Tuesday, July 25, at the Editor’s Blog which the Raleigh News & Observer’s owner, the McClatchy Company sponsors, the N&O’s exec editor for news, Melanie Sill, told readers:

The "wanted" poster appeared on an inside page as part of a report on the mood on and around the Duke campus. The decision to use it wasn't discussed at the appropriate level. It's fair to second-guess it, and we have.
In terms of candor and usefulness, Sill’s “wanted” comment is typical of what she offers readers when she’s not ignoring they’re questions altogether.

I’ve just left the following comment on the thread of the post, "A few response on Duke lacrosse," where she made the comment that I think all but the most devoted N&O readers will find wanting.


Dear Melanie,

There is so much you need to explain about how and why on Apr. 2 the N&O published the “vigilante” poster, which you call here the “wanted” poster.

Why did the N&O withhold from readers critical information about the “vigilante” poster? Example: The reason why the poster contained face photos of only 43 of the 46 Duke students who were the vigilante’s targets.

Will you please explain why the N&O didn’t tell its readers what other news organizations (e.g. USA Today, Mar. 29, electronic) told their readers: That Duke University, fearing for the players’ safety, removed their photos from the lacrosse team’s website. Duke did that in time to prevent the vigilantes from obtaining the last 3 of the 46 photos of the students the vigilantes were targeting.

Why didn't you tell readers that?

You’ve never told readers why a group of N&O journalists decided to publish a poster they knew would only make the already physically dangerous situation of the players even more dangerous. It’s past time you did. What's the explanation?

The N&O’s poster photo and caption, which months after you published it you told readers was “small” is, as you know, two columns wide and 7.25 inches long.

N&O editors placed it on the most prominent part of the page: At the top of the page and in the 4th and 5th columns of a 6 column wide page.

The photo is nested between two stories relating to DL, neither of which makes any mention of the “vigilante” poster or explains what purpose or effect the poster served in connection with either story.

Melanie, when I read and listen to McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt talk about the high quality of McClatchy editors and how they’re “the best,” I have to wonder. I think any sensible person would. Do you agree?

I hope you and the N&O news team know I’m not questioning their technical journalist skills or ignoring their deliberate effort to “bring” the “vigilante” poster to the attention of N&O readers.

But I do question their journalistic judgment and ethical values. I also question the ethical values of their apologists such as you.

Publishing the poster was not only dangerous to the players; it was dangerous to our community.

If you don’t believe that, Melanie, just ask the Trinity Park pot bangers who initially cheered the distribution and circulation of the “vigilante” poster. They don’t cheer anymore because even they have come to realize the “vigilante” poster, along with much else, stirred unstable people and encouraged hate groups.

The pot bangers now worry about the heightened chance of an incident in their neighborhood which could result in one of them being a victim. Ive even heard a few of them say, “The N&O went too far.”

In truth, both you and they went much too far; and innocent have suffered and will suffer as a result.

Why has the N&O, which you say carefully sourced all its Duke lacrosse coverage, never identified the poster’s source(s)? Readers haven’t even been told whether it was, as some people say, an “inside” source(s) or a “community source(s), as some other people say.

Durham Police Maj. Lee Russ told me in an interview that DPD would be interested to know the source(s) of the N&O’s “vigilante” poster. So would we all, Melanie.

On another matter related to the “vigilante” poster:

In the interest of avoiding confusion, will you and the N&O do what others are doing: Call the CrimeStoppers’ DL posters “wanted” posters and the N&O’s poster the “vigilante” poster? (Melanie, There may be more than one version of the “vigilante” poster, but let’s let that go for now. John)

CrimeStoppers and Durham Police already refer to the CrimeStoppers posters as “wanted,” and in correspondence I’ve reviewed and my interview with him, Maj. Russ referred to your poster as “the vigilante poster.”

Also, everyone I’ve spoken to who’s researching the posters observes the same “wanted” and “vigilante” distinction Durham Police observe. So do nationally recognized bloggers such as KC Johnson, Betsy Newmark, La Shawn Barber, Craig Henry, Wizbang and Johnsville News.

While there are certainly some important elements common to the two posters (eg. DPD Cpl. David Addison authored, subject in at least some circumstances to Maj. Russ’ review, the DL CrimeStoppers posters. Addison’s quoted on the N&O’s “vigilante” poster), there are many critical differences between them that make it essential to have agreed upon terms distinguishing them.

One very important difference: The CrimeStoppers poster is a solicitation of information in return for monetary compensation; the N&O’s “vigilante” poster offers no monetary compensation.

Here are two other important differences: The CrimeStoppers poster identifies its author and sponsoring organization. The N&O’s “vigilante” poster is anonymous and identifies no sponsor, omissions typical of a vigilante poster.

I hope you and the N&O are able to see the reasonableness and importance of observing the “wanted” and “vigilante” distinctions.

Two final questions, Melanie.

Do any of the journalists who made the decision to publish the “vigilante” still work for the N&O or any other McClatchy newspaper?

Will the players and their families ever receive from the N&O or the McClatchy Company an explanation and apology for your publication of the “vigilante” poster?



Roberts and Churchill

Readers’ Note: Most of you’ve likely read my post, “Duke lacrosse: A support and tribute post.” If not, I encourage you to read it. It will help you understand this post.


Why, in 1902,did Britain’s Army Commander-in-Chief, Lord Fredrick Roberts, overrule a decision he and the Government had approved, and agree to review the cases of twenty-nine Sandhurst cadets sent down for a term and three servants dismissed when no one came forward to identify an arsonist(s) or admit to being one in connection with a series of fires at the Royal Military College?

And why did a politically ambitious, twenty-seven year old Winston Churchill, sitting in his first Parliament, join with a handful of other young Members of the Commons to challenge the Government’s decision supporting the sending down of the cadets and the dismissel of the servants?

About Roberts, some background: He seems to have been a very decent person in the first place. The men who served under Roberts gave him the tribute soldiers only give to commanders they like and admire: an affectionate nickname. In the ranks Roberts was “Bobs.” To this day, the Irish Guards Regiment of which he was honorary Colonel still calls itself “Bobs Own.”

It’s reasonable to think that in the extraordinary circumstances of arson fires at the college, Roberts would have approved draconian actions that in other circumstances he’d have rejected.

I think the appeal to justice Churchill and others made to Roberts was all the prompting he needed to act on the cardinal principles of equity Churchill invoked in his letter to The Times:

“that suspicion in not evidence; that accused should be heard in their own defense; and that it is for the accuser to prove his charge, not for the defendant to prove his innocence.”
And what about Churchill? Why did a young politician, eager for advancement and with his eyes even than on Number 10 Downing Street, take on an unpopular cause and challenge his country’s political establishment?

He did it for the same reasons he would thirty years on again challenge his country’s establishment to take on another unpopular cause ; refusing in the 1930s to appease Hitler.

Churchill succeeded in 1902; failed during the 1930s; and than, beginning in the 1940, led the desperate but ultimately successful battle to destroy Hitler and Nazism.

Looking across those forty plus years, who doubts that in Churchill’s case the son was father to the man?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Churchill Series – July 26, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Folks, I promised to mention today Churchill’s description of his visit to the Grand Canyon in September, 1929. I’m traveling now and didn’t pack the book that has that account.

I’m sorry. I’ll get it done next week.

Meanwhile, a little “this and that” from a letter Churchill wrote Clementine at the time as he and his brother Jack, and their sons, Randolph and Johnny, completed the California part of their trip and prepared to journey by train across America to New York:

We made great friends with Charlie Chaplin. You could not help liking him. The boys were fascinated by him. He is a marvelous comedian – bolshy in politics – delightful in conversation.

He acted his new film for us in a wonderful way. It is to be his great attempt to prove that the silent drama or pantomime is superior to the new talkies. Certainly if pathos & wit stil count for anything it ought to win an easy victory. …

We went on Sunday in a yacht to Catalina Island….We had only one hour there. People go for weeks & months without catching a swordfish – so they all said it was quite useless my going out in the fishing boat which had been provided. However, I went out & of course I caught a monster in 20 minutes.
The swordfish weighed 188 pounds. In Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill, which their daughter, Lady Mary Soames, edited, there’s a wonderful photo (photo after p. 228, letter p. 347) of Churchill on the dock, rod and reel in hand, with the fish hoisted up beside him. The fish looks to be about 11 ft. long, swordtip to tail.

And Churchill! He's dressed in “Sunday best.” Suit, vest, shirt and tie. He’s wearing his watch chain. His shoes are shined. He looks like he’s dressed for Parliament.

Imagine the pantomime Chaplin could have done of “Winston and the fish.”

For JinC Regulars and Commenters - short - 7-26-06


Thank you for your many affirming comments today. They mean a lot.

Also, thank you for tips, links and fun comments.

I'm on the road now so blogging is tough.

But news flashes now, with organized posts leter.

I've got to get something up tomorrow, 7/27, re: Four-month anniversary of Sheehan's "Team's silence is sickening" column. What a terrible thing that was. It was terrible as an attack on a group of college students who were only following advice of counsel ( and can you imagine what Nifong and Gottlieb would have made of anything any one of those kids had stapped forward and volunteered to them). Sheehan's column was rabid McCarthyism. It was a shot at what's good about our community and country.

("Hey, John, you promised this would be short." Gee, you're right.)

I talked with attorney Charns today. I wanted to confirm some items in the sequence of CrimeStoppers wanted posters. He mentioned that he had heard from City Mgr. Patrick Baker re: Charns' latest email I shared with you.

Charns said Baker said he'd get back to him on the matters Charns raised by the end of this week.

Two points: 1) Charns made clear Baker said he'd be getting back; not that he would necessarily do or answer as Charns requested.

2) Charns agreed I could call him Friday for an update, which I'll share with you as soon as I have it.

I'll also try tomorrow to make contact with Baker. Caution note: While Baker and his staff are polite, it's usually very hard to get much out of them in the best of circumstances, and of course now is not the best of circumstances in Durham City Hall or Police Department. But try, try, try.

Recall I mentioned a while back that Charns and I were calling the CrimeStoppers posters the "wanted" and the poster the N&O published with face photos of 43 white lacrosse players the "vigilante" poster. That was in part a reflection of CrimeStoppers' practice, which is to call many of their posters wanted posters and DPD calling the N&O's poster the "vigilante" poster.

Well, today, Melanie Sill at the Editor's Blog called the "vigilante" poster the N&O published a "wanted" poster. I plan to contact Melanie to ask that that she and the N&O follow what most folks are doing in calling one set of posters the "wanted" and the one (likely one of a number like it) the N&O published the "vigilante" poster.

I'll let you know how things go.

We're looking now at the 6th day of the police "investigations' of last Thursday's sports bar incident. So what's taking so long? A simple assault: it should be a matter of hours.

But if some police were on-duty and some were doing things police are not supposed to do besides assualt civilians, than as that police Captain said years ago, "It can take time to arrange things."

It especially takes time when there's a paper trail. You have to be sure there isn't one little authorization for this officer to go there at that time and -- whoops --
the officer wasn't in Burlington doing undercover; the officer was in Raleigh playing "Hit the Cook" for the Durham Gottliebers.

More tomorrow. I'm glad you're around.

Sorry this isn't better organized.



Releigh N&O Editor Sill Misstates and Misleads

The McClatchy Company owns the Raleigh News & Observer and sponsors the Editor’s Blog where the N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, is supposed to comment and respond to reader’s concerns and questions.

Last evening Sill put up a post which she had to know would misinform and mislead readers regarding the N&O’s biased and inflammatory Duke lacrosse coverage. You can read Sill’s post here.

I decided to respond to a few of her misinforming and misleading statements in the comment below which I’ve just left at the Editor’s Blog.

I’ll soon have more to say about Sill’s post .

Thank you.


Comment from: John [Visitor] •
07/26/06 at 10:11

Dear Melanie:

Your repeated threats to ban me from this blog are harassment, in the face of which some ten weeks or so ago I stopped commenting and questioning here.

But your post is so misleading it demands a response, even if you and the McClatchy Company further harass me.

Here’s an example of your misleading readers. You say:

“Using the word "victim": Readers of The N&O and most print publications, and online for that matter, know that it's common practice to describe people listed as victims in criminal reports as victims. What is unusual in this case isn't that we used that term, but that we and most other media have stopped using it.”
Yes, Melanie, people shot or robbed are listed as victims because they indisputably are.

But as you know, in the case of rape, where the charge and/or actions related to it are denied, ethical news organizations seek to avoid calling the accuser a victim.

That’s because they know that doing so is unfair to the accused who, after all, is presumed innocent, or is at least so presumed by people who respect the Constitution.

What’s more, Melanie, ethical journalists know about the time when newspapers, especially in the South, would cast rape accusers as victims and the accused as their victimizers to “stir the mob” and maybe circulation, too. Often horrific injustices were the result.

That’s why the NY Times, for example, no model of what a newspaper should be, but at least in the case of the Duke lacrosse hoax nothing like the N&O, in every one of its Duke lacrosse stories I’ve read never refers to the accuser as victim, with or without a qualifier such as “reported” or “alleged.”

But you tell trustful N&O readers: “common practice.”

Melanie, I just did a customized search of the N&O’s archives for the period Jan. 1, 2006 to Jan. 31, 2006 using only the input word “rape.”

It yielded many hits. I searched through every one of them to identify those stories that dealt with a rape accusation either in a criminal investigative phase or a judicial pre-adjudication phase.

You know what I found, don’t you, Melanie?

Not one instance in which the N&O called the accuser victim, with or without a conditional qualifier.

In your Mar. 24 story, the one in which you say the N&O “broke” the Duke lacrosse story , the N&O seven times told readers the accuser was the victim or used the possessive “victim’s” when referring to her.

Tell readers the last time the N&O did that in a case involving a rape accusation?

“Common practice?” That’s just false, Melanie.

On Mar. 25 you ran the following headlines on page one, across five columns:
Dancer gives details of ordeal

A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence.
The N&O frequently uses quote marks around part or all of a headline to denote it’s an opinion statement, or simply that the N&O has some skepticism about what’s being said. But there are no qualifying quote marks around any of the Mar. 25 headlines.

Those headlines are definitive. They read as facts.

The N&O’s headlines contain no indication of what you knew at the time: That all the players denied the “soft spoken” young mother of two children’s accusations of gang-rape, beating and strangulation.

The N&O explained why it granted the accuser anonymity. You said:
It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the victims of sex crimes.
That’s clear. No alleged. She’s a victim of “sex crimes.”

You end the Mar. 25 story with:
[Duke Law School Professor Paul] Haagen, a law professor who specializes in sports law, said studies show that violence against women is more prevalent among male athletes than among male students in general -- and higher still among such "helmet sports" as football, hockey and lacrosse.

"These are sports of violence," he said. "This is clearly a concern."
Why did the N&O end what you say was an interview story with those quotes from Haagen?

Did they serve any purpose other than to leave readers with something that would explain to them why a group of “helmet” sport college students committed acts of “violence?”

The research findings Haagen mentioned are, as I’m sure you know, disputed as to their reflecting actual occurrence. They are also based on covariable analysis of incidents of very low frequency.

For those reasons, most researchers and other professionals don’t make the broad, unqualified statements you present Haagen as making. Instead, they very carefully qualify what they say.

They know how such research has been misused in the past to create noxious and false stereotypes of some ethnic and racial groups. They know that such very limited and disputed research is often used even today by people with agendas. Professor Haagan knows that.

Beginning on Mar. 24 and for some time thereafter, the N&O worked with skill and deliberateness to cast the accuser as the victim of a lacrosse team composed of three brutal rapists and their teammates who first stood by as the frightened and tearful young mother was dragged into a bathroom, gang-raped, beaten and strangled; and who then later refused to help dedicated police officers such as Sgt. Mark Gottlieb identify their rapist teammates.

I could say a lot more, Melanie, about other misleading, incomplete or false statements you make in this post and in others but that will no doubt only lead to further harassment.

If you’ll leave this comment up, Melanie, readers taken in by what you’ve said will, I’m confident, reassess and “come out right.”

I enjoy reading the Editor’s Blog. I think readers do a great job here. I hope you stop fussing with them and spend more time answering their questions honestly; also following up on their information, news tips and story leads.



PS – Remember those story tips I gave you about Raleigh’s National Championship High School Quiz Bowl team and the NC State Professor whose annotated summer reading list was chosen by Business Week as one of its “recommended” summer reading lists?

You said those folks would be contacted. They weren’t. How come?

We can’t help the N&O unless you let us.

The Churchill Series – July 25, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

September 29, 1929 found Churchill visiting William Randolph Hearst at his California mansion, San Simeon. Churchill had much to say about Hearst and his visit. He found time on the 29th to write Clementine. One of the most interesting parts of the letter is how Churchill, always a faithful husband, describes Hearst's "arrangement" of a legal wife and a mistress, Marion Davies:

Hearst was most interesting to meet, & I got to like him - a grave simple child - with no doubt a nasty temper - playing with the most costly toys.

A vast income always overspent: Ceaseless building & collecting not vy discriminatingly works of art: two magnificent establishments, two charming wives; complete indifference to public opinion, a strong liberal & democratic outlook, a 15 million daily circulation, oriental hospitalities, extreme personal courtesy (to us at any rate) & the appearance of a Quaker elder - or perhaps better Mormon elder.

I told you about Mrs. H. (the official) & how agreeable she made herself. She is going to give me a dinner in N.Y. & look after the boys on their way through.

At Los Angeles (hard g) we passed into the domain of Marion Davies; & were all charmed by her.

She is not strikingly beautiful nor impressive in any way. But her personality is most attractive; a childlike, bon enfant. She works all day at her films & retires to her palace on the ocean to bathe & entertain in the evenings.

She asked us to use her house as if it was our own. But we tasted its comforts & luxuries only sparingly, spending two nights there after enormous dinner parties in our honour.
There is much more in the letter, the text of which is available here along with a facsimile of its first two pages.

Have you ever seen Churchill’s handwriting? If not, here’s your chance.

Tomorrow Churchill starts off across America for New York. One of his stops is the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Waiting for police “arrangements?”

(This post was completed at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 25,)

It’s now more than 100 hours since an alleged assault by Durham police officers just before midnight last Thursday in the parking lot of a Raleigh sports bar.

And guess what? I can’t find a single local news organization that’s publicly complaining about the Raleigh City Police delay in completing and making public the incident report. I also can't find a local news organization that's asking: "Why the delay?"

As I pointed out in a post Sunday, it’s standard practice for police to prepare an incident report on the scene or within a few hours of the incident, and then make the report available to media and other interested parties.

One media person I spoke with just before Noon reported hearing from other media people that Raleigh police finally made a report available this morning. The person had not seen it but said those who have say it “didn’t say much.”

If the report is now finally available, will media ask why it took so long to prepare? And why it doesn’t contain “much,” if in fact that’s the case.

Usually police are eager to file an incident report. It helps with further investigation and protects the officer(s) at the scene from later recriminations and/ or law suits.

Usually when police delay an incident report, especially for days, it’s because as one police Captain told me years ago, “It can take time to get a story arranged.”

Moving on –

Five days after the incident, the public hasn’t been told how many Durham officers were involved in the incident. Surely the Durham Police know how many were involved? And surely the Raleigh Police do, too. So why aren’t we being told? Why aren’t media demanding the answer?

Why would the police not tell us?

Well, for one thing, if the police have a little flexibility on the number involved, it makes it easier to “arrange” things, doesn’t it?

One more item -

WRAL reports today:

No charges have been filed as part of the assault investigation, and a Raleigh police spokesman did not return calls on Monday to The Associated Press seeking comment.

[Durham police Deputy Chief R.H.]Hodge said Durham's internal affairs unit also planned to investigate Thomas' complaint, but had not yet interviewed all the Durham officers involved.

"We saw no need to get in front of Raleigh's criminal investigation," Hodge said.
Durham’s internal affairs unit has “not yet interviewed all the Durham officers involved?”

Well, has the unit interviewed some or at least one of the officers involved?

And just what does "We saw no need to get in front of Raleigh's criminal investigation" mean?

We’ve been told the Raleigh Police criminal investigation and the Durham Police internal affairs investigation are two separate investigations. We’ve been told they’re so separate that information from the Durham investigation can’t be shared with Raleigh Police.

So why the delay in launching a Durham internal affairs investigation?

Does a delay serve any purpose other than to give time for things to be “arranged” during the Raleigh investigation so that when the Durham investigation is launched, everyone involved knows what the “arrangements” are?

But our local media aren’t asking questions about “arrangements.”

It’s some media we have here in Durham.

An 18 year old with an open beer can? “Hey, get his name. Hold three columns on page one. I’m doing a backgrounder.”

Police “arrangements?” “We’ll take whatever you give us, Officer. And by the way, about that little fender-bender I was involved in last night. The accident report says ...”

At the Editor’s Blog, the “ghosts” keep appearing

For months now, readers at the McClatchy Company’s Editor’s Blog have complained and asked sharp questions about the N&O’s biased and inflammatory Duke lacrosse coverage. They’re outraged by it.

But the N&O’s exec editor for news, Melanie Sill, tells readers she’s very proud of it.

No doubt there are lots of readers just as enthusiastic about the N&O’s DL coverage as Sill – New Black Panthers, most Duke administrators and faculty, and the pot bangers supporting DA Mike Nifong – people like that.

Oh, I forgot to mention feminists, “victims’ rights advocates” and “civil rights leaders.”

But those folks aren’t showing up at the Editors Blog, so Sill’s been left to her own devices.

And what are they?

Mostly Sill’s ignored readers questions or given partial or out-right misleading answers. She’s said the readers are making a “hobby” of Duke lacrosse and told them to go find some other blog for themselves.

But like the ghosts in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the readers keep appearing and forcing Sill to look at things she doesn’t want to see.

Here’s a small sample of what the “ghosts” have said just within the last day:

Why did your Newspaper totally and purposefully avoid and edit the Durham Police Supervisor, involved in the Duke investigation, and detective's race from the Article printed on Sunday, 7/23 ?

Why did the article omit the race of the victim?

Why did the article omit the reported racial slurs and racial intimidation reported?


Thank you for starting a new Duke Lax Rape Hoax blog. ( The reader’s right. It is a hoax. But in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that neither Sill nor the N&O use the term “hoax” in connection with the Duke lacrosse hoax. They follow the practice of DA Nifong and Sgt. Gottlieb who prefer the term “case.” --- JinC )

I’ll start with a simple question…

Why did The N&O publish the infamous wanted poster?


Here's my question. How come you were (admittedly) conservative in your reporting/editing of this Durham Police story as compared to the Duke lax story? In this story, you refer to an 'alleged incident', you removed reference to racial slurs since there was no corroboration, and there is no condemnation of individuals or the police department as a whole.

That is significantly different from your reporting of the Duke lax story where you initially consistently referred to a 'victim' (not alleged), you reported details without any corroboration (many of which have turned out to be false), and you rushed to judgement on the entire incident, condemned the entire team, and proclaimed members already guilty. So why such a different approach to the two stories?

Over the past few months, it has become obvious that the prosecution of this case was in actuality a persecution. It is equally obvious the Duke players, while not innocent of stupidity, were never guilty of rape.

At the Editor’s Blog there’s a lot more of what you’ve just read

Hats off to the “ghosts” who are refusing to accept liberal/leftist agenda journalism that targets the innocent, covers up for the favored, misleads the community, and robs us of what a newspaper is supposed to give us: The facts without fear or favor, so that as citizens in a democracy, we can make up our minds based on the facts.

Test Post

I'm having trouble with Blogger so this test post.

Keep your fingers crossed.


Monday, July 24, 2006

The Churchill Series - July 24, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I'm interrupting the Churchill party's 1929 trip down the West coast to California.

I want to today share with you a John in Carolina post that will interest those of you who don't normally do anything at this blog other than read the Churchill Series posts, which of course is OK. We all pick what we want in the blogosphere.

I put the post up to mark the four-month anniversary of the "breaking" of the Duke lacrosse story.

The principal events in the post were recounted in an earlier series post (May 5) but are presented here in more detail and with a connection to the Duke lacrosse case, about which I have a strong interest.

Here's the post: Duke lacrosse: A support and tribute post.

I hope you're back tomorrow.

Duke lacrosse: A support and tribute post

Today marks the four-month anniversary of the Raleigh News & Observer’s publication of the story that first identified the Duke Men’s lacrosse team as suspects in a gang-rape investigation. In its story, the N&O repeatedly told readers the woman was “the victim.” It never once used the conditional qualifier “alleged.”

The N&O’s Mar. 24 story was the first of many biased and inflammatory news stories and columns the N&O produced. They cast the accuser as a victim and framed the lacrosse team as made up of three brutal rapists and their teammates who stood by indifferently while the woman was raped, and then later refused to help police identify their rapist teammates.

Those N&O stories encouraged a rogue DA, intimidated a university to silence in the face of injustices, and created enough hysteria that otherwise reasonable people approved the felony indictments of three obviously innocent young men.

The post which follows recounts events that occurred in England more than a century ago. Those events and the events of the last four months contain some remarkable similarities, including the struggle to correct injustices.

This post is meant as a gesture of support for all the Duke lacrosse family who have endured pain and injustice since Mar. 14; and as a tribute to everyone working to right the wrongs of the Duke lacrosse hoax.

A special word of tribute goes to the members and coaches of Duke Women’s lacrosse team who, in the face of foul criticisms, said what many now know to be true but are still afraid to say: “Innocent.”


In May 1902, the first of a series of arson fires broke out at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

After the fifth fire, the Commandant issued an order: If the guilty were not identified within forty-eight hours, every cadet housed in barrack “C,” where the fires had occurred, would be dismissed for a term unless he could prove he wasn’t in the barrack “C”area at the time of the fire. The cadets, twenty-nine in number, included three who had already been investigated in connection with previous fires and found innocent.

The order also said that if the arsonist(s) was not identified, three aged servants in “C” barrack, all former career soldiers, would be summarily dismissed.

No one came forward. After endorsements by the Army Commander-in-Chief, Lord Frederick Roberts, and the Secretary of State for War, the order took effect: The cadets were sent down; the servants dismissed.

The order’s injustices might have gone uncorrected but for the actions of a handful of members of the House of Commons, and later, a few members of the House of Lords, including Lord Roberts himself.

The Commons members, mostly young and sitting in their first Parliament, began interviewing the cadets and servants, documenting violations of due process and publicizing the case’s many injustices.

One of the members wrote the Times of London. He told readers, “All the cadets I have seen strenuously deny any complicity with the offences.” He said the cadets' and servants’ treatment was a travesty which violated “three cardinal principles of equity:”

“that suspicion in not evidence; that accused should be heard in their own defense; and that it is for the accuser to prove his charge, not for the defendant to prove his innocence.”
The member's letter drew a quick, sharp rebuke from the Reverend Frederick Westcott, headmaster of one of England’s leading public schools. Westcott told Times' readers soldiers had to learn the lessons of group punishment:
“The innocent, doubtless, suffer with the guilty; but then they always do. The world has been so arranged.”
The member, in his first Parliament and representing the Oldham constituency, immediately replied to Westcott in another letter to The Times.

The member’s biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, tell us about the reply and some of what followed :
“Has it indeed?” Churchill asked in his reply on July 8.

No doubt Westcott had taken care “that the little world over which he presides is arranged on that admirable plan, but it is necessary to tell him that elsewhere the punishment of innocent people is regarded as a crime, or as a calamity to be prevented by unstinting exertion.”

So long as the “delinquencies of a schoolmaster” were within the law, Churchill added, “the House of Commons has no right to intervene, but when a Commander-in-Chief and a Secretary of State are encouraged to imitate him, it is time to take notice.”

Churchill wanted to discuss the Sandhurst punishments in the Commons. But [Prime Minister] Balfour…refused to allow time for any such debate [so] Churchill [arranged to have the matter] raised in the Lords.

During the debate there, the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts, agreed that each individual case would be investigated and that no innocent cadet would lose a term of study.
Lord Roberts did review each cadet and servant's case individually. No arsonist(s) was ever identified. Twenty-seven of the twenty-nine cadets elected to return to Sandhurst. The three servants were reinstated. The Commandant was dismissed because of "the general disorderliness" at Sandhurst.

Just why Lord Roberts took the extraordinary step of, in effect, overruling himself and the Government which had approved his prior actions, has never been entirely clear. In a post Wednesday ( “Roberts and Churchill”) I’ll say more about why he might have done what he did. I’ll also offer a few thoughts about the then twenty-seven year old Member for Oldham.

It's right to end this post with Churchill’s words, a gift to us across the century:
“that suspicion in not evidence; that accused should be heard in their own defense; and that it is for the accuser to prove his charge, not for the defendant to prove his innocence.”
Accounts of the Sandhurst events can be found in many, but not all, Churchill biographies. For this post, in addition to Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life, I relied on Randolph S. Churchill’s Winston S. Churchill, Young Statesman:1901-1914, and Ted Morgan’s, Churchill, Young Man in a Hurry: 1874-1915

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Media ignores police assault questions

Durham City Police officers are accussed of involvement in an alleged assault outside a Raleigh sports bar just before midnight Thursday. The Associated Press today reports:

Raleigh police are investigating an alleged assault outside a sport bar that involved several Durham police officers, authorities said Saturday.

In addition to the criminal probe of Thursday's incident, Durham police Chief Steven Chalmers said in a statement his office is conducting an internal review. Chalmers' statement did not name the officers allegedly involved in the incident, citing department policy and state personnel privacy laws.
TV station WRAL reports:
Meanwhile, two investigators in the Duke lacrosse rape case had their jobs switched Friday, said Durham City Manager Patrick Baker. It's not clear if the changes, which involve temporarily placing two officers on administrative duty, are linked to the Raleigh assault investigation.

Baker, citing confidentiality rules involving personnel matters, would not link officers Sgt. Mark Gottlieb and R.D. Clayton to the assault investigation. […]

The 29-year-old alleged victim told WRAL that racial slurs were exchanged in the bar's parking lot before a group of men surrounded him.
After reading the AP and local media accounts of the incident (WRAL, News14, N&O and Dur. H-S) as of 4 p.m. Sunday, nearly three days after the incident, the public is left with lots of questions the “news organizations” haven’t asked, or at least haven’t reported on.
Why isn’t there a police report of the incident available?
Usually a preliminary report is written up at the scene of an incident (it can later be added to),and immediately made available to media and interested members of the public.

Such reports are almost always the basis of crime news stories, which often are aired by electronic media within an hour or two of the incident. You've often heard reporters lead with, “According to a police report I just obtained….”

So why, more than 60 hours after the alleged assault, are we being told there’s no police report? Why aren’t news organizations telling readers how unusual that is? Why aren’t news organizations demanding to know why there's no police report?

Media, which eagerly told us the tax value of Reade Seligmann’s parents’ home, are so far unwilling to ask Durham City Manager Patrick Baker and Durham City Police Chief Steve Chalmers a very, very important question; or if they’ve asked, they’re not telling the answer:
At the time of the incident, were the Durham Police officers on-duty or off-duty?
Usually when police are involved in an incident and are off-duty, that's one of the first things we're told.

Perhaps City Manager Baker will tell us “confidentiality rules involving personnel matters” forbid him from answering the question. But it’s surely worth asking, isn’t it?

Were the police just “relaxing” while off-duty? If that’s the case, I’ve no problem with their “relaxing” part of the evening. It's what happened in the parking lot that should concern us.

But if the police, or at least some of them, were on-duty, than many questions must be asked and should be quickly answered.

What were on-duty Durham City Police officers doing in a sports bar near midnight in another city and county?

Except in “hot pursuit” situations, it’s very unusual for members of a city police force from one county to operate in the jurisdiction of another city police force in another county.

When it does happen for legitimate reasons, there is always an extensive paper trail.

Higher ups in the department sign off on the activity. It’s documented that the officer(s) will be out of the jurisdiction which employs them and assumes liability for what they do in the line of duty.

“When,” “why” and “under what circumstances” documents are drawn and signed in multiple copies. If city owned vehicles are used, special authorization documents are signed, etc.

These and many other questions need follow up and prompt answers.
Why aren't news organizations asking them?